Venlo is a medium-sized city in the eastern part of the Netherlands, in the province of Limburg. A stone’s throw away from the German-Dutch border, the city is a hugely popular destination with Germans living in the bordering regions. And rightly so, as Venlo is a great place for a daytrip.
I lived in Venlo until recently and will share with you my tips for visiting Venlo and the surrounding areas, from shopping, cycling to sightseeing.
Is Venlo worth visiting?
Venlo is definitely worth visiting. Of course, it’s not the first place I’d recommend to foreign visitors visiting the Netherlands for a week or so. However, I think it’s a great place to visit for anyone who lives in the bordering region (in Germany) or in the Netherlands as an expat. Venlo is a mid-sized city with over 100,000 inhabitants. The city is located on the Maas river and is surrounded by large green areas (e.g. national park De Maasduinen) as well as a few idyllic villages. It’s quite a different setting when compared to other regions in the Netherlands.
If you’re into sights and nature, you’re going to love Venlo. Besides, Venlo is a popular place for shopping. There are many products that you won’t find in other countries or even in other parts of the Netherlands. As in all major Dutch cities, shops in Venlo are open on Sundays.
Shopping in Venlo
Most international visitors in Venlo are Germans living in the bordering regions. Venlo is the closest big city if you’re coming from Duisburg, Mönchengladbach or Düsseldorf. By the way, Maastricht is perfect for travelers from Cologne/Aachen while Arnhem and Nijmegen border the German Münsterland region.
The good thing about Venlo is that you’ll find a wide range of shops here. First, there are those large fashion chains that you’ll also see in other Dutch cities and even in other countries (such as Only, Van Haren…). The products and prices are usually the same as in other branches.
Additionally, there are many shops that aren’t part of a nationwide chain (e.g. THE STING or Fashion Hair & More). If you’re looking for a bargain, you’ll also find the hugely popular Primark here.
At Vleesstraat and Maasboulevard you’ll find the most popular brands. Small shops are mostly located in the small streets in between the main shopping streets.
Our Tip: The cool thing is that shops in Venlo are open on Sundays. Note however, that many stores close daily as early as 6 p.m. On Thursdays there’s Koopavond where most shops are open until 9 p.m. The best day to go shopping in Venlo is on Thursdays and on weekends.
In addition to clothing, food is high on the list for a daytrip to Venlo. Are you looking for something typical Dutch, like stroopwafels (a thin waffle filled with caramel) or chocomel (chocolate milk), you can simply head to any Dutch grocery store like Albert Heijn or Jumbo.
A hugely popular store in Venlo is 2 Brüder (literally translated to two brothers). It’s a multi-story supermarket where you’ll find everything foodies desire: bread, cookies, drinks, tea, fish, cheese, candy and coffee.
In addition to Dutch brands, some of the products that you’ll find here aren’t available at regular stores. There are many Eastern European specialties as well as special editions of popular brands at a lower price. Some products are cheaper in the Netherlands than abroad (e.g. in Germany), such as coffee, cheese and some medications.
On Saturdays, there’s a large market at Monseigneur Nolensplein, the square right off the 2 Brüder store. The market features over 100 stands where you can buy local produce ranging from cheese, nuts, sweets and meat.
Our Tip: Many types of medication can be purchased without prescription and at a lower price when compared to other countries. There are several drug stores in the city center.
Plants (Garden Centers)
Garden Centers in Holland advertise their products even beyond borders. The best thing about garden centers in Venlo (well, Dutch garden centers in general) is that they offer a very diverse range of products. Besides, flowers and plants are relatively affordable.
Regardless of the season, garden centers usually sell indoor and outdoor plants. Besides, you’ll find all you need to create the perfect garden, from pottery, fences to pond accessories. Whether you’re looking for a nice plant or some inspiration for your garden, a garden center is the place to be.
Leurs Venlo is the city’s leading garden center. It’s located at the Trefcenter, a few hundred meters off the highway and the city center. The product range is vast and prices are moderate. What we like about Leurs is the themed decoration which creates a wonderful atmosphere.
Our Tip: If you’re looking for plants or products for your garden, a garden center is the place to be. Hardware stores (DIY stores) are often more expensive than garden centers.
