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a main street in a city with shops and colourful houses, Vaals, Limburg, the Netherlands

Vaals – on the Roof of the Netherlands

by Daniela

At the southernmost corner of the Netherlands, where the borders of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands meet, is located Vaals – a small town that has, kind of, attached itself to the German Aachen, but still belongs to the Netherlands. Vaals is just the perfect day trip from Maastricht or Aachen, or from anywhere in South Limburg. What’s so special about this little place? Well, among other things, you can climb the only mountain on continental Netherlands and stand with one foot in Germany and the other one in Belgium or the Netherlands, whatever you prefer.

Get on the roof of the Netherlands in Vaals! Find out here what are the best things to do in this lovely place in South Limburg!Click To Tweet


Things to do in Vaals

I have visited Vaals two times – once in the winter and once in the spring. You can better enjoy the place on a sunny day. If it rains, better do not go to Vaals, unless you don’t mind, of course.

three border stones and some green three behind, the highest point of the Netherlands on Vaalserberg

The highest point in the Netherlands

Climb Vaalserberg – the highest point in the Netherlands

“Look, look we are going up! A hairpin bend!!!”, I was so excited the first time we were driving up the Vaalserberg. After a few years living in the Netherlands, you get used to the flatness of the landscape and a little hill seems a monstrous mountain to you. I guess, most of the kids visiting Vaalserberg for the first time would have the same reaction. And still with its 322,4 m (last checked in 2017) Vaalserberg is the highest point in the Netherlands. OK, on continental Netherlands, as Mount Scenery on the Caribbean island of Saba beats Vaalserberg with its 887 m.

a path going through a green forest with moss on the ground and old leaves, the path to the top of Vaalserberg, Vaals

Vaalserberg

My advice is to leave your car at Vaals and walk to the top of the hill. The nature is too beautiful too watch it from your car seat. It takes about a little less than half an hour to go to the top, depending, of course, on where your starting point in Vaals is.


If you still want to drive to the top, there are enough parking spaces to leave your car. It costs 2 EUR per day. Make sure you have 1 or 2 EUR coins to pay for the parking.

a border stone with the flags of the Germany, Netherlands and Belgium behind, Three-country point at Vaals

Drielandenpunt (Three-country point) on Vaalserberg

Visit 3 countries in 3 seconds at Drielandenpunt

At the Drielandenpunt (Three-country point) – where Belgium, Germany and Netherlands meet you can run around the border stone, jumping from one country into another as fast you can. Well, kids mostly love doing this, but for someone who has grown up in a country with real borders, border controls, passport checks, long waiting hours and visa stamps, running around the border stone seemed a fascinating thing to do. I didn’t go that far, just walked a few times slowly in a circle, crossing the border lines many times and thinking about how your background makes you appreciate things differently.


Not many people know, but once (for almost 100 years) the tripoint was actually a quadripoint. The fourth country in the puzzle was the no man’s land Moresnet. Between 1816 and 1920 the small triangle of 3,5 sq. km was a neutral territory, which was governed by the Netherlands and Prussia. Today Neutral Moresnet is part of Belgium.

a gigantic maze seen from above with an entrance that has a roof in the form of a butterfly, the maze at the Three-country point (Drielandenpunt) in Vaals

The maze at the Drielandenpunt

Get lost at the largest maze in Europe

The maze at the Drielandenpunt was designed by the British landscape architect Adrian Fisher and is the largest outdoor maze in Europe. It’s also the highest one in the Netherlands, which is understandable. I just love how the Dutch never miss an opportunity to underline the height of their highest hill. There’s also a playground near the maze and it has a plate saying that this playground is the highest one in the Netherlands. Of course.

To solve the maze, it will take you anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour.


The entrance to the maze, where the souvenir shop and the local tourism office (VVV) are housed, is rather particular. From above it looks like a giant butterfly that has landed near the maze.

