Last Updated On: April 22nd 2016
Situated in the south eastern corner of the Netherlands, Maastricht was one of the most important fortified and garrison cities of northern Europe for centuries. Remains of the fort still stand today. Take a fascinating tour stepping back in time, learn about the dramatic military events which once took place inside the walls and dark passages of this historic fort. Due to it’s location between Germany and Belgium, Maastricht was saved from war damage in the 20th century. In centuries before this however, Maastricht was captured by many European powers. This is what is believed to give Maastricht it’s international feel. A lively and vibrant city, streets steeped in history. It is now a popular tourist location and, home to an internationally orientated university. In 1992 the treaty of Maastricht was signed here, leading to the introduction of the Euro (EUR). Maastricht is also a candidate for ‘Cultural Capital’ of Europe 2018. This unique city, in the province of Limburg, certainly deserves a place on your to do list, when you visit the Netherlands.
Due to it’s location in the south-east of the Netherlands, Maastricht enjoys more sunshine than any other city in Holland. With chilly winters and temperate summers the best months to visit are June through September when temperatures can be expected between 19°C and 24°C and rainfall moderate. Pack a jumper because the evening temperatures can cool down to 12°C. This is the most visited city in the Netherlands so be sure to make plans well in advance if you decide to visit during the summer months. If you do plan to go in the winter months, to avoid the crowds, expect an increased rainfall and temperatures dropping to -2°C. Maastricht is home to many street festivals and carnivals, be sure to check out what’s going on when you intend to visit. This useful online resource and guide can let you know which events are happening in Maastricht. The asparagus festival at the end of April will provide you the opportunity to sample the flavours of spring, namely white asparagus.
Maastricht’s nearest airport is Maastricht Aachen Airport (MST). The airport is situated 14 km from the centre of Maastricht. Other options are Liege Airport (LGG) or Eindhoven Airport (EIN) — respectively 43 km and 105 km from Maastricht. All airports offer international and domestic flights. If you are planning to arrive by train, the station is located very close to the city centre, a 10 minute walk will bring you to the heart of the shopping district. Getting around whilst there, do as the Dutch and rent a bicycle. There are several options to choose from, Orange Bike.nl (Sint Jacobstraat 4B, Maastricht) hire bikes from 15 EUR per day, provide historic city tours, and will even drop the bike off at your hotel. Some hotels provide on site bike hire, you can also rent them from the train station. If you arrive by car there is plenty of parking provided in the city centre, expect to pay 13-25 EUR per day. Some options are; Parallelweg, 15, 6221 BD; Frontensingel, 6211 SC; and Maasboulevard 80, 6211 JW. Have a look at the Q-park website where you will find opening times, prices, and location information, unfortunately only in Dutch.
Maastricht has a surprising amount to see and do as first impressions will leave you thinking it’s quite a compact city. The Maas river dissects the city in two making navigation easy.
If you like churches and cathedrals, head to the Vrijthof. Lined with vibrant pavement cafes on one side. Whilst sipping on your latte, fresh mint tea or perhaps sampling one of the local beers, enjoy the view of the Basilica of St Servatius (Keizer Karelplein 3, 6211 TC) which dominates the square. The architecture dates back to the first century. Visitors are welcome for an entrance fee of 2 EUR Mon-Sat 10:30-5pm and Sunday’s 12:30-5pm. The treasury and peaceful cloister gardens are located to the rear of the Basilica. Much of the gold artwork on display in the treasury dates back to the 12th century.
The Sint Janskerk (Vrijthof 24, 6211 LE), recognisable by it’s distinct red colour, makes a stunning photograph and, if you are feeling energetic enough, you can climb to the top of the tower for sweeping views across the city, check the opening times as it’s not open all year round.
If you wander south and east of the Vrijthof you will find a maze of old streets interspersed with fascinating shops and cozy little cafes to stop and recharge your batteries. Winding your way through the old streets, head in the general direction of Onze Lieve Vrouwplein, a leafy shaded square near the Maas. Here you will also find Onze Lieve Basilica or Basilica of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 7, 6211 HD). Thought to be built on the foundations of an ancient roman church, one of the oldest churches in the Netherlands, with a unique atmosphere and an amazing chapel.
