According to Computerminus, Genk is centrally located in the Belgian province of Limburg and is the second largest city in this province in terms of population. Only neighboring city Hasselt has more inhabitants. Genk is one of the most important industrial cities in the Flemish region. This is the result of years of mining that mainly took place here in the first half of the twentieth century. For a long time, Genk was an insignificant town, until it was discovered in 1901 that there was a coal seam near Genk. As a result, coal mines were built and large numbers of migrants were attracted to work in the mines. In the beginning, it was mainly European migrants who ensured an enormous expansion of the city’s population. In the 1960s there was a significant influx of Turkish and Moroccan labor migrants. The result is that Genk has a clear multicultural character, which is reflected in the variety of religious buildings that you will find here.

The way Genk has developed is reflected in the cityscape. Don’t expect a medieval city center or cozy streets here. Genk has mainly been developed on the basis of functionality. That does not mean that Genk is not worth a visit from a touristic point of view. On the contrary. It is precisely the history that has made Genk a unique city, which has a number of attractive facets for visitors. For example, the old mines have been transformed into tourist spots and the nature around Genk is one of the most beautiful in Belgium. Genk is located in the middle of the first national park that the Flemish government established: Hoge Kempen National Park.

Transport is essential if you want to discover the main sights and attractions of Genk. The highlights of Genk are spread over eight districts. They are all easily accessible from the center by bus. The car is of course also an option.

Top 10 things to do in Genk

#1. C-Mine

Thanks to a redevelopment project, the former coal mine of Winterslag has been transformed into a cultural and recreational center: C-Mine. The letter ‘c’ in the name stands for ‘creativity’. During the development, the monumental value of the old mine has been carefully taken into account. The two headframes have been left largely intact. It is well understood that the neo-Flemish renaissance style is an important heritage. However, optical improvements have been made to make the towers extra attractive in the dark.

For tourists, the C-Mine expedition is especially worthwhile. Here you descend into the underground and go on a mining expedition. During the descent you go to a depth of six meters and various installations allow you to experience what it was like in the mines, including the associated smells and sounds. The literal climax consists of the ascent of a shaft trestle. If you do the full climb of more than 60 meters, you will be treated to a phenomenal view of Genk and the Limburg landscape. You can also stop at a height of ‘only’ 15 meters, if your knees are shaking because of the height.

The large C-Mine square with the steel labyrinth on it is optically a sight to see. C-Mine also offers some catering and you can enjoy the latest films in the Euroscoop cinema.

#2. Domain of Bokrijk

The Bokrijk Provincial Domain is an important tourist attraction for Genk. The domain measuring 550 hectares is mainly known for the Bokrijk Open Air Museum. Within this open-air museum you can admire a large number of historical buildings from different Flemish regions and time periods. The open-air museum beautifully shows the history and culture of Flanders.

Bokrijk Castle is centrally located on the domain. This castle was built at the end of the nineteenth century. The neo-Renaissance-style castle has no museum function. Today it is mainly used as a meeting room for the Province of Limburg and for companies. Part of the castle is used as a restaurant.

You can enjoy walking and cycling on the Domain of Bokrijk. The best starting point for this is one of the two paid car parks, because there are no other parking facilities on the domain. A special piece of cycle path (which you can also walk on) is ‘Cycling through the Water’, at junction 91. Here the cycle path runs over a length of more than 200 meters straight through a pond. A unique experience!

#3. Hoge Kempen National Park

For nature lovers there is a lot to enjoy around Genk. The Hoge Kempen National Park begins on the east side of Genk. Some of the nature reserves that make up the national park lie within the territory of Genk. That is why there are two entrance gates within Genk: Kattevennen gateway (next to the Cosmodrome) and Thor Park gateway. The Hoge Kempen National Park offers a wide variety of biotopes, which form the habitat for numerous animals. The best chance of spotting the animals is just after sunrise and before sunset. In total there are more than two hundred kilometers of signposted hiking trails within the park.

