Known mostly for the Miljoenenlijn steam train, which originates here, Simpelveld is a small city in the South Limburg region, in the Dutch province Limburg. Also, in 1930 the so-called "Sarcophagus of Simpelveld" was discovered here.
The town's roots go back thousands of years, known through archaeological finds of the Linear Band Ware culture in the area. In Roman times, it was a settlement on the road from Maastricht to Aachen. The famous sand stone sarcophagus, dated back to 100-200 AD, that was discovered in 1930 most likely belonged to one of Simpelveld's rich female inhabitants, who rather likely lived in a nearby villa roughly located at the beginning of the modern-day Sint Remigiusstraat. As rich as Simpelveld's Roman history seems to have been, the remnants of this time are sadly hardly visible during a visit, and a notable amount of Roman findings from the nearby land are on display in nearby Heerlen as well as Leiden.
The fact that this small town had two different monasteries gained it the local title of "kloesterstedsje", or "monastery town". The second monastery still stands, but since 2018 functions as a museum dedicated to Simpelveld's historical past. The village has an active local community and serves as a centre for daily shopping for neighbouring villages. It receives a fair number of Dutch tourists in summer, who use the town as a base for a visit to the whole of the South Limburg region. The town's direct vicinity is typically South Limburgish, lending itself well to walking and cycling, featuring rather sloped terrain for Dutch standards, as well as hollow ways cut into the rural loess grounds.
Simpelveld is easily accessible through the E314/A76, which connects the town directly to Aachen and Geleen, and gives it a highway connection to Maastricht via the A79. To Heerlen, the N281 is the main connection. Coming from the north of the Netherlands, simply first head in the direction of either Eindhoven or Nijmegen, from where you can follow the A2 and A73 respectively, heading south.
Although the village has a train station, that is now only used for the touristic Miljoenenlijn and has no regular connection to the Dutch railway system. The steam train operated by ZLSM comes from either Kerkrade or Valkenburg. It doesn't have a routine schedule but this is a recommended route if you want to see some of the spectacular views of the hillsides of Maastricht-Hill Country and it would get you to Simpelveld, if coming from one of its few other stations. Sadly, it isn't possible to board a ZLSM train at Kerkrade and use it to get to Simpelveld, so using the train you can either get as close to Simpelveld as Heerlen or Maastricht, from where you will have to rely on buses.
From Heerlen, either bus 20 or 26 to Kerkrade or bus 21 to Aachen will serve you well, taking about half an hour to 45 minutes to get you from the Heerlen main station to Simpelveld. From Maastricht, take bus 350 towards Vaals and Aachen, getting off in Gulpen, and transferring onto bus 47 heading for Parkstad Stadion. This journey will take about an hour to complete.
- Natuurtransferium, Kruinweg 5. Bike rental (see Do below for listing).
The town has a few national heritage sites. There are some old farms and a number of religious sites.
- 1 Loreto Monastery (Museum de Schat van Simpelveld), Kloosterstraat 68. A few nuns still remain in this monastery, right in the middle of the town. Clara Fey, who founded the congregation of the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus, is buried in the chapel. When the German congregation had to flee Aachen due to the kulturkampf in the late 19th century, Simpelveld became the world headquarters. Several of the buildings are listed rijksmonuments. As of September 2020, the building houses a museum, Museum de Schat van Simpelveld, showcasing monastic life.
- 2 Hellingbos, behind the city hall. Just behind the city hall and the Loreto monastery lies a park called the "Hellingbos". Originally part of the monastery grounds and gardens, it used to hold a cemetery and chapel. Nowadays, the Stations of the Cross remain the main sights in the park, which makes a tranquil place to linger or just walk around.
- 3 Replica of the Sarcophagus of Simpelveld, Markt 1. Office hours. The real sarcophagus is part of the collection of The Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, but a really good replica can be found at the city hall.
- 4 Huize Damiaan, Pater (ptr) Damiaanstraat 38, ☏ . This former monastery was founded in 1892 by followers of the canonized Belgian father Damian. Nowadays, it is a conference centre with some 49 rooms for group accommodation and individual travellers.
- 5 Remigiuskerk, Pastoriestraat. The Neo-Romanesque church was built in the 1920s but it is the church interior that is of significant historic value and therefore listed as a national heritage site. It's usually open, just don't go sight-seeing when a mass is in progress as it will not be appreciated.
- 1 ZLSM (Zuid-Limburgse Stoomtrein Maatschappij), Stationstraat 20-22, firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a ride through the southern part of Limburg on this classic steamtrain ride. See the marvels and beauty of this part of the Netherlands cross high bridges and see some great cities on the way. The Simpelveld train station serves as a headquarter for the ZLSM and doubles as small museum. .
- 2 Natuurtransferium, Kruinweg 5, ☏ . As in most small towns in the South Limburg region, many travelers use Simpelveld as a base for hiking and biking in the area. Simpelveld has a number of very suited routes. Head to the "Nature Transferium Poort Mergelland" on the edge of town. It is the main tourist information point and forms a starting point for many routes. Here you can rent a number of bikes (including motorized ones) and buy maps. If you've really been working out, they even offer use of a shower for bikers.
For a real shopping spree you should head to nearby Heerlen or (better yet) to Maastricht, Sittard or Aachen. However, Simpelveld has all the basic shops you would need during your stay, including grocery stores, clothing shops, household goods and stores for cosmetic and personal hygiene items. The town's shops are a combination of modern Dutch chain stores and old-fashioned family-run village shops, some of which have been here for decades.
