Coordinates: 50°55′48″N 05°20′15″E / 50.93000°N 5.33750°E / 50.93000; 5.33750
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From left to right, top to bottom: City center with St. Quentin's Cathedral in the bottom left, Grote Markt, timber-framed house Het Sweert, Old City Hall, New City Hall
Flag of Hasselt
Coat of arms of Hasselt
Location of Hasselt
Hasselt is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
Location of Hasselt in Limburg
Coordinates: 50°55′48″N 05°20′15″E / 50.93000°N 5.33750°E / 50.93000; 5.33750
Country Belgium
CommunityFlemish Community
RegionFlemish Region
 • MayorSteven Vandeput (N-VA)
 • Governing party/iesN-VA, Roodgroen+, Open VLD
 • Total102.69 km2 (39.65 sq mi)
 • Total77,651
 • Density760/km2 (2,000/sq mi)
Postal codes
3500, 3501, 3510, 3511, 3512
NIS code
Area codes011

Hasselt (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɦɑsəlt] , Limburgish: [ˈɦɑsəlt],[tone?] French: [asɛlt]) is a Belgian city and municipality, and capital and largest city of the province of Limburg in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is known for its former branding as the "Capital of Taste", owing to its local distilleries of Jenever, the Hasselt Jenever Festival, and Hasselt speculaas.[2][3][4]

As of 1 August 2023, Hasselt had a total population of 80,846.[5] The municipality consists of the following sub-municipalities: Hasselt proper, Kermt, Kuringen, Sint-Lambrechts-Herk, Spalbeek, Stevoort, Stokrooie, and Wimmertingen, as well as the hamlets and parishes of Kiewit, Godsheide and Rapertingen.

Hasselt is located in between the Campine region, north of the Demer river, and the Hesbaye region, to the south. On a larger scale, it is also situated in the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion. Both the Demer river and the Albert Canal run through the municipality.


Historical affiliations

County of Loon 1165–1366
Prince-Bishopric of Liège 1366–1789
Republic of Liège 1789–1791
Prince-Bishopric of Liège 1791–1795
French Republic 1795–1804
French Empire 1804–1815
Kingdom of the Netherlands 1815–1830
 Kingdom of Belgium 1830–present

Hasselt on the Ferraris map (around 1775)

Hasselt was founded in approximately the 7th century on the Helbeek, a tributary of the Demer river. During the Middle Ages it became one of the free cities of the county of Loon (which had borders approximately the same as the current province of Limburg). It was first named in a document in 1165. In 1232 Arnold IV, Count of Loon gave the city the freedoms like those enjoyed in Liège. Even though the city of Borgloon was the original capital of Loon, Hasselt was to become the biggest city thanks to its favourable setting and the proximity of the count's castle at Herkenrode in Kuringen. In 1366 the county of Loon came under the direct rule of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and remained so until the annexation by France in 1794.

During the First French Empire, the city of Maastricht became the capital of the French Department of the Lower Meuse. This comprised not only the area of the modern province of Limburg in Belgium, but also what is now the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, all of what is now Belgium became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. During this time, it was King William I who re-named the Lower Meuse department after the medieval Duchy of Limburg. This Duchy was in fact named after Limbourg on the Vesdre river, now in the Liège province of Belgium, which had never encompassed Hasselt or Maastricht. Belgium split from the Netherlands in 1830, but the status of Limburg was only resolved nine years later in 1839, with the division of Limburg into Belgian and Dutch parts. Hasselt became the provisional capital of the Belgian province of Limburg. In ecclesiastical terms, Belgian Limburg became an independent entity from the Diocese of Liège only in 1967, and Hasselt became the seat of the new Diocese of Hasselt.


The name Hasselt refers to the common hazel.[6]


Climate data for Hasselt(1991-2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 6.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.6
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 0.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 66.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 12.9 11.9 11.6 9.5 10.3 10.4 10.6 11.3 10.2 11.3 12.6 14.8 137.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 62 78 134 188 214 216 221 210 164 119 70 50 1,726
Mean daily sunshine hours 2.0 2.8 4.3 6.3 6.9 7.2 7.1 6.8 5.5 3.8 2.3 1.6 4.7
Source: KMI[7]

Town centre[edit]

The centre is mostly car-free and contains a number of historical buildings. Among the oldest buildings in the town centre are the St. Quentin's Cathedral (11th to 18th centuries) and the Refuge of Herkenrode Abbey, the city's oldest civic building (1542). The Grote Markt (Grand Market) and the nearby streets are lined with restaurants brasseries, cafes and taverns.

