Maastricht is the southernmost city in the Netherlands and the capital of the province of Limburg. Located on the river Maas, just a stone’s throw from Belgium, it proudly claims to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, a status it shares with Nijmegen.
Its name has become popular since 1992, when the Treaty was signed here in which the members of the former European Economic Community established parameters and rules that member states would have to comply with in order to join the nascent European Union.
Today, Maastricht is a great place to spend leisure time; the city is home to some magnificent buildings such as old houses and palaces, enchanting cathedrals and a spectacular historical centre. The city is also known for its fine cuisine, excellent shops and multicultural atmosphere.
Maastricht is a popular tourist destination in the Netherlands and also among young people, as its ancient university attracts many European students. Geographically, the city is divided in two by the river Maas; the western bank houses most of the commercial activities, while the railway station and the Bonnefanten Museum are located on the eastern side.
Maastricht is a lively town with a cosy, human-scale historical centre that is beautiful to discover on foot. Here, walking through its cobbled streets, you can admire the remains of the city walls, numerous squares, several churches and historical buildings. The busiest area is perhaps the Markt, which is home to the Town Hall (Stadhuis), several markets and numerous clubs.
Vrijthof is one of the city’s main squares where two important churches are located: the Church of St. Servatius (Sint Servaas) and the Church of St. John. The square has been a popular place since the Middle Ages as many pilgrims came here to visit the tomb of St. Servatius housed in the church of the same name.
The square boasts a cobbled pavement, is surrounded by trees and is a lively place where many bars, cafes, hotels can be found and where numerous festivals and events are organised throughout the year. The area also contains several historical buildings such as the 16th century ‘House of the Spanish Government’, the 18th century ‘House of the Military Guard’ (Hoofdwacht) and the early 19th century ‘General’s House’ (Generaalshuis).
The Basilica of St Servatius (Sint-Servaasbasiliek) is the main church in Maastricht and was built from the 11th century onwards mainly as the burial place of St Servatius, the first bishop of the Netherlands. Considered to be one of the greatest examples of Romanesque architecture in the Netherlands, the religious building was built of marl and has a Latin cross plan with a transept and three naves; inside, it houses important works such as 12th- and 13th-century sculptures, a large altarpiece and several figurative capitals.
The capitular hall of the church houses the Treasury Museum, which preserves precious objects of Moorish art and articles of goldsmith’s art. There is also the shrine of St. Servatius (also called Noodkist), containing his remains, the pilgrim’s staff, the bust of St. Servatius, numerous relics, liturgical objects and textiles.
The Church of St. John the Baptist (Sint-Janskerk) was erected around 1200 by the Chapter of St. Servatius to accommodate the many faithful who visited the city on pilgrimage and could not all be accommodated at the Basilica of St. Servatius. Inside the religious building, one can admire an extraordinary pulpit dating back to 1780, tomb slabs and several 15th-century wall paintings.
At various times of the year, the church hosts classical music concerts thanks to the impressive Binvignat organ from the 18th century. The undisputed symbol of the church, however, is its almost 70-metre high red bell tower, which can be visited inside: climbing to its top provides a wonderful view of the city and the surrounding area.
The Town Hall of the city of Maastricht stands in the famous Market Square and was built in the years 1659-1664 and designed by architect Pieter Post. In 1684, the central tower was added, which houses a carillon with 49 bells that is still regularly rung to mark the hours. Its interior preserves valuable decorations and works such as valuable tapestries on the walls, elegant stucco work, paintings and majestic fireplaces.
There are records of the presence of a small church in this area as early as the 5th century AD when a religious building was constructed on the remains of an earlier Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. The news that has come down to us, in fact, relates that an earlier religious building was destroyed to build the Basilica of Our Lady. The Basilica of Our Lady, or ‘slevrouwe’ as it is also known by the locals, is a perfect example of Romanesque architecture and was built between the 11th and 12th centuries
In the 14th century, another modestly sized parish church, dedicated to St Nicholas, was also erected next to the collegiate church, but was largely demolished in 1838. Externally, the façade is framed by two tall towers and boasts a 13th century Gothic portal rebuilt in the 15th century. Inside, you can admire several valuable works of art and a ‘Treasure Room‘ that houses a large number of ecclesiastical arts and crafts, relics, silver religious articles and statues.
