It’s easy to miss the secret alleys that run between the main shopping streets in Hasselt, like the passage at Havermarkt 31 and the lovely Ossekopsteeg at the end of Lonbaardstraat. And then there is the narrow Walputsteeg which is lined with café terraces that soon fill up at the end of the working day.
But the most secret spot is the tiny park in the square called Kadettenplein. Hidden down a narrow lane in the heart of Hasselt, this secluded little courtyard is surrounded by an ancient brick wall. Local students come here to eat a sandwich under the shade of old trees. There are modern sculptures and a Little Free Library with an eclectic assortment of books to add to the relaxed mood. It is such a charming spot that locals chose it as one of the city’s 25 geluksplekken – happiness spots.
The list was drawn up in 2015 after Hasselt – the modest capital of Limburg province – decided to name itself the world’s first city of happiness. Working with the happiness guru Leo Bormans, author of the World Book of Happiness, the city invited locals to nominate their personal geluksplekken. They came up with 179 places. An organisation called the Embassy of Happiness then selected the best 25 spots to go in search of happiness. At each one, an information panel (only in Dutch) sets out the reasons these spots can boost your mood.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.