Thorn is the white ‘town’ of the Netherlands. This village of 2,500 inhabitants is located near the Belgian border in the province of Limburg and is known for the white houses in its historic center. Almost everyt18hing is painted white except the church and the roofs. How did that come about? And why is Thorn a super nice destination for a day trip in Limburg?
In this travel guide, you can read more about the special history of this white town and find out more about the best places to visit. Let’s go to Thorn…!
What would you like to know about Thorn?
- History – How Thorn became white…
- Sights – What to see and do in the white town?
- Accommodations – Historic lodging in Thorn?
- Transportation – How to get there?
History – How Thorn became white…
Around the year 1000, an abbey was founded in Thorn by Count Ansfried. Around 1200 it would grow into a secular abbey, a monastic community with a strong influence in the region and where rules of order were interpreted liberally. Thorn was a town where mostly noble people lived. If you were unmarried you entered the monastery; if you were married, you lived outside the monastery walls.
Thorn Abbey even grew into an abbey principality (1150-1794) within the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806). This mini-state, which consisted of 50 m2 , therefore had a special administrative power. In the thirteenth century the town received a city charter and work was done to build a wall. In 1645 many houses were lost in a city fire.
At the end of the eighteenth century the major renovation of Thorn took place. Due to French rule around 1795, many noble families left the town. Poor families stayed behind, but were faced with taxes based on window size by the French. Since they could not pay that, the inhabitants decided to partially brick the windows. Then they painted the houses white with the aim of hiding “scars of poverty.” And so Thorn gained the status of the “white” town and has been very popular with artists and tourists ever since.
Sights in Thorn – What to see and do?
Thorn lends itself very well to taking a beautiful walk along the white houses. At the local tourist information office they can help you with a nice walking route through the town. The VVV is located in the same building as the Municipal Museum, west of the Abbey church. They can also inform you about cycling routes in the area and this is a place to buy local products. Be sure not to skip these attractions when visiting the white town.
Gemeentemuseum het Land van Thorn
A good start to a walk through the white town is a visit to the Gemeentemuseum het Land van Thorn. Here you can learn all about the interesting history of this once noble town in Limburg. There are also temporary exhibitions by regional artists, and at the VVV tourist office you can get all the information you need about a pleasant walk through Thorn. With the museum card a visit is entirely free, otherwise the costs are € 3.50 per person.
St Michael’s Church or Stift Church
Almost everything in Thorn is white, except the church. But it didn’t need to be painted white either, because no people lived in it. St. Michael’s Church, also known as the Stiftkerk, is one of the few remnants of the old Abbey principality. Although… the building was rebuilt once and certainly renovated several times. Still, it remains an interesting building, but perhaps even more so inside. The crypt and the main altar are especially beautiful. A visit to the church is not free (€3.50), but it is possible with a museum annual pass.
Remains of the Abbey of Thorn
Finally, in the white town you will find many canonical houses, churches and other national monuments. As mentioned, it is highly recommended to get hold of a walking tour to learn more about the history of various buildings. You will also find out what remains of the old Abbey from the 12th century. There are not many remains, as most of the abbey was demolished in 1797. What does remain are some of the walls of the complex and the former abbey kitchen.
Accommodation – Where to stay?
Thorn is a town of 2,500 inhabitants. Despite this, it is incredibly popular with tourists who want to spend a day visiting the white town centre. They usually spend the night in the surrounding area. But if you want to spend a night (or more) in Thorn, then you know one thing for sure: The hotel or Bed & Breakfast is located in a white building.
Bed & Breakfast Het Kapelhuis is located in a historic building that was built in 1675. It served as the home of a clergyman who served the adjacent Kapel onder de Linden. Both buildings were owned by the foundation until the end of the 18th century. Some important clergymen have lived in the building and recently it has become possible to spend the night here. B&B Het Kapelhuis is located 1 kilometer north of the historic center of Thorn.
Eating & Drinking: There are a number of nice restaurants around the Sint Michaëlskerk in the center of Thorn. One of them is De Pannekoekenbakker. No need for further explanation, but they also serve delicious Limburg vlaai (flan). In the same street you will find more fine restaurants or cafes.
Transportation – How to get there?
The best way to get to Thorn is by car. South of the historic center, toward the banks of the Maas River is a parking lot where you can park for an entire day for a few euros. From there it is about a 10 minute walk to the historic center.
By public transport it is best to take the train to Roermond. From Roermond it is about 25 minutes by bus 73 to Weert. This bus runs once an hour. Check the website of Connexxion for more information.
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Do you have more tips, ideas, or comments about Thorn in Limburg? Feel free to leave a comment below!