Founded in the 7th century, Hasselt is a storied Belgian city that serves as the energised capital of Limburg. It centres around an atmospheric old town that is largely car-free and is home to the largest Japanese garden in Europe.
Things to do in Hasselt
Dominating Hasselt’s town centre is St. Quentin's Cathedral, which was constructed on the site of an 11th-century Romanesque church. It houses beautiful stained-glass windows and paintings by Godfried Guffens, as well as a Niehoff organ dating from the 16th century. Browse the carillons on display in the Stedelijk Beiaardmuseum, then soak up the views across Hasselt from its bell gallery.
A short drive from the centre of Hasselt is Herkenrode Abbey, a Cistercian nunnery that existed from the 12th century until its dissolution during the French Revolution. It’s now operated by the Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, with a new monastery and retreat centre alongside its beautifully preserved original buildings. Admire the elegant gatehouse and the restored tithe barn before strolling through the English-style gardens.
Another garden not to miss is the Japanese Tuin, which was established by landscape architect Inoue Takuyuki as a symbol of friendship with Hasselt’s sister city of Itami. At its heart is the bamboo and stone-built Ceremonial House, which is beautifully reflected in a koi-filled central pond. Enjoy the garden’s serenity along the zigzagging bridge or coincide your visit with autumn to see the chrysanthemums in bloom.
Getting around Hasselt
Hasselt is around an hour’s drive from the centre of Brussels and Brussels Airport, which has flights to destinations around the globe. Regular trains connect to the Hasselt railway station and buses travel throughout the city. The centre of Hasselt can easily be explored on foot.