You'll find most of the shops on and around the Markt, the newly built Kloosterplein, the Kloosterstraat, and the Dorpsstraat (Village street). The Plus supermarket on the Kloosterplein is open M-Sa 08:30-21:00 and Su 10:00-18:00. Het Oude Schoolhuis on the corner of the Markt and Dorpsstraat sells some nice antiques. There's a weekly market on Friday mornings, mostly with fruits, vegetables and other food items.
For a village of its size, Simpelveld has a good number of places to eat, although several are cheap fries & snacks places. On Mondays and on evenings after 21:30 you might find yourself hard-pressed to get anything else, since most places are closed then. If you're in one of the many chalets, self-cateringen is a good alternative. Nearby Bocholtz has a number of other places and it's easy enough to get to Heerlen, Vaals or Gulpen if you can't find anything you like.
- 1 Friture Oranjeplein, Oranjeplein 1a, ☏ . One of the most popular "fritures" around. The place can be crowded, mostly with take-away customers, but the waiting time to order is usually no more than 5 or 10 minutes. From €5.50.
- 2 Grillroom Pizzeria Nefertiti, Kloosterstraat 16, ☏ . 15:00-03:00. The local grill and pizza place is run by an Egyptian owner and is open till late. It's not the most romantic place but there is plenty of place to sit and the service is friendly. If you're in a chalet, they also deliver. Pizza days are Tu W, with all pizzas for €5.75 From €5.50, pizzas from €7.
- 3 Cafetaria ’t Pastorieke (Snack & Dine 't Pastorieke), Pastoriestraat 5, ☏ . W-F 16:00-22:00, Sa Su 14:00-23:00. A more cosy "friture" so sit, serving all the standard dishes. They also offer good value complete menus, with schnitzel or steak, fries and salad for around €10. They also offer bread rolls for under €5. Closed M Tu. From €5.
- 4 Restaurant / Brasserie de Driesprong, Kruinweg 3, ☏ . Located outside the village centre, next to the Bungalow park and Natuurtransferium. The food gets good reviews and the service is friendly.
- 5 Maxime, Vroenhofstraat 1, ☏ . This place has been around for long, with quality going up and down over time. It seems is popular, and is next to the church. €25.
- 6 Shoko, Markt 2, ☏ . This restaurant location has changed hands several times over the past few years but now houses a modern ice-cream, lunch and dinner place. It's popular enough, also because of its location on the edge of the market square. Dinner plates includes pastas, steaks, and fried fish. Prices vary (€12-25).
- 7 [dead link] Bellevue, Deus 1, ☏ . Surely the best restaurant in town, and the only one that allows for a splurge. Bellevue offers nice food and a pretty view over Simpelveld and its surroundings. On a sunny day, find a place on the outdoor terrace. €35.
For a night out with better bars and clubs, many locals turn to nearby Heerlen. Nevertheless, there are a few places where you can go to hang out and have a beer and on the outskirts of town you'll even find a dance club.
- 1 Café en Partycentrum Oud-Zumpelveld, # Irmstraat 23, ☏ . This is one of the town's oldest bars. During carnival, it's adjoining party centre becomes the town's main place to be.
- 1 Bungalowpark Simpelveld, Kruinweg 1, ☏ . The park has been renovated and offers quite nice views over the surrounding area. They offer several kinds of holiday homes, ranging from 2- to 8-person ones, all with private facilities. Prizes drop in low season, when even single-night stays can easily compete with hotel rates in the area. There's a small shop for basic supplies, open in the evening hours. €35-95 per night, depending on season and kind of bungalow.
- 2 [dead link] Bellevue, Deus 1, ☏ . Part of the best restaurant in town, this place has a few apartments for rent and often some good arrangements to offer if you would like to sleep ánd dine here. The apartments are equipped with a small kitchen and private bathroom facilities. The restaurant is not open for breakfast, so you'll have to self-cater or head into the village. As the name suggests, this hill-top place has a very nice view over the surroundings. €105 for 2 persons one night.
- 3 De Witte Keizerin, Hennebergweg 1, ☏ . This former farm has been turned into a B&B/holiday house complex. It's showing signs of wear and tear but the service is friendly and for the price, it's a fair deal. You can choose between simple bed and breakfast rooms and fully furnished apartments with kitchens. There's plenty of playing opportunities for the kids and, on the edge of town, you walk straight into the fields if you're up for a walk. From €55 for a room.
- 4 Hotel-Restaurant Vallonnée, Doctor Poelsplein 33, ☏ .
- 5 Pension Werry, Rodeput 62, ☏ . This small, family-run place on the outskirts of the village makes for a pleasant stay and a good base for those who want to explore the region. The rooms are simple but well-maintained and have private bathrooms. Discounts are possible when you stay multiple nights. Breakfast is included in the price. From €24 p.p. or €39 for a double.
Most places to stay have free WiFi, but if it is offered, don't count on it to be stable or fast. It's easier if you use mobile internet, as the coverage is alright.
- 1 Post NL post office, Kloosterplein 42-A (inside the Read Shop Bookstore, next to the supermarket.). M-Th 08:30-18:00, F 08:30-19.00 and Sa 08:30-17:00.
Hopping on the steam train will get you to even more tourist minded places like Gulpen and Valkenburg, but other South Limburg destination are easy to reach as well. Head to beautiful Maastricht for fine sights and food, go indoor skiing in Landgraaf or explore the border area of Vaals. From there, consider quickly jumping over to the impressive German city of Aachen, all just minutes away from Simpelveld.