West Ham fans will be heading to Genk ahead of another special Europa League away day. Genk is a town that is predominantly known for two things: its football team and European football nights. It is industrial by nature, given that it is roughly halfway between Antwerp and Liège. It is not as vibrant as other major European cities, but tourists can still enjoy some of its popular sights regardless.
QUICK FACTS – BELGIUM
Name in Official Language Belgique/België
Dialling Code +32
WHERE IS GENK?
Genk is the Limburg province of Belgium, the easternmost Dutch-speaking province in the country. It is known for its coal and car industries, and it has experienced a huge economic boost over the last 20 years.
The town of Genk attracted several immigrants after the First World War due to the presence of coal mines. Industrialisation still plays a key part of Genk’s economy today, and Genk offers over 45,000 jobs in Limburg. It is also a multicultural hotspot in Flanders, with 107 different ethnic minorities living in the surrounding area.
Genk officially obtained city status in the year 2000, and it has a population of around 66,000, that’s near the capacity of the London Stadium!
WHAT CAN I DO THERE?
St. Albertus Church Black Mountain
One of Genk’s most notable attractions is St. Albertus Church Black Mountain. People visit to admire its architecture and artwork, which make a quintessentially Belgian building.
Henri Lacoste designed the building and aimed to keep its traditional look. The church’s stained glass windows are the work of Val-Saint-Lambert, a famous Belgian glass manufacturer, and the church’s interior pays homage to local industries. For example, the bronze St. Barbara tower and bees represent the local mining community.
Bokrijk is an open-air museum that is similar to Beamish. It includes botanical gardens, a nature reserve, and several replica historical buildings. It was first blueprinted in 1938 and was part of the provincial government of Limburg’s attempt to combine culture with nature. The museum officially opened to the public in 1958.
Visitors can explore the 148 buildings within the complex and interact with the members of staff, many of whom are trained to portray characters of the different periods. This museum is a great way to learn about local history – and it will be a good place for a family day out.
Hoge Kempen National Park
Flanders is known for its wide fields and green spaces, and Hoge Kempen National Park is a popular place for hikers. With around 120 miles of hiking trails and a wide range of plants, visitors can embrace the Belgian countryside.
The park opened in 2006 thanks to support from the Belgian federal government and was considered a potential UNESCO site in 2011. Around 700,000 people visit the park each year, and the European Union is encouraging tourists to support the park through donations and visits.
WHAT IS THE STADIUM LIKE?
The Cegeka Arena, formerly known as the Luminus Arena, was built in 1999. It holds over 23,000 fans on a matchday, and it is occasionally used to host international matches.
The best way to get to the stadium is by bus. The nearest bus stop is Waterschei Kerkhof on the Waterschei-Sledderlo route. The stadium is a four-walk walk away from this stop.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Cross The Road Correctly
Belgian driving laws enforce a “priority to the right” law. This means that you must allow vehicles approaching intersections from the right to pass first. This rule can often confuse tourists, which can sometimes lead to accidents.
You must carry government-issued I.D. at all times. That said, it is worth keeping a copy of your passport in case it gets lost or stolen.
Do Not Cover Your Face
It is illegal to wear any item of clothing that will hide your face. Although this law may have been curtailed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you can face a fine of €137 or seven days in police custody.