VijlenSouth Limburg, the southernmost part of the Dutch province Limburg. The surrounding hamlets included, some 1500 people live here, although in summer the village also receives a large number of visitors. Mostly Dutch tourists find their way to this friendly village, which serves as a fine base to explore the region. It is known as the highest situated village in the Netherlands and is commended for the beautiful landscapes and forest areas around. It promotes itself as the only "mountain village" in the country, which of course is an exaggeration of its hill top position, but is the basis for a number of activities for tourists and inhabitants alike.
HistoryBurial mounds in the nearby Vijlener forest are proof of human settlement in this area at the time of the Linear Pottery Culture, some 3000–5000 years ago. Children's teeth were found in one of the mounds, which is therefor called the "children's grave". Since no valuable items were found at the site, but Roman pottery remains were, the Romans are believed to have plundered the graves long before their excavation in the 1920s and 30s. The modern day village is most likely Roman in origin, and the name Vijlen is presumably derived from "villa" or "villare", which would mean "farm villa" or "belonging to a farm villa" in Latin.
Around 1877, cement industry settled in the small village. A factory was built on top of the Vijlenerberg (the hill on which the village lies) and made a natural cement out of local limestone. A second factory was built in 1899, lower on the hill, but went bankrupt soon after. A new owner was able to get the new factory running again and made good profits during World War I, when cement became scarce. Both factories had underground tunnels, originally for underground mining purposes and later to connect open air quarries to the factory buildings. A long 2 meter high and no more than 1.7 meter broad tunnel under the Vijlenerberg connected the new factory to its quarry. In the 1920s, strong competition in the cement branch and the remote location, far from any railway, eventually caused the factories to close.
Bus line 61 runs right through the village on its way from Vaals to Gulpen and back. If you're coming from Heerlen or Simpelveld bus line 43 can take you as far as the hamlet of Mamelis, at the foot of the hill. From there it's another 15 minutes walk uphill to the village itself. Bus line 50 from the direction of Maastricht and Margraten also passes that stop.
The nearest train stations of use are in Heerlen and Maastricht or in Aachen (for German connections). From there you will have to take a bus. Taxi's are available but very expensive, as Heerlen and Maastricht are both at least a 20 minute drive. Count on at least €60 for a taxi ride from Heerlen.
For the odd chance you're flying in, Maastricht-Aachen airport is the closest one, with only discount carriers and limited destinations. For more international flights, try Dusseldorf, Cologne, Brussels and of course Amsterdam Schiphol airport (which is some 2,5h away by train).
St. Martinus churchThe neo-gothic and Catholic church dedicated to St. Martinus is one of the highest situated churches in the country. Right in the heart of the village, along the main road, its clearly visible from miles away and can't be missed. At this spot, a small church was established as early as the 7th century by St. Clodulfus, and later, medieval church stood here until 1860. In the period directly after, construction of the current church began. It was designed by famous Dutch church architect Carl Weber and as wmostly finished around 1862. Likely due to financial issues, it took another 18 years to get it completely finished. It is a so-called hall church and its mostly neogotic interior includes a number of art works and a large pipe organ. There are services on Saturday at 6pm, Sunday at 10am (both with the church choir) and Thursday (7pm).
Timber framed housesare common in the hamlets around Vijlen. Camerig, Cottesen, Mamelis and Mellechet are dotted with old farms and timber framed, ancient houses.
Cement Factory ruinsRight next to Hotel Vijlenerhof is a small steep down-hill road (Boombergweg), which leads to the hamlets of Mellechet and Rott. It passes the ruins of the large cement factory that was built here at the end of the 19th century. The remains of the factory were further demolished by the Germans in WWII, and just a few small parts of the factory walls are left.
- Of course, the main activity in Vijlen (as in most villages around), is exploring the surrounding natural areas. Around the village you'll find great landscapes (in part because of the high location of the village), lots of marked routes and a nice forest. Several shorter and longer walks start are colour marked, starting in or around Boscafé 't Hijgend Hert. In the small groceries store you can buy (€4) the "Spatzierkaart", a map with several hiking routes in the area.
