A weekend in Turnhout (Flanders - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

I first came to know of Turnhout when I was planning to trip to Baarle-Hertog-Nassau. At that time, I considered combining Turnhout and Baarle-Hertog on a weekend trip because they're just 30 mins apart by bus! However, I ended up combining Baarle-Hertog and Eindhoven on a weekend trip from Brussels. Finally, recently, I managed to visit Turnhout on a weekend trip - a day for Turnhout City and another day for Oud-Turnhout with an overnight stay at Priorij Corsendonk hotel. Here's all about our trip.

Turnhout Apple Pear Orchards


Turnhout Speelkart Playing Cards Museum

Turnhout Speelkart Playing Cards Museum

Turnhout Speelkart Playing Cards Museum

As soon as I reached Turnhout, I first headed to the National Playing Card Museum which is one of the top places to visit in Turnhout. It was quite amusing for me to see a museum dedicated to playing cards!!! 
Since the 17th C printing has been a major industry in the region, not just for playing cards, but also for children's books, devotional books, posters, diaries, etc. Thanks to steam presses and lithography during the Industrial Revolution, printing became a more efficient and a larger-scale process in Turnhout. 

History of Playing Cards in Turnhout: The tryst of Turnhout with Playing Cards began in 1795 when, Pieter Corbeels, a printer from Leuven, moved to Turnhout together with his assistant Philippus Jacobus Brepols, to escape the French Army during the Peasants War. Soon he became the No:1 printer in the town, but then he joined the war and died. Brepols then took over the printing. Soon other players entered the industry and things got competitive. But when other towns also entered the industry, the printers of Turnhout joined hands to sustain and prevail. Brepols along with 2 other printers merged and formed Cartamundi. To date the Turnhout printing press Cartamundi is the global giant of Playing Cards!!! The history is rather turbulent, but now, playing cards and Turnhout are synonymous with playing cards with more than 1,300,000 decks being printed every day!!! 

Virtual Tour of National Playing Cards Museum, Turnhout: The self-guided tour of the museum begins with 3 short movies. There are many printing machineries on display but there's no demo normally. Demo happens twice a month and on specific dates (check the official website of National Playing Cards Museum for the demo dates & timings. 
Even without a demo, it is easy to understand them with step by step display of how outlines & colors are printed and how the cutting of sheets happens, etc. However, the steam engine here is functional and it is operated for a demo at any time. It was an absolute delight for Atyudarini when the staff told her that she could open the valve to switch on the engine!
There's a room dedicated to the turbulent past of playing cards & controversial playing cards as well!  There was a guillotine to denote cheaters in the game who were put to death incl. a king! When gambling & violence got into playing cards, Church got involved as well! There was another set of playing cards with hidden s*xual imageries which are shown only when it's held against the light!

Where is National Playing Cards Museum, Turnhout? Nationaal Museum van de Speelkaart
How to reach National Playing Cards Museum, Turnhout? 1.2km (14 mins walk) from Turnhout railway station. 400m (4 min walk) from Grote Markt. Several buses from Turnhout railway station go via Grote Markt incl. DeLijn bus routes 305, 430, 432 450, 490 etc.
National Playing Cards Museum tickets: €5 (incl. in MuseumPASSmusées)
National Playing Cards Museum timings: Tue to Fri - 10AM to 5PM; Weekends - 11AM to 5PM
Combo ticket with Taxandria Museum & Begijnhof Museum: €7.50

Turnhout Speelkart Playing Cards Museum

Turnhout Speelkart Playing Cards Museum

Turnhout Sint-Pieterskerk Flemish Masters in-Situ

Turnhout Sint-Pieterskerk Flemish Masters in-Situ

Soon after Nationaal Museum van de Speelkaart I walked back to the Grote Markt to visit St.Peter's Church. Though it is the biggest church in Turnhout, the more important reason for my visit was because it is one of the 45 Flemish Masters in Situ, meaning, artworks on Flemish Masters in their own city/town. 

