The capital of the German-speaking community in Belgium lies on the edge of the moorland, a highland peat bog and moorland at the highest point in the country.
Eupen’s character is still defined by the bed linen and curtain industry, which peaked in the 18th century.
The cityscape features many fine Baroque buildings, as well as an 18th-century interior, if the parish church is nothing short of grandiose.
The Hautes Fagnes-Eifel Nature Park protects some of the Goffin countryside and is a vast protected space that starts on the outskirts of Aupen and extends all the way to Germany.
At this high altitude, the city is located between two reservoirs that supply millions of people with drinking water, Lac d’Eupen and Lac de la Gileppe.
1. St. Nicholas
At the highest point in Obern Oberstadt (Oberstadt) stands the imposing twin towers of the parish church of St. Nicholas.
This ornate three-aisle building is in Aachen Baroque style and was built in the 1720s, but if you examine the rustic stonework in the lower part of the southern bell tower, you won’t be surprised that it comes from an old church dating from the 12th century.
The interior is very dramatic, in Liege and Aachen baroque, showing the kind of money that was in the Eupen vaults when the wool cloth trade was at its peak.
Those wealthy cloth dealers donated the huge altarpiece by the Aachen artist Johann Joseph Couven (1701-1763), be sure to visit the confessional and pulpit (both from the 1730s), and the Liege Building Organ by Guillaume Robustelly in the 1760s (d. 1793). The side altars of Mary and St. Anne were produced in the 1770s, while the church’s 84 pews were carved from oak and still bear the names of prominent 18th and 19th century Auburns.
In 1993, Eupen was chosen as the site for the International Centre for Contemporary Art, in part because of its location at the crossroads of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The only art museum in Belgium’s German-speaking community, it predicts future art trends and establishes the IKOB Art Prize, awarded every three years to emerging artists.
As we write this, there are temporary exhibitions of video/installation artist Helen Anna Flanagan and “plastic illustrator” Francis Feidler.
For over 25 years, the museum has also housed works by Günther Förg, Patrick Everaert, Jonathan Meese, Johan Tahon and Guillaume Bijl, among others.
3. Hautes Fagnes-Eifel Natural Park
South of Eupen is the Moorland, a plateau of raised peat swamps and moors that originated during the last Ice Age some 7,500 years ago.
Part of this landscape is protected in a huge transboundary nature park, with a total area of nearly 250,000 hectares, 70,000 of which are in Belgium.
Given its size, the Hautes Fagnes-Eifel Natural Park has a wide variety of landscapes, from trickles to epic broad-leaved valleys, reservoirs and remote villages.
Meanwhile, Oban sits on the edge of the plateau, and the countryside here is full of wooded hills and rolling pastures teeming with cows.
If you want to experience the moody glory of the High Fens, the Highlands are only a few minutes’ drive away.
At the Maison du Parc-Botrange Visitor Centre, near Belgium’s highest point, you can learn about this wild landscape and traverse the swamps on a boardwalk.
4. Lake Oppen
Located on the edge of a high marsh, this scenic reservoir was created between 1938 and 1950 by a 63-meter-high dam built at the confluence of the Vester (Weser) and Gates rivers. Another stream, Helle, also runs through a 1.5 km tunnel for the reservoir.
The reservoir covers 126 hectares and supplies water to the Eupen, Spa and Seraing areas.
You can ride horses or walk around the lake shore on the RAVeL route laid when the dam was built.
The dam is a spectacular structure with breathtaking views along the valley.
There is also a visitor center with a café and playground, and a 2.5km family walk through the forest.
5. Oban Stedelijk Museum
The stately Mosan Renaissance townhouse, Haus de Ru’s at Gospertstraße 52, is one of the many clues surrounding Eupen in the thriving cloth-making industry from the 16th century.
In 1980 it became home to the Auburn Municipal Museum and reopened in 2019 with a modern extension next to it.
Needless to say, the permanent exhibition focuses on the cloth trade, and you can discover the various techniques used to make these fine wool fabrics, as well as the lifestyle their sale brought to wealthy merchants.
A pivotal moment recorded here is the uprising of the weavers in 1821, when mechanical shearers had been introduced.
There is also a full Eupen chronology, a display of carnival costumes, many depictions of the changing cityscape, and a watch case containing antique clocks made in the city.
6. Cas Oban
The local team Königliche Allgemeine Sportvereinigung Eupen was founded in 1945 and he has been playing in Belgium’s lower amateur league for most of the past 75 years.
Things took a turn for the better in the 2010s when Eupen was bought by Qatar’s Aspire Zone Foundation (also responsible for Paris Saint-Germain) and the “Pandas” have since established themselves in the Belgian Serie A.
In a league known for developing top football talent, Auburn’s Kehrwegstadion is a place where you can see potential stars learn to trade.
7. Park Moorenhöhe
From the viewing platform in the south of the city, you can see the low dark green slopes of Open and Hertogenwald behind.
Paved in stone and bounded by an elegant iron balustrade, Park Moorenhöhe is more of an observation point than a park, and takes its name from the mayor of Auburn at the end of the 19th century, Theodor Mooren (1881-1905). Murren is remembered for his efforts to beautify the city, with his motto “Plant a tree in every open space!”, (Auf jeden leeren Raum pflanze einen Baum!).
