The coal mine industry in Belgium flourished in the first half of the 20th-century but long have the mine shafts been closed again. Some sites were taken down, others got a new purpose as local governments saw the importance of upholding their industrial heritage.
The mining site of Beringen was one of the latter.
Also known as be-MINE now, it’s a site where you can easily spend a day exploring and enjoying all it has to offer. Or you could spend a night and see a bit more of the city as well. So that’s exactly what I did.
A weekend in Beringen
I started my stay in Beringen not at the former mining site, but at Blueberry Fields where they grow – indeed, blueberries.
Picking berries at Blueberry Fields
Blueberry Fields is a family-owned company specialized in growing and manually processing blueberries. Part of its fields is reserved for people from the area (or beyond) who come to pick their own berries and when I was there, so were a bunch of people gathering the blue goodies.
If you’re more into the result than the process, then you can simply buy some berry products at the store or enjoy some blueberry pie at the large terrace. Blueberry Fields also sells blueberry plants for those interested in growing their own berries.
Although the berries only grow in summer, Blueberry Fields can be visited all year long. The farm is located right next to the “Valley of the Black Creek”, a nature area that has several walking routes running through it.
Visitors to Blueberry Fields have a choice between three short tracks that take them along the fields and through the nature area. There’s a large parking lot out front to leave your car at.
– June 15 – September 15:
- Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Friday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
– September 16 – June 14: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
be-MINE: from old mining site to experience center
On top of that, it’s also the only one of the mines in Belgian Limburg that still has its industrial heart.
Of course, there’s a mine museum to visit, but there are plenty of other things to do at be-MINE as well.
If you want some more information about be-MINE or the area, make sure to drop by at the office of Tourism Beringen. It’s open every day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., except on Easter, Christmas and New Year.
The tourism board also has a small store with local products and cute souvenirs, or you can ask them for a ride with the Lopifit.
Let me show you how it works:
Because the Lopifit is a bit less flexible than a regular bike (it’s larger), the tourism board created three specific routes that you can follow with it.
You can also rent regular bikes, electric bikes or tandems at the tourism office.
Mine Museum Beringen
- the “regular” museum
- the underground simulation
- the visit of the old mine buildings
The “regular” museum consists of different exhibition rooms that tell the story of the mine of Beringen, but also of the other mines in Belgian Limburg, from their opening until their closing. It explains their historical context and zooms in on individual mine workers’ stories.
I’ll never forget the little suitcase hanging from the ceiling that was gifted by Rocco, a 90+-year old former mine worker.
The onderground simulation gives visitors an idea of what it was like hundreds of meters below the ground. It shows them what the most important underground halls and chamber of the mine looked like and under what circumstances the miners had to work. Super interesting and quite confronting as well to see what kind of work people were willing to do in those days – and probably still are in other corners of the world.
The old mining buildings guide you along the same route the workers had to take to go down into the mines and come back out again.
What’s especially striking is how, as you make your way through the different rooms, you can see what time the workers would be there. In only 17 minutes, 1.000 workers arrived, got ready and descended into the mines while, at the same time, the previous shift of 1.000 workers got up again.
It’s incredible to see and learn how efficiently everything was organized and which control and security systems were in place.
I saw an old mine train taking some kids for a ride, a narrow wagon to transport the injured and held my hands to my ears when the sound of just one drill gave me an idea of how loud it must have been in the mines when not one, but 50 workers or ore were drilling.
A visit of the Mine Museum is a real must and easily takes up a morning.
Groups can book a guided visit of the mine buildings, while individual visitors can enjoy a guided tour every first and third Sunday of the month, from March until October, at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. A tour takes about two hours. There’s no need to make a reservation.
Prices for individual visitors:
- mine museum: €6
- underground simulation: €2
- tour of the mine buildings: €8
There are discounts for kids, youngsters and seniors.
TODI Dive Center
More than 2.000 tropical live in the tank and swim past car wreks, a copy of a mining hall and an underwater bar.
The whole compound sits comfortably under a roof and the water is a consistent 23°C.
At TODI, both beginning divers as advanced divers train and enjoy themselves. If diving isn’t your thing, you can also get a full-face mask to go snorkeling.
Want to stay dry or short on time? No worries, the tank actually sits at level two and three of the building and you can walk up the stairs and around it to look at the fish through the glass. So cool!
