8 hidden secrets in Hasselt
We’ve partnered with the author of best-selling book ‘500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels‘, Derek Blyth to bring you tips for exploring the colorful side of Hasselt. Exclusively for Park Inn by Radisson, Blyth shows us some of the city’s best hidden spots. Anyone who says Hasselt is boring just doesn’t know where to look! Follow for more in this series of curated tips by Derek Blyth for Park Inn coming soon. Check out this blog about the 5 most colourful spots in Brussels and 10 hidden secrets of Leuven.
Hasselt is a friendly Flemish town that is gaining a reputation for quirky charm. It used to be known only for its jenever distilleries, but it is rapidly becoming a fashionable alternative to Antwerp. Explore the quiet cobbled streets and you will find independent stores, vintage shops and cool coffee bars, as well as art galleries, museums and restaurants.
The Begijnhof church was destroyed in the war, leaving just fragments of brick wall overgrown with ivy. But some of the old houses are still standing. You can step inside tiny walled gardens planted by local gardeners in different styles. Some look like neat mediaeval herb gardens. Others are more romantic. But each one tells a personal story, which you can read on a small notice posted next to the entrance.
© @journeyofagypsy / Instagram
It’s easy to miss the secret alleys that run between the main shopping streets, like the passage at Havermarkt 31 and the lovely Ossekopsteeg at the end of Lonbaardstraat. You should also take a look down the narrow Walputsteeg which is lined with café terraces that soon fill up at the end of the working day. But the most secret spot is the tiny park off Hemelrijk with benches, sculptures and a Little Free Library (it looks like a red bird box) attached to a wall.
The Japanese garden in Hasselt is the largest in Europe, but it’s still quite small. It is squeezed into a tiny site on the edge of town next to the ring road. You might have trouble finding it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, because it is a little corner of heaven created in the early 1990s by a team of gardeners from Japan under a friendship exchange. The site has been skilfully designed to include a flowing river, small hill, waterfall, tea house and a pebbly beach. The cherry blossom is gorgeous in the spring, but it is a beautiful peaceful spot at other times of the year.
Patrick Mertens and Inge Lijnen recently opened a sublime chocolate shop in a grand Hasselt town house. Patrick and his team make the chocolates an open workshop where you can watch him stir in unusual flavours like juniper, summer fruits and smoke-dried Mexican pepper. You can sit in the elegant salon at the back of the shop where you will be served a coffee, a glass of water, a chocolate mousse and two handmade chocolates. Or simply pick up a neat box to take home.
King Kong Coffee
This spot is the perfect hipster hangout in the heart of Hasselt. It has a recycled industrial interior, cool music and free wifi. The bearded barista works through orders written on yellow post it stickers while customers tap away on laptops or read De Morgen’s culture pages. The coffee is extremely good.
© King Kong Coffee
This stunning brasserie opened in 2012 in a grand town house decorated with pillars, chandeliers and oil portraits. The young chef Giovani Oosters creates trendy modern dishes based on traditional Hasselt recipes. His aim is to create food that reflects Hasselt’s bold marketing claim to be “the capital of taste”.
© @peggytaelman / Instagram
Three young locals have renovated a corner building to create an inspiring concept store furnished with recycled materials. Hendrikshuis sell quirky furniture, vintage clothes and accessories by local designers including bags made from old flags.
© @hendrikshuis / Instagram
This small gallery dedicated to street art opened in the Dorpsstraat quarter in 2009. Alley Gallery is owned by two graphic artists who put on exhibitions by contemporary artists such as Ephameron, Attak and Toy Factory.
About the Author
This blog post was contributed by travel writer Derek Blyth, author of the bestselling The 500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels, as well as similar guides to Antwerp and Ghent.
Park Inn by Radisson Hasselt