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Visiting Eupen: historic architecture in the capital of the German-speaking Ostkantone, Belgium

Updated on March 1, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Klosterstrasse, Eupen
Klosterstrasse, Eupen | Source
The Ostkantone's seat of government, Eupen
The Ostkantone's seat of government, Eupen | Source
Map of the German Ostkantone of Belgium, where Eupen, their capital, is situated.
Map of the German Ostkantone of Belgium, where Eupen, their capital, is situated. | Source

Fascinating town in a relatively unknown area

German-speaking part of Belgium? Yes, indeed, and it should be more well-known than it is. Eupen is the chief town of the German-speaking Ostkantone of eastern Belgium.

Some history

Prior to 1918 and, indeed, during World War 2, this area was formally part of Germany. (It must be remembered, however, that until 1871 there was no united Germany.)

I have repeatedly visited Eupen over a number of years, and visitors might sometimes be tempted to wonder, in which country it 'feels' like being. The fact is, it's in Belgium; the stone and brick buildings are very similar to others in Belgium; the institutional references are Belgian. But what about the fact that it is German-speaking? does this make it seem somehow 'unBelgian'? Well, not really. It must be remembered that there is no one dominant language and culture in Belgium in any case: the Flemish north of the country is Dutch-speaking and the southern part and preponderantly Brussels, too, is mainly French-speaking. So for Eupeners and their fellow inhabitants of the Ostkantone to speak another widely spoken European language does not in any sense undermine the culture (or, rather, cultures) of the rest of the country. Remember, also, that in 1919 the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire 'lost' the Principality of Liechtenstein; so, too, defunct Imperial Germany 'lost' the Ostkantone area (as it is now called) to Belgium.

Noteworthy buildings

Eupen possesses a number of significant buildings, several of them 200-300 years old, and the town as a whole might be said to have somewhat of an 18th century aura to it. Among others, these buildings include the following:

With its twin towers, the Sankt-Nikolaus-Kirche, an imposing 18th century church, is a landmark, the profile of which has become somewhat of a local symbol.

The 1697 merchant's building, built in stone, houses the town museum where I spent an absorbing time.

The seat of government for the German-speaking Community is the Haus Grand Ry. This was designed by the 18th century German architect Johann Joseph Couven, who was also responsible for many other works of architecture in the wider region.

The Sankt-Lambertus-Kapelle, dating from 1690, was partially rebuilt in the 19th century.

Also worth seeing

Kettenis , (distance: 2.2 kilometres) has Libermé Castle surrounded by a moat, dating from the 14th century, with much of the current structure being 16th century. Kettenis now linked administratively with the City of Eupen.

The Weser Dam (German: Wesertalsperre ; distance: 6.1 kilometres) provides scenic views of a tree-lined reservoir at the Weser River .

Aachen , Germany, (distance: 24 kilometres); Charlemagne 's historic capital, with many architectural treasures. Its Vaalserquartier suburb borders the Dutch town of Vaals and the Dreilaendereck , where the borders of three countries meet: Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Burg-Reuland , (distance: 71 kilometres), also in Belgium's German-speaking Ostkantone , has a large, Medieval castle, with other noted buildings.

Ouren (distance: 81 kilometres), also in Belgium's German-speaking Ostkantone , has a park commemorating the meeting nearby of the borders of three countries: Belgium, Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It also has an 18th century church.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Eupen: 126 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service from Brussels to Eupen. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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