Top 5 Things to do in Diest (Flanders - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE TO VISIT DIEST IN ONE DAY or TWO DAYS

Diest is a charming, historic city located in Flanders in Belgium. It has a funny tag line - From Orange to Mustard pot!!! Well, the Orange stands for the Orange Dynasty that ruled over Diest and formed the town as we know it today and the Mustard Pot represents the shape of the carillon tower of the church. Read on to know more information about Diest.

Things to do in Diest Lindenmolen
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium Diest Beguinage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium Diest Beguinage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium Diest Beguinage

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN DIEST, BELGIUM - DIEST BEGUINAGE
When I was telling that I've already been to quite a few beguinages all over Belgium, I was immediately informed that the Diest Beguinage is the most beautiful & picturesque of all beguinages and after visiting here I really wouldn't disagree. 
The monumental gate of the Diest Beguinage was built in 1671 CE following the style of Rubens. There's a gorgeous baroque styled Virgin Mary sculpture on the gateway. On the backside of the gateway is the patron saint of the Beguinage Church, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The houses here belong to the 17th & 18th C CE and have been renovated and protected. As I walked the streets of Diest Beguinage I could spot building as old as 1652, 1732, 1741, 1766 etc.  The original chapel of the beguinage was built in 1265 CE but there are no traces of it, right now. The origin of the current church is from 14th CE and was expanded till 18th C CE. It was charming to see the old water pump, old post box etc. All the houses had a sculpture atop the door. As I mentioned earlier, yes, it is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Flemish beguinages.

Where is Diest Beguinage (on Google Maps)? Begijnhof Diest
How to reach Diest Beguinange? Just beside Warande Park and across Webbekoms Broek. 1.3km from Diest Railway station. 
Diest Beguinage tickets: Free
Diest Beguinage opening hours: 24x7

Diest Walking Tour of Historic Centre Schaffense Poort

DIEST CITADEL & PEGASUS MUSEUM
The entire city of Diest is surrounded by its majestic fortification walls. As of now, this is the only citadel in Europe whose defence system & architecture still survives. 
The main part of the citadel was built in 1845-53 with the main purpose being military. The ramparts and the city walls extended as far as into the Webbekoms Broek & Halve Maan Domaine of today.
In fact till very recent past, till 2011, it served military function housing Belgium's First Battalion of Paratroopers. The citadel is shaped like a pentagon and has moats surrounding it, which are however dry. The barracks had various functions incl. living quarters for the troopers, storage for both arms & supplies, infirmary, kitchen etc. Today the citadel houses the Pegasus museum dedicated to Belgian Paratroopers and Para-Commandos. Both the citadel itself & the Pegasus museum can be visited today only by group tours so unfortunately, I didn't manage to visit it yet.

Where is Diest Citadel (on Google Maps)Pegasus Museum
How to reach Diest Citadel? 1.5km from Diest Railway Station and 350m (5 mins walk) from Grote Markt Diest
Diest Citadel tickets: Free
Diest Citadel opening hours: Can be accessed only via pre-booked guided group tours. The museum also has an open door on certain days during the summer school holidays. The exact dates can be checked on the official website of Pegasus Museum.

Diest in one day De Hofstadt Museum

Diest in one day De Hofstadt Museum

Diest in one day De Hofstadt Museum

DE HOFSTADT - DIEST MUNICIPAL MUSEUM
De Hofstadt is located under the Diest Town Hall. This Grote Markt (Grand Place) has been in existence since 1337 CE. Today only the cellars of the medieval building exist and that's exactly where the De Hofstadt museum is (the current town hall belongs to the early 18th C CE). It is a relatively small museum.
The central room is called the Gothic room. The first room is G.Van der Linden Room which has a gorgeous marble sculpture of Virgin & Child of 1344/55. This is a copy however and the original is in MET Museum New York. Also here are 5 of the bells from the St.Sulpitius Church. The next room is the Orange Nassau room dedicated to the history of the town of Diest and its Orange princes since 1499 CE. Here are the paintings of various royalty, of the Orange dynasty. Also here is a stunning wooden sculpture of Our Lady of Cloth Makers' Hall sculpted in 14th C CE. This is one of the pieces that were kept safe when the Diest Belfry was demolished. There are also a few of the bells, foundation stone and a couple of sculptures of the Diest Belfry in the display. There are a few modern stained glass windows. Don't miss the chandelier atop. Guess what it is made of? Stag antlers... in 15th C CE!!! What looks like a table in the centre is actually a piece of the tiles of the long-gone Baanderheren Castle. 
The next 2 rooms are dedicated to religious works including paintings, sculptures and church treasury items like relics, chalices, lamps, candleholders, chains, gilts, crowns etc.

