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.

Vincent Van Parys

Vincent Van Parys

Owner of Peloton de Paris coffee & bike shop (1983)

Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.

In 2014, my wife Wendy and I opened Peloton de Paris, the first combined bike shop and coffeebar in Belgium. We picked the Hoogstraat as our location for the shop, since this is the main route to enter the centre of Mechelen from the south, and it is situated close to the water, which makes it a perfect cycling route. Every morning before opening the shop and in the evening after closing, we take our dog out for a walk in the neighbourhood. The walking path next to the Dyle river in the centre of Mechelen in particular is a nice place to empty your head after a busy day.

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 a very lively city to live in and is becoming even more popular as a destination for city trips. Even though it is very multicultural, I have the feeling that the integration between different cultures has been very successful in Mechelen, with local and exotic flavours mixing perfectly together. The Turkish bakery next door is a great addition to the typically ‘Flemish’ stores. Throughout the years, Mechelen became more modern thanks to the restoration of old houses and shops in the centre.

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

Its location right between Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven is a great advantage when you have to commute to your job every day. Even though the population of Mechelen is expanding, the city remains cosy to live in.

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

When we started Peloton de Paris, the city of Mechelen helped us out in a big way by helping us find a good location for the store.

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

It would be nice to have more a few more lively bars in the centre where we can go out in the weekend. Throughout the years, Mechelen has evolved into a very safe city, but the downside is that many nightlife locations had to close their doors. It would be nice to have a bit more variety in the centre, a mix of casual bars and dance-cafés.

Mechelen also needs to be aware that a big part of the population consists of elderly people. As a result, there’s not a lot of freelancers or flex-workers in the city during the week, compared to a place like Antwerp. It is a challenge for Mechelen to keep attracting younger people (between the age of 25 and 45) to add a nice buzz to the city life. The lack of parking places and the rising housing prices are certainly issues that need to be addressed in that regard.

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

Go for a walk next to the Dyle on the Dijlepad walkway, continue to the Vismarkt and Ijzeren Leen and climb the St. Rombold’s tower. Afterwards have a beer in the local brewery Het Anker. For dinner, visit Pintxos, a restaurant that combines a beautiful interior with great food. And of course, cycling enthusiasts should make a point of visiting Peloton de Paris!

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

Gijs Vanhee, the city artist of Mechelen from a few years ago, has made some very nice public paintings that are located throughout the city. Walking through the city, you can discover his art in various places, some of which are quite unexpected.