Discover Benelux, Issue 27, March 2016

Page 51

Discover Benelux | Castles & Estates | Historical Heritage in Belgium

Photo: P. van Gelooven

Photo: J. van der Vaart

Photo: H. Timmerman

History, nature and culture, Alden Biesen has it all TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | ALDEN BIESEN - P. PREMEREUR

Alden Biesen, in Belgium, is one of the largest castle areas in Europe. It is a brilliant heritage site, with an international cultural and congress centre. The beautiful natural surroundings are a true tourist attraction. In short, Alden Biesen in Bilzen as it all. The castle complex is part of the Department of Culture of the Flemish Government. The history of Alden Biesen goes back to the crusades in the 13th century. The German Order of the Teutonic Knights founded the Grand Commandery in 1220. Alden Biesen was the head of a province of the bailiwick of the Teutonic Order. For centuries, the commanders lived at the castle, powerful men who stood at the head of the bailiwick of Biesen. Hence the name: Grand Commandery Alden Biesen.

Nowadays, the castle provides many different activities for everyone’s taste. Managing director Lies Kerkhofs: “A large part of the estate is free to visit for a walk through the wonderful and unique surroundings. When someone is staying at the nearby cities like Hasselt, Liège and even the Dutch city of Maastricht or the German Aachen, it is just a short ride to Alden Biesen. The diversity of activities ensures that there is something fun to do for everyone. Nature or culture lovers can enjoy their stay here, but also people who love history will find something to their liking.” There are many activities with an international character including art exhibitions, the International Storytelling Festival, Fleuramour, the Scottish weekend, organ recitals, summer operas or the famous shows with Arab thoroughbred horses.

They are not aiming for a specific audience, and certainly no one will be bored here. Kerkhofs: “Many of our activities are very popular, so it is wise to purchase or reserve tickets in advance.” Alden Biesen is also an inspiring setting for meetings, training courses or conferences with catering and overnight stay possibilities. Multilingual guides can tell all about the estate and the surroundings. There are even hiking routes suitable for families with small children and people with disabilities, but there are also opportunities to rent a golf cart or an electric bicycle. All routes can be obtained at the reception, where you can also find all other information needed. All in all, no one has an excuse not to visit Alden Biesen. Issue 27 | March 2016 | 51