The commune of Genk is located just northeast of Hasselt, and 20 kilometers northwest of the Dutch city of Maastricht. It has a modern population of 63,000.
Genk mushroomed in size and prominence as a consequence of the discovery of several nearby coal pits at the beginning of the twentieth century. It became a prosperous industrial center, though eventually the economy, closely tied to the coal industry, stumbled when the best seams petered out and mining became more difficult to sustain.
Genk is comparatively modern, with several shopping centers. There are two nearby nature reserves: De Mechelse Heide, a moor, and De Maten, a marsh that is home to numerous avians.
Bokrijk, Waterschei, Winterslag, and Zwartberg are boroughs within the municipal district of Genk.