History of St.Peter's Church, Turnhout: A church has been existing on this site since 13th C CE. However, of that, only the lower portions of the tower remain. In 1398 CE, the chapter was built on this spot and by 1485 CE, major expansions happened incl. choir, corridor, chapels, transcept etc. Further expansions occurred till 1740 CE. There are quite a few stunning paintings in the church from 16th C CE to 19th C CE.
Flemish Masters in Situ: As soon as I entered, I got way too fascinated by the pulpit and I didn't even know at that point, that the very pulpit was the in-Situ piece of art! It was sculpted by Hendrik Peeters, a Flemish Master born & raised in Turnhout, in 1862. The sculptural detail on it was phenomenal. The scene depicts Jesus Christ appearing before St.Peter and St.Andrew in the sea, on the boat, while they're fishing. So obviously, the fishes they caught are in the boat! There are cods, sole fishes, catsharks, shrimps, ray fishes, squids, eels, and more, right from the North Sea. They are anatomically correct and the way they are stacked on the boat looks so realistic.

Where is Sint-Pieterskerk (Saint Peter's Church), Turnhout? Sint-Pieterskerk
How to reach Sint-Pieterskerk (Saint Peter's Church), Turnhout? 900m (11 mins walk) from Turnhout railway station. It is located on the Grote Markt. Several buses from Turnhout railway station go via Grote Markt incl. DeLijn bus routes 305, 430, 432 450, 490 etc.
Sint-Pieterskerk (Saint Peter's Church) tickets: Free
Sint-Pieterskerk (Saint Peter's Church) timings: Tue to Sat - 8:30AM to 5PM; Sun & holidays - 9:30AM to 5PM

Turnhout Sint-Pieterskerk Flemish Masters in-Situ

Turnhout Sint-Pieterskerk Flemish Masters in-Situ

Turnhout Castle of the Counts of Brabant
That's how the castle looks from the main street!

Turnhout Castle of the Counts of Brabant

From Sint-Pieterskerk, my next stop was Kasteel van de Hertogen van Brabant. This was a surprise. Castle of the Dukes of Brabant was on my itinerary and when I went there, it was like a surprise, tucked away, off the main road. The moat is invisible from the main road and the castle looks like yet another regular building at the end of the street.t But, as you get closer.......

History of the Castle of the Dukes of Brabant: A fortification might have existed here since the Roman/Frankish times. In the 11-14th C, this was, as its name suggests, the castle of the Dukes of Brabant, with major construction happening in 1364 CE under Maria van Brabant. Then it changed many hands incl. Dukes of Burgundy, Austria, Nassau, etc. In the midst of it, it was almost reduced to ashes during the 80 yrs war (16-17th C CE). Restoration happened time & again. In 1768, the last owner of the castle was Count Julien Guillaume Depestre. Under French Empire, it was used for many things incl. fire station, school, dyeing house, etc. Till 1904 it functioned as a prison, after which it was taken over by the municipality who restored the castle. Currently, it is the home of the court of Turnhout.

Visit Castle of the Dukes of Brabant: The Castle of the Dukes of Brabant is the oldest building in Turnhout. The castle is very well maintained now and you can easily spend quite some time chilling here on the banks of the moat. There are steps that take you down to the water level, there's green grass all around to sit & relax and there are ducks in the moat plus there are a few bars facing the castle as well! Unfortunately, since it is currently a functional court, it is not open to individual visitors. However, guided group tours are possible!

Where is Castle of the Dukes of Brabant, Turnhout? Kasteel van de Hertogen van Brabant
How to reach Castle of the Dukes of Brabant, Turnhout? 800m (10 mins walk) from Turnhout railway station. 200m (2 min walk) from Grote Markt. Several buses from Turnhout railway station go via Grote Markt incl. DeLijn bus routes 305, 430, 432 450, 490 etc.
Castle of the Dukes of Brabant tickets & timings: Not open to the general public

Turnhout Taxandria Museum

Turnhout Taxandria Museum

Turnhout Taxandria Museum

Turnhout Taxandria Museum

From the Castle, my next stop was the Taxandria Museum. Taxandria is Turnhout's Local History Museum. It is housed in the historic 'Huis metten Thoren', which is the 2nd oldest building in Turnhout that follows the castle that dates back to 16th C CE. This was the home or guest-house to many important families till 1962 when the municipality purchased it.
There are 10 rooms in Taxandria Museum dedicated to various aspects of the region incl. Women of the region, hunting, life of students, pre-historic finds in the region, lace making etc., including one for curiosities and collections. It is on 3 levels including the attic. 

