The capital of Belgium's Limburg province, Hasselt, is a cosy, classically European city nestled along the banks of the Albert Canal and the Demer river. A genuine slice of living history, Hasselt is renowned for its incredibly preserved medieval architecture and as 'The Capital of Good Taste.'
Hasselt, Belgium, is home to more than 78,000 Hasselaars and can trace its first inhabitants back to the Neolithic period. However, it wasn't until the 7th century that the city was officially founded, and later, in 1165, that it was first mentioned in written records and received Liège city rights.
Despite falling under siege in various civil and international wars throughout its history, the fighting spirit in Hasselt perseveres. For proof of the city's longstanding devotion to its heritage, look no further than the litany of statues, historic buildings, and gorgeous monuments that line the streets- most of which the Hasselaars have rebuilt time and time again.
Today, Hasselt is as well-loved by its visitors as it is by its residents. And, it's no wonder, considering the city's illustrious past, is matched only by the city's dynamic culture and outstanding small-town charm.
Luggage Storage near Train Stations in Hasselt
Hasselt is surrounded by two concentric circular roads that effectively prevent traffic from building up in the city and allow the city centre to remain virtually free of automobiles. Additionally, the city provides residents and visitors with a variety of public transit options that make entering the city a breeze, including the railway system.
Hasselt Central Railway Station
The primary railway station serving Hasselt, Hasselt Central Railway Station, was first built in 1865 to replace two smaller stations that could no longer handle increasing rider capacity. Later, during World War II, the station's marshalling yard and workshops were damaged by extensive bombings, during which 33 people lost their lives, and around 100 more were injured.
Eventually, the station was rebuilt in 1962 and has since undergone renovation works as recently as July 2020. Still located at the edge of Monseigneur Broekxplein, the city square, Hasselt Central Railway Station is now the convergence site for five railway lines: Railway 15 from the Kempen, Railway 21 from Sint-Truiden and Landen, Railway 21A from Genk, Railway 34 from Liège, and Railway 35 from Aarschot and Leuven.
Hasselt Central Railway Station consists of nine tracks served by nine platforms, all of which are at ground level. Furthermore, the station connects to more than 40 bus lines, including the Hasselt city bus network and regional routes.
Kiewit Railway Station
Situated in the hamlet of Kiewit, under the N74 railway bridge, the Kiewit Railway Station is only 3.2 kilometres (just under 2 miles) away from Hasselt's city centre. First opened in 1974, the station is primarily used as a commuter train for work and school by the locals.
Although the station was briefly closed for a time during the 1980s, ridership has steadily grown since then, with around 600 travellers passing through the station now on a typical weekday. In addition to serving as a connection point to over a dozen bus lines locally and regionally, Kiewit Railway Station offers three peak hour train services and one intercity train service.
In April of 2021, the first part of phased renovations plans to raise and improve the station's platforms began, with construction expected to finish in mid-2022. Once completed, Kiewit Railway Station will be fully accessible for people of all abilities, thanks to the integration of guide and lighting tiles, new signage, and new shelters.
Alken Railway Station
Similarly to Kiewit Railway Station (see above), Alken Railway Station predominately accommodates local commuters on their way to work and school elsewhere in Belgium. Alken Railway Station is a crewless station with two platforms serving two tracks, located about 9 kilometres (just over 5.5 miles) from Hasselt.
The first station in the village of Alken was erected across the street from the current building in 1847. In 1903, the current station building was constructed; however, the ticket stations were closed around the end of the 20th century as a result of new railway reforms in the country.
Alken Railway Station was recently renovated between 2020 and 2021to improve accessibility for both platforms. Today, the airport connects passengers with eight bus routes and offers various railway services, including the link to Blankenberge - Brussels - Genk.
Luggage Storage at Hasselt's Airports
While there are currently no airports in Hasselt, Belgium, several airports nearby serve travellers in the area.
Maastricht Aachen Airport
Maastricht Aachen Airport is the closest public airport to Hasselt, situated 47 kilometres (just over 29 miles) away in Beek, Limburg, the Netherlands. Maastricht Aachen Airport, one of the largest regional airports in the Netherlands, sees around 200,000 passengers annually, give or take 100,000 passengers, depending on the year.