- Some of the local bars have joined forces to develop a so-called Kroegjesroute, or bar route. It's basically a number of walking routes, leading along some of the best viewpoints around ánd connecting all of the 12 participating establishments, some of which are in surrounding villages. Depending on your wishes, you can opt for a longer or shorter route, or take several in a row. Maps and routes are available in any of the participating cafés, but Fiets en wandelcafé 'A gen Kirk' (across the church) is the designated place to get more information on this or other hiking or biking routes, as it doubles as a tourist office info point.
- The Vijlener forest is nice for a walk and the Linear pottery culture burial mounds there are visible. One of the mounds, the "children's grave", has been opened on one side. The information sign next to it is not in English, though.
- The Koelmarkt is an annual summer fair, held around the end of July. It has a flee market, lots of stalls with all kinds of goods and food, but also music and fireworks at night.
address: Rott 21This family run vineyard has been producing the village's own wine since the late 1980s. You can take a guided tour or taste the different kinds of wine they produce, but you'll have to book in advance.
address: Mamelisserweg 16-18The specialty of this Cuban restaurant is Sopa de platanos, a banana soup. Not everyone's favourite, but interesting for sure. Opened just a few years ago, the owners have made this restaurant one of the most lively places around, with regular cocktail- and salsa workshops and other activities. They also provide free walking routes of the village.
address: Camerig 11This place lies outside of the village, on the edge of the forest and has a unique view over the countryside. A good place for a lunch break or for diner
phone: +31 43-3061963address: Vijlenerberg 115This cosy little café opposite the church (hence the name "a gen kirk", "at the church") is decorated from floor to roof with Christian art, statues and bibles. The tourist information office uses the place as a leaflet post and there's a small outdoor terrace, but that's unfortunately located next to the main street. You can also eat here, as there is a simple but budget friendly menu for lunch and dinner (mains from €10). There are also 4 bed & breakfast rooms upstairs.
phone: +31 43 306 24 99address: Harles 23This bar/restaurant and petting zoo promotes itself as the only mountain cabin in the Netherlands, but perhaps you need to be Dutch to find that comparison very valid. It is however a nice and popular establishment in the forest, and (inside) decorated as a mountain cabin bar. It serves a wide selection of beers, including their own brand (Hert). There's also a rather extensive menu, varying from just a piece of apple pie to sandwiches and mains. To get here from Vijlen, drive (or walk) all the way through the village and at the top, turn right towards the forest. Some 800m into the forest the parking place is indicated on the left. This is also a good spot if you're out for a forest walk.
address: Hilleshagerweg 2Friendly, family-run place with small but clean rooms with private bathroom, some with a balcony. Extensive breakfast, central location and lots of walking routes from the hotel. There's a bicycle shed and free parking. The terrace in the front and the garden with a view in the back make the downstairs restaurant a good choice, also if you want to try local specialties.
address: Vijlenberg 33Rooms are somewhat worn-down and noisy but they have private bathrooms. The service is friendly and there's free wifi. The modern downstairs restaurant has a very limited menu but offers a 3-course menu for €22.50. The view from the restaurant is great.
phone: +31 900-8842 (premium rate call)address: Oude Akerweg 40A chalet village of the Landal chain, not far from the village center. They have 69 chalets, for 2, 4 or 6 people but you'll have to stay at least a weekend. Ask for a renovated chalet as some are a tad worn down. All chalets have private bathrooms, a kitchen and outdoor terrace. Wifi is available but you'll have to pay extra for it.
address: Camerig 12This large camping has lots of facilities, including a swimming pool and the option of an electric connection at your place. They also have fully equipped caravans and two timber framed chalets for rent, but make sure to book well in advance.
address: Cottessen 6Large camping with swimming pool, small groceries store, a play ground, snack bar and other facilities. They also rent out a few caravans and apartments, but you'll need to book those well in advance and in summer, you can only book them for full weeks.
phone: +31 43 410 0410address: Vijlenberg 73Fairly new hotel and restaurant along the main street, with a nice view over the valley. Its comfortable, modern rooms enjoy the same views. Downstairs there's also a restaurant, serving price worthy lunch and dinner. Choices include finger food, sandwiches, burgers or somewhat more classy meat or fish-dishes. Its spacious outside terrace is a good place for an afternoon break.
The grocery store (buurtwinkel) next to the church sells mobile phone prepaid cards, postcards and stamps, also international. There's a mailbox on the parking area across the street. For packages or other postal services you'll have to head to the more equipped post offices of Mechelen, Vaals or Gulpen.