Where is Taxandria Museum, Turnhout? Taxandria Museum
How to reach Taxandria Museum, Turnhout? 1km (12 mins walk) from Turnhout railway station. 250m (3 min walk) from Grote Markt. Just across the street from the Castle. Several buses from Turnhout railway station go via Grote Markt incl. DeLijn bus routes 305, 430, 432 450, 490 etc.
Taxandria Museum tickets: €5 (incl. in MuseumPASSmusées)
Taxandria Museum timings: Tue to Sat - 2PM to 5PM; Sun - 11AM to 5PM
Combo ticket with National Playing Cards Museum & Begijnhof Museum: €7.50

Begijnhofmuseum Turnhout UNESCO

Begijnhofmuseum Turnhout UNESCO

Begijnhofmuseum Turnhout UNESCO

UNESCO Beguinage Holy Cross Church Turnhout

Turnhout Begijnhof is one of the 13 Flemish Beguinages listed together as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium & Netherlands, making Turnhout Beguinage one of the top places to visit in Turnhout. A visit to Turnhout Beguinage is not complete without a visit to the Turnhout Beguinage Museum as well.
The Turnhout Beguinage is one of the smallest beguinages I've been to. It was charming with just 2 streets with a central green space that has a chapel, grotto, and a huge church! There are houses on the other side of the streets running on either side. One of those buildings was an infirmary and another was the museum; the rest are all private residences.   

Visit Begijnhof Museum Turnhout: Beguinage Museum in Turnhout is in 2 sections. The visit begins with a small movie about who beguines are, the last beguine who lived here, the history, etc of Turnhout Beguinage. Then there's something like a treasury of the various belongings of the beguinage & the church. The 2nd section is more like a folklore museum that explains the day-to-day life of the beguines. The bedroom, kitchen, and lace-making room have all been maintained as they would have been, in the heydays. There's also a room dedicated to music where you can hear some soul-stirring Gregorian Chants. There's also a tiny herb garden inside the Begijnhof Museum. There's also a little farm with a few sheep attached to the Begijnhof Museum.

Where is Begijnhof Museum, Turnhout? Begijnhofmuseum
How to reach Begijnhof Museum, Turnhout? 1.2km (14 mins walk) from Turnhout railway station. 800m (8 min walk) from Grote Markt. 400m (5 min walk) from Taxandria Museum. Several buses from Turnhout railway station go via Grote Markt incl. DeLijn bus routes 305, 430, 432 450, 490 etc.
Begijnhof Museum tickets: €5 (incl. in MuseumPASSmusées)
Begijnhof Museum timings: Tue to Sat - 2PM to 5PM; Sun - 11AM to 5PM
Combo ticket with National Playing Cards Museum & Taxandria Museum: €7.50

Apart from these 5 places, there's the Natuurpunt Museum, De Warande Cultural center, and Stadspark which, unfortunately, I didn't have time to visit. Especially if you're there on a weekend from April to October, don't miss Stadspark. There's a miniature train that runs in the Stadspark from 1pm to 6pm only on these days.

Turnhout is served well by an SNCB-NMBS train. A direct train line runs from Brussels on weekdays every hour. On weekends, you'll have to change at Antwerp Berchem. Here are some ways to get cheap train tickets in Belgium.
The local transport in Turnhout is by DeLijn. You could take a bus from the railway station to Grote Markt and then walk to each of the above-mentioned places. It is also very much possible to walk the entire distance (850m - 10 mins).


