Borders of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog – Baarle-Hertog, Belgium - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Baarle-Hertog, Belgium

Borders of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog

The mixed up borders of these Belgian/Netherlands towns look like broken glass. 

Lots of places have jagged borders, but few are as mixed up and convoluted as the bits and pieces of intertwined towns Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog, which are a series of small enclaves that fit together like a puzzle.

Baarle-Nassau, in the Netherlands, and Baarle-Hertog, in Belgium, essentially occupy the same physical space, but share intricately defined borders. It all started in the Middle Ages when parts of these lands were owned by the Dukes of Brabant, and parts by the Lords of Breda, and later the House of Nassau. When the countries of Belgium and Netherlands were formed it was necessary to establish the borders between them but the demarcation line of the two countries in Baarle was so confusing that a special border commission was needed to sort it out.

In the end it took 15 years to mark the border since the historical borders were so arbitrarily decided. After this work was done, the town was not divided in any logical way, but instead it was split into bits and pieces of countries criss-crossing each other so randomly that the borders often run through gardens and houses. One minute you might be walking down a street in Belgium and the next you will be in the Netherlands, and back again, each time crossing over the white crosses in the ground that demarcate the borders.

Issues have arisen within this arrangement, such as one country closing its stores on Sunday while the other leaves them open. But through it all, the crazy borders seem to be a boon to the towns, as their status has made them a popular tourist attraction.  

Contributed by
ahvenas
Edited by