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Tongeren | An ancient Belgian city reveals life 2000 years ago

Hello folks, 

Tongeren is a hidden gem not many know about. Especially for foreigners and expats the vivid history of this place surprises. The oldest city of Belgium was once known as Atuatuca Tongrorum, the capital of the Roman province Civitas Tungrorum, founded in 10 BC.

Although fascinated by ancient history, I had never visited Tongeren before. It was my first time in the town and I've found so many beautiful places that have stood the test of time that I could say it was like love at the first sight.  We decided to go by train and it took us about 1 hour and a half to arrive in Tongeren from Leuven, we had to change the train at Hasselt station, and it cost 13€ per person - to go and come back. Arriving in Tongeren you will find an information board in front of the station indicating all the directions to the touristic places as well as descriptions of picturesque walking routes through the old town. Bronze cobblestones on the sidewalks lead your way to the city centre, which is a brilliant idea.

The medieval part of the town, including the Basilica of Our Lady, built in the XIII century in the style of Brabantine gothic and the unique church of the Begijnhof are evidently must-sees. However, what impressed me the most were the ruins of the Roman city walls, built in the II century. For me it's impressive how they are still there after such a long time, perfectly integrated into the landscape. According to historians, those walls weren't built for military purposes, but as a status symbol for the proud inhabitants. Almost 2000 years later these walls continue to fit their purpose: the locals are still very proud of them!

The city of Tongeren does an excellent job of encouraging the archaeological research. Thanks to the devotion of the community the Gallo Roman museum was created. The place is dedicated to prehistorical times and the Roman age, the permanent collection is impressive and contains 2.300 items. The museum offers a very interactive and didactic experience to the visitor, inviting us to walk along the four major revolutions: "The arrival of human beings", "The first farmers", "A first elite emerges" and "The Romans found Tongeren". An iron made arrow displayed on a table can be just an object, but in Tongeren, the arrow, as many other artefacts, talks to us about social classes, politics, privilege and oppression. It's not in vain this museum won the award of  European Museum of the Year Award in 2012: we do need spaces that instigates critical thinking.

I've visited many beautiful places in Tongeren and yet I have so many more to explore in the future. I'm looking forward to visiting the  Tumili, Roman burial mounds, and maybe join an excavation. How wonderful would that be?

Check the website of the Gallo Roman Museum for practical information.

Roman Museum of Tongeren

roman walls tongeren

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