Apple Orchards Oud-Turnhout Corsendonk Hiking route

Apple Orchards Oud-Turnhout Corsendonk Hiking route

Apple Orchards Oud-Turnhout Corsendonk Hiking route

Wens-Maschilen Pear Apple Orchard Oud-Turnhout
Wens-Maschilen Orchard honor shop

One of the best things to do in Oud-Turnhout is to do nothing! It is one of those places where you can just lay back & relax. 
The next best, of the things to do in Oud-Turnhout, is to go on a hike through Apple Orchards! The apple orchards are functional here from April to August, after which it is more of packaging & pruning. Luckily I was there in April, just as the Apple trees started blooming. The Corsendonk Hiking Route that goes through the apple orchards is 7km but can be shortened to about 4km. This route goes via Priorij Corsendonk Hotel which is where I stayed (Priorij Corsendonk Hotel review below). 
Several acres of land, just across the street from Priorij Corsendonk Hotel are apple orchards belonging to Wens-Maschilen Orchard. Luckily since I was there in April, the apple blossoms made the entire orchard so happy & picturesque. They have a little shop too that sells farm-fresh apples, pears, and honey as well as preserves, jams, etc. Even if they're closed, there's an honor-shop outside where you can pick up the apples/pears by bags & drop the money in the coinbox there. 
250m further ahead is Corsendonk Hof restaurant (more info below). Though the hiking route takes a right turn here, a good idea would be to take a deviation - go ahead another 500m (6 mins walk) to Ijswens Icecream shop, which also sells coffee & other dairy-based desserts. The specialty - they are a dairy farm and the dishes are made using farm-fresh milk! You can actually see several cows grazing in the grasslands all around! 

Corsendonk Apple Orchards hiking route in Oud-Turnhout: via Wandelroutes Provincie Antwerpen
Where is Wens-Maschilen Orchard (on Google Maps)Fruitbedrijf Wens-Machilsen
Where is Ijswens Icecream shop (on Google Maps): Ijswens
Ijswens Icecream shop timings: varies vastly according to season, check the official website of Ijswens

Priorij Corsendonk Hotel Oud-Turnhout Review

Priorij Corsendonk Hotel Oud-Turnhout Review

Priorij Corsendonk Hotel Oud-Turnhout Review

Corsendonk Beer Kempenslandschap

There are a couple of little B&Bs in Oud-Turnhout, but the only major hotel here is Priorij Corsendonk. It is literally in the middle of nowhere in a little Flemish village! In one direction, ¼km away is an apple-orchard shop and another ¼km away is a restaurant, then nothing at all for several kilometers. In the other direction, nothing at all except orchards, farms, woods, brooks, and streams that go on forever! 

History of Priorij Corsendonk Hotel: Priorij Corsendonk hotel itself is housed in a historic priory (that's where it gets its name from) that dates back to 1395 CE. It was set up when Maria van Brabant (who lived in the Castle mentioned above!), donated 600 hectares of land to the canons of the Saint Augustine order. The priory functioned here well till 16th C CE. In its heydays, about 60 monks lived here. By 18th C, during French revolution, it ceased to be a priory and it changed several hands over time. The currently existing buildings here were built over the time from 1536 (layers house) to 1678 (guest house). The barn & granarium were completely in ruins by the 1970s when restoration began.

History of Corsendonk beer: All priories & abbeys brewed their own beer in those times and Priorij Corsendonk was no exception. However, in 1784 the Austrian Emperor Jozef II shut it all down. In early 20th C, the brewing of beer restarted here and by 1982 Corsendonk beer became famous and continues to be so. The brewery is currently at a different location in the outskirts of Turnhout. Corsendonk brewery visit is not possible. 

