This summer, I got the chance to spend a weekend in Diest. In all honesty, I didn’t know much about this city, except that it was not that far from ‘Leuven’, one of Belgium’s student cities. With no expectations (and no idea what we were up to) I arrived in Diest on a Saturday morning.
I am not a city person. I recharge in nature and try to avoid the hustle and bustle of cities as much as possible. But the charm of Diest is incomparable : its cobblestoned streets and little houses, lots of greenery to relax in, the river the Demer that flows gloriously through the city and a rich history. In the evening the city comes to life, and there is a pleasant atmosphere; which never feels like ‘too much’. There are numerous hip bars and restaurants to be discovered. And last but not least : the people are so friendly and open. (at one point we had to take shelter for a downpour and people invited us into their houses to wait until it was over.)
How to get there?
Diest is situated in Flemish Brabant and is only an hour’s drive away from Ghent, and around 40min from Brussels. There’s lots of free parking space, that you can check here. You can also reach Diest by train.
Where to stay
Our bed and breakfast Guesthouse @ Home was a real delight. We spent the night in a fully renovated house in the Diest Beguinage (that has been classified as Unesco World Heritage since 1998). This picturesque neighborhood that breathes history used to be lived in by religious women that lived in community. We had the entire house to ourselves and were truly enchanted by the cute garden that came with it.
You can find other options on the Diest Tourism website.
How to spend a weekend in Diest
Stroll around the city
The charm of Diest comes to its own best by walking through the streets and taking it all in. A mix of heritage and monuments, nature, street art and an abundance of cosiness awaits you. Diest actually has a really interesting history and to this day, the city is also called ‘Oranjestad’. For almost 3 centuries the city of Diest was in hands of the Counts Nassau. If you want to learn more : there are themed routes that take you through the history of Diest.
Furthermore, Diest also has no shortage of cosy squares to have a drink or a bite to eat. More on this later!
Last but not least, you’ll certainly notice that you can shop in Diest. I was genuinely amazed by the amount of ‘hip’ shops in Diest. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to shop but I’ll be back to empty my wallet sooner or later.
Kayaking on the Demer
In the afternoon, it was time to adventure during our weekend in Diest! We rented some kayaks at Fun2rent and we were off to descent the Demer. With a lovely warm afternoon sun and a mild current in the right direction we didn’t have to paddle all that much, perfect.
Or if you want to try something totally new : Bikerafting is also a possibility.
Cycling / Mountainbiking / Gravel Biking
Diest and its surroundings are also a real walhalla for cycling enthusiasts. The classic in becoming ‘Dwars door het Hageland’ starts and ends in Diest. I can imagine 180 km is too much for you, but don’t worry: there is a recreational route of 40 km you can cycle.
But we chose to hop on the mountainbike. For me it was the first time ever. I didn’t know what to expect but we got a great instructor (thank you Dimitri) and Diest is perfect for first-time-mountainbikers. The trail included some climbs but they never lasted too long. While cycling you get rewarded with gorgeous landscapes. Unfortunately I was too busy looking at my steering wheel 😀 In total there are more than 525 kms of signposted mountainbike trails.
Wine & Dine in very charming places
And if all this still isn’t enough, there is another reason to head to Diest : the heavenly lunch and dinner places. From early in the morning till late at night Diest spoils you culinary.
We were privileged to enjoy a breakfast from Butan (opening in August ’21) at Nooi. And boy did that taste promising! From a breakfast granola bowl, to fresh juices and smoothies to delicious coffee, Butan definitely made an impression. If I would live a bit closer, I would become a regular visitor of Nooi. You can come here to have a drink, read some books or play a board game.
On Saturday we enjoyed a yummy croque at Croq ‘n More. Nothing more delicious on a sunny saturday. And if you love burgers, you should definitely pay a visit @Johnny Flamingo. Superior quality burgers guaranteed.
We got so spoiled at De Nieuwe Haan. Don’t you just love going to a place where you can really feel the passion the owners have for good food or drinks. Well, that is definitely the case here. From cocktails with absinth to a cocktail composed especially for you, tailored to your taste. Try the green beast, if you dare. Not only the drinks deserve a mention, the food is also delicious, along with the cosy atmosphere.
They say the benefits of not having any expectations is that you won’t be disappointed. And although this is true, Diest is a city that will meet the expectations of many : nature enthusiasts, adventurers, foodies and culture lovers. I know I will be back to enjoy this city once again.