Welcome to Maaseik, a charming city located in the Belgian province of Limburg. With a population of approximately 25,000 inhabitants, Maaseik is the 8th largest municipality in Limburg. The town is known internationally as the birthplace of the famous Flemish painters Jan and Hubert van Eyck. But there is so much more to discover in this hidden gem of a city.
Geographically, Maaseik is located on the left bank of the Meuse (Dutch: Maas), bordering the Netherlands. The river is called Grensmaas (for border Meuse) here. Two smaller rivers, the Bosbeek (or Oeterbeek) and the Zanderbeek (or Diepbeek), flow into the Meuse near Maaseik. Because of its location in the Meuse valley, Maaseik has mostly fertile soils. The northwestern part of the municipality is situated on the plain of Bocholt and has less fertile soils. The Meuse valley at Maaseik is about 4 kilometres wide. Maaseik has mostly been protected from floods by its slightly elevated position on a fluvial terrace.
Maaseik has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. The town was probably founded around 1000, perhaps by the canons of nearby Aldeneik. It lay near the old Roman road that connected Maastricht and Nijmegen and was relatively safely situated in the valley of the Meuse. The settlement was originally part of the County of Loon. The village grew and became an important trading place in the Meuse region. Maaseik received its city charter in 1244. In the 14th century Loon was incorporated into the Bishopric of Liège and Maaseik became one of the 23 Liège Bonnes Villes. As a typically planned town, the four main streets start at the marketplace and led to the four city gates, none of which has been preserved. The rectangular shape of the city walls is also typical. Against the western wall, a castle was built. The walls were dismantled however in 1467, when during the Liège Wars the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, attacked the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and destroyed many towns in the region.
Today, Maaseik is mostly a regional centre for the surrounding communities with some small factories and businesses, shops, restaurants, a theater, schools, a court house and a hospital. But there are plenty of places of interest to explore. In Maaseik many buildings are protected as National Heritage Sites. Notable are several churches and monasteries, mostly in Baroque and Neoclassical style, and a large number of houses in the local Mosan style. Twelve watermills around Maaseik have been restored, some of which are still functioning and can be visited. The main square and the true centre of Maaseik is the Markt (Market Square) with the 19th-century statue of the towns famous sons, Jan and Hubert van Eyck. On the North side of the square is the 18th-century town hall and a copy of the old perron, the symbol of judicial freedom of the prince-bishopric of Liège, placed in front of the town hall. The market place is surrounded by old houses, some of which are medieval in core but with 17th or 18th-century gables. Several buildings have been converted into pubs and restaurants and although the tree-lined square is still partly used as a car park, in Summer a number of street terraces give it a lively atmosphere.
The church of Saint Catharine houses an important church treasure, which was originally in Aldeneik, but was moved to Maaseik in 1571 when the canons of Aldeneik fled to the safety of the walled town. The church treasury