#4. From the labioma

In the Zwartberg district you can visit the life’s work of artist Koen Vanmechelen: Labiomista. An evolving evolving artwork about the mix of life. That is how Koen Vanmechelen describes Labiomista himself. The total park consists of 24 hectares and has various open-air installations. There are a number of striking buildings on the site: the base is formed by the former director’s residence of the mine and the zoo. Two structures designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta have been added: The Ark, which forms the entrance, and The Battery. Furthermore, we don’t want to reveal too much about the special experience that we think Labiomista is. If you are somewhat fond of modern and contemporary art that makes you think, then you should definitely enter the wonderful world of Labiomista when you visit Genk. Because the outdoor experience is an essential part of Labiomista, the museum is closed during the winter season.

#5. Mill pond park

The Molenvijver Park is the green heart of the city of Genk. The approximately 15 hectare city park is located directly east of the center. The park was created where the Dorpsbeek in the Molenvijver. The Dorpsmolen present in the park is no longer in use as a mill. It is now used as a catering business. The sundial park in the Molenvijver Park is of interest to enthusiasts. In total there are twelve completely different sundials. Thanks to the explanations on the accompanying information boards, you will learn how the sundials work.

#6. Slagmolen

About five centuries ago, a water mill was installed on the Striemerbeek. The mill was built around 1523. The fulling mill was built by order of the cloth guild, with the aim of woolen. Woven wool was felted here. Over the years, the function of the mill changed. Later on, oil was extracted from rapeseed and rapeseed and the mill served as a flour mill. Thanks to restorations, the Slagmolen can still be seen in the Striemerbeek. It is the best known and oldest mill in Genk. The Slagmolen is now a protected monument.

#7. Emile Van Doren Museum

The Emile Van Dorenmuseum is an art museum that, among other things, but not only, is devoted to the Brussels artist Emile Van Doren. The museum is located in the former home of the landscape painter: Le Coin Perdu. Van Doren has found a lot of inspiration in the landscapes around Genk. It is not for nothing that this is reflected in his paintings. In addition to the works of Emile Van Doren, you can admire paintings by other painters such as Joseph Coosemans and Léon Becker in the museum. The Emile Van Dorenmuseum is open four days a week and admission is free.

#8. Thor Park

The Waterschei coal mine was one of seven mines to be found within the Kempen coal basin. Between its opening in 1924 and its closing in 1987, more than 70 million tons of coal was mined at this site. Instead of demolishing the mine, the city of Genk, together with the Limburg Investment Company, ensured that the former coal mine was given a new function. The site has been transformed into the Thor Park. Here you will mainly find knowledge-oriented companies and research institutions. The main building of the mine now has a multifunctional role within Thor Park. Architecture enthusiasts will love the beautiful design of this 22,000 square meter structure.

#9. Shopping 1

Genk is known as an excellent shopping city. For decades people have come to Genk from the wider area to shop here. The major crowd pullers are the three shopping centers centrally located in the center with the unimaginative names Shopping 1, Shopping 2 and Shopping 3. These shopping centers were created as a result of urban renewal. This made Genk progressive, because Shopping 1 is the oldest shopping center in Belgium. Shoppers have been able to shop here indoors since August 28, 1968. It is striking how well this shopping center has withstood the test of time. In fairness, we should mention that Shopping 1 has undergone some changes in the meantime.

#10. André Dumontmonument

The Belgian geologist and mining engineer André Dumont was the founder of the mining industry around Genk. He is the one who discovered the presence of coal in (Belgian) Limburg in the night of 1 to 2 August 1901. That happened in the nearby town of As. A monument has been erected on that spot for André Dumont. There is a second André Dumont monument in Genk. The sculpture can be found in front of the Sint-Martinuskerk in Genk.

Genk, Belgium

Things to Do in Genk, Belgium
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