The maze is open daily from 10 am till 6 pm, from 1 April till 1 November. The entry fee for adults is 5 EUR and for kids (till 11 yoa) – 4 EUR.

Note: As of May 2019, there are two prices on the website of Drielandenpunt for the Labyrinth – 5 EUR and 5,50 EUR. I guess they’ve just raised the prices and hadn’t yet updated all the data. When I visited in April 2019, the price was still 5 EUR.
view over green forests and fields and a church tower in the background, view of the cathedral in Aachen from Boudewijn Tower at Three-country-point

View from the Boudewijn Tower with the Cathedral in Aachen

Get a bird’s eye view over three countries at the same time

When you just think you can’t get higher than Vaalserberg, you will be surprised, you can. The Belgian found a way – the Boudewijn Tower. Standing on top of the 50-meter high viewing tower, feeling the wind in your hair and the occasional raindrops (I hope it won’t rain..), you can admire the views that stretch over the three countries as far as the eye can see.


That day the clouds are hanging low, playing hide-and-seek with the sun rays and I stand there on the tower mesmerized by the light and dark patterns that move fast over the landscape. It doesn’t rain.

a viewing deck on an observation tower with a view over forests and a cloudy sky, Boudewijn Tower at Three-Country point, Belgium

On the observation deck of the Boudewijn Tower

The King Boudewijn Tower (as the complete name of the tower is), was built in 1970. Then it was only 33 m high. In 1993 the first tower was demolished and the new, 50-m high one was built in its place.

a high viewing tower surrounded by green trees and some people in front, Boudewijn Tower at Drielandenpunt, Vaals

The Boudewijn Tower

The first time I went to the Boudewijn Tower I climbed all the stairs to the top. The second time, I just took the lift. For the lazy ones, like me, there’s a lift that brings you conveniently almost to the top. Then you have to climb the stairs to the last storey with the observation deck.

The viewing tower is open daily from 10 am till 6 pm. The entry fee for adults is 4 EUR and for kids (till 11 yoa) – 3 EUR.

high observation tower with a skywalk glass viewing platform, Wilhelmina tower in Vaals, Limburg, the Netherlands

The Wilhelmina Tower & the Skywalk

Walk in the sky

If you are a tower-climbing addict, or if you love going up and enjoying the world from above, there is one more viewing tower at the Three-Country Point, this time on Dutch ground – the Wilhelmina Tower. The current tower is tower number 3. The first wooden tower was built in 1905 but in 1945 it was demolished as it was severely damaged during WW2. In 1951 the tower was rebuilt. In 2011, however, the old Wilhelmina wooden tower said goodbye to this world and the new Skywalk came at its place.

I haven’t tried the Skywalk yet, but I can imagine what it will be to stand on the glass platform, 35 m above ground at sunset, for example. As the tower is open from 10 am till 8 pm, you can still catch the sunset there.

The entry fee for the Skywalk is 3 EUR.

view from a high tower over green forests and small villages, view from Boudewijn Tower, Vaalserberg, Belgium

View from the Boudewijn Tower

Hiking near Vaals

If you arrive early enough at Drielandenpunt, at the local tourism office there, you can get info and maps for some short (or not so short) walks in the surroundings. Or you can just take a path, head on and see where you will get.

a busy two-way street divided by some green trees in the middle, main street in Vaals, Netherlands

Vaals, Limburg

Places to see in Vaals

At first glance Vaals seems to offer only one busy, boulevard-type of a street, lined up on both sides with shops, restaurants and cafes. Well, you have to look a bit further than that. I went to Vaals absolutely unprepared, didn’t know anything about the place or its landmarks, so it was fun walking around and discovering it as you go.

a square with an octagonal building and some stairs and white houses, the Copper Mill (De Kopermolen) in Vaals

De Kopermolen (Copper Mill)

De Kopermolen

The lovely octagonal building I saw, turned out to be the De Kopermolen (the Copper Mill) – a former Lutheran church built in 1736, turned into an Art and Culture Centre today.

a bronze monument of wounded soldier in front of a courtyard and white-yellow long house, the War Monument in front of the Clermont House in Vaals, Limburrg, the Netherlands

The War Monument in front of the Von Clermont Houses in Vaals

Von Clermont House

The building that looked like a modest palace turned out to be a former textile factory with a house en suite, built by the industrialist Von Clermont. It was a wool processing mill, where the fleece from the sheep was carded, combed, dyed and spun into yarn. The Von Clermont House serves today as the Town Hall.

