When you are planning to make a citytrip in Belgium, you probably think immediately of major cities such as Ghent, Brussels or Leuven. However, there are also some surprising alternatives you should try. Like Tongeren, for example, with its compact but vibrant city center. Shops, museums, restaurants… everything is within walking distance and there is always something to do. Even on Sunday!
Discover the historical city center of Tongeren along the Milestone Routes
Tongeren Tourism had created three Milestone Routes, which guide visitors through the oldest city of Belgium. There is a short route of less than two kilometers (blue), a medium route (red) and a longer route of about 6 kilometers (green). These routes connect perfectly with each other and can therefore perfectly be combined. Just follow the stepping stones with the coloured letter M.
The red Milestone Route
This route starts at the tourist information office, which is located in an old chapel in the city center. Be sure to take a look inside: you can not only get information about the city, but you can also buy regional products and souvenirs in a beautiful setting. Afterwards, you walk towards the market square. There, you can see the iconic statue of Ambiorix, aka ‘King of the Eburones’. Julius Caesar once said the Belgians are “the bravest of all Gauls” and that’s because of this hero. He defeated the Romans and managed to escape when the Romans took revenge. But he clearly never buried the battle axe.
The route continues in the direction of the basilica and the Gallo-Roman museum. A visit to this museum is highly recommended. The museum has a very extensive permanent exhibition and interesting temporary expos. Then, the stepping stones lead you to the Beguinage and finally to the Moerenpoort. The Moerenpoort is the only city gate that remains. In the Middle Ages, city gates were used to control who was going in and out the city. For a small entrance fee you can go inside and you can enter the roof (request the access code at the tourist information office). You have a great view over Tongeren from the roof top. The last part of the walk is via the Leopoldwal. The medieval ramparts, of which you can still see remnants, were built on the foundations of the Roman ramparts.
TIP: the red Milestone route is very suitable to do with children. You can pick up a free kid’s brochure at the information office, to make it an entertaining walk for all of you. Together with ‘Joris Ambiorix’, children learn things about the history of Tongeren in a playful way. Moreover, a visit to the Gallo-Roman museum is kidsproof, as well as a visit to the Moerenpoort. In the Moerenpoort Museum, for example, there is trail especially set up for children between 6 and 12 years old.
Go searching for attic treasures at the weekly flea market
Every Sunday morning, you can search for antique treasures and unique collectors items at the Tongeren flea market. It’s the largest flea market in the Benelux. The place to be for anyone who likes vintage. Count me in!
Or visit a real treasury
The Basilica of Our Lady houses unique church treasures. This might sound a bit dull, but trust me, a visit to the Teseum is really worth it! The teseum is not a dusty museum, but a modern complex you can explore at your own pace with an audio guide. Gold is shimmering in the treasury room, which is quite impressive. You will see ancient reliquaries, statues and liturgical vestments.
Bring out your inner shopping queen/king
The Maastrichterstraat is the main shopping street in Tongeren. You will find some large stores in this street such as ICI Paris XL, HEMA and Hunkemöller, but also smaller boutiques. Beside, there is a shopping center close to the tourist information office: Julianus Shopping. Every month, there is a shopping Sunday in Tongeren, ideal to combine with the antique market that takes place in the morning.
Practical information for your visit to Tongeren
Tongeren is just over an hour’s drive from Brussels. Near the Julianus shopping center there is a paying parking lot (Q-Park). If you are willing to park a little further on, there are also free parking options. There is, for example, a spacious, free parking lot at the city park De Motten.
It’s also possible to reach Tongeren by public transport. From the train station, it’s only a few minutes’ walk to the historical city center.
I’ve made a day trip to Tongeren, but there is actually so much to see that you can easily spend a weekend in this city. Be sure to check out the Tongeren Tourism website to get an overview of the accommodations. There is plenty of choice. Would you rather spend the night outside the city center, in the green surroundings of Haspengouw? Then, I can recommend to take a look at my previous blog post.