In the area of Parkstad (which literally can be translated as Park City) you can time travel from Roman times with its precious and unique excavations, to contemporary times with colourful street art and everything in between. This area in Zuid Limburg is both green and urban at the same time, and is versatile in its range of historical and fun activities for a weekend away. In this blog post I share our highlights of 24 hours in Parkstad.
Best sights in Heerlen
The village of Heerlen grew into a city because of the opening of coal mines. In a few decades the city underwent tremendous development and experienced economic prosperity. But unfortunately the closure of the mines had a great impact as well. The large mining complexes disappeared in the 70's of the last century, but much in the former mining area is still reminiscent of that time.
In the Nederlands Mijnmuseum (Dutch Mining Museum) you can you can see and experience the mining past. Spread over four floors of a monumental department store you can discover all facets: dark stories, golden times, gray sides and colorful perspectives.
At the ground floor of the museum which is called Zwart (black) you learn about the origin of coal and the underground work involving thousands of people.
☞ Doctor Poelsstraat 29, Heerlen
In the 1950s and 1960s, the mining region experienced heydays. Coal equaled wealth and gave life a golden egde. The second floor is therefore called Goud (gold) and shows the prosperity and joy of life back then.
Naturally, coal mines have major consequences for both nature and people. The rise and fall of the industry is shown at floor Grauw (gray). Mining accidents and black lungs were direct dangers to which one was exposed. After the closure of the mines, other dangers emerged such as severe poverty and addictions.
Fortunately these years are far behind us, but it is good to realise how important this part of history was for the city and its inhabitants. From the upper floor of the Mining Museum (which is about colourful perspectives and a bright future for Heerlen) it's just a small step to street art. Because Heerlen is Street Art Capital of the Netherlands! Below I share three murals I spotted in the city center.
Behind the Pancratius Church you will find this mural by Os Gemeos (Portugese for The Twins) from Brazil.
These Mini-Miners by Jaune Art from Brussels can be found on the stairs of SCHUNCK.
The 'Urban Mythology' mural of Orpheus by PichiAvo (at Quatro cinema) is referring to the Roman history of the city.
SCHUNCK is a cultural institution which consists of a contemporary art museum, a public library and a music & dance school all in one. It is also known under its nickname Het Glaspaleis (the glass palace). This modernist building was built in 1935 by architect Fritz Peutz for the Schunck family who were in the fabric business. Over the years, the building had various functions, and went from success story during the time of the coal mines to decline in the 1980s. Fortunately it was saved from demolition in the 1990s because it is seen as one of the most important buildings of the 20th century in the Netherlands. And in 2015 it was nominated as European Heritage.
In the stairwell there are murals by Dutch artist Fiona Lutjenhuis from her project which is called Sideways Universe. Here you can also see the beautiful shadow play of the many windows of SCHUNCK.
The Maankwartier by artist Michel Huisman (born and raised in Heerlen) is a combination between art and architecture. It connects the northern and southern parts of the city and contains the train station, shops, cafes, offices and residential apartments. The tower depicted below is a Heliostat, which is a "solar tower". It is an instrument that uses a mirror in the hemispherical sphere (more than 6 meters in diameter) on top of the tower to reflect sunlight. The sphere follows the sun all day, and when te sun sets the sphere turns with the flat side down after which it is in sleep mode during the night.
Best sight in Hoensbroek
About 1000 years ago, the rich and powerful rulers in the Netherlands began to fortify their houses to protect themselves against the enemy. These fortified houses were the first castles. The Dutch castles were almost all made of wood, so none of these are left. Because wood decays faster, can easily be set on fire and rot. That is why from about 1250 more and more castles were made of stone. During restoration work at Hoensbroek Castle, the foundations of five clearly distinguishable construction periods of the castle building were encountered. About 1375 the courtyard of the Slotgebouw is the place where the first building stood in the fourteenth century, it was called 'stercke huysinghe' in Dutch.
☞ Klinkertstraat 118, Hoensbroek
Anna Catharina Rijksgravine van Schönborn, also known as the "blue lady", married Marquis Frans Arnold van Hoensbroek in 1720. Together they had no less than 24 children. They lived in Hoensbroek Castle and the Green Room became her sleeping domain, completely furnished in Regency style with a four-poster bed with green curtains.
Hoensbroek Castle is one of sixteen of the most visited castle museums in the Netherlands and Flanders, which work together under the name Topkastelen. This also shows that this castle is one of the most recommended places to visit in Parkstad!
Food and drinks in Heerlen
Jansen & Janssen is a traditional lunchroom like they have been known in Limburg for decades. Their menu, on the other hand, is a little less traditional with a large selection of panini's, salads, (club)sandwiches and toasted sandwiches. There are several vegetarian options like this clubsandwich below with pecan, avocado, egg and tomato.
☞ Doctor Poelsstraat 15, Heerlen
Brasserie Mijn Streek probably has the best view of Heerlen as it is located on the 5th floor of SCHUNCK. Here the chefs prefer to work with products from the region, while they follow the rhythm of the seasons and use organic produce as much as possible. This stylish but cozy place is in my opinion the ideal spot in Heerlen for a delicious lunch or an extensive gastronomic dinner.
Our aperitif was a great grass of brut sparkling wine called 'Kleine Prins' from Wine Estate Holset. The estate is only 15 kilometers from the restaurant, so you can't get more local than this.
Then we truly enjoyed the vegetarian menu which was put together on the advice of the chef. So no difficult choices, just immerse yourself in an evening with great food, pleasant service and a good atmosphere.
Hotel in Heerlen
The four star Hotel De Rousch in Heerlen is part of Auberge De Rousch, a former monastery farm dating from 1859 which was transformed in 1965 into a restaurant and a beautiful event location for weddings. On the former agricultural lands behind the Auberge now stands a tower in which since 2021 a brand new hotel has opened its doors with 38 luxury suites. We stayed at the 9th floor and had an amazing view over the green landscape. The room was extremely spacious (41m), spotless clean and very comfortable. It's located in a green environment where you have the best of both worlds, because both the city and nature are just a stone's throw away.
☞ Henri Dunantstraat 1, Heerlen
The breakfast room is very colourful and inviting, and has a whole wall covered with a replica of 'The White Orchard' of Dutch master painter Vincent van Gogh. The buffet was very extensive and has many different choices of bread, fresh fruit, toppings, savoury hot dishes and delicious sweets. The perfect way to start your day before exploring the area!
Tourist Information Parkstad
The Visit Zuid-Limburg Experience Heerlen-Parkstad is a great starting point when visiting the region. This tourist information center has interactive panels based on themes so you can discover the area in bird's eye view. Here you can get a glimpse of the most beautiful sights and best activities the area of Parkstad has to offer. It is as well a nice place to buy regional products as a souvenir or gift.
Tip: make sure you allocate 20 minutes to watch the video which gives you a good insight in the origins and recent history of Parkstad.
How to get to Parkstad
The cities of Heerlen and Hoensbroek are located in the southern province of Limburg in the Netherlands. The area is called Parkstad and is situated next to the German and close to the Belgian border.
A train will take you to Heerlen within:
- 25 minutes form Aachen
- 1 hour form Eindhoven or Liège
- 1,5 hours form Köln
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Please note: I was invited for this press trip by Time to Momo and Visit Zuid-Limburg.
By the way, for those who have children:
Hoensbroek Castle is also a great place for the youngest (or not so youngest...) among us!