The airport was first planned in 1919; however, construction was delayed by ongoing debates between provinces about who would supply the funding, and later, by the start of WWII. It wasn't until 1945 that Maastricht Aachen Airport began to take form under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces, who built the first runway on the site.
Today, the Maastricht Aachen Airport is the second-largest airline hub for freight aviation in the Netherlands, handling nearly 100,000 metric tonnes (more than 110,000 tons) of cargo for the last three years running. Travellers visiting the airport can stop in for a fresh cup of joe at the Grand Café Maastricht Airport or take a stroll through the AKO Shop for some duty-free shopping.
Liège Airport is a major international airport located near Liège, Wallonia, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Hasselt. Despite the fact that the airport is mainly utilised for aviation freight, it also offers charter and passenger flights to four destinations year-round and four more destinations seasonally.
Formerly known as Liege-Bierset Airport, the airport served as a military post before becoming a freight hub. These days, Liège Airport is Belgium's largest cargo airport and the eighth busiest cargo airport in all of Europe, handling over 800,000 tonnes per year.
The single terminal airport boasts a one million passenger yearly capacity and consists of two runways. Despite this, Liège Airport, on average, seldom sees more than 350,000 passengers in a single year.
Antwerp International Airport
Antwerp International Airport is a small international airport located in the city of Antwerp, Belgium, 75.5 kilometres (a little under 47 miles) northeast of Hasselt. The airport, which provides charter, seasonal, and regularly scheduled flights, is often utilised for private and business aviation services, as well as general aviation.
The airport, which initially opened its doors in 1923 as a flying school for training pilots, is also home to a museum devoted to its almost century-long history. The Museum Stampe-Vertongen sits directly adjacent to the Antwerp International Airport, in the same facility that first served as part of the airport in 1930. As home to 20 aeroplanes and full-size aeroplane reproductions, some of which date back to World War I, the museum is a must-see for all aviation enthusiasts.
Antwerp International Airport is a gateway to more than ten worldwide destinations, due in large part to its principal tenant, TUI fly Belgium, which operates the majority of passenger flights at the airport. If you're flying into Hasselt via Antwerp International Airport, keep in mind that the facility uses a single-terminal concept and contains only a single bistro/bar and a VIP Lounge.
What to do in Hasselt
- Browse the bevvy of shops along Koning Alberstraat and Demerstraat, and be sure to save some cash for the luxury stores on Kapelstraat and Hoogstraat.
- Take in the breathtaking sights along Hasselt's little slice of the 130 kilometres (80 miles) long Albert Canal on a relaxing river cruise.
- Chase away the rainy day blues at Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium's first-ever indoor theme park for children aged two to ten.
- Enjoy a picnic among the blooming flowers and gorgeous reflective ponds at the Japanese Garden of Hasselt.
- Marvel at more than 18,000 garments at the Modemuseum Hasselt, Hasselt's Museum of Fashion, where you can discover the history of fashion from 1750 to the present.
- Explore one of the oldest buildings in the city, the Sint-Quintinus Kathedraal, or Hasselt Cathedral, as it's colloquially known.
Hasselt is classified as having a moderate sea climate, with pleasant summers and rather cold, windy winters. While temperatures in Hasselt rarely dip below -0.5 degrees Celcius (31 degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter months, the city does see snow occasionally, depending on the flow of the Atlantic currents and the westerlies.
According to residents, if you're planning on visiting Hasselt, the best time to visit is between late June and early September. During this time, travellers can expect comfortably warm temperatures ranging from 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) and 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) and minimal precipitation compared to the rest of the year.
Fun Facts About Hasselt
- Hasselaars are some of the friendliest people in the world. So much so that the city is known as "the most sociable city in Flanders."
- Every year, Hasselt hosts Pukkelpop, one of the largest music festivals in all of Belgium, and its more than 180,000 attendees.
- Hasselt is home to more than 100 murals and is constantly adding more, as every year, the city invites artists from around the world to leave their mark on the streets at the Street Art Festival.
- Remember mix-tapes? Well, those fond memories might never exist without Hasselt, the city where the cassette was first invented.
- The Sint-Quintinus Kathedraal, St. Quentin Cathedral in English, still contains original elements from when it was first constructed that date back to the middle of the 11th century.