Where is De Hoftadt - Diest Municipal Museum (on Google Maps)? De Hofstadt Museum
How to reach De Hoftadt - Diest Municipal Museum? It is right in the centre of Grote Markt. 1.2km from Diest Railway Station 
De Hoftadt - Diest Municipal Museum tickets: Free
De Hoftadt - Diest Municipal Museum opening hours: Closed on Mon & Wed. 11:00AM to 5:00PM on Tue, Thu & Fri. 1:00PM to 6:00PM on Sat & Sun. 

Important Diest Landmarks Saint Sulpitius Church

Important Diest Landmarks Saint Sulpitius Church

Important Diest Landmarks Saint Sulpitius Church

SAINT SULPITIUS CHURCH
The patron saints of the church and the city are Saint Sulpitius and Saint Dionysius. It is said that the first St.Sulpitius church here was founded by Saint Remaclus in 7th C CE. It might have been a simple wooden chapel. It was then converted to a Romanesque church and later in 1312 CE the current humongous structure was built with Gothic architecture. The primary Gothic architect was French master builder, Pierre de Savoye. The carillon tower of the church is a Baroque construction and is made of Ironstone. Its tiny top reminded people of mustard pot because being an exotic herb, people had to make cheap homegrown mustard in such tiny pots! 
Also Read: Safeguarding the carillon culture (UNESCO ICH) in Mechelen Rumbold's Cathedral
The tomb of Prince Philip William of Orange-Nassau is in this church. Unfortunately, since I visited in April and since the church opens only on the first Sunday of every month in April I couldn't see inside the church. It is definitely amusing because it is such a humongous church with amazing architectural & sculptural elements and visitors & tourists cannot see it for such a long time!

Where is Sint Sulpitius Church (on Google Maps)Sint-Sulpitius Church
How to reach Sint Sulpitius ChurchIt is right in the centre of Grote Markt. 1.2km from Diest Railway Station 
Sint Sulpitius Church tickets: Free
Sint Sulpitius Church opening hours: May 1 to Sept 15: Tue-Sun 1:00PM to 5:00PM; Sept 16 - Apr 30: Open only on first Sunday of every month 1:00PM to 5:00PM

de Gulden Maan Jan Berchmans birthplace Diest

de Gulden Maan Jan Berchmans birthplace Diest

Diest Self guided Walking Tour

SELF GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF THE HISTORIC CITY CENTRE OF DIEST
The walking tour of Diest began right at our B&B in the heart of the city at the Grote Markt. Our first stop was of course De Hofstadt - Diest Municipal Museum followed by admiring the exteriors of Sint-Sulpitiuskerk as well as the sculpture of Nicolaes Cleynaerts as well in Grote Markt. He was a humanist of Diest who lived in the early 16th C CE who tried to find what's common between Hebrew & Arabic thereby trying to create peace between Muslims & Christians!
The next stop was the House de Roksam. This is a 2 storeyed corner house, built in 15-16th C CE, just before reaching Allerheiligenkapel. Next stop was of course All Saints Chapel (Allerheiligenkapel). The current architecture belongs to 1854. There are various votive sculptures and figurines gifted by various pilgrims. Just beside the chapel is a staircase that lends an exceptional view of not just the chapel, but the entire town of Diest, from atop! Atop the staircase is Diest Citadel & Pegasus Museum
After the citadel, we headed to see how a channel of the river Demer runs through the city today again since 2016 after it was closed down (like De Senne of Brussels), long back. This is called de Kaai (the Quay). With walking platform and seating arrangments, this has been made to sit & relax. Walking away from the Kaai, we came across the Refugehouse of Averbode Abbey (Refugehuis van de Abdij van Averbode). This was where the fathers of Averbode Abbey took refuge (along with the important documents) when they were under attack! Further ahead, inside Park Cerckel is the ruins of Friary Minor Monastery incl. the monastery entrance, built during 17th-18th C CE. Walking on the Michel Theysstraat, it is impossible to miss the historic Cerckel Brouwerij, one of the many breweries that existed on the banks of river Demer, once upon a time! 
Walking along the Kaai again, we crossed through the Refugehouse of Premonstratensians of Tongerlo. We were back to the city centre again and in front of the Lakenhalle is the Holle Griet (an iron canonof 1465 CE in public display. When I was looking at the places to visit in Diest, I was amused that there's no Belfry here! Actually, there was one, just next to Lakenhalle. But unfortunately, it was so dilapidated that it had to be demolished!!! Close to this is the Tourism Office of Diest which is in fact housed in the first-ever hospital of Diest built in 1250 CE. Though the current architecture belongs to 18th C. 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium Diest Beguinage