The caves of St. Peter (Grotten Sint Pietersberg) are a collection of caverns and underground passages that were formed over the centuries during the extraction process of marl, a stone widespread in the area. For a long time, teams of men were employed to extract blocks of stone with which numerous buildings in the region were later constructed.
It has been proven that there is now a kind of underground labyrinth that boasts more than 20,000 passages, caves and tunnels. The workers who have worked here since ancient times have left their marks including various inscriptions, drawings and signatures on the walls. During the years of the Second World War, then, the St. Peter’s caves proved to be very useful to the citizens as a refuge during the sieges that hit the city of Maastricht.
Those who love walking cannot miss a nice walk outside the centre, along the river, from the St Servaas Brug (the stone bridge near the entrance to the city) to the JFK Bridge, which passes through Maastricht’s largest park. Crossing the bridge, you reach Maastricht’s museum of modern art: the Bonnefantenmuseum.
The Bonfanten Museum or Bonnefantenmuseum is the most important museum of ancient and contemporary art in the province of Limburg. Inside, you can follow a path to discover the greatest names in Flemish art from the 16th to the 17th century, including Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck. The contemporary art section also has an area dedicated to international artists, such as the American conceptual painter Sol LeWitt.
The city of Maastricht is crossed by the river Maas (or Meuse) and near the railway station is the Sint Servaasbrug, which is the oldest stone bridge not only in the city but in the whole of the Netherlands. First built in the 13th century, the bridge was later partly destroyed and has been faithfully reconstructed. Near the bridge is the pier from which river cruises depart, allowing you to see the city from a different point of view.
The Natuurhistorisch Museum illustrates the natural history of South Limburg. Among the museum’s attractions are the remains of enormous Mosasaurs and giant tortoises found in the not too distant caves of St. Pietersberg. Fossils of all shapes and sizes show how South Limburg has changed over the last 300 million years.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Limburg is not only Maastricht: within a stone’s throw of the city, you can visit some must-see places and attractions, such as Hoensbroek Castle or the Valkenburg Coal Mine.
As in almost every city in the Netherlands, the coffee shops in Maastricht have a lot of foreign customers. The Mississippi Boat is the most popular coffee shop among visitors. It is built on a large boat, moored on the river Maas, but the products are very expensive and of lower quality than other places.
For higher quality, it is better to head to other places such as the Black Widow, a small coffee shop located outside the city centre, or Cielo 69.
There are many bars, restaurants, pubs and discos in Maastricht, located on the Vrijthof and Markt squares. For a pleasant evening, don’t miss one of the Highlander, Falstaff, Twee Heeren, Metamorfoos, C’est La Vie and Make-bar. They are all very cosy and during the weekend evenings the DJs put on great music for dancing.
The historical centre of Maastricht is the best place to sleep as from here you can easily reach the city’s main attractions. The area is full of restaurants, clubs and shops for shopping and here you can find a lot of good value accommodation.
To get to Maastricht you can take advantage of cheap flights offered by low-cost airlines from some European cities, or land at nearby Eindhoven or Brussels airports.
Reaching Maastricht from Amsterdam for a day trip is really easy: you can get there comfortably by train in about 2 hours, or with a rented car along the entire A2 motorway: also in this case, the journey time is about 2 hours.
To visit the city centre, it is best to get around on foot, as most of the streets are pedestrianised, or to hire a bicycle. There is also a bus system, the Stadsbus, which connects the centre with the surrounding areas. Walking through the cobbled streets of the centre is still the most attractive option.
What's the weather at Maastricht? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Maastricht for the next few days.