The Demerstraat and the Koning Albertstraat are the most important shopping streets, while the Kapelstraat and Hoogstraat house upscale shops and brands.[8][9][10] Another major religious building besides the cathedral is the Virga Jesse Basilica.[11] The churches must cede domination of the skyline of the city to the modern twin towers of the TT-wijk (TT Quarter), however. In 2003, the renovation of this complex, now including a shopping mall and a hotel, gave the centre a new boost. In 2004, Hasselt was the first city to receive the title "most sociable city in Flanders".[12]


In 1977, Hasselt merged with several surrounding municipalities attaching the current sub-municipalities of Kermt, Kuringen, Sint-Lambrechts-Herk, Stevoort and Wimmertingen and adding 22.309 inhabitants at the time to its 1977 population of 40.446 inhabitants. As of 1 August 2023, Hasselt had a total population of 80,846 (39,589 men and 41,257 women).[13]


  • Dutch in Hasselt is often spoken with a distinctive Limburgish accent and vocabulary, which should not be confused with the Limburgish language.
  • Limburgish (or Limburgian) is the overlapping term for the tonal dialects spoken in the Belgian and Dutch provinces of Limburg. The Hasselt dialect is only one of many variants of Limburgish.[14] Limburgish is a language, and not the same as the regional variation of Dutch spoken in Dutch Limburg and Belgian Limburg.
    St. Quentin's Cathedral
    Since Limburgish is still the mother tongue of many inhabitants, Limburgish grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation can however have a significant impact on the way locals speak Dutch in public life.[15]
  • French was historically spoken by some of the city population within living memory.


Hasselt is the main seat of the diocese of Hasselt, which covers the entire Belgian province of Limburg. The main church is St. Quentin's Cathedral. Hasselt also consists of about 30 parishes. Next to the Catholic Church, Hasselt houses both a Moroccan and Turkish mosque as both communities are well-established in the city and the surrounding municipalities.

Main sights[edit]

Herkenrode Abbey
Grauwzustersklooster, including the Old Inn
Old Post Office
Old Provincial Government Building


  • The Virga Jesse festival, featuring a Procession of the historic wooden statue of infant Jesus with Mary, is celebrated every seven years, it will be in August 2024.[17]
  • The yearly Jenever Festival celebrates the history of Jenever in Hasselt.
  • Hasselt celebrates Carnival, but at a slightly different date than most places.[18]
  • The suburb Kiewit is the location of the yearly Pukkelpop (Pimple Pop) festival, one of Europe's largest alternative music festivals with over a hundred concerts. Rimpelrock (Wrinkle Rock), a festival with music for an older audience, is held at the same location one week prior.
  • As in most Belgian cities, there is an annual Kermesse on a date associated with the local church's patron saint - in this case Saint Lambert -, which takes place in September.[19]
  • The Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2005 was held in Hasselt.
  • The Grand Prix van Hasselt is a cyclo-cross race held in November which is part of the BPost Bank Trophy.
  • Gaz de France Stars was a WTA Tour tennis tournament held in Hasselt from 2004 to 2006.
  • The European Darts Championship was held in the city's Trixxo Arena three times from 2015-2017.


Hasselt brands itself as the "Capital of Taste", owing to its local distilleries of Jenever, the Hasselt Jenever Festival, Hasselt speculaas, and chocolate production.[2][3][4]

Hasseltse Jenever (Hasselt gin)[edit]

United Hasselt Distillers distills the famous brands Fryns and Smeets of Hasselt jenevers or gins

Hasselt is famous for its gin, locally known as Jenever. Even though the spirit is produced across the entire country of Belgium, Hasselt Jenever became famous when the city escaped the 1601 ban on the sale and production of the beverage imposed by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria and Isabella Clara Eugenia, both Archduke and Archduchess of the Habsburg Netherlands, because it belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. Dutch troops stationed in the city from 1675 to 1681 ensured that Hasselt Jenever, more than any other Belgian jenever, carried aromas of herbs and berries.

The former Smeets gin distillery built in 1947, still standing at Raamstraat 17.

At the end of the 19th century, dire living conditions among the working population and cheap Jenever prepared from sugar beet molasses led to the annual consumption of 9.5 litres of Jenever (50% vol) per inhabitant of Belgium. Jenever production was the most important industry in Limburg in the 19th century with most distilleries being located in Hasselt. However, increase in excise duty, competition from cheap industrial alcohol, the confiscation of copper stills by the Germans during World War I, and the Vandervelde law against alcohol abuse caused most distilleries in Hasselt to disappear or to be taken over by larger competitors.