Top things to do in Diest Warande Park

Top things to do in Diest Warande Park

Top things to do in Diest Ezeldijkmolen

The next stop was the very beautiful Ezeldijkmolen. This is a watermill built in 14th C CE (renovated in 16th C CE) which is not a functioning mill now, but a very picturesque place with a raised wooden platform to walk on. Next quick stop was the Church of Our Lady, Diest. The next stop was the beautiful Diest Beguinange followed by De Warande park. It is a beautiful, tiny, little forest in the midst of the city! Long back this was where the castle of Lords of Diest was located which was demolished when the princes of Orange took over, who converted this to a hunting ground. Its has a majestic arched gate. Very close to it is the historic Court of Nassau
After crossing Sint-Barbarakerk, there are 2 houses built in 15th-16th C called the Checkerboard house & Fortuyn House. It is impossible to miss the historic half-timber architecture. The unusual thing is the projecting upper floors supported by wooden beams. The 1st floor is bigger than the ground floor & the 2nd floor is more projecting than the 1st!
The last stop was de Gulden Maan (The Golden House). This was the birthplace of Jan Berchmans, the patron saint of studying youngsters. He was born here in 1599 as the son of a cobbler. After joining the Jesuit order, he went to Rome, by walk to study. He soon died and later in 1888, Leo XIII canonized him. Today, this house of Sint-Jan Berchmans, renovated in 1850 CE,  has been converted into an incredibly beautiful chapel with very picturesque interiors. 

Where is Diest Tourism Office: Diest Tourism
Walking Map of Historic Centre of Diest: Discovering Diest on foot via Diest Tourism (opens/downloads as PDF)

Diest Webbekoms Broek Lindenmolen

Diest Webbekoms Broek Demer river

Diest Webbekoms Broek Canons

Diest Webbekoms Broek Canon

WEBBEKOMS BROEK & HALVE MAAN DOMAIN
When I first saw about Webbekoms Broek and Halve Maan Domain I was confused if both are the same or if at all there's a difference, what was it! Well, here's the answer - Halve Maan Domain (a leisure park) is inside Webbekoms Broek (an ecological reserve). 
Like Provincie Domain of Huizingen, Halve Maan is also a Domain with so many things to do, especially with kids - there's a playground, a mini-golf, a boating pond, mini cars rental, and of course a fabulous outdoor swimming pool complete with a 'sandy beach'! The boating, minicars & mini-golf and swimming pool are open in spring & summer only. There's also an awesome rope adventure called 'Altitude Trail' (something similar to the Tree-top Park of Durbuy Adventure Valley). But this is open only for groups of at least 10 people. So unless you go with maybe 2-3 other families or organize a birthday party at Halve Maan Diest, this is a no-go.  
Webbekoms Broek is basically the valley of river Demer filled with a wide variety of ecology incl. grasslands, marshlands, groves, flowering plants visited by many water and marsh birds! There are 3 way-marked trails in Webbekoms Broek (2 of which (red & orange) cross Halve Maan Domain). We walked a portion of the orange trail and then continued on the green trail to reach the Diest railway station. 
Our starting point was at the 18th C windmill Lindenmolen and we followed the orange trail into the Webbekoms Broek. Very soon we spotted the 18th C canons! Today the canons have been repurposed as seating arrangement overlooking the Demer river! Actually, the way-marked route does not directly take you to the canons but only lets you have a view of the canons from across the river. A small diversion is needed to get to the canons. This spot also has a couple of Parcours games and Atyudarini wanted to spend more time here. There's also a small bee-hotel. Since we were walking beside the river Demer for most of the trail, and Atyudarini had too much fun watching the ducks, coots, geese and so many other birds. She did give a bit of her wholemeal bread to those ducks to which I soon said 'no'! So, here's a tip, carry some bird-seeds or nuts when visiting Webbekoms Broek, esp when you have kids with you! 
Diest's fortification walls extend well into the Webbekoms Broek lending some unique spots to visit. A small part of the wall & gate is right where the canons are located. Another spot is the Schaffense poort and yet another is the Fort Leopold behind the Diest Railway Station. 