Room types in Priory Corsendonk Hotel: There are 4 major buildings in the hotel - Layers house, Guest House, Barn 1 & Barn 2 apart from the main building which houses the reception, restaurant/bar & meeting rooms. There are 3 types of rooms - Monks rooms (meant for 1 person). Basic rooms, Standard rooms. All rooms have all the basic amenities like TV, Mini Fridge, Coffee machine, toiletries etc. They don't have a pool and they do not provide bathrobe or slippers. So carry that if you want. 
I had a basic room booked during my stay. My room was located in the Barn 2 building. It was really spacious. Apart from the main room, there was also a small reading room. The rooms have a French window overlooking the courtyard, so you can get out of the room from the backside, put a chair out, and just chill out in the evenings, which is exactly what I did, while Atyudarini settled watching cartoons! I even took Atyudarini out in the middle of the night, to see the stars. Being quite a bit away from the city, much more stars were visible here (though not as rich as Texel or Dholavira).

Where is Turnhout Priorij Corsendonk hotel (on Google Maps): Priorij Corsendonk Hotel
Turnhout Priorij Corsendonk hotel phone no: +32 (0)14 46 28 00
Turnhout Priorij Corsendonk room rates: Room rates begin at €100 for double occupancy in a basic room on weekdays. When you book a room, you only decide the room type and not the building. So, if you want a particular building like Barn 1 or 2, if you want that backyard, you'll have to specify that while booking! It is possible to hire a bike in the hotel itself. This too would have to be requested at the time of booking.

Keep in mind while staying in Priorij Corsendonk: The hotel is in the middle of nowhere and the reception & kitchen don't function 24x7! So as soon as you book your rooms, immediately make sure to book your lunch at Corsendonks Hof, the only restaurant in the area located about 500m (6 mins walk) away. Priorij Corsendonk doesn't have a lunch service, but they might be able to provide a packed lunch if you request it earlier, though it may not be available always. You could book your dinner either at Priorij Corsendonk itself or at Corsendonk Hof. In either case, do it as soon as you book your room. If there's no table available in the restaurant on the date of your stay, you're stuck in the middle of nowhere with no food! 
Since I had a heavy breakfast and left to Turnhout city by late afternoon and then had lunch, I cannot review of the taste or quality of the food here. 

Where is Corsendonks Hof restaurant (on Google Maps): Corsendonks Hof 
Book a table at Corsendonks Hof restaurant : via the official website of Corsendonks Hof
Corsendonks Hof restaurant phone number: +32 (0)14 450 751

Charming towns in Flanders

Charming towns in Flanders

Taxi Daniel TurnhoutPic Credit: Mr.Mansoor Chahal of Taxi Daniel Turnhout

Oud Turnhout is located on the outskirts of Turnhout city. While the DeLijn buses from Turnhout railway station run on the highway via Oud-Turnhout, the little towns aren't connected at all. For eg., Priorij Corsendonk Turnhout is about 3.5km away from the nearest bus stop on the highway. 
If you're up to it, of course, walking that 3.5km is an option. There are a couple of bike rentals in Turnhout city, very close to the railway station where you could hire a bike for a couple of days to ride to Oud-Turnhout. Another option is to book a taxi at Turnhout which is what I did. More info on that is below.

There are a couple of bike rentals very close to Turnhout Railway Station. 

I booked my taxi from Turnhout to Priorij Corsendonk via Taxi Daniel. Taxi Daniel is in fact the transport partner of Priorij Corsendonk hotel. The distance is about 8km (20 mins ride) and it costs about €25 one way. The car also has a card-payment facility in the car. It is possible to pre-book them as well as request their service then & there. On-the-spot booking might require some waiting period if there's high demand. 
I had pre-booked both my onwards & return trips. The service was excellent and on time. Though I had pre-booked the time, at the last minute, I requested my pick-up at the Beguinage Museum instead of the railway station, at the end of Day 1 since it was my last stop for the day and it was swiftly taken care of. For my return, I sent a Whatsapp message to them at 5:30AM on Day 2 mentioning my pick-up time later during the day and I got a reply back at 6:00AM! That's pretty good I have to say, so early in the morning! The cars were spotless & clean. I'd totally recommend them!
Btw, if you're an Indian (or Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Nepali) reading this, guess what, the owner of Taxi Daniel is Mr.Mansoor Chahal! He speaks excellent Hindi and also takes good pictures!!! The above pic was, in fact, clicked by him! 

