One region in the Netherlands in particular is close to the hearts of the Traveltomtom Team, in fact, it’s home for Team Traveltomtom, and we would like to put it in the spotlight through this travel blog about Zuid Limburg. People from other parts of the Netherlands often imagine themselves being abroad when they are on holiday in South Limburg. We love showing you the most exotic and off the beaten path destinations all over our world, but we think it is about time to show you our beautiful backyard. Come visit Zuid Limburg with us!
The past few years Team Traveltomtom has explored their home country the Netherlands very extensively. Often realizing that we actually live in a great country with so many great things to see and do. We think we have one of the coolest capitals in the world with Amsterdam for example. In fact, Tripadvisor recently named the Amsterdam Canal Cruises as the world’s best experience!
Traveltomtom’s special overnight stay recommendation if you want something different is DoubleTree by Hilton Sittard where you can stay in a former high school. Check out many more cool places to stay in our blog about the best places to visit in The Netherlands.
1. Active Outdoors
South Limburg is the place to be for active outdoor enthusiasts. Whoever thinks the Netherlands is flat, you might be right there, but you have surely never visited South Limburg. This part of the Netherlands is the only hilly part of the country and therefore a true paradise for hikers, cyclists and nature lovers.
Walking and hiking in South Limburg is very varied. You walk through forests, heaths, along water, through parks and all that with the most beautiful views of our beloved Heuvelland. While walking in South Limburg you will discover something new around every corner. The landscape is so varied that you never get tired of walking around.
Looking for a challenge during your walk, then South Limburg is the right place for you! The slopes here can be tough and steep, master them at your own pace and don’t forget to enjoy the views and nature all around you.
South Limburg is a very popular destination among cyclists. In fact, Valkenburg is often referred to as the cycling capital of the Netherlands. So it’s safe to say that cyclists and mountain bikers get their money’s worth here.
Cauberg, Eyserbosweg, Keutenberg and the so called Dead Man, just to name a few of the very challenging climbs you can do here. Push yourself to the limit and face the hills that have been part of many Road Cycling World Championships, the official UCI event that has been held in South Limburg several times.
You can bring your own bike, or you can rent one at one of the many rental companies all over South Limburg. Personally we had very good experiences with Cycle Center Valkenburg and Jef Abels Bikes Gulpen. Both offered great services and good value for money.
The local tourist office has lovingly selected and compiled more than 500 walking and cycling routes. Something for everyone, choose one and enjoy!
Traveltomtom’s overnight stay recommendation when visiting Valkenburg is Hotel Valkenburg by Mercure.
2. Regional Products
It’s for a reason that tourists sometimes imagine themselves in France when they visit South Limburg. Did you know for example that there are multiple vineyards in South Limburg? These undoubtedly contribute to those French feelings. You can visit these vineyards and find out yourself how wine is made here and taste it!
It’s something we’re actually really proud of, South Limburg is the most Burgundian region of the Netherlands, known for its delicious food and drinks. So no wonder that there is plenty of choice here from special, tasteful regional dishes and local produce.
If you say Limburg, you say Limburg pie (Limburgse vlaai)! It doesn’t get more Limburgish! Every bakery or restaurant offers Limburg pie, so make sure to try this before leaving. I bet you’re taking some with you back home.
Hops grow like crazy on the sunny hills of South Limburg. As a result, you can discover the tastiest local beers from our own soil here. You can visit one of the authentic breweries, even help with the hop harvest and of course don’t forget to taste the best beers!
A drive through the Heuvelland will soon take you past rolling fruit orchards, fields and farm shops. You can taste and buy fresh fruit, pure herbs and soft honey in the most beautiful and special places. You won’t find better quality than these regional products, they’re the best!
These fruit orchards are also used for another typical Limburg regional product, molasses or syrup. The traditional distillation of Limburg syrup is officially recognized as national cultural intangible heritage. Processing apples and pears into syrup has been a true culture in South Limburg for centuries. We guarantee you that the best syrup or molasses is found right here in South Limburg!
3. Relaxation & Reflection
After all that walking and cycling through the Limburg hills, it’s about time for some relaxation. Luckily you can also find some great places here to completely relax.
Where Valkenburg is most likely the start of one or more of your cycling adventures, it can also be your place to be for some pure relaxation. Right on top of the Cauberg is Thermae 2000, with its steaming thermal baths, whirlpools, saunas, massages, everything for you to relax.
Limburg is home to more wellness centers and hotels where relaxation comes first!
Want to take some time for yourself? Want to enjoy beautiful things more intense? There is one place where you can do all of this, South Limburg, while walking one of the 11 Caminos.