Where is Halve Maan Domain (on Google Maps)Provinciedomain Halve Maan
Where is Webbekoms Broek visitors centre (on Google Maps)Bezoekerscentrum Webbekoms Broek
How to reach Halve Maan & Webbekoms Broek? Across the road from Diest Beguinage. 1.4km from Diest Railway Station
Map of Halve Maan Domain: Provinciedomain Halve Maan map via Flemish Brabant / Vlaams Brabant (opens/downloads as PDF)
Walking map of Webbekoms Broek: Webbekoms Broek wandeling via Natuurenbos (opens/downloads as PDF)
Halve Maan Domain & Webbekoms Broek tickets: Free
Halve Maan Domain & Webbekoms Broek opening hours: 24 x 7
Halve Maan Domain swimming pool tickets: €12 (pre-booking with timeslot necessary)
Halve Maan Domain swimming pool opening hours: May 1 to Sept 15 11:00AM to 06:00PM

Best Diest Hotels B&B De Mout

Best Diest Hotels B&B De Mout

Best Diest Hotels B&B De Mout

Best Diest Restaurants Croq & More

DIEST HOTELS - B&B DE MOUT
There are many hotels in Diest at all price points. I stayed at B&B De Mout, on the Grote Markt (Grand Place). This was a tiny B&B with just 2 rooms located just above the tavern, De Bier Tempel. The whole place is a renovated historic building. The rooms are charming with the half-timbered ceiling, wooden decor & murals. The bathroom has a shower and the toilet is clean. The rooms also have all facilities incl. coffee machine, minibar, TV etc. The most awesome thing about B&B De Mout was its view. Both its rooms are perfect examples of 'room with a view'. They lent an incredible view of Saint Sulpitius Church (Sint-Sulpitiuskerk).

Where is B&B De Mout Diest (on Google Maps)? De Mout
How to reach B&B De Mout Diest? It is located right at the Grote Markt (Grand Place)
Room rates at B&B De Mout Diest: begins at €100 for double occupancy

BREAKFAST AT DIEST - CROQ & MORE
Pre-booking of breakfast is possible at the nearby eateries, Chocolat or Croq & More. Currently, breakfast is provided in takeaway boxes everywhere. We ordered in Croq & More and which was delivered to us in our room at B&B De Mout. It was incredibly filling! As always we had informed that we are vegetarians. My breakfast box contained varieties of bread & cakes apart from cheese varieties, fruit salad, juice & yoghurt. The kids-box contained a lot more fun things incl. chocolate milk, nutella sticks, donuts etc. To tell the truth, it was so much that we packed up most of the bread which we had all day long and had a very late lunch!

Where is Croq & More (on Google Maps)? Croq & More
How to reach Croq & More? It is located right at the Grote Markt (Grand Place)
Breakfast box for adults at Croq & More: €25
Breakfast box for kids at Croq & More: €10
Order online at Croq & More: via official website of Croq & More

ONE DAY IN DIEST ITINERARY
De Hofstadt Museum, Diest Beguinage, Diest Citadel, Lindenmolen, Halve Maan domain

TWO DAYS (WEEKEND) IN DIEST ITINERARY
Day 1 for Heritage: Walking tour of Historic City Centre incl. Diest Beguinage, De Hofstadt Museum, Diest Citadel etc.
Day 2 for Nature: Walking trail of Webbekoms Broek incl. ramparts of Diest fortification, Lindenmolen. If it is spring or summer, wrap up the day with the Halve Maan swimming pool.

HOW TO REACH DIEST
Where is Diest (on Google Maps): Diest railway station
How to reach Diest from Brussels by car: 60km via Leuven
How to reach Diest from Brussels by train: Direct train from Brussels Centraal runs once every hour. Journey takes about 45 mins. Here are some ways to get cheap Belgian Train tickets

QUICK HALF-DAY & DAYTRIPS FROM DIEST
Aarschot: Stedelijk Museum Aarschot, Aarschot Beguinage, City Brewery, Wine landscapes walking route.
Averbode: Averbode Abbey
Tielt-Winge: Vlooybergtoren

P.S: I was invited by Diest Tourism & Flemish Brabant Tourism l to experience it for review purposes, however, the opinions are my own and this post does not advertise the product/service

Things to do in Diest Pinterest Things to do in Diest Pinterest

Weekend trips from Brussels Diest Flanders Pinterest Weekend trips from Brussels Diest Flanders Pinterest


Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

2 comments:

  1. We definitely want to visit Flanders. So a stop in the charming town of Diest is something to plan. Hubby would love to learn all about the military history of this city. While not religious, we do love to visit churches. Especially one like Sint Sulpitius Church with that pretty interior. How interesting to find a windmill in Diest.

    ReplyDelete
  2. From Orange to Mustard pot... how funny! Love the self-guided walking tour. Such a great way to explore a new place on your own time!

    ReplyDelete

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