Sightseeing in Venlo
In addition to shopping, Venlo has some sights that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Historical City Center
What we love most about Venlo is the cityscape as a whole. The city center is very beautiful! Houses and other monuments are true eyecatchers and create a unique charm. Take some time to go for a little stroll and explore the small streets in the city center.
Old Town Hall
In the heart of the historical city center is the old town hall. If I had to pick one sight in Venlo, I’d say the old town hall is the monument that you should definitely not miss out on. There are some small restaurants on the large square in front of the town hall to enjoy a drink.
New Town Hall
Years ago, the city’s administration was moved from the town hall in the city center to a new building. The new town hall is a very modern building on the outskirts of the city center. What’s special about the new town hall is the huge plant wall covering the outer walls of the building. Green walls not only help combat climate change, they are also a true eyecatcher.
Another highlight of Venlo is the river Maas. It originates in France, crosses Belgium and the Netherlands (Maastricht, Venlo, Rotterdam…).
River Maas flows through Venlo and divides the city into two parts. Visitors (and locals) will find the right-hand side more interesting as that’s where the city center is.
In recent years, Venlo has done some major work along the riverbed. There are some cozy cafés at the Maashaven (behind the Maasbouvelard) from where you’ll enjoy a beautiful view of the river. A few hundred meters further they have constructed more paths and benches (near Primark).
Our tip: Get a bag of Dutch fries in the city center, walk down to the Maas river and enjoy the setting!
If you’d like to go for a short walk, you can best stay on the right side of the river and walk towards the north. In the mood for a long walk? Then cross the large bridge (the railway bridge near the new town hall), cross the street and walk southwards along the river.
St. Martinus Church
St. Martinus Church (St. Martinuskerk) is another landmark of Venlo. It’s located at the edge of the city center, near the 2 Brüder store. The gothic-style church was built in the 16th century and consists of a square-shaped church tower with 53 bells.
The church is open for visitors daily. On Saturdays (in the afternoon), a carillon is held in the church. Once a month, visitors can climb the 207 stairs to get to the church tower. It’s not particularly high, but you’ll get a beautiful view of the city center of Venlo.
Limburgs Museum (Museum of Limburg) is a great place to visit for families. The museum provides interactive exhibitions where you can learn about the history of the region, from the Neanderthals till date. Besides, they offer many activities for children such as trail hunting or birthday parties.
Parking in Venlo
As with most big cities in the Netherlands, most car parks in Venlo are paid. If you’re planning to do some big shopping (groceries), you can best park your car at Q-Park Nolensplein which is just a few meters away from the market and the 2 Brüder store.
On the other side of the city is the Q-Park Maasboulevard which consists of an indoor and an outdoor car park. They are located at the Maasbouvelard and are a great option if you’d like to do some sightseeing or clothes shopping in Venlo.
Free parking in Venlo? Yes, that’s possible. However, you need to sacrifice on the location. To get free parking, you’ll need to park a little outside and walk about 10-15 minutes to the city center. The closest possibility is along Antoniuslaan (the first part is paid parking, but then it’s free).
An alternative is the Groenveld area (residential areas behind the street Groenveldsingel). There are plenty of free parking spaces in a quiet setting. However, you’ll need to walk about 15 minutes to get to the station where the city center begins.
In the Area
- Roermond: Closest big city to Venlo. Known for its Designeroutlet (design brand stores). About 30-minute drive from Venlo.
- Toverland Sevenum: A theme park with several attractions including 5 rollercoasters. Perfect for families. About 20-minute drive from Venlo.
- Arcen: A village along the Maas river. Some shops for grocery shopping and a large castle with gardens (Kasteeltuinen). About 30-minute drive from Venlo.
- Maasduinen: Large national park with huge forest areas, heathland, dunes and lakes. Perfect for long walks. About 20-30-minute drive from Venlo.
- De Grote Heide: Heathland on the outskirts of Venlo. Perfect for a small walk (1 – 1.5 hours) with family or dogs. About 5-minute drive from the city center.
Note: The brands and shops mentioned in this post are not ads, but our personal recommendations, based on our opinion.