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 Pottery culture in the area. In Roman times, it was a settlement on the road from Maastricht to Cologne. The famous sand stone sarcophagus that was discovered in 1930 most likely belonged to one of Simpelveld's rich female inhabitants of old times.
The fact that this small town had two different monasteries gained it the local title of "kloesterstedsje", or "monastery town". The village has an active local community and serves as a centre for daily shopping for neighbouring villages. Ir receives quite many Dutch tourists in summer, who use the town as a base for a visit to the whole of the South Limburg region.
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. To Heerlen, the N281 is the main connection.
By train & bus
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.
Buses run frequently however and connections include:
- Line 43 in the directions of Vaals or, the opposite direction, Heerlen
- Line 21 in the direction of Gulpen or, the opposite direction, Brunssum
The nearest airport is Maastricht-Aachen Airport, with some international destinations.
As Simpelveld is a small place, you'll be mostly able to make your way on foot in the center. However, to explore the outskirts or nearby villages, a bike or car is a good option. You can rent a bike at the Natuurtransferium (Kruinweg 5 )
The town has a few national heritage sites. There are some old farms and a number of religious sites.
- Loreto Monastery, 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. The building is not open for visits, but the outsides can be admired from the street.
- 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.
- Replica of the Sarcophagus of Simpelveld, Markt 1, 6369 ZG Simpelveld. 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.
- 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 center with some 49 rooms for group accommodation and individual travelers.
- Remigiuskerk, Pastoriestraat. The Neo-Romanesque church was built in the 1920's 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.
- ZLSM (Zuid Limburge Stoomtrein Maatschappij), Stationstraat 20-22, 6369 VJ Simpelveld, ☎ . Take a ride trough 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.
- 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 Mo-Sa 8.30-21.00 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 9.30PM 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.
- 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.
- Grillroom Pizzeria Nefertiti, Dorpstraat 18, ☎ . 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' plenty of place to sit and the service is friendly. If you're in a chalet: they also deliver. Pizzadays are Tue&Wed, with all pizza's for €5.75 From €5.50, pizza's from €7. *
- Cafetaria ’t Pastorieke, Pastoriestraat 5, ☎ . W-F16.00-22.00h, weekends 14.00-23.00h. A more cosy "friture" so sit, serving all the standard dishes. They also offer good value complete menu's, with schnitzel or steak, fries and salad for around €10. They also offer bread rolls for under €5. Closed Mo&Tu. From €5.
Mid-range & splurge
- 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.
- Restaurant / Brasserie de Driesprong, Kruinweg 3, ☎ . Located outside the village center, next to the Bungalow park and Natuurtransferium. The food gets good reviews and the service is friendly.
- Maxime, Vroenhofstraat 1, ☎ . This place has been around for long, with quality going up and down over time. It seems to be gaining popularity recently and is located nicely next to the church. €25.
- 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 pasta's and steaks and fried fish and prices vary (€12-€25)
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 just hang out and have a beer and on the outskirts of town you'll even find a dance club.
- Café en Partycentrum Oud-Zumpelveld, # Irmstraat 23, ☎ . This is one of the town's oldest bars. During carnival, it's adjoining party center becomes the town's main place to be.
- Café de Eend, Irmstraat 1, ☎ . With a somewhat younger audience also frequently hanging out, this can be a lively place at times. They sometimes serve a few simple meals as well, check the signs or ask.
- Bungalowpark Simpelveld, Kruinweg 1, 6369 TZ Simpelveld, ☎ . The park has been recently 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.
- Bellevue, Deus 1, 6369 GA Simpelveld, ☎ . 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. € 105,00 for 2 persons one night.
- De Witte Keizerin, Hennebergweg 1, 6369 BL Simpelveld, ☎ . 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, located on the edge of town, you walk straight into the fields if you're up for a walk. From €55 for a room.
- Hotel-Restaurant Vallonnée, Doctor Poelsplein 33 6369 AT Simpelveld, ☎ .
- Pension Werry, Rodeput 62, 6369 SR Simpelveld, ☎ . 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 €24p.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.
- Post NL post office, Kloosterplein 42-A (located inside the Read Shop Bookstore, next to the supermarket.). Mo-Th 8.30-18.00, F 8.30-19.00 and Sa 8.30-17.00.
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 just quickly jumping over to the impressive German city of Aachen, all just minutes away from Simpelvel.