Historic buildings and trendy fashion stores. Beautiful churches and wonderful restaurants with menu cards full of tasty sensations and terraces filled with both locals and tourists. Cobbled streets, bustling festivals and high-profile exhibitions. Wide squares and vast vineyards. All that and more sums up the old and beautiful city of Maastricht: the shiny star among all Dutch cities! The perfect destination for a day of shopping, weekend together with your loved ones or family or just a holiday.
Maastricht is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands. A versatile city where history, culture, fashion and Burgundian cosiness all come together. It is also one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Once occupied by the Celts and then the Romans, the city is full of history and has quite a story to tell through its buildings, green vegetation and wonderful people. Beautiful churches, small cobbled streets and the Sint Servaas bridge all bring this history to modern day times for all to see. Maastricht is both ancient and modern. It has modern street artworks and some beautiful examples of contemporary architecture. The modern Bonnefantenmuseum certainly plays a role in showing how modern the city truly is. Maastricht is definitely worth a visit! Visitors can always go for a snack and a drink, and when it is carnival time, the beer flows freely as the city is filled with visitors from far and near. The city is also home to no less than five Michelin star restaurants where some of the best delicacies money can buy are served. Maastricht is truly the ideal destination for a nice day out or a long weekend.
What to see in Maastricht
Maastricht has a lot to offer. A boat trip on the river Maas, a bike tour or just a historic city walk to see all that the city has to offer. In between, you can of course enjoy shopping and there is no lack of culinary delight!
This extraordinary museum is one of the most important eye-catchers of Maastricht today in the Céramique district. The E-shaped building with a large conical tower is a familiar sight on the banks of the river Maas. The Bonnefantenmuseum is named after the old Bonnefanten monastery in the city centre. The museum was housed there for a while. Nowadays, the museum is housed in this beautiful modern building. The Bonnefantenmuseum is an art museum. It has an extensive collection of new and old works of art. There is a special collection of Western European handicrafts from the Middle Ages, early Italian paintings and medieval sculptures and other interesting artworks. There are works of art by artists from the Limburg region. In addition, there are many different temporary exhibitions. The museum is very contemporary, spacious and brightly decorated and is suitable for both young and old. Due to the museum being at the city centre, an art library has also been set up there. For children and students, there are also various activities in the museum to bring art closer to the youth and to make it as attractive as possible.
The Maastricht City Hall
The Maastricht City Hall was designed by Pieter Post and dates from the seventeenth century. The City Hall is built in the Dutch classicism style and can be found right next to the market square in the old city centre of Maastricht. In order to build the town hall, some other buildings such as the cloth hall, the Belfry, the prison and the old gate had to be demolished. This created a large square with the town hall in the middle. The first bell tower was a temporary tower. The final tower of the town hall was only set up two centuries later. In total, there are forty-nine bronze bells in the carillon of the town hall tower. Every Saturday the bells are played by the Maastricht carillonneur.
The Sint Servaasbrug
This is probably the oldest bridge in the Netherlands and was built in the late Middle Ages to replace the bridge built by the Romans. The bridge consists of a number of arches and the last part of the bridge looks different from the first part. This (last) part of the bridge had a defensive function in history and was always made of materials that were easy to break down or blow up. This so that in case of siege, the city council could partly blow up the bridge and the enemies could not advance further into the city. For a long time, the Sint Servaas bridge was the only bridge over the River Maas. However, when traffic began to increase in the 19th century, a new bridge was constructed a few hundred meters further, and the old bridge became known as Sint Servaasbrug. The bridge has been regularly restored and repaired over time, but the original stones from the 13th century can still be found in some parts of the bridge. It is one of the most photographed pieces of Maastricht.
The Basilica of Saint Servatius
The Basilica of Saint Servatius also often called the Saint Servatius Basilica is a Romanesque church built on the grave of Saint Servatius. Sint Servaas was the bishop of Tongeren and died in the year 384 AD. Immediately after his death, a wooden chapel was built there and in the sixth century, the first stone structure was erected. At the beginning of the tenth century, the first part of the current basilica was built and in the following centuries, the basilica was extended and adapted to modern times.
