10 things to do in Het witte stadje Thorn (Netherlands)

In Limburg on the Belgian border, the origins of the white village of Thorn can be traced back to the second half of the 10th century, when it was established as a Benedictine monastery.

It was a monastery for noble women and its own principality with various privileges.

For 500 years, Thorn was able to print his own money, and its Princess Abbey held a lot of wealth and power until it was dissolved by the French in the late 18th century.

The village’s cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses are unspoilt and set in the spectacular lake district of the Maas River, which can be visited by boat in the summer from Saone’s own pier.

Let’s explore the best things to do in White Town Thorns:

1. Historic Center

historical center

Covered easily in an hour or two, the cozy Thorne Centre feels like an outdoor museum, a protected Dutch urban landscape with over 100 Dutch heritage (Rijksmonumenten) in the space of a few streets.

The VVV Midden-Limburg tourist office has set up a 1.6-kilometer walking route around the village, taking you to many photogenic spots.

The Wijngaard leading to the west side of the Abbey Church is very pretty and is home to the local museum and the tourist office itself, in a gorgeous gabled building.

If you are wondering why this village is completely whitewashed.

Well, after the monastery was dissolved at the end of the 18th century, the occupying French taxed property based on the number of windows in the building.

One way to fix this is to brick the windows and then paint the exterior to cover up the new brickwork!

2. Sint-Michaëlskerk

st michaelsk

The former abbey church has been a parish church since the end of the 18th century.

The monument has a Gothic exterior and a Baroque interior and was built around the middle of the 12th century.

You will see the remains of the first building on the striking west side, the lower floors of which are Romanesque.

The interior is dramatically decorated to Dutch standards, complete with altars, polychrome statues and paintings.

There is a collection of Late Gothic engravings, including two images of Mary in the nave, a contemplative Christ, Calvary and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, while Sint-Lambertuskapel has a stunning 16th-century triptych, Evokes divine kinship (Jesus’ extended family). Westwork’s elegant baroque staircase leads you to the chapter room, now a treasure trove of ceremonial tableware and ornaments from the convent’s former days.

Also go to the basement: the western basement has an interesting sarcophagus, while the eastern basement has a natural mummy displayed in a glass sarcophagus.

3. Gemeentemuseum Het Land van Thorn

Gemeentemuseum Het Land Van Thorn

Thorne’s fascinating history and the story of its monastery are revealed in the charming Wijngaard’s local museum.

In these galleries you will discover once and for all why the spines are white.

But there are also details about Thorne being able to print its own currency as a duchy during the Middle Ages.

You’ll get to know some of the abbey’s most prominent abbots and priests, and explore Thorne’s connection to the arts through painters such as Frans van den Berg, as well as many outstanding musicians, composers and conductors such as Pierre Kuijpers, Léon Adams and Jan Cober .

The exhibit is Panoramic Thorns, a painstaking 3D painting depicting the incomparable center of the Thorns.

4. Corningsteen

Galloway cattle

Across the border, south of Thorn and east of the Belgian village of Kessenich is a verdant nature reserve, partly managed by the Dutch Natuurmonumenten and Belgian Limburg regions.

Koningssteen is a grassland and hardwood forest on the corridor between two lakes formed by gravel mining.

This narrow piece of land straddles the border, and occasionally you’ll come across cast iron columns marking the border.

The Dutch side is grazing by a herd of Galloway cattle, while the Belgian side is populated by Konik half wild horses.

5. Begijnhof


Thorn’s former beguinage can be seen at Kloosterberg 1, a historic religious women’s community. These beguines were given accommodation in exchange for performing tasks such as laundry, caring for the sick and praying for the souls of deceased priests.

Begijnhof is a lovely slender building with a mansard roof that was turned into a private residence after the dissolution of the monastery.

In the past, the building was called Pottenhuis because it was located where Thorn Abbey’s pottery used to be.

6. Veldkapelletjes (Church)


There are 14 whitewashed outdoor chapels around Thorn, 6 of which are listed as Dutch Heritage.

The most notable of these is Loretokapel at Kapel 4, a pilgrimage destination.

It was donated in 1673 by Clara Elisabeth of Manderscheid-Blankenheim, priest of the Abbey of Thorns and abbot Anna Salome younger sister.

This was extended twice in 1811 and 1898, but the oldest part has a beautiful stucco ceiling with medallions from the 1770s and an original carved altar from 1673. The remaining chapels are small but worth seeing – Barbarakapel (Baarstraat), Sint-Annakapel (Boekenderweg/Sint-Annapad), Sint-Antoniuskapel, Sint-Hubertuskapel and Sint-Rochuskapel (Heerbaan), usually on the pilgrimage route to Loretokapel superior.

7. DeGroot Haig

de Groth Haig

The main body of water south of Thorn is De Grote Hegge, fed by the Maas River, somewhere to hang out when the weather warms up in the summer.

There is a pier on the north shore for boat tours of the river and its many lakes, while on the west is a sandy beach on a scalloped bay.

In June, it’s the beach scene, a one-day techno and house music party at the water’s edge.

On the Waterstraat is Kasteelhoeve de Grote Hegge, a historic estate with a 15th century mansion.

The stables and barn are now a restaurant and conference center, while the house is rented out for weddings and other events.

8. Fun Beach Activities and Leisure Park Panheel

Fun Beach Activities and Leisure Park Panheel

A few kilometers from the village there is a seaside recreation center, open from May to October, with an extensive menu of activities for every member of the family.

Kids can don life jackets and take part in Super Water Park, an inflatable adventure course with jumps, slides and climbing obstacles.

The center also has equipment and facilities for volleyball (on the beach and in the water), paddleboarding, water skiing, flyboarding, canoeing, table football, pedal boats and rowing (walking on water in a giant inflatable ball) . On land there is a children’s playground and a bouncy castle, all complemented by various dining options.

For those who just want to laze in the sun, the beach has a blue flag and was the first in Limburg to receive this award.

9. Take a boat tour

Rederij cascade

A boat trip is the only way to appreciate the water-rich surroundings of the Meuse and the Saône.

On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in July and August, Paep van Meinecom III will make three cross-border trips on the Maas and its lakes from Thorn to the Belgian village of Ophoven.

The journey takes an hour and stops at the garrison town of Steventhwaite, where you can go ashore.

Another company, Rederij Cascade, runs a regular ferry service between Thorn and Maasbracht across the river, but also arranges cruises to Stevensweert and Roermond downstream, with rows of whitewashed “floating” houses on the water.

10. Duiklocatie Boschmolenplas

Duiklocatie Boschmolenplas

Diving may not be your thing in a village like Thorn, but a nearby lake has several factors that make it a diving hotspot.

Like the other Maasplassen lakes, Boschmolenplas was created by gravel quarrying.

But unlike other lakes, this lake is fed by groundwater, which is filtered through the soil, with no current to speak of, and exceptionally high visibility (12 meters). The lake is rich in flora and fauna, and various objects like sunken ships, even a huge yellow minion, have been sunk into the water.

The lake has its own oxygen filling station and rental center, but there are also certified Scuba Adventures dive centers that offer equipment rentals, lessons and excursions.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Thorne, Netherlands
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