War Monument

In the courtyard of the Von Clermont House there is the monument of the wounded soldier – a memorial for the citizens of Vaals who have lost their lives in WW2 and the wars in the Dutch Indies.

a big chestnut tree in blossom in a courtyard of an U-shaped building with a fountain in front, Queen Juliaana Square in Vaals

The Queen Juliana Square and the fountain

Queen Juliana Square

At the square in front of the Von Clermont House there is an interesting fountain that tells the industrial history of Vaals as it reminds a yarn dye bath.

a brick church with an old church tower and some green trees in front, the Protestant Church in Vaals, the Netherlands

The Protestant Church in Vaals

Protestant Church

We spotted two lovely churches in Vaals. The first one, the Protestant Church, looked a bit weary and tired, but it could have been because of the clouds and the grey weather. The church was built in 1671 against the old marl-stone tower of the parish church for the protestants of Aachen who were persecuted because of their religion.

a beautiful church Gothic Revival Style and a blue sky with white clouds, Saint Paul's Church in Vaals

The Saint-Paul’s Church in Vaals

Saint-Paul’s Church

The second church we came across was the Saint-Paul’s Church – an imposing building in Gothic Revival style with impressive stained glass windows. The church was built in 1893 to replace the old Saint-Paul’s Church, located some 60 m further down the road, which was too small for the congregation.

interior of a church with nice tile floor, arches and stained glass on the windows, Saint Paul's Church in Vaals

Interior of the Saint-Paul’s Church

Bloemendal Castle

Vaals has its own castle. Do you remember the Clermont family and their textile factory? Well, they were quite wealthy, so at a stone’s throw away from the factory they built their mansion – Schloss Blumenthal. Today the Bloemndal Castle is hotel.

a street with parked cars on one side and a church bell tower at the end of the street, Vaals, Netherlands

Vaals with the Saint-Paul’s Church

How to get to Vaals

By car

Both times I went to Vaals, I did it by car.

From the Netherlands

If you are staying in Maastricht, you can reach Vaals in less than 30 minutes by car (30 km). Wherever you are staying in Limburg Vaals is an easy day trip, too. Even from Amsterdam it’s not too far away – 2 and a half hours (230 km).


From Belgium

If you are staying in Belgium, from Brussels it takes an hour and a half (140 km) and from Liege/Luik – 50 minutes (45 km).

From Germany

If you are in Germany, from Cologne it’s about an hour (90 km) and from Aachen you can even walk, as there are only about 5 km.

view over green forests and a small town with a church tower, view from Vaalserberg, Netherlands

View from Vaalserberg

By public transport

Qliner bus line 350 runs at 30 minutes intervals  between Maastricht and Aachen and stops in Vaals.

If you are anywhere else in the Netherlands, click on the button below to plan your journey.

 

Have you been on the highest mountain in the Netherlands? Pin this for later!

a beautiful church in Gothic Revival style with overlay text: Discover Vaals in the Netherlands
four pictures of a place with some views and a church and overlay text: Best things to do in Vaals, the Netherlands
2 comments
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2 comments

Alice | Girl with a saddle bag 11th May 2019 - 2:12 pm

What a charming sounding place! Love the idea of visiting the Drielandenpunt, sounds like a great place to stop when we next head this way.

Reply
Silly Little Kiwi Blog | Tara 11th May 2019 - 9:42 am

This is such a beautiful place! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it! Looks like a fairytale come to life.

Reply

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