In the 13th century, the basilica was in the hands of the canons and these gave the assignment to build the Sint Janskerk. In the first instance to serve as a parish church and thus relieve the Sint Servaas Basilica. Nowadays this church with its typical red-painted tower is a Protestant church that forms a unique “twin” with the Roman Catholic Basilica of Saint Servatius. On both buildings, visitors have a beautiful view from the Vrijthof. The “Treasury of the Basilica of Saint Servatius” can be found in the lower and upper chapel of the basilica. The museum displays all kinds of old religious objects such as the emergency chest and the breast cross of Sint Servaas. In the eighties of the last century, the basilica was so thoroughly restored that it had to be re-consecrated. The carillon of Basilica of Saint Servatius consists of 59 bells that are regularly played by the carillonneur. The tower of the Sint Janskerk can also be climbed by tourists to have a bird’s eye view of the city.
Natuur Historisch Museum
The Natuur Historisch Museum (Natural History Museum) is all about the natural history of the province of South Limburg. It is located in the former monastery, that’s named the Grauwzusterskloosters (Monastery of the Grey Sisters). Besides the flora and fauna part, the museum takes you on a journey on the geology and paleontology of the area of South Limburg. Visitors can learn about of the region dating back to 60 million years in an interactive way. The collection highlights are a Mosasaurus (Mosaur) that is shown on the picture below. Furthermore, a giant ancient skull of the Suyckerbuyk turtle and an incredible rat king piece from the 19th century can be found in the museum. There are also temporary exhibits of modern art pieces related to the beauty of nature. Lastly, you can enjoy the views of the beautiful botanical garden. This museum is perfect to visit with kids or with your date. An average visit takes up to two and a half hours.
The Maastricht Dinghuis
The Maastricht Dinghuis is the former high-court building in the city. It is also one of the oldest houses in Maastricht and can still be admired in its former glory. Over the centuries, quite a lot has changed in the appearance of the Dinghuis. For example, the façade was renewed in the sixteenth century and modifications were made to the roof and timepieces. Also internally, a lot has changed in the house over the centuries. Some parts of the old prisons have been removed. The Dinghuis has served throughout the centuries as a museum, meeting room, chamber of commerce, puppet theatre and today the building is used as the tourist office of Maastricht. At the tourist office, visitors can find all kinds of information about Maastricht and the city surroundings.
Dominicanen Book Store
Dominicanen in without a doubt the most beautiful bookstore in the Netherlands and perhaps also in the world. It is a bookstore that overwhelms visitors with its beauty. The bookstore is located in the 700-year-old Dominican church where there are rows and rows of bookcases between the old wall paintings and large bookshelves. A perfect place to stroll and browse through the thousands of books on display. Even for visitors who aren’t book lovers, it is always a lovely sight to behold! The store has a bit of a magical Harry potter atmosphere. There are also regular lectures, book signing sessions and other book-related activities. For every book enthusiast visiting Maastricht for the first time, Domicanen is definitely one place you wouldn’t want to miss.
St. Matthias Church
St. Matthias Church is a Gothic church in the Boschstraat in the old centre of Maastricht. In oral stories parents tell their children, St. Matthias still shows up from time to time. The church is dedicated to the holy apostle Matthias and is one of the four large Roman Catholic parish churches in the centre of Maastricht and dates from the fourteenth century. Due to only the front of the church being visible from the Boschstraat, many people take the church for a small one but are surprised when they get closer. The church is home to some beautiful stained glass windows, some done by the artist Charles Eyck. A small chapel dedicated to the “Our Lady of Banneux” has been erected in the church. According to a popular myth, the church was built with the fine that shopkeepers in the Boschstraat imposed on the people they cursed. Those who wanted the curses to be lifted had to pay up!
The Museum Aan Het Vrijthof
The Museum Aan Het Vrijthof is, as the name suggests, located at the Vrijhof in Maastricht. The museum is located in a building that served as the former retreat of Emperor Charles V in the 16th century. The museum was created from the art collection of the Wagner – de Wit couple, who collected a lot of art during the course of their lives. Initially, people could only visit the museum by appointment but the museum is now open to the public six days a week. In addition to the permanent collection, there are also works by Dirck van Baburen, Adriaen van de Venne and Cornelis van Poelenburch. Exhibitions are also regularly held in the museum.