A camini is a ‘mini camino’, in other words a very short pilgrimage experience. These pilgrimage walks are all along the original Jacob’s Route and are specially designed for contemplation and awareness by means of spells and assignments, just like when you would walk to Santiago. Walk, enjoy and reflect in South Limburg. We walked one of these camini walks with Visit Zuid Limburg, they can provide you with even more information if you like.
Traveltomtom’s overnight stay recommendation after a pilgrimage experience with a camini walk is MERICI Hotel Sittard.
4. South Limburg’s War History
South Limburg has often changed hands, and not without a decent fight. After the Romans, Spaniards, Austrians, French and Germans, the Dutch finally took control of the area. In some places of the province you can still feel and see that turbulent war history.
Medieval warfare comes to life in Hoensbroek Castle, the best-preserved castle in Europe. The castle ruins in Valkenburg were created during the battle against the French. In the marl caves you can find shelters and even nuclear bunkers.
The most impressive from the Second World War is the American Cemetery in Margraten. You can only see and feel what freedom means when you visit the cemetery, because freedom, now more than ever, is not self-evident.
The American War Cemetery in Margraten is probably my number one recommendation if people ask me what not to miss in South Limburg. It’s super impressive to visit the cemetery and realize that there are over 8000 American soldiers buried there, just to give us our freedom during WWII.
A different part of history, but equally as interesting is the Castle Ruin in the center of Valkenburg. The remains of the once imposing castle, the only high castle in the Netherlands, tower high above the cozy fortified town of Valkenburg.
5. Unique Nature
South Limburg is the land of chalk, marl and lime. Nowhere in the world is the geological period of the cretaceous so visible on the surface. Let yourself be carried away along beautiful limestone walls, opencast quarries and learn more about the ancient system of tunnels that meanders under the surface. Our recommendation here is to do the cycling route, 'a tasteful mix of chalk and loess'.
Traveltomtom’s Restaurant Tips for South Limburg
Calling this region of the Netherlands ‘home’ means we know this place pretty well, and we would love to share our favorite discoveries from the past few weeks with you here.
For some reason we always tend to go back to the same favorite restaurants, while it’s so much more fun to explore new places. Luckily we have done that a lot over the past few weeks and here are some of our favorites:
De Zeute Aardbei
De Zeute Aardbei, or translated The Sweet Strawberry, might be my favorite new discovery. It’s located just outside of Noorbeek in the Heuvelland. They make everything from and with strawberries. They started selling their strawberries small-scale, with a fridge and cigar box for the money. They have now grown into a cozy brasserie where you can enjoy their specialties.
We would recommend trying their food board (smulplank), a real Burgundian tasting with the best they have to offer. Enjoyed their food? They have a small onsite store where they sell their local produce. I couldn’t resist after trying their strawberry jam and syrup, I had to take some home.
De Zeute Aardbei was our lunch stop on our mountain bike route called MTB Maastricht, which was organized by Visit Zuid Limburg. De Zeute Aardbei is now my go to place for strawberry jam.
Bistro Bie Jeanneke
This is one of those places I probably would never have discovered if it wasn’t for the cycling route we did with Visit Zuid Limburg. Bistro Bie Jeanneke was our lunch break spot, and we loved it!
It’s located in Schin op Geul, a small village next to Valkenburg, and is the place to be where history and good food come together. It’s located in an idyllic spot overlooking the church square. If you’re lucky you might also see the old steam train entering or leaving Schin op Geul.
Located in Gulpen, a destination itself, Gulpen is lovely, especially in Summer with all its terraces. With 16 Gulpener beers on tap, including some experimental beers from the Microbrewery, beer is central in their eatery. Of course they also offer delicious food with pure and tasty ingredients from local soil. In their eatery they work together with suppliers who are located within a radius of 40km around the brewery. That is a conscious choice, just like they brew their beers with barley and hops from the region. Try their ‘high-beer’ and don’t forget to check out their outside terrace or beer garden.
Have you ever had lunch in an old monastery church? I bet the answer is no. Neither did we, until a few weeks ago, when one of the camini routes we walked, led us to Brasserie Abshoven. A restaurant located in an old church, it’s fantastic. I didn’t even know that it existed. From the inside it has been absolutely beautifully renovated, picture perfect. At the back they have a nice terrace, surrounded by forest and nature. Enjoy delicious dishes in peace and tranquility.
Visit Zuid Limburg
Visit Zuid Limburg has been an amazing partner to Traveltomtom over the past few weeks, organizing fantastic day trips and letting us experience our own South Limburg like we never did before. Visiting South Limburg anytime soon and looking for itineraries or information, make sure you reach out to them, I’m sure they will make your stay unforgettable.
This blog was written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She explored the Heuvelland and the South of Limburg on several occasions over the past few months, and wrote this blog about her experiences and recommendations from this part of the Netherlands.