Hidden Belgium: One of the best libraries in the world

Hidden Belgium: One of the best libraries in the world
Credit: Mechelen

Next time you are in Mechelen, you might want to take a look at the public library, Het Predikheren.

It occupies an ancient 17th-century baroque monastery that had been left to rot since the 1970s. The building was
finally rescued in 2019 by the Rotterdam architect Mechthild Stuhlmacher, who gently restored the building while preserving intriguing traces from the past, including faded wallpaper, ancient wood beams and old gravestones.

They recall the building’s history as a monastery, barracks, weapons store and military hospital. The architect reshaped the monumental building with polished stone floors, subtle wood fittings and a fabulous children’s library under the roof beams.

The result is a warm, complex building where visitors can browse the shelves, drink a coffee and listen to a Sunday concert.

The library was named among the best new public libraries in the world in this year’s Public Library of the Year award.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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