On the ground floor there’s a bistro where you can end your visit with a snack or a drink (or both ;-)).
I had a drink elsewhere at be-MINE, though…
More information can be found at their website.
Climbing hall Alpamayo
Climbing hall Alpamayo is located in what used to be the mine’s electricity central and that’s still visible when you enter the cafe. Buttons, meters and electricity cabins are stacked along the walls while control panels make up the bar.
Because the cafe is at a height of six meters, you can see right into the climbing hall through plexiglass and even from a little open balcony.
Ther climbing hall itself has about 1.300m³ of climbing space and a maximum climbing height of 18 meters. Both beginners and expert climbers come here.
The Adventure Mountain lies on a slag heap. On one side, the heap is covered with a “climbing and crawling” adventure route up the mountain and a staircase leading to the top, from where you get great views of the entire mine site.
On the other side of the heap lies a mountain biking field with both an easy and a very technical, heavy route.
The Adventure Mountain is freely accessible from sunrise to sunset.
Slag heap Beringen
There’s another slag heap nearby that’s a nature area with walking routes – yes, also to the top. The top offers a great view of Beringen and the mine site in the distance, as well as of the rest of the surroundings.
The path is wide and easily walkable, though it can get a little steap sometimes. Not hard to manage, but you might have to catch your breath when you reach the top. Not that I’d know anything about that :-)
Sportoase Beringen and be-MINE Boulevard
There are two other spots at be-MINE that you can get active at, but I hadn’t had time to visit those. One is Sportoase, a sporting complex mostly known because of its many swimming pools. The other is be-MINE Boulevard, a small shopping street.
Practical information be-MINE
If you’d like even more information about be-MINE, or want to book a tour, you can always contact Tourism Beringen at 011 42 15 52
The be-MINE address is koolmijnlaan 201, Beringen. There’s free parking.
3 yummy food spots in Beringen
These are the three spots I ate at while in Beringen.
1. Het Landerhuys
2. Ristorante Italia
Ristorante Italia is a cozy Italian restaurant in the center of Beringen with a lounge area from which you can see the wine basement through the glass floor. The restaurant area is space and there’s also a large terrace.
Because I’d already had the big caldeirada for lunch, I opted for just canneloni for dinner. Service was swift at first and the canneloni was fine, but when I still was a little hungry afterward, I waited for 40 minutes before I headed inside myself to ask for the dessert card. This kind of downed the experience.
3. Whatz Hap
Whatz Hap was a true discovery and I kind of want to go back already because the place has such a fun menu with wraps, bagels, nachos, jacket potatoes… And then there are the coffees and hot chocolates that you can customize!
I ordered a chicken wrap and got a huge portion. It was delicious. As a “little” dessert, a had a white hot chocolate with milk chocolate sauce. Deliciously sweet.
Whatz Hap is conveniently located walking distance from be-MINE, at the casino of Beringen. It has a fun terrace and a retro interior.
B&B Villa Nostra
Since I got back, I already recommended Villa Nostra to a bunch of people. This B&B is run by the loveliest hostess who’s like that friend who always treats you with yummy things and with whom it’s so easy to chat the time away.
In the morning, she prepares a marvelous breakfast and while you’re still wondering how to choose between the jams, the breads, the pastries, the cereal, the yogurt, the fruit, the cookies, the… she asks what kind of egs you’d like. You know, out of the 10 different kinds she can prepare for you.
I didn’t want to leave as one night there was simply too short. With all of my explorations, I hadn’t even had the time to test my bubblebath and sauna.
Oh yes, I had a bubblebath and a sauna in my room. Hadn’t I mentioned that yet? :-) This is what the whole looked like:
Not bad, ay?
If you also want to spend a night at Villa Nostra, you’ll have to hurry! Next year, Peggy is moving the B&B to a new location, closer to be-MINE.
The current Villa Nostra, by the way, is located right by the Paalse Plas, a large pond in the center of a recreation area which also has a beach, a grass field, a playground and a cycling path. You can go walking there hit the water wind surfing or sailing. There’s plenty to do!
Pin voor later
The tourism office of Beringen invited me to come and explore the site and be-MINE. As always when I collaborate on trips, it was up to me to write what I wanted, how I wanted.
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