It is difficult to believe that there is a place where you could combine amazing shopping, a long walk in nature and get acquainted with local history – all in one day! Belgium is one of these countries where you will always be surprised, even when you believe you have already seen everything. Where else, if not in Belgium, a picturesque promenade and stunning shopping could be absolutely compatible? A day trip to Genk and Maasmechelen is a mandatory pleasure for everyone who wants to tick off all of their favorite activities away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
I highly recommend beginning the promenade with a visit to Bokrijk Castle. This is a big and exquisite castle built in 1252 in the Neoclassical style. The domain Bokrijk hosts an open-air museum, an arboretum, a nature reserve and also features an attractive playground. The open-air museum was created in 1938 and perfectly combines culture with nature, while the arboretum impresses with ornamental gardens and a fern garden.
Genk is one of these small coquettish towns that will enchant you from the first second. Quiet and tidy today, Genk used to be a filthy coal-mining swamp in the past. Since the coal-mining industry ended, the town rediscovered itself into this pretty piece of heaven. This green town huddled at the edge of a huge national park is one of the best places to live in Belgium, with the cleanest air to breathe. While you are here and enjoying the clean air, do not miss the two most impressive local icons – the C-Mine and the Hoge Kempen National Park.
The C-Mine will blow your mind with its spectacular architecture. The museum offers an entrancing tour through industrial history, and lots of interactive displays keep children and adults alike occupied. The colorful Tim Walker exhibition is stunning and full of creative photos. The C-Mine is also a famous cultural scene, where many theatre, music, cinema and art events abound. If you are a fan of old machinery, are not afraid to climb the 60-meter high tower, you love history, or just want to experience something new - C-Mine is your place. Better book in advance, since it is a popular destination, and everybody loves to come here more than once.
The National Park Hoge Kempen is located in the province of Limburg, right next to Genk. A nature reserve spanning over 12 000 hectares of heathland and forest is an ideal place for hiking, horse-riding, and cycling. The long cycling route of the Regional Landschap Kempen en Maasland allows everybody to enjoy a good cycling ride in the shady forest, among wildlife and picturesque views hidden behind the next corner.
You can ride a horse, or you could also arrange for a horse-drawn carriage with a driver. The equestrian, the walking and the cycling roads never overlap, so you do not have to worry about getting hit from behind while enjoying the scenery. Of course, you could also reach the Maasmechelen shopping village from Genk by only crossing the reserve. It will take you between two and three hours, but it would only feel like a jiffy when you are in such a beautiful place.
What better end of the day than relaxing shopping? The Maasmechelen Shopping Village is an open-air location boasting over 100 boutiques, where you could save up to 60% on the recommended retail price of your purchases. And if you are there with an experienced local shopaholic, they will teach you how to get an additional 10% off. A nice and cheap place to purchase a lot of famous trendy brands, Maasmechelen is the preferred outlet for many Belgians and Netherlanders. It has huge free parking and offers free WiFi. There are also a bunch of good organic restaurants and bakeries to take a bite. Despite the many famous brands on sale here, it is rather pretty and neat than pretentious. The outlet village offers a nice atmosphere and a great experience even if you are not a big fan of shopping. But with such a wide variety of brands, you will hardly leave empty-handed.
Time flies imperceptibly on such a day full of rich and different experiences. I promise you will get home with a heart full of joy, bags full of good bargains and a memory card full of lovely photos and memories. A picturesque promenade, interesting history and stunning shopping in Genk and Maasmechelen are a treat everyone deserves. Even if you did manage to make most of this day trip, I am sure you will be tempted to come back again to this beautiful and intriguing area of Belgium!
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