There is one place I remember very well from my childhood, Bokrijk, a medieval open air museum in Genk nearby Maastricht. I remember sitting in the car for a long way and getting very excited once we exited the highway (since that meant that we were almost there). There are many interesting activities for adults and children in the same place. It shows you a Belgium from a long gone time and lets you learn about its history in a fun and beautiful way.
Bokrijk used to be part of the domain of Herckenrode but was sold later on. On October 6 of the year 1953 the Province of Limburg decided to turn it into an open air museum. Five years later in 1958 the doors of Bokrijk were opened for the very first time for visitors. And now around 1 million people visit this place every year.
Every building in Bokrijk has its own history, which you can learn while visiting. There are also volunteers that are crafting things in the old ways. One example is a lady that is weaving by hand. You can watch them work, ask them your questions about the craft or just have a nice conversation. The difference from a normal museum is that almost nothing is behind glass. You can enter most of the buildings and they are decorated as they would have been many years ago.
Religion and especially Christianity used to be a very big thing in your everyday life in Belgium. My parents were still obliged when they were young to go to church every Sunday. While visiting the part called Haspengouw in Bokrijk you might come across actors pretending to be socialists, a priest, school teacher,... from the old times and throwing arguments at each other on the street. And the priest encouraging you to go to church. You can visit and listen to a few preaches throughout the day at the church and experience how you had to behave at the time. Mixed with some humor and reality this is a very nice thing to experience. Even as a child I loved this very much. You can also let your children experience how school used to be decades ago, let them sit on the school banks, wear an old uniform and have them listen to the teacher.
While walking around in the museum the entire day, you are guaranteed to get hungry at some point. There are several picknick places situated throughout the park and you can also enjoy a meal in the restaurant (I would recommend to bring your lunch with you since the restaurant can get very busy). They also have several cafetarias where you enjoy a delicious ice cream (I can guarantee this). There is also a small candy shop where they sell hand made candies that people ate back in time (also very delicious). There is also a shop called "De Superette" in which they sell bread made in the traditional way, such as sourdough bread. All the ingredients for the bread are also locally acquired.
Bokrijk is definitely a fun and relaxing activity for every age group. It surrounds you by the past completely and the mix of the beautiful nature and the buildings are a real plus. The many volunteers acting in the streets, sitting in the houses and so on really complete the full experience you get.
BokrijkBokrijklaan 1, 3600 Genk, Belgium
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