Thorn: the whitewashed town in Limburg

Visit Thorn in Limburg | Your Dutch Guide

The town of Thorn, in Dutch southern province Limburg, is pretty famous. Well, in The Netherland it is. As the historical centre of Thorn consists of whitewashed houses and buildings only, which is quite unique in The Netherlands. So even though it is small, the town attracts thousands of visitors every year. And I figured out for myself why this is the case.

If I tell you Thorn was once a tiny kingdom, you wouldn’t believe me. To be fair, I wouldn’t have believed it. I mean, the town only counts 2300 inhabitants. So, what’s the deal with Thorn? During a short trip to the Dutch province Limburg, my husband and I spotted the towns name on an exit and decided to take a little detour and figure out what the deal is with this famous whitewashed village.

Thorn: from rich abbey to tiny kingdom

The town of Thorn was founded in the 9th century when Count Ansfried and his wife decided to build an abbey in this spot, where only girls and women from royal descent were allowed to live. These women lived mostly in houses around the abbey, that you can still visit today. After three centuries the town was granted city rights and because of all its royal inhabitants, it was regarded a small kingdom.

The Netherlands: Thorn, Limburg | Your Dutch Guide

The Netherlands: Thorn, Limburg | Your Dutch Guide

The history of the white houses

The kingdom fell during the French invasion at the end of the 18th century. Most of the royal ladies living around the abbey fled their houses, and poor people who lived in the surrounding areas moved in as they hoped to be protected by the city walls. The French rulers based their taxes on how large the windows of the house were (yeah, I know right!). Lots of people therefor decided to minimize the existing windows with new bricks and masonry. But because the new bricks looked so different from the original stones, inhabitants decided to paint their houses white to hide the difference in brickwork. Nowadays, the entire historical centre of Thorn is a protected monument.

Thorn: the whitewashed town in Limburg, The Netherlands |

Thorn: the whitewashed town in Limburg, The Netherlands | Your Dutch Guide

Thorn: along the liberation route

And this is pretty much how the town has stayed since then. Because most roads are paved with cobbles, cars mostly tend to stay away from the centre, making it the perfect place for a relaxed stroll. You can just get lost (or follow the historical walking route) while taking in the shimmering white façades. At the edge of town, tucked away behind a small bridge, lays the Second World War memorial as Thorn was a town on the front line for months in 1944.

This came as quite a surprise to me. I am from the south of the Netherlands and I was always convinced that the southern provinces were all liberated in September 1944, but when Operation Market Garden in the east of The Netherlands near the Rhine river failed, a lot of areas close to the German border remained under siege for months. And this was the case for Thorn as well until it was finally liberated by the heavily understaffed Belgian Brigade Piron.

The Liberation Route, The Netherlands. Thorn, Limburg | Your Dutch Guide

The Liberation Route, The Netherlands. Thorn, Limburg | Your Dutch Guide

What to see in Thorn

  • The abbey church
    Oddly enough, the abbey church is one of the few buildings in town that isn’t white. But don’t worry, the interior of the church is. The oldest part of the abbey church dates back to the 10th century, though the building has been completely renovated in the 19th century by Pierre Cuypers who also designed Amsterdam Central Station and the Rijksmuseum.
  • Museum het land van Thorn
    The town’s museum is actually rather interesting, as Thorn has such a fascinating history. The exhibition consists of ancient excavations and historical objects.

The Netherlands, Limburg: Thorn | Your Dutch Guide

Thorn, Limburg (The Netherlands) | Your Dutch Guide

Thorn: the whitewashed town in Limburg, The Netherlands | Your Dutch Guide

Plan your trip to Thorn

  • From either Amsterdam, Utrecht of Maastricht you can take a train to Weert, where you can change to a bus heading to Thorn. From Amsterdam, it will take you 2.5 hours, from Maastricht approximately 1 hour. In The Netherlands, you can easily get around on public transport with an OV Chipcard.
  • There are several nice hotels in and around Thorn (yes, in whitewashed buildings!). Check out deals and lowest rates.
  • Limburg is one of The Netherlands’ loveliest provinces. Visit capital Maastricht when you go to Limburg. Read my article about where to shop, eat and sleep in Maastricht.

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  • Reply
    October 21, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    I love all the whitewashed buildings. What a great history and how its unique buildings came about. I haven’t heard of it but now I can see why it is a popular place to visit. Beautiful!

  • Reply
    October 23, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    What an extraordinary little town! I loved that you just decided to turn off the road and explore. Great to know the history of the place and the window tax which led to the white-washed walls.
    The window-boxes look so gorgeous against the white.

  • Reply
    Birgit | Groove is in the Heart
    October 24, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Very interesting. I’ve never heard of the town of Thorn and that it consists of whitewashed buildings only. The architecture is beautiful … I especially love the houses with the red geraniums in the flower boxes. So pretty! Looks like the perfect place to spend a lazy weekend 🙂

  • Reply
    October 24, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Ooh loving this cite town! How strange that it was such a tiny kingdom! Pinned!

  • Reply
    Sarah Christie
    October 24, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Oh wow this is just so pretty I would love to visit and wander those streets, how crazy is that that your taxes depend on the size of your windows!

    • Reply
      October 25, 2017 at 8:32 am

      I know, right! However, crazy taxes are not a thing of long ago. I remember in the 90’s people in the UK had to pay higher taxes if they had a colour tv instead of a black and white tv! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Such a quaint town Esther. It would be lovely to discover Thorn among it’s cobblestone streets and unique white buildings. Lorelle 🙂 #WanderfulWednesday

  • Reply
    October 25, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    What a cute little town! I’ve never heard of Thorn, but it seems like a nice place to visit.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    This looks like a really unique place to visit! Very pretty. Thanks for the introduction.

  • Reply
    Vanessa Brune
    October 26, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I love these cute houses!! Limburg sounds familiar – I think we might have driven past on the way to Disneyland when I was a kid – but I’ve never actually visited. Certainly would love to now 🙂

  • Reply
    budget jan
    October 27, 2017 at 4:36 am

    It’s amazing what you can stumble across. This is certainly a picture perfect white village.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    First time I hear about this town but I can see why it receives many visitors. The place is beautiful but the history behind it is interesting too. Nice a visit to the town can be combined with other cities.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Well I am defintiely bookmarking this place – I love History like this and what an adorable place! Thanks for sharing! #citytripping

  • Reply
    November 10, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this place! Definitely will be visiting 🙂

  • Reply
    Khry Reinseth
    June 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Hey….my house is pictured just under the picture of the abbey church under “what to see in Thorn”. White three story house with grey slate roof. I bought it 2 years ago and am so happy here!

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