8. Turnell Nature Centre
To help you understand the ecology and history of the high marsh landscape, there is a visitor center in the center of Hertogenwald, near the Weser Dam.
In spring and summer, there are regular guided walking tours in German, French and Dutch from the center.
Visit the small natural history museum about the high marshes, explain their origins with the help of a diorama, and showcase today’s biodiversity.
There’s a cosy café-restaurant making regional specialities and stocked with a range of Belgian beers, and the little ones can burn off any excess energy on the playground.
In winter, Haus Ternell is the starting point for cross-country ski runs, and you can rent skis from the center.
9. Wet Kapelle
This chapel on the east side of Werthplatz had an influence on its grand western facade, which was built in 1821-22, while the rest of the building was mostly built at the end of the 17th century.
Werthkapelle was founded by the local Klebanck cloth merchant family, a testament to the wealth of this trade in Eupen some 300 years ago.
Above the pediment at the main entrance is a niche containing a 7th-century statue of St. Lambert, Bishop of Liege in Maastricht.
Inside, look at the main altar of 1694, a partially gilded oak pulpit from 1720, engraved with the Klebanck coat of arms, a polished Dolhain granite communion table (1740) and two late 18th century consoles.
Since 2014, Werthkapelle has been a joint place of worship for Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox congregations.
10. Historic Homes
Eupen is full of beautiful, mainly 18th-century Baroque cloth houses, many of which are attached to enclosed courtyards where fabrics are produced.
Many of these houses, with mansard roofs, gables and corners, have been converted into government buildings.
The grandest is the Haus Mennicken townhouse (1744), on the intersection of Gospertstraße and Werthplatz.
Equally brilliant is the factory building at Klötzerbahn 34 (1761-63), now the headquarters of the German-speaking community in Belgium.
From 1757 it is opposite another house with courtyard at number 27. The marvelous property at 2-4 Kaperberg is home to the Auburn National Archives, while the parliament of the German-speaking community used to meet at another fabric maker’s house next door at 1. . 8 (1812).
11. Alter Schlachthof Cultural Center
Around the corner from IKOB, Eupen’s former slaughterhouse finds new use as a center for performing arts and events.
The Alter Schlachthof is situated on the right side of the city stream, in a fine brick industrial complex of the early 20th century.
Check out the center’s calendar before coming to Auburn, as the program is filled with live music of every genre, dance, family entertainment, theater, comedy, and a few festivals throughout the year.
For more than six weeks from February to March is SCENAR!, now over two decades old, mixing theatre with dance and circus.
The complex’s old spice house (Gewürzhäuschen) houses a bistro that can host larger shows.
12. Go-kart Auburn
After an expansion in 2014, this massive facility in an industrial area outside Open is now the largest indoor go-karting centre in the world.
The new track is 1,100 meters long and 6 meters wide, so there is plenty of room for friends to scrap and overtake.
The new bridge/tunnel sponsored by Red Bull has a nice feel and the centre is fan ventilated so CO2 is not an issue.
There are dozens of karts to choose from, suitable for all experience levels up to professionals, including those with reduced mobility and children.
There’s even a two-seater go-kart if you just want to ride.
Free Wi-Fi is available, as well as a briefing room, bar, bistro with terrace, and even a specialty store selling racing gear from brands like Alpine Star.
Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
13. Lac de la Gileppe
Another scenic dam and reservoir is located in Hertogenwald, a 15-minute drive from Eupen.
Lac de Gileppe is one of the oldest artificial lakes in Europe, impounded in 1867 to provide water for the industry of the city of Verviers.
The dam was raised between 1967 and 1971, and with it was the massive 300-ton sculpture of a lion by Antoine-Félix Bouré (1831-1883). In this project, a panoramic tower was built on the water’s edge, with a height of over 76 meters, and a restaurant on its glass top floor.
At the base of the tower, you can rent an electric bike and start a hike or test yourself on a high ropes course in the forest.
14. Auburn Carnival
Wallonia has a rich carnival tradition, where the strict norms of daily life of the past will be overturned, and people will dance and parade through the streets in fancy dress.
Eupen’s celebration is slightly different, originating in the eastern Rhineland.
Here, Mardi Gras is based on Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag) rather than Mardi Gras.
There are daily parades starting on Thursday, including the “Old Women” (Weibefastnacht) and Children’s (Saturday) parade on Thursday, and the traditional parade on Sunday, followed by the Rosenmontag parade.
Throughout, the streets of Auburn are full of well-dressed country hooligans, two-legged elephants, butterflies, chimney sweeps, giant frogs, Pierrot, and more.
15. Cortège de la Saint Martin à Eupen
Every year on November 11, Auburn hosts an atmospheric procession dedicated to the 4th-century Saint Martin of Tours, who was a member of the Roman cavalry.
As the patron saint of poverty, he was revered for splitting his cloak in two with a sword in the middle of winter and sharing it with the beggars of Amiens.
On this cold night, St. Martin, accompanied by 60 Roman soldiers, rode through Eupen on horseback, handing out gifts to children along the way.
Around 5,000 torches line the route, and the parade ends with a cape-sharing ceremony at Werthplatz.
The spectacle takes place in front of a replica of the old city gate of Amiens and ends with a huge burning pyre.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Auburn, Belgium
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