Tienen (Tirlemont in French, pop. 31,500) is an industrial town situated near the linguistic border of Belgium. It is Flemish speaking, although 5km south people have French as their mother tongue.
If it cannot dissimulate its overall ugliness behind two magnificient gothic churches, Tienen can at least be proud of its sugar. This is where is located Belgium's most famous sugar refinery, Tienen/Tirlemont, from the town's name (simplified as the "T brand" to avoid cultural conflicts).
Needless to say that a sugar museum (Tue-Sun 10am-5pm, 5 €) awaits you on the town square. So if you ever wanted to know everything about sugar refining and sugar products, this is where you should go (not likely to be on top of your sightseeing list in Belgium though). In any case, if you happen to be there, don't miss the impressive St. Leonard's Church (also the interior) on the town square.
A small village a few kilometers south of Tienen, Hoegaarden is also industrial and unattractive. What brings visitors here is its world's famous white beer of the same name, part of the AB InBev Group. The brewery is what you want to visit here. It is open daily (except Mondays), including national holidays, from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Admission is 6 €. No reservation is required.
How to get there
Tienen is on the Brussels-Liège railway line. It is 40min away from either Brussels-Central or Liège-Guillemin stations, and 10min from Leuven.
By car, it is conveniently located on the E40 motorway between Brussels and Liège. Alternatively, you can use the slower N29 road running between Charleroi and Diest, via Gembloux and Jodoigne.
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