Hasselt is a Belgian city in the province of Limburg. The fact that it sits between the Albert Canal and the A13 motorway may not sound too encouraging, but once you travel beyond the ring road which circles Hasselt and enter the actual city centre itself, you’ll discover something of a hidden gem. The original medieval street plan of the city is still intact in many places, as is much of the architecture from the era. The fact that the centre is virtually car free and fairly compact makes exploring on foot both safe and a pleasure. Hasselt has much to offer for anyone seeking a genuine Belgian taste of life in terms of food, drink, fashion and culture. It also combines older monuments and buildings with open green spaces and a thriving retail scene. The economy, which once depended on heavy industry powered by the mines of nearby Genk, has been refashioned to rely on the provision of services.
Hasselt is a name which derives from the German for hazel wood and its name is first mentioned on history books written in the 12th century. At that time it would probably have been a small settlement on the banks of the river Demer, but by 1232 it had grown sufficiently in size to be declared a city. Over the years since it has been an industrial base, a transport hub – it is still just an hour away from five separate airports – and a centre for gin production. Today it draws on this rich past and is busy reinventing itself as a magnet for discerning shoppers from across Europe, drawn by a combination of traditional shops and upmarket designer boutiques.