Tourist information Zuid-Limburg / Euregion
Leave your preconceptions at home
Stop right there! If you thought the Netherlands was all about canals, polders and windmills, you’re in for a big shock. Zuid-Limburg is a land of rolling hills, steep-sided valleys and fast flowing streams.
Heerlen lies at the heart of hill country. Less than 20 kilometres away is the Vaalserberg: at 327 metres, this is the spot where the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium come together. Beyond are the upland massifs of the Ardennes and the Eifel. The locals quite justifiably claim that this is where the mountains begin!
Limburg is a unique province, sandwiched in between two international neighbours, Belgium to the west and Germany to the east. Not only is its countryside radically different from the rest of the Netherlands, so too is its dialect which, like its people, is soft and melodious. Hardly surprising when you think that Zuid-Limburg is at a European crossroads, where different cultures have been mixing for centuries. So when you come to Heerlen, it’s not just one country you’re visiting, but three! We call it the Euregion.
The Euregion outdoors
If you’re the outdoorsy type, the Euregion has much to offer. Zuid-Limburg now has its own prestigious list of Seven Summits. They offer a fascinating diversity of scenery and vistas. Over the border in Germany you’ll find the Eifel, an upland plateau dissected by densely wooded valleys, with isolated villages and romantic hilltop castles. Perfect for walking, cycling and climbing! The Hautes Fagnes, 30 kilometres to the south, is an extensive moorland terrain, the most elevated region in Belgium. The Ardennes, of which it is part, are made up densely forested valleys, meandering rivers ideal for canoeing, extensive cave systems and crisscrossed by hiking trails.
More urbane pleasures can be found in the towns and cities of the region. There’s Heerlen of course and further down the road Maastricht, the capital of the Limburg province. With its Roman origins, Maastricht can claim to be one of the oldest settlements in the Netherlands (and Heerlen too has its own Roman baths). A border town since time immemorial, its fortifications bear witness to a turbulent past.
Aachen, the home of Charlemagne, is a short hop on the bus from Heerlen: its cathedral may be pint-sized, but its beauty is unrivalled. And with a student population of 40,000, it has a thriving nighttime scene, with hundreds of restaurants and bars.
Liège and its suburbs sprawl along the River Meuse south of Maastricht. It is the biggest city in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Stroll around its extensive riverside market on Sunday: whether it’s living or inanimate, it sells just about anything and everything. And if you’re just travelling through, stop and marvel at the steel and glass superstructure of its hypermodern railway station, built in 2009.
All we can say is, when you visit Zuid-Limburg, just leave your preconceptions at home!