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town hall Tilburg
  • Article 9/3/2023

Tilburg: The social and experimental city

4 minutes reading time

Social x Experimental = Creation. In this formula, the DNA of Tilburg is summarized. Once fueled by the textile industry, the city was a true working-class city for decades. Thanks to various urban developments, it's now a trendy place. A city with a renowned university, bursting with creativity, embracing experimentation, and welcoming everyone. An inclusive city where people are given space to use their talents for a better future perspective.

In the second-largest city of Brabant, Vincent van Gogh learned to draw, and Guus Meeuwis became a folk hero. It's where Jantje Beton was founded in 1968, and the Grote Club Actie (Great Club Action) started in 1972. The hip-hop festival WOO HAH! began here. And the annual fair still attracts a wide audience. Clearly, Tilburg is a city of creators, not only with their hands but also with creativity and knowledge. And that knowledge is used by the city to address the societal challenges of tomorrow, always measured with a human touch. As a social and inclusive city, Tilburg is a city for everyone. It originated from several hamlets, and by around 1600, the area had grown into the most important wool city in Brabant. In the late 19th century, Tilburg thrived thanks to the textile industry, with no fewer than 125 woolen fabric factories in 1871.

Broodbakkery Tilburg
Photo: Marc Bolsius

A Major Player

In the 1960s, that industry completely collapsed. Tilburg had to urgently seek new economic opportunities and made the transition from textiles to tech. Tech in the service of human behavior and society. With an invitation to experiment freely, because learning by doing is key. The result: a flourishing manufacturing industry. Many monumental buildings had to make way for it, which did not do Tilburg's reputation any good. But those times are long gone. Many parts of the city have undergone a significant transformation, always with respect for the past. With a university, companies like Tesla and Fuji, numerous creative makers, notable museums like De Pont and the TextielMuseum, and a large logistics sector (number one in the Netherlands, along with Waalwijk), Tilburg is a major player.

Spoorzone as a hotspot

One of the developed areas is the Spoorzone (Rail Zone). The place where trains and locomotives were once tinkered with has become a true hotspot. The Lochal is the most impressive building there, still dominated by steel and glass. It is the home of institutions like the Library of Central Brabant and Kunstloc Brabant and has been awarded many times, even declared the world's best building by the World Architecture Festival in 2019. The 18-meter-high hall beautifully embodies the quest for inclusivity; everyone is welcome in the city's living room, study, and workspace. Moreover, Spoorzone Tilburg is where innovation and talent converge: Station88 and MindLabs are intended to support and connect entrepreneurial talent with education. Tilburg University has set up an entrepreneurship program in the area. And through various shared buildings, startups and scale-ups find their place there.

Textielmuseum Tilburg
Foto: Marc Bolsius


Within walking distance of Tilburg's city center lies the Piushaven. This former industrial harbor is the largest city harbor in Brabant, with cafes and restaurants, terraces, trendy shops, old buildings with new functions, and a vibrant marina. It's a bustling area where people live, work, and have fun. And by walking on boardwalks, you can reach the Moerenburg nature reserve, where you can start the Van Gogh Route.

Dwaalgebied Tilburg
Photo: Marc Bolsius

Facts and figures

  • Population: > 225,000
  • Nicknames: Wool City. Carnival name: Kruikenstad (In the past, Tilburgers used to urinate in jugs (which is why they are called "kruikenzeikers"); the urine was used by the textile industry to wash wool)
  • City rights since: 1809
  • Keywords: Social x Experimental = Creation
  • Key landmarks: LocHal, Westpoint, Sky Mirror (artwork by Anish Kapoor)
  • Notable Tilburg residents: Henny Vrienten (singer and composer), Kluun (author), Domien Verschuuren (radio DJ), Leo Alkemade (comedian), Kenny B (singer), Steven Brunswijk (comedian), Peerke Donders (priest), Roy Donders (stylist), Marc-Marie Huijbregts (comedian), Henk Krol (politician), Guus and Marc Meeuwis (singer and his brother), Jochen Otten (comedian), Freek Bartels (actor), Jeroen Latijnhouwers (journalist).

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