The city park, flanked by old ruins of the city walls, dotted with dark, menacing canons is the more peaceful side of Maastricht, away from the busy shopping streets, you can spend time here, wandering along the top of the city walls, giving you a panoramic view over the park. The statue of D’Artagnant stands proudly below the city walls as a remembrance to one of the three musketeers who died in battle in Maastricht. There is a very interesting ‘zoo’ at the southern end of the park, it’s quite hard to describe and completely unique as non of the inmates are actually living animals, it has to be seen to be believed.
Helpoort/Hells Gate, Bernardusstraat, the old city gate. As you pass under the gates and back into the city you get a sense of the grand entrances that may have taken place over the past centuries. A circuitous route will take you past Bisschopsmolen (Stenenbrug 1, 6211 HP) the oldest working watermill in the Netherlands. The old historic Stokstraat which, provides a connection to some of the more interesting places, you can reach the roman castle ruins from this street.
St Servaas Bridge which spans the river Maas, is pedestrian only and provides a fantastic photographic opportunity, particularly in the evening as the sun sets, creating a wonderful golden reflection in the river, and from the banks beyond. My tip is to stay on the west side of the river for the best views as the sun sets behind you.
Before leaving the city head a little north along the banks of the Maas and you will see the Dominican church Dominicankerk (Dominicanerplein 1, 6211 CP) and the Stadhuis Townhall (Markt 78, 6211 CL).
If you aren’t yet exhausted then do not miss the Fort St Pieter (Luikerweg 71, 6211 ED). If you are exhausted make some time another day to visit. Sitting proudly on the top of a hill (probably the only one in the Netherlands!) north of the city. It’s worth walking up to the Fort, which is a steep climb, but worth the view once you reach the top. If you want to visit the interior of the fort then you need to purchase a ticket which costs 6.50 EUR, tours run daily at 12:30pm. The caves can be visited in conjunction with a trip to the fort, a combined ticket for both can be purchased for 10 EUR. Explore the underground world and learn what it was like to live under the fortress during the times of civil war. The caves are a network of almost 20,000 under the hills of south Limburg. Carvings, writings and drawings can be seen inside the caves from where marlstone was extracted for almost 700 years. A word of warning for both the excursions, some parts are dark and cramped so if you are claustrophobic these tours are best avoided. Separate tours are conducted in both English and Dutch so make sure you book the right ticket.
If you are a bookworm, don’t miss Boekhandel Selexyz Dominica, a very unusual bookshop housed in an old cathedral.
Eat and Drink
There are a myriad of options when it comes to dining in Maastricht. You will find the leafy pleins spring to life in the evenings, as the bustling restaurant terraces fill up with hungry tourists needed some replenishment.
If you are looking for gourmet cuisine there are several Michelin star establishments such as Beluga (Plein 1992 12, 6221 JP) where you can book a table to dine in the kitchen and Aux Coins des Bons Enfants (Ezelmarkt 4, 6211 LJ), with private dining and outside options.
For something that won’t tax your purse strings as much, try Café Sjiek (Sint Pieterstraat 13), (pronounced ‘chic’) means ‘great’ – a busy restaurant serving simple, regional fare of roast game and meaty stews
Looking for something a little different then take a dinner cruise. You can dine, buffet style, as you are transported along the Maas. Different themed menus are offered depending on the season. Relax and enjoy the view of Maastricht from the water as the sun goes down and the lights highlight the magnificent architecture of the city. Ensure you check the website if you do decide on this option as the cruises run a limited schedule, booking ahead is advised.
As you can see from the wide range of things to do and see you are going to want to spend more time in Maastricht than just one day. So finding somewhere comfortable to rest your weary legs after a long day of sightseeing is key to ensuring you get the best from your trip to Maastricht.
Hotel Derlon (Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 6, 6211 HD), a four star hotel right in the centre of the city, has an acclaimed chef, after whom the hotel is named, and acclaimed personal service definitely worth considering
If you are looking for more mid-range option then Hotel La Colombe (Markt 30, 6211 CK) will provide you with a city centre location, cozy rooms, with an old-style terrace.
Hotel Au Quartier (Kapoenstraat 32, 6211 KW) is a small hotel with 14 double rooms and it’s own french style restaurant.
Wherever you decide to stay make sure to book well in advance. Airbnb offer some good options, if you are looking for a home away from home. Private rooms or entire properties can be rented at reasonable rates.
Here are additional options for where to stay in Maastricht.
Travel Tips and Local Blogs
VVV/Tourist information (Kleine Staat 1, 6211 ED) has a wealth of information on what to do and see around the city.
Local Blog Your Little Black Book is worth a look as it has a wealth of information and images of Maastricht.