In a forested vale between the Maas and Rhine Rivers and among crumbling ruins of a Roman bath town, Charlemagne founded the capital of his new Empire, Aachen. Around it emerged cities built on trade and the arts. Cologne, Maastricht, Liege, and others formed a brilliant cultural light for the new Kingdom. As the Empire aged and faded into irrelevance, so did the Rhine-Maas region, a victim of shifting trade routes and wartime devastation.

However, Lower Rhine and the Mosan Valley had a critical advantage just beneath the surface: enormous quantities of iron, coal, and people. Nearly a thousand years after the Pope crowned Charlemagne in Aachen, both regions emerged as the industrial heartland of a new Europe. Today, the dichotomy of their soaring Romanesque cathedrals and endless industrial landscapes adds to the unique local identities of lands between the Rhine and Maas.

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Bergisches Land

Bergisches Land

The old lands of the Duchy Berg sit high above the Rhine in a thickly forested and rolling highland landscape. Known otherwise only for its high-quality swords in the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution first awoke the Duchy’s potential. The land’s bounty was an endless supply of iron and coal hiding beneath the surface. The story of a rural way of life disrupted by modernity is still evident in its towns, villages, and industrial heritage.
Cologne Medieval Gate

Lower-Rhine Valley

The Lower Rhine valley was once the cosmopolitan cultural heartland of the Holy Roman Empire. However, virtually nothing survives of the prewar Rhineland. While Germany rebuilt the great factories and cities in the visage of a new era, you can only glimpse the ancient past in individual monuments and a few small villages.
Mosan Valley

Mosan Valley

The river Maas/Meuse was the heart of the early Carolingian Empire. With the imperial capital in Aachen, the cities of Maastricht, Liege, and Huy became centers of Romanesque and Gothic Art. As Imperial power weakened, the Prince-Bishops of Liege rose to prominence. Their dominance of the valley defined the region with their stylistic preferences, even through to the present day.

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Historical Regions

Explore Europe from the perspective of ages past