Tucked away in the southern region of the Netherlands in the Limburg province, Heerlen is a fine city with a current population of approximately 88,000. Close to the larger neighbouring city of Maastricht and also the German border, Heerlen forms part of an agglomeration of cities called Parkstad Limburg.
Signs of settlements tracing back thousands of years have been found in and around Heerlen and its written history starts with Roman occupation. Heerlen did not develop fully and prosper until the 1200s when the city was acquired by the Brabant dukes and was contested greatly during the 80 years war. After this period the city grew slowly and remained a predominantly agricultural establishment until the 1900’s. Today the city has several government offices and a plethora of historical attractions, public parks, and fun activities to engage in.
Lets explore the best things to do in Heerlen:
1. Thermen museum
As Heerlen has along history that spans back to the Roman age of conquest, it makes sense that you can find many ancient roman artefacts and excavations here.
One such site is the Spa museum which is actually located right in the middle of the town centre.
Constructed in 1977, this unique museum was actually built around the remains of the best preserved Roman bath in the Netherlands.
You can see the remains of the bath house and walk over various gangways and paths to see the walls and stone structure.
Furthermore, there is a host of fantastic artefacts that have been recovered from the area including statues, tableware, pottery and jewellery.
For an insightful look at Roman history in the region there is no better place.
2. Hoensbroek Castle
Located in the small suburb of Hoensbroek which is to the north west of Heerlen is the Hoensbroek castle.
As with other castles in the country, it is built on water and partially surrounded by a moat.
Constructed in 1360, it is one of the largest castles in the Netherlands and held a strategic position for the Dukes of Brabant.
Admire the fantastic grounds and structure of this castle and the picture perfect way it sits on the water.
Inside there is an extensive museum detailing the history of the castle and displaying various artefacts and collections from earlier periods.
Aside from the collections, some of the rooms (in particular the ballroom) have been restored and give you an idea of what it was like to live during this era.
3. Gaia Zoo
Gaia Zoo is one of the most popular and renowned zoos in the country and has a reputation for its quality.
If you are looking for a day trip from Heerlen city centre this is a great choice – Gaia Zoo is located to the east of Heerlen and you can also visit the amazing Mondo Verde and Snowworld if you have time too.
With over 1000 species of animal and reptile you will be amazed at the variety – You can see Giraffes, Gorillas, Monkeys and more.
Furthermore you can see camels, meercats, a red panda and even a pride of lions.
It is clear that the animals are well cared for and have plenty of space for their needs.
4. Mondo Verde
Mondo Verde is a huge ornamental garden that contains a variety of different garden styles and arrangements.
The beauty, colour, style and design are simply fantastic and you will be enthralled with the number of different plants, flowers and trees that are found here.
Split into many differed themed areas, one minute you can find yourself in an Italian garden surrounded by Roman architecture and a plethora of unusual flora, and the next minute you are transported to Japan and walking under the walnut tree and cheery blossom.
For those who love the natural world and landscaped gardens, Mondo Verde will simply delight.
5. Steenkolenmijn Valkenburg
Another wonderful attraction based on the coal mining industry that once thrived in Heerlen and Limburg.
Located directly in the middle of Maastricht and Heerlen in the small town of Valkenburg lies the underground world of Steenkolenmijn.
Take to the mines and discover what it was like to work beneath the surface of the earth in a coal mine.
On entering this subterranean environment you will see a presentational film and then take a guided tour of the mines.
Examine the machinery, learn about the working conditions, and hear a plethora of interesting facts from the tour guides who are all ex-miners themselves!
This stunning piece of architecture is one of the most recognized buildings in Heerlen, and one of the best examples of the modern movement in the country.
Located in the city centre next to the Pancratiuskerk, this structure has an abundance of glass and is actually known as the glass palace.
Inside this fantastic building you can find a museum of contemporary art, the centre for architecture and urbanism and a public library.
For those who love to learn, and appreciate modern art and architecture, this establishment will provide a host of learning opportunities.
7. Dutch mining museum
Heerlen has a long history associate with coal mining and this industry played a major part in the cities economical development in earlier decades.
Much of this history is explained in great detail at the Dutch Mining Museum.
This establishment is located in the centre of Heerlen in an old mining tower building.