The Sint Janskerk
The Sint Janskerk (also known as the ‘Sint Jan van Maastricht’) is a Protestant church located at the Vrijthof in Maastricht. The red tower is quite prominent in the Maastricht skyline. Historically, the church contains many artefacts that are definitely worth seeing. One of the unique features of the church is that it was built from marl. This was used by the Romans as building material and comes from the marl quarries located around the city.
In its current form, the tower dates from the middle of the fifteenth century. The tower can be climbed and from there is, visitors have a beautiful view of the Vrijthof, the city and its surroundings.
Church services: Every Sunday at 10.00 am and visitors are very much welcome.
Cellebroeders Kapel (Cellite Brothers’ Chapel)
The five-hundred-year-old Gothic Alexian brothers chapel, formerly part of a much larger monastery complex, is a hidden gem in the Maastricht City centre. Home to a unique vault with the original mediaeval paintings, beautiful chandeliers and a monumental organ. Visitors (and groups) can visit the chapel but have to make an appointment first. Entrance includes an explanation of the rich history of the chapel and the Cellite or Alexian brothers. The chapel is sometimes used as a wedding location for civil and church weddings and also for small-scale funeral ceremonies. The volunteer foundation which manages the chapel organises a Sunday afternoon concert once every month.
Steenkolenmijn (Coal Mine) Valkenburg
Discover the world of mining in a mysterious underground environment. Visitors also see a unique film material about the Limburg mining industry and an ex-miner will tell them his story during the tour. The ex-miner also shows them how the machines work. The tour lasts about 75 minutes and afterwards, visitors can enjoy some drinks at the Grotcafé. They can enjoy the Valkenburg Caves Beer in a pleasantly heated room. The tour is very interesting for groups and is definitely one you wouldn’t want to miss! The Coal Mine has a private parking space diagonally opposite the entrance.
What to do in Maastricht
There is definitely a lot of fun things to do in Maastricht. There are wonderful restaurants where you can sample local dishes and different dishes from all over the globe, trendy shops for shopaholics and souvenir shops for tourists. Maastricht has it all for the visitor willing to discover every inch of the city.
1. Go for a canal cruise on the River Maas
For many, it will be an absolute highlight when visiting Maastricht. Just drop off the Maas with a cruise. On the banks of the Sint Servaas bridge, you will also find several boating companies that offer round trips. These vary in duration and destination. You can take a short cruise to the marl caves or the longer version via the Meuse to the Belgian Ardennes and Liège. There are even day trips departing from Maastricht. On many tour boats there is the possibility to have lunch or dine extensively on the boat. Some boating companies even offer round trips at night. While enjoying a snack and a drink you can then enjoy the many lights visible from the water.
2. Go chill on the Vrijthof Square – Maastricht’s most popular square
The Vrijthof is the most famous square in Maastricht and is one of the most pleasant squares for relaxation in the Netherlands. In addition to the cosy terraces that can be found on the square, various entertainment activities are held here. For example, André Rieu regularly gives concerts there. During these concerts, the whole square is packed with people and some even watch from the windows of the surrounding buildings. The Vrijthof also plays an important role during the Maastricht carnival. Every year, the “Mooswief” is hoisted and the carnival monument is the “Het Zaate Herremenieke” on the Vrijthof. Other major events that are organized there are the Maastricht fair and the Preuvenemint. The Preuvenemint is one of the largest and oldest culinary festivals in the Netherlands. Every winter during “Magisch Maastricht,” a large ice rink is built on the square for locals and visitors to skate on. Next to the ice rink, are several stalls where oliebollen, Flemish fries are sold. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings and churches such as the Sint Servaas Basilica, the Sint-Janskerk, the Theater aan het Vrijthof, the old post office and the Spanish government.
