The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Sabine Slaets

Sabine Slaets

Runs an animal shelter (1976)

Can you describe what you do?

I’ve been running the local animal shelter in Mechelen for two and a half years now. We started out with a small group of three full-time employees and a handful of volunteers, and now, our team consists of seven extremely motivated employees and 200 volunteers. We get visits from schools, companies and all kinds of organisations, and during these tours we show them around and try to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership. Our organisation is located close to the industrial area of Mechelen Noord (next to the abattoir, ironically enough!). Fortunately, the Tivoli park is just around the corner – a beautiful green spot where our volunteers can take the dogs to relax.

I don’t have a daily work routine. Every day is different and I almost never know what to expect. I work late almost every day, usually finishing administration at home. Luckily, I live close to the Vrijbroekpark, where I can go for a relaxing walk with my two dogs and my family.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Mechelen is the rising star among the smaller cities in Belgium. There is definitely a stronger sense of security in the city centre which has grown immensely over the last decade, and the city’s appearance has become much more attractive. I personally love the range of beautiful parks the city offers. There is also a steadily growing range of activities and initiatives organised in the city, which adds to the active and friendly atmosphere.

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

Mechelen is big enough to find almost everything you need and want from a city (architecture, culture, gastronomy…), yet small enough to walk around the centre by foot in a day. New and trendy bars, restaurants and shops are constantly popping up, and they are all worth a try.

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I moved to Mechelen ten years ago, simply because it was where most of my friends decided to live and there were more job possibilities here. This city quickly became a home to me where I felt safe and could evolve to who I am now. Six years ago, I started working for the city, moving between different jobs. I believe the experience of living here and the network I built working here now help me in managing the shelter.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

I believe mobility will be one of the main concerns for the future. With 86000 inhabitants, a number which is constantly growing, it will be a challenge to tackle traffic jams.

Mechelen is a leader in the field of many important social issues, like multicultural integration, poverty and employment. But when it comes to animal welfare, we still have a long way to go. I have the impression that now, there is a change in mentality within the city council, which will hopefully lead to a positive evolution.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?

There are so many must-see places in the city centre. The Martin Patershof hotel is definitely the most original place to stay. Make sure to climb the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral tower on a clear day. Then there’s the enchanting Beguinage and the famous brewery Het Anker. The Vismarkt is an obligatory stop for a drink, especially when the sun is shining. And to counter the busy life in the city, I’d recommend the Vrijbroekpark with its famous rose garden, the renovated playground for kids, and the fish pond where you can sit net to in silence and admire the view.

Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

I would call Luc Vis a true local legend. He sells fish and has a renowned cava and oyster bar at the weekly Saturday market on the ‘Grote Markt’. He’s the embodiment of positivism and entrepreneurship, and he has a big heart both for humans and animals. He supports Sjarabang vzw, an organisation that helps disabled people, and after adopting a dog, he became a supporter of our animal shelter as well. We could not have wished for a better ambassador than Luc!