By the early 21st century, Hasselt only housed two distilleries (known as 'stokerij' in Dutch): the National Jenever Museum[16] and Stokerij Wissels, which was later bought by the larger Stokerij Fryns, based in Ghent, which resumed Jenever production on the former Wissels grounds under the Fryns name. Today, three Jenever distilleries operate in Hasselt: the National Jenever Museum, Stokerij Fryns, and Stokerij Vanderlinden, founded in 2017.

Het Borrelmanneke, symbolising the Hasselt gin culture and history


Hasselt Jenever Festival[edit]

Every year during the third weekend of October, the two-day Hasselt Jenever Festival takes place. It includes, among other elements, musical, dance, and street theatre performances, the Borrelmanneke fountain on Maastricherstraat being transformed from a water fountain into a Jenever fountain for the day and a Waiters' Race through the city center.[22]

Hasselt speculaas[edit]

Hasselt speculaas

Hasselt speculaas is a type of speculaas originating from and only produced in Hasselt. It differs from the type of speculaas eaten in the rest of Belgium in its greater thickness, its smaller reliance on spices - which gives it a milder taste -, and in its structure, with a crispy crust and soft, doughy insides.[23]

Speculaas was baked in Hasselt as early as the 14th century. According to tradition, Hasselt speculaas was eaten with chilled Jenever. The early 19th century saw the introduction of the Spéculation de Hasselt - the Hasselt speculaas -, which was soon exported to Brussels and to Liège, among others. Until the Second World War, Hasselt speculaas was only baked around Saint Nicholas Day, since then it has been sold throughout the entire year.[24]


Main entrance to the city centre campus of the Jessa Hospital in 2022.

With 3,000 employees, the Jessa Hospital in Hasselt is the city's biggest employer with two health care campuses and one logistical campus.[25] Cegeka Group, a European provider of IT solutions, services, and consultancy is also one of the city's largest employers, generating a turnover of €744 million.[26] The city also provides an ecosystem for start-ups, scale-ups, and major companies through its Corda Campus, surrounded by government organizations and research institutions. Currently, 5,000 people work in 250 companies over a land area of 9 acres, formerly being occupied by Philips. By 2030, an investment of €150 million at the site is planned to generate employment for 7,500 people in 350 companies on an area of 14 acres.[27]



Albert Canal near Hasselt

Hasselt lies at the junction of important traffic arteries from several directions. The most important motorways are the European route E313 (Antwerp-Liège) and the European route E314 (Brussels-Aachen). The old town of Hasselt is enclosed by 2 ring roads. The outer ring road serves to keep traffic out of the city center and main residential areas. The inner ring road, the Green Boulevard, serves to keep traffic out of the commercial center, which is almost entirely a pedestrian area. There are also important traffic arteries to Tongeren, Sint-Truiden, Genk, and Diest.

The city lies within approximately an hour's drive from the airports of Brussels, Liège, Antwerp, Charleroi, Cologne/Bonn, and Düsseldorf. Within a three-hour radius, the major hubs of Paris and Frankfurt can be reached. Small private aircraft can land in Hasselt itself, on the airfield of Kiewit.


Hasselt railway station. All the city's local zero-fare buses, as well as regional buses and trains depart from here.

Hasselt introduced a zero-fare policy for all public buses in 1997. By 2006, the usage of public transport had increased by 800–900% compared to pre-zero-fare numbers.[28] In 2013, bus subsidies were reduced, resulting in the reintroduction of fares (60 cents per ride).[29]

[30] The city's official website records[31] passenger growth as follows:

Passenger growth
Year Passengers Percentage
1996 360 000 100%
1997 1,498,088 428%
1998 2,837,975 810%
1999 2,840,924 811%
2000 3,178,548 908%
2001 3,706,638 1059%
2002 3,640,270 1040%
2003 3,895,886 1113%
2004 4,259,008 1217%
2005 4,257,408 1216%
2006 4,614,844 1319%

A Belgian website describes Hasselt identity cards as becoming "like gold in value", because of free bus travel.[32]

In 2013, Hasselt cancelled free public transportation due to financial reasons. The operator increased its claim towards the city, which the city could not pay. Now persons up to the age of 19 travel for free.[29]


Hasselt railway station, run by NMBS, is located near the city centre, outside the innermost ring road. InterCity trains link the city to major Belgian centres such as Brussels, Antwerp, Liège, and Leuven, as well as to Brussels Airport.