Inside the museum you can find a host of displays and exhibitions that tell the story of coal mining in the region and what the workers had to go through on a daily basis to mine this precious material.
Run by volunteers who have worked in the industry, you can find a whole host of information about life underground.
8. Aambos Park
In the centre of the city, to the east of the main shopping centre you can find the Aambos public park.
Stretching for 45 hectares and covered in beautiful forest, this is a great place to enjoy some walking and wildlife spotting.
Since the early 2000’s, the park has seen major restorations and is now a great place to relax.
There is a herd of deer that reside here, a small stream that runs through the centre of the park, and also a petting/feeding zoo for young children.
Bring the family here for some fun in the outdoors and to get away from the usual sight seeing.
9. Snowworld Landgraaf
As one of the largest indoor ski slopes and indoor ski establishments in the world, the Landgraaf snowworld is the perfect place to enjoy some adrenaline fuelled activities.
This huge structure is located to the east of Heerlen near Gaia Zoo and Mondo Verde.
For those who love to ski, there is no better place – Enjoy the 5 different slopes including the longest slope in the country, ascend on one of the 8 lifts and practice your snowboarding skills on the funpark that has a host of different ramps, kickers and pipes.
This is a great place for beginners who can benefit from some personal instruction, and pros who can take to the slopes and perfect their skills.
10. Het Langste Museum Van Limburg
While not strictly a museum, this amazing train journey in the Limburg region definitely offers a slice of history and education.
Ride on a historical steam engine through the sublime countryside of lower Limburg from Kerkrade to Valkenburg.
Travel a short distance to the east of Heerlen to the small town of Kerkrade and travel back in time on the wondrous steam engine.
With carriages that are restored to their former glory, you can relax and watch the scenery roll by in style.
You do not have to travel the full journey to Valkenburg, instead you can opt to hop off at one of the stations and explore the charming towns that can be found in this region.
11. Cross the Belgian border to Liege
The Limburg region of the Netherlands lies on the borders of both Germany and Belgium.
Heerlen is practically on the German border and near the city of Aachen, but also not far from the charming town of Liege.
In just under an hour, following the A79 and then the A2, you can enter Belgium and spend the day admiring what this place has to offer.
A city full of history, you can visit the Bueren mountain, the Liege Cathedral, the church of St.
Jacques and the Saint Lambert Palace.
Furthermore there is a host of public parks, shops and fine restaurants to enjoy.
12. Brunssummerheide holiday park
Covering a large natural area to the north of Heerlen is the Brunssummerheide holiday park.
This family holiday park could be the perfect base for your Limburg adventure and due to its location has great accessibility to Heerlen and Maastricht.
Within this fantastic park you can cycle through the many bike trails, try your hand at rock climbing and for the adults there is even a casino.
Aside from the outdoors facilities, there is also a swimming pool, a children’s farm and a fine restaurant serving quality meals.
13. Hoenshuis Golf course
For those who love to play golf, the Hoenshuis course is a fine establishment to enjoy a round or two on.
PGA tournaments have been held on this renowned course and the holes offer a great challenge, all in a beautiful forest setting.
You can play on the 18 hole, par 72 course that has a variety of different features and greens, and afterwards, relax in the club house.
Only 10 minutes from the centre of Heerlen, this golf course has great accessibility.
14. Enjoy a fine meal in a gorgeous setting at Kasteel TerWorm Restaurant
You will not find another restaurant in the region with quite as much class as the Kasteel.
This hotel and restaurant is located on the outskirts of Heerlen in a secluded forest and the setting is as good as the food and service.
With a changing menu that reflects the seasons and an a la carte choice, there is something to suit everyone’s tastes.
To experience a little bit of extravagance and a truly wonderful dining experience, the Kasteel delivers every time.
15. Take a day trip to Maastricht
Only 20 minutes to the west of Heerlen on the A79 road you can find Maastricht.
This historical city is one of the most important in the region and is a superb place to visit for a day trip.
With a population of over 120,000 it is the largest city in the Limburg region and sits on the Meuse river.
Visit the fantastic cave network that lies underneath sections of the city, see the fabulous churches of St.
Servatius and Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek or admire the historical market square and bridge of Saint Servaas.
Regular buses and trains travel between the two cities and take approximately 30 minutes to the city centre.