Taxi Daniel Turnhout online booking: via official website of Taxi Daniel Turnhout
Taxi Daniel Turnhout Phone number: +32 (0)14 76 44 60
Taxi Daniel Turnhout Whatsapp number: +32 (0)48 46 57 339

Being a historic city with many historic monuments & museums, Turnhout City is good to visit throughout the year. However, Oud-Turnhout is more about nature, hiking, and apple orchards. The best idea would be to visit Oud-Turnhout between April & August., esp., in April & May if you want to see the Apple Blossoms and in August if you want to see the ripened apples. 

One day in Turnhout: 
  • Morning - National Museum of Playing Cards, Taxandria Museum, Saint Peter's Church
  • Lunch at one of the many Turnhout Restaurants at Grote Markt
  • Afternoon - Castle of the Counts of Brabant, Begijnhof Museum
  • Evening - Turnhout Stadspark.
Two days in Turnhout - Stay at Oud Turnhout (Priorij Corsendonk is the best option)
  • Day 1 - Turnhout City (Same as above)
  • Day 2 - Corsendonk hike through the apple & pear orchards
Three days in Turnhout - Stay in Turnhout City (some of the best Turnhot hotels incl. Corsendonk Viane & Corsendonk Turnova that belong to the same group as Priorij Corsedonk)

Corsendonk hike apple orchards turnhout Corsendonk beer turnhout

Things to do in Turnhout Pinterest Things to do in Turnhout Pinterest


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. 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


  1. This is such an incredibly useful article for planning a visit to Turnhout! I never even knew there was such a thing as a playing card museum - and the art work on the cards is just phenomenal. I'd love to see the cathedrals, castles, and museums, especially the Taxandria. It truly is a walk through history. Wrapping up the visit with a walk (or bike ride) through the orchard and ice cream sounds just delightful!

  2. It looks like Turnhout has so many things to offer, no wonder you have spent the entire weekend there. I think that the National Playing Card Museum makes a fascinating visit, I didn't even know that such a museum existed. Having a Unesco site makes Turnhout even more interesting. I would like to check out the Beginjhof museum next time I am in Flanders.

  3. It sounds like it was good to have a full weekend to explore Turnhout and see more of the city. I would certainly spend some time at St.Peter's Church and enjoy the 45 Flemish Masters in Situ, The Castle of the Dukes of Brabant looks fascinating with its moat. With all the great museums, I can see why Turnhout would be a great spot at any time of year.

  4. Looks like you found a hidden gem. I didn’t hear of this place when I was in Belgium. It would be cool to learn about the playing cards at the museum.

  5. A weekend in Turnhout seems to be a perfect idea while visiting Belgium. I hadn't heard about National Playing Card Museum before, but I added it to my bucket list as I loved playing cards with my father as a kid. The history behind this museum is also unique. It's impressive that more than 1,300,000 decks being printed every day. Also, the Castle of the Dukes of Brabant looks terrific, and it's incredible that till 1904 it functioned as a prison. I love the idea of staying in Priorij Corsendonk. It's a very inspirational post with lots of valuable tips, and I hope to visit Turnhout one day.

  6. Turnhout, Belgium has so many things to explore and the National playing cards museum is definitely one of them. Certainly a great place for both kids and adults who get to learn how cards, books and calenders we're printed during the dawn of industrial revolution.I wou love to visit the playing cards museum besides the Castle of Brabant, Taxandria and Begijnhof museum and the St. Peters church.

  7. I never imagined there would be a National Playing Card Museum. Adults and children alike, I feel, would appreciate a sightseeing tour here. The interiors of St. Peter's Church blew me away! The large windows with vibrantly colored portrayals of the Castle of the Dukes of Brabant, on the other hand, drew my attention.

  8. This is interesting! I am not really familiar with the place but I am happy to learn more about Turnhout. It so cool that they have a museum dedicated to playing cards. Would love to visit in the future. Thank you for the heads up regarding the accommodations. Most likely we'll be staying at the Priorij Corsendonk Hotel too.


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