A while ago I got invited by Maasmechelen Village to visit their outlet shopping village and spend two days in this Belgian town close to the Dutch border. “Two days?”, I thought, “What am I going to do there?”. Well, I just got back and I’m exhausted. Maasmechelen definitely has more to offer than I first thought and I’m happy the town set me straight.
My first stop was at Maasmechelen Village. Maasmechelen Village is an outdoor outlet shopping center where you can find brand stores selling clothes and accessories at much lower prices than you would pay in regular stores.
If you’re visiting Belgium from outside the EU, you have the added luck that you can claim 16% tax back if you spend more than €125 there. I was hoping to score some new Nikes (I swear my feet have grown and my old ones don’t fit anymore!) but they didn’t have my model (Nike Air Max 1, should you ever want to buy me a present).
The stores present in Maasmechelen Village are pretty diverse, from Desigual and 7 for all Mankind to Versace, Hugo Boss and sports brands like – indeed – Nike. You can find a list of all brands here
Maasmechelen Village is built to resemble – you probably guessed it already – a village. The shopping center consists of one large main street with a few side streets. There are squares with seating areas and just like in a regular shopping street, there are different food stands, restaurants and bars for when you get hungry or thirsty. Better than a regular shopping street is that there are large and clean public bathrooms as well.
If you’re into brands, you can easily spend a day here… and some money, of course.
Please check the website for up to date opening times, closing dates and public transportation options. There’s a large parking lot right by the outlet village where you can park for free, which is what I did. Maasmechelen Village also offers some more luxurious transportation options, like a shuttle service and the option to hire a driver.
Right next to Maasmechelen Village lies Connecterra, one of the six entry gates to the National Park Hoge Kempen. This one is special, though, as it’s the former ground of a mining site and you can still see two mine shaft towers there. One of them you can even climb. I didn’t, because I can’t get rid of that damned fear of heights.
When you enter Connecterra there’s a bar with a large terrace. You’ll be glad there is after you’re done walking, especially when it’s around 29°C like it was when I visited! There are six walking routes you can follow, plus a route that goes outside the park and into the neighborhood where all the mine workers used to live. The shortest route is 1.4 km, the longest one 10.9 km. But if you want to, you can walk even further as you can walk from Connecterra into other areas of the National Park Hoge Kempen.
I walked the blue route, which was 3.9 km long. Even if you want to walk longer than that, I do recommend doing part of this walk as well as it takes you up one of the mine spoil tips which offers an amazing view over the area.
The photo below is taken near the top.
There are benches and picnic tables along the walking routes in case you want to rest for a while or picnic in the park. There are no trash bins, though, as you’re expected to take your trash back with you.
Connecterra (website only in Dutch)
There’s only a small free parking right outside the entrance gate, but you can leave your car at the large free parking lot next to Maasmechelen Village. From there it’s only a 5-minute walk to Connecterra.
Connecterra is open all year
- April – October: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- November – March: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- except on Mondays from September – June
Eisden-Tuinwijk, the former mine workers neighborhood
At the Maasmechelen Tourism Office, located on the parking lot across from cinema Euroscoop Maasmechelen and Maasmechelen Village, you can get a free map of the area. If you want a detailed walking or cycling map, you need to pay a bit, but this free map already shows you the most important sights of the area and I didn’t really feel like I needed anything else, especially as it has a walking route through the Eisden-Tuinwijk.
Eisden is a borough of Maasmechelen and mostly known because of the coal mine that used to be there. Eisden-Tuinwijk (literally translated as “Eisden-Garden Quarter”) is the neighborhood where are the mine workers used to live. This quarter was built especially for them and aside from a few modern additions, the houses in this neighborhood are still the ones built at the beginning of the 20th century.
The most important buildings here are the Turkish Tehvid mosque, the mine director’s house and the Saint Barbara Church.
Can be missed
Besides Eisden-Tuinwijk, I also visited some of the other sights shown on the map and if I’m honest, I can’t say I really found them worth walking too. They’re fun to do if you’re doing a large cycle tour, for example, but I wouldn’t especially drive there or make a large detour to see them. The sights I’m talking about are: the Moroccan mosque El Islam, the Moroccan mosque El Mohammedi, the Greek Orthodox church Agios Dimitrios, the windmill in Leute and the castle Villain XIIII in Leute.
The map with walking route through Eisden-Tuinwijk can be found at the Maasmechelen Tourism Office (site only in Dutch), Zetellaan 35, Maasmechelen.
April – September:
– Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
– Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
October – March:
– Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
– Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
C-mine isn’t located in Maasmechelen, but in Genk, just a 25-minute drive from Maasmechelen. I’d like to mention it here, though, as it’s so close to Maasmechelen and is also a former mining site. Interesting about C-mine is that they’ve repurposed a part of the mining site (you can now find two bistros, a cinema, an art school, a cultural center and several creative companies there), and kept another part the way it was for tourists and others interested in industrial heritage.
Evence Coppéelaan 91
There are four large free parking lots. If you’re coming as a visitor, it’s best to park at parking lot n° 2.
So, yes, I did manage to keep myself busy for two days in Maasmechelen. I actually had a really great time. The weather was fantastic and everyone I met was so friendly, both in the stores at Maasmechelen Village as at Connecterra and the tourism office. That shouldn’t have surprised me, though: people from the Belgian province Limburg are known for their friendliness!
I was invited to Maasmechelen by Different Hotels to spend a night at their Terhills Hotel, housed in a former mining building.