Light rail[edit]

In February 2007, a plan was launched for the construction of an international light rail connection between Hasselt and Maastricht (Hasselt – Maastricht tramway). Agreements between the relevant governments were reached in June 2008 and December 2011. The line was planned to reduce the current travel time of 61 minutes by bus to only 36 minutes. Construction should have started in 2014, with the line expected to go into service in 2017.[33] The construction eventually was delayed several times due to problems with the Wilhelminabrug in Maastricht, concerns about the profitability and the numbers of passengers making use of the planned line as well as opposition from the Hasselt city council regarding the planned route through the city.[34] The Flemish government eventually stopped the project, with various Dutch governments reporting to have spent more than €20 million without any major construction happening. The line has now been proposed to be replaced by a so-called electric trambus system.[35] However, concerns were raised too as the new alternative might not fulfill the cross-border high-quality public transport needs of the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg.[36]


Virga Jessecollege

Hasselt has two university colleges: University College PXL and University Colleges Leuven-Limburg (UCLL). These offer courses in healthcare, social work, art, commercial sciences, and teacher training, among others.

Hasselt University, established in 1971, operates campuses in the city and in the neighbouring town of Diepenbeek and, as of 2023, has more than 7,000 students and 1,700 academic, administrative, and technical staff. The university houses 7 faculties, 4 research institutes, 3 research centres, and 3 doctoral schools. In the Times Higher Education ranking of the world's best universities under 50, Hasselt University is ranked 35th out of 605.[37]

Faculty of Law at Hasselt University, based in the former city prison


Hasselt is home to Limburg United, one of the Belgium's top professional basketball teams. The team plays its home games at Sporthal Alverberg. The city's largest football club is Sporting Hasselt, which plays its home games at Stedelijk Sportstadion Hasselt.

Famous inhabitants[edit]

Hendrik van Veldeke

Twin and partner cities[edit]


  1. ^ "Wettelijke Bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2018". Statbel. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b Hasselt Encyclopædia Britannica, 06.02.2012
  3. ^ a b Hasselt specialities: taste a touch of Hasselt Visit Hasselt, 12.06.2023
  4. ^ a b Hasselt tastes Visit Hasselt, 24.10.2023
  5. ^ "Globaal bevolkingscijfers per gemeente" (PDF).
  6. ^ P.A.F. van Veen & N. van der Sijs. Etymologisch woordenboek: de herkomst van onze woorden Van Dale Lexicografie, 1989
  7. ^ "Het klimaat in uw gemeente: Hoeselt (nis 73032)" (PDF) (in Dutch). KMI. pp. 2, 5. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
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  11. ^ "Escapadas en coche (o en tren) desde Bruselas que no te puedes perder". hola.com (in Spanish). 26 May 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
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  15. ^ "Limburgismen in het handschrift-Borgloon". Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde. 123: 298–332. 2007. hdl:1887/14150.
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  18. ^ "Hasselt Town Hall's Carnival link". Hasselt.be. 15 February 2010. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
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  21. ^ Familiebedrijf sinds 1887 Fryns, accessed 15.01.2024
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  24. ^ Hasseltse Speculaas Visit Hasselt, 10.12.2020
  25. ^ "Jessa Ziekenhuis en stad werken samen parkeerplan uit". www.nieuwsblad.be (in Flemish). 13 July 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  26. ^ "De groeimotor van Cegeka op toerental: 744 miljoen omzet na 30 jaar". Het Nieuwsblad Mobile (in Flemish). 9 May 2022. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  27. ^ "Corda Campus in Hasselt wil fors uitbreiden". Bouwkroniek (in Dutch). 4 March 2022.
  28. ^ C. van Goeverden, P. Rietveld, J. Koelemeijer, P. Peeters: 'Subsidies in public transport' Archived 16 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine European Transport 32 (2006): 5–25
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  30. ^ PR Newswire (29 June 2007), Hasselt Celebrates 10 Years of Free Public Transport, retrieved 21 February 2002
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  32. ^ "Pagina niet gevonden - Gva.be". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  33. ^ "Sneltramlijn 1: Hasselt - Maastricht - Waar staan we nu? - Mobiliteitsvisie 2020 - de Lijn". Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
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  38. ^ "Eurotowns – The future's city network in Europe (2019)". Eurotowns.

External links[edit]