Together with Bouwel, Grobbendonk boasts a long and colourful history dating back to before the beginning of the Christian era. Grobbendonk is known for its great diamond past, and it’s not unusual to unearth Gallo-Roman artefacts.
very dynamic municipality, Grobbendonk is also encouraging many businesses to settle in the area around the E313 motorway and the Albert Canal. In contrast, the area around the ‘Hof van Grobbendonk’, the watermill and Our-Lady-Ten-Troon Priory, where the Kleine Nete embraces its tributary the Aa, is absolutely picture perfect.
Herentals owes its title of ‘Kempen’s historical capital’ to its rich cultural past and fine historic monuments. These include the Boer War Memorial and the Cloth Hall on the Grote Marktplein, the Oud Gasthuis and Le Paige castle nearby and the picturesque Beguinage. The green north is a particularly beautiful area, boasting beautiful nature reserves, dunes and forests in the Kempense Heuvelrug and the babbling Kleine Nete. Herentals is also a true outdoor sports paradise with a wide choice of waterfocused parks and facilities, such as the Netepark and Hidrodoe.
Partake in exuberant festivities, enjoy the beautiful scenery or relax at an ancient inn: you can do it all in Herenthout, nicknamed ‘stoeterdorp’ after its famous carnival parade, the ‘Peer Stoet’ – the oldest in Belgium. Herenthout is also surrounded by truly beautiful natural landscapes: for instance, the wooded area of Merodese Bossen, the Wimpe and ‘t Schipke where the film ‘Pallieter’ was shot. Herlaer castle and the chapel of Uilenberg are also beacons in the streetscape of Herenthout.
Numerous folk tales and monuments remind us vividly of the legendary visits of Emperor Charles V to Olen. The welcoming village offers visitors a rich heritage which includes the Olense Cité, its typical village square with the ‘three-ear’ copper mug fountain and the Buulmolen. Olen is also a bustling municipality which offers you a great choice of fun events throughout the year (Gladiolen, the cabaret festival, the Boerkesfeest and ‘Keizer Kriek’). Every year, the town holds the ‘Olense Kartoenale’, attended by cartoonists from all over the world. You can view these cartoons on two wind turbines at the lock complex and during an exhibition.
In Vorselaar, a quiet and very green town centred on walking and cycling, the letter “K” is ubiquitous as the first letter (in Dutch) of anything worth a visit : the ‘kasteel’ (a beautiful medieval moated castle), the ‘kaak’ (an ancient pillory on the Marktplein), the impressive ‘kloster’ monastery and centre of Catholic education in Flanders, the ‘kerk’ (church), ‘kapelletjes’ (chapels), Kardinaal (Cardinal) van Roey (and his former residence ‘De Schranshoeve’), karaat (carat because of the diamond industry) and kampionenendorp (a village that’s home to many sports champions such as the 1959 ‘Golden Shoe’ winner Lucien Olieslagers, Bart Wellens, Ward Sels, Fons Brydenbach, to name but a few.)
The Neteland is essentially a ‘leafy’ rural region with a landscape alternating mainly between large nature reserves, vast meadows and oxygen-rich forests. From the box, you undoubtedly know the naturalists and Neteland natives Bartel Van Riet, Hans Van Dijck and Joeri Cortens.
It’s all in the name: water is ubiquitous in the ‘Neteland’. Not only because of the idyllic Kleine Nete and the Aa which flow together to create a beautiful natural environment, but also because of the Albert Canal and its lock complex, the still operational watermill and water towers, the Pidpa water extraction plant and ‘Hidrodoe’ – a water-centred, interactive science educational park.
The Neteland boasts all kinds of sports infrastructure (like the Sports Flanders domain), competitions and champions. Did you know that world champion motocross rider René Baeten, Golden Shoe Lucien Olieslagers, Davis Cup coach Johan Van Herck, the Verlooy family (equestrian sport), the cream of ice hockey (HYC) and athletes like Fons Brydenbach, Denise Verhaert and Marleen Mols are all Netelanders? In cycling, you must have heard of the Natourcriterium and the Rik Van Looy GP in Herentals, the Veldritten cyclo-cross and the Herman Vanspringels Diamond in Vorselaar... and of the champions who live here: Rik Van Looy, Herman Vanspringel, Ward Sels, Daniël Willems, Jan Bakelants, Jurgen Van den Broeck and cyclocross champions such as Bart Wellens, Erwin Vervecken, Sanne Cant and Wout Van Aert.
The Neteland is noted for its diamond industry but also for heavier industries such as the iron foundry in Herentals, the (copper) factories in Olen and the industrial zones along the Albert Canal. Traces of iron ore mining era are still visible in the landscape of the Aa valley, and large areas of the open countryside are obviously shaped by farming as well. The Cloth Hall is a relic of the cloth industry, but smaller crafts such as Ferdinand Van Hilst (shoe manufacturer) have also influenced entrepreneurship in our region.
Did you know that Cardinal Van Roey, Bishop Jan De Bie and Father Kristiaan all originally came from the Neteland? The region is still home to many religious relics and traditions. The same goes for local sacred architecture, with dozens of chapels in the villages, monasteries, a former convent (beguinage)... The Neteland boasts a rich religious heritage. And our many museums are worth a visit.
Children can have great fun in the Neteland. Attractions and parks include: Hidrodoe, the Netepark, De Kloek indoor playground, bowling centres, petting zoos such as the Lenteheide and ‘t Karrewiel, an indoor ice rink, 71 playgrounds, and more.
Marked cycling networks and a lot of themed routes such as the Watermill Route and cycling routes named after Provincial Governor Kinsbergen, Rik Van Looy, Bart Wellens, Cardinal Van Roey and Emperor Charles V.
Marked hiking trail circuits (including Kempense Beemden, Kempense Heuvelrug), a slow trail network, a choice of dozens of themed routes around chapels, castle estates, the Merodese Bossen and Lovenhoek (‘prettiest trail of the year’ award), a historic city walk and exciting walks like the ‘Boudewijnpad’ and the ‘Koperdorppad’. Every year, the Kempens Karakter heritage unit lists all winter walks in the area. There are winter walks almost every week, allowing you to discover the area and enjoy its fairytale Christmas atmosphere.
Astridplein 3, 228O Grobbendonk
O14 51 43 94
Lichtaartseweg 9, 225O Olen
O14 27 94 22
Grote Markt 35, 22OO Herentals
O14 21 9O 88
Bouwelse Steenweg 8, 227O Herenthout
O14 5O 78 5O
Markt 14, 229O Vorselaar
O14 5O 71 O4