A weekend in 'Japanese' Hasselt
Kimono's, geisha's, zen gardens... No one can deny Japan has something fascinating. Luckily you don't need to fly 9,000 km to get a taste of the Land of the Rising Sun. The beautiful city of Hasselt not only offers culture, gastronomy and fashion, it also has many assets with a Japanese touch and 2017 is the most perfect year to experience all of it. To celebrate the 25th birthday of the Japanese Garden in Hasselt, they organize the Yokoso Festival (Japanese for 'welcome') with lots of special events. High time to plan a 48h city trip to the Belgian Capital of Taste!
Stop at Tourism Hasselt | Maastrichterstraat 59, 3500 Hasselt
After you dropped off your luggage at the hotel, head to the information desk of 'Visit Hasselt' to pick up your '48u-kaart'. This card will give you free access to lots of cultural places and plenty of advantages in restaurants and shops. It will cost you €19.50 but believe me when I tell you it's a safe investment! Also, don't forget to ask for the 'Graffiti & Street Art' trail while you're there, though I'm pretty sure they'll spontaneously offer it to you.
Shopping in the alternative streets
On Saturday morning I suggest you enjoy the best Hasselt has to offer in terms of shopping. This is concentrated in three parallel streets. Start on the Havermarkt with Two Store (a trendy shop for men and women of all ages, with styles ranging from streetwear to classic), Donum (the design boutique housed in the former post office) and Hay (a reference when it comes to Scandinavian lifestyle). Walk further towards Kapelstraat where you'll find several high-end boutiques such as Les Soeurs (besides womenswear they also have some beautiful interior items). It is in this same street that you'll find Gigaswing, one of the last independent record stores. Then finally you have the Aldestraat with Fashion Bar (a multi-brand clothing store where you can also have a drink) and Oui (an Ali Baba's cave of presents, for someone you love or yourself).
Though not located in these streets, the following two shops should definitely be on your itinerary (and they're not that far anyway): the Hendrikshuis, a mecca for hipsters looking for new and vintage fashion, and La Bottega, probably the most famous fashion venue of Hasselt housed in a former jenever distillery where you can wander for hours.
Lunch at Botanique | Zuivelmarkt 11, 3500 Hasselt
All that shopping will surely awaken your appetite (as Carrie Bradshaw used to say, shopping is cardio), so head to Botanique for the best burgers and salads in town! There is a lot to choose from on their menu (up to 4 veggie burgers) and you can even have your favorite burger as a salad (meaning they replace the bread with coleslaw). In order to get in the Japanese mood, might I suggest having the salmon burger with wasabi mayo?
Exploring the region by bike
Don't worry about calories over lunch since you'll burn them all away by exploring the area around Hasselt by bike afterwards. For this go back to Tourism Hasselt to get your bike and the 'Smaakfietsroute'. The 23 km trail has conveniently been assigned the color green since it will take you across beautiful nature. The first stop on your way is the Japanese Garden, the biggest one in Europe and undoubtedly a highlight of the weekend. As you take a walk through rocks and Japanese Maple Trees, on the sounds of waterfalls, you'll surely get into that zen mode. Another mesmerizing landscape on your way is Fietsen door het Water (Cycling through Water), a bikeway around Domein Bokrijk that goes straight through a river and offers quite the Moses experience. Located in the middle of an untouched piece of nature, it is a surrealistic sight! Later on you'll pass by Domein Kiewit (where you can stop at Koe-vert for some refreshments) and the bravest among us will go further until they reach the Abdijsite Herkenrode with gorgeous herb garden.
Discover your hotel room at De Groene Hendrickx | Zuivelmarkt 25, 3500 Hasselt
Back in the city, it is time to discover your hotel room. De Groene Hendrickx is housed in a former jenever distillery (yet another) right in the lively city center. This cozy hotel has 22 rooms, each with a different atmosphere, all with the same minimal design that puts the authentic elements in the spotlight. Thanks to the '48u-kaart', you can get the 2nd night at 50% (in case you would like to arrive on Friday night already)!
Apéro and dinner plans
After you freshened up at the hotel, you're ready for a night out on the town! Apéro is the perfect occasion to go in search of new heights at Sky Lounge (at the Radisson Blu Hotel), at 65 m high, offering epic panoramic views. Once your cocktail or your glass of wine is finished, come back down the 18 floors and head to Esaki for some delicious sushis (of course). And thanks to your '48u-kaart', you'll get a free glass of cava. Isn't that fabulous? Do remember to make a reservation though.
Visit of the Modemuseum | Gasthuisstraat 11, 3500 Hasselt
Take your time waking up the next morning as the breakfast buffet is open until 10:00. At the Modemuseum you can continue your Japanese journey through the 'Across Japan' exhibition, rich in sensational garments and insights. When you think of Japanese fashion, images of Western people wearing kimono's as home wear automatically come to mind. But the influence of Japan goes far beyond that! Some even argue that the characteristic straight cut of dresses during the roaring twenties could be linked to the kimono concept. Names such as Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto are paramount in contemporary fashion and continue to inspire designers worldwide with their intellectual approach of clothing. A truly mind-opening exhibition.
Lunch at Smaaksalon | Maastrichterstraat 61, 3500 Hasselt
And from stylish clothing to stylish eating... Smaaksalon is a brasserie housed in a sumptuous mansion from the 19th century, complete with fairy tale chandeliers and golden details. On the menu you'll find dishes that highlight local products and thanks to your '48u-kaart' the second 3-courses lunch is for free!
A graffiti-themed walk
After lunch, have a digestive walk in the silent streets looking for the 60 facades with art works by international street artists which make up for Hasselt's reputation as biggest street art city of Belgium. A real open-air museum, not only in the alternative neighborhood of the Dorpstraat, but also beyond the city center.
The train will take you from Brussels to Hasselt in about 1h30 and the station is just a 10 min walk away from the center. If you come by car it will take you about 1h from Brussels. Hasselt offers several free parking options or you go for the private parking of Hotel De Groene Hendrickx.
Alpha Industries bomber jacket - Diesel shirt - Calvin Klein Jeans trousers - Zign boots
All items via Zalando Modetrends 2017