A soaring trio of historical towers gives the extensive Grote Markt of Sint-Truiden (St-Trond in French) a fairy-tale feel that easily justifies an hour or two of your time. From the 7th-century, relics of local saint St Trudo made the town a major medieval pilgrimage centre. These relics are now housed in the treasury of the 1854 Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk. Nearby, the unrefined shell of the seven-storey, partly 11th-century Abdijtoren is all that remains of the once-powerful St-Trudo Abbey. It can be climbed for city views.
Far more elegant is the slender 1606 belfry attached to the peach-vermillion painted stadhuis (partly 13th century), whose remarkably versatile carillon can even ding-dong the Beatles’ Ob-la-di Ob-la-da. Inside, the tourist office might entice you to visit various museums around town.
Marred with several new constructions, the Sint-Agnesbegijnhof, 1km northeast of the centre via Plankstraat, is not an especially memorable begijnhof but it's unique in retaining a begijn-farmstead. The central 1258 church looks rather barnlike too and is renowned for a gruesome medieval fresco depicting St Agatha’s martyrdom. While here, visit the Festraets Studio, home to what is billed as the ‘world’s biggest astronomical clock’ (6m high, 4 tonnes).
Famed for its fruit, the gently rolling Haspengouw area surrounding St-Truiden is attractive to explore by car and has become increasingly popular with local tourists since the TV drama Katarakt was filmed here.
If you want to stay on in St-Truiden, prize-winning Belle Vie offers four spacious and beautifully appointed high-ceilinged rooms above a suave yet great-value restaurant. Four more contemporary-styled rooms are planned for 2014. The place hides its charms behind an outwardly severe brick facade, 700m west of the Grote Markt (via Stapelstraat). That's just 150m southeast of the train station.
Just off Grote Markt, tucked behind the main church, Nieuwscafe is a spacious, suavely modern brasserie with giant halo lamps and walls decked in typewriters and Bombay Saphire bottles. Classic Flemish food is served but there's ample street-terrace seating for a casual drink. Free wi-fi.
Bus 23a runs to Tongeren; bus 23 goes to Tienen via Zoutleeuw.