Maastricht offers the chance to explore the Netherlands in a way you have never seen it before! Castles, centuries-old city walls, the cuisine, a blend of various cultures, all contributing to the appeal of what makes Maastricht so unique.
Founded as early as Roman times, Maastricht is rich in history and cultural importance. Due to Maastricht’s proximity to several other countries, it differs much from the rest of the country and is often said to be the ‘most European’ place in the Netherlands.
Maastricht is known for its excellent cuisine, and since it is located a few miles from Belgium and Germany, the gastronomy of the city has been influenced by these two cuisines. The city is also teeming with Thai and Asian restaurants, which are the result of Dutch colonization.
Maastricht is an ideal city as the center is easiest to visit on foot. You can experience a wonderful walk along the river from St Servaas Brugge to the JFK Bridge that runs through the largest park in Maastricht.
If you decide to book a weekend getaway, Maastricht is the place to go, and here is why:
Fort Sint Pieter
The highest northern part of the great plateau that stretches between Maastricht and the city of Liège in Belgium is known as a nature and recreation park, as for the 18th century Fort Sint Pieter, the fortress was built to defend the city from the French. Beneath the fortress and the mountain are the famous caves of St. Pietersberg, a large system of tunnels and passages created over the centuries thanks to a local stone quarry. There were about 20,000 passages here with a total length of 200 kilometers, some of which were expanded with storerooms, a bakery, and even a chapel during World War II. Caves were also used to protect art treasures, including Rembrandt’s Night Watch during the war. The caves are open with a guided tour, and along with their historical interest, they also offer the opportunity to see evidence of ancient fossils.
Basilica of Our Lady
The impressive Basilica of Our Lady (Basiliek van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw) was built around 1000, although only part of the original stands today. Around 1150, crypts and transepts were added, while the eastern choir was built in early 1200, followed by a gallery above the infirmary. The fortress, like the Romanesque western front, with its two city towers, is reminiscent of the former function of the church as part of the city fortifications. The late Gothic choir with a large crypt is particularly cosy, as is the side chapel containing a painting of Lady Star of the Sea dating from the 15th century. Other attractions are the western crypt, which belonged to the earlier church, the church treasury, the beautiful 16th century cloister and the western tower.
On the banks of the Maas River, in an ultra-modern building resembling a 1950s version of a rocket ship, the state-of-the-art Bonnefanten Museum displays Maastricht’s most significant art collections. Known for the museum’s former convent home – known as Bonnefanten for its well-behaved children, the “bons enfants” – this magnificent building with its massive conical tower (the aforementioned rocket ship) contains numerous paintings by Dutch masters, as well as many Italian and contemporary works. In the museum you can also find rich collections of medieval art, including wooden sculptures from the 13th to 16th century.
Museum aan het Vrijthof
In the picturesque Vrijthof, one of the most attractive squares in Maastricht, surrounded by characteristic Dutch architecture, the Museum aan het Vrijthof is one of the most important museums in the city. Housed in the former home of a 16th-century Brabant nobleman, her collections include paintings, sculptures, furniture, silver, porcelain and glass from Maastricht. The Wagner-De Wit collection of works by Dutch and Flemish artists from the 17th century, as well as paintings by members of the Hague School, with sculptures from the Middle Ages, are most notable and worthy of seeing.
The old bridge in Maastricht
Wilhelminabrug, a bridge built over the river Maas in the early 1930s, is a great place to start a walking tour of Maastricht’s picturesque river districts. From here, head to St. Servaasbrug, a beautiful bridge with seven arches built in the 13th century and famous for the statue of St. Servations. Be sure to visit the historic town of Wyck District on the right bank of the Maas with its remnants of the old city wall.
Home to the only hilltop castle in the Netherlands, Valkenburg – just 13 kilometers east of Maastricht – has long been a popular resort thanks to its beautiful spas. By far the most popular is Thermae 2000, one of the largest spa facilities in the country and known for its hot spring baths and swimming pools, healing mineral waters and botanical garden. Be sure to see St. Nicolaaskerk, a late 14th century Gothic church with a beautiful triptych depicting scenes from the life of St. Remigia. Other attractions in the old town are the many beautiful old houses, such as the 17th century Huis Den Halder, and the even older 15th century Huis Ost. Make sure to also visit the old city walls, the remains of a 14th century fortress, along with two city gates, Grendelpoort and Berkelpoort.
De Bisschopsmolen (bishop’s mill)
One of the surprises you’ll find wandering through the streets of Maastricht is the working water mill dating back to the 14th century. Not only does the mill work, but so do the flour and grains that are ground into bread and cakes at a nearby bakery. Relax in the bakery’s cafe and sample a local specialty, Limburgse vlaai, cream cake, full of cherries, plums or apricots.