3. Go shopping in the heart of the city
Shopping in Maastricht is an attraction in itself. For the true fashion store, there are more than enough shops to choose from. Shopping in Maastricht is roughly divided into three categories in terms of clothing. There are the cases of the well-known couturiers such as Addy van de Krommenacker, Edgar Vos and Christian Lagerwaard where you can find truly unique pieces. The large chains are well represented in Maastricht. There is a beehive, H & M and much more. And then, of course, the nice little boutiques that you not only find in the direct centre but especially in the small streets. The real shopping heart is mainly around the Muntstraat, Nieuwstraat, Grote Straat, Kleine Straat.
4. Go cycling in Maastricht
Besides all the sights and activities in Maastricht, there is of course much more to do in this Burgundian border town. For example, Maastricht and its surroundings are also a paradise for cycling enthusiasts and hikers. The city is part of many signposted long-distance routes, such as the Ravel route (across the border to Liège) and the LF6 (east to Aachen).
5. Attend the Maastricht carnival and enjoy the festivities
The Carnival in Maastricht is one of the biggest popular festivals in the city. Those who do not like beer and big fancy dress parties should avoid the city around this time. There is no escaping it in the city centre. In Maastricht, the carnival starts on Sunday and after the Mass on Sunday morning, the festive noise begins and both young and old dressed up in the most diverse costumes to mark the beginning of the festivities. Mud straps provide the necessary atmosphere and conviviality, a large pot of beer does the rest. The highlights of the carnival are the procession held on Sunday afternoon and the announcement of the carnival song on Friday. On Tuesday evening at twelve o’clock, the curtain falls and a lot more drinking marks the end of the carnival.
6. Discover Maastricht’s Christmas market
During the Christmas season, everything is organised in Maastricht. The heart of all these events is, as is often the case, the Vrijthof. In the month of December, the square is filled with wooden chalets, an ice rink, various catering establishments and a mega Ferris wheel. If you walk across this Christmas market you can smell the mulled wine, the Liège waffles and other food sold in the Christmas market.
A lot of things can be bought at the Christmas market. From handmade wooden figurines to gloves and of course all kinds of nice Christmas stuff. The Christmas market of Maastricht is by far not the largest in the Netherlands or the area but it is one of the nicest in Limburg.
For the children, there is a mega slide, a merry-go-round, a caterpillar and a nostalgic train.
The rest of Maastricht is beautifully decorated with various Christmas trees and beautiful light artworks. Especially on the market and at the shopping centres Mosae Forum it is beautifully decorated.
7. Visit Coal Mine Valkenburg and discover the nearby town of Valkenburg
Looking to dive into the world of coal mining in the Netherlands? Experience the hard, impressive and adventurous life of coal miners in the heart of Valkenburg! Take a journey into the world of mining in a mysterious underground environment. Unique film material about the mining industry in Valkenburg can be seen at the mine as ex-mineworkers tell their stories during a tour of the Valkenburg Coal Mine.
Note: The Valkenburg Coal Mine and the Jan Kruysen Gallery are accessible for disabled and wheelchair users.
8. Visit the Valkenburg Cave Experience
The Cave Experience consists of a tour with a guide by train or on foot where you can learn about the origin and history of the cave and a light spectacle where past and present go together in a spectacular way. During the tour, visitors will pass mural paintings, plaques, sculptures and shelters from the cold war period. They also see where the locals of Valkenburg hid during WWII and a romantic chapel dating from the period of French rule.
Undergo the timeless power of the imagination in the form of a light show in the Valkenburg municipal cave. 30,000-year-old cave art comes to life in a unique way and confronts contemporary art. This imaginative narrative technique with spectacular light and sound effects immerses you in the artworks and takes you to another world of experience.
The combination of nature, history and culture supplemented with an imaginative narrative technique makes up a unique experience that visitors are never going to forget. This combination creates a totally new experience in an ancient environment.
9. Explore the Fort Saint Pieter
Step back in time and relive the history during a tour of Fort St. Pieter! The enthusiastic guides take you on a journey of discovery, lead you around the well, the shooting holes and the canon gallery, the numerous chambers and corridors under the castle and then enjoy beautiful stories of Maastricht in the times of the sieges and check out the view of the city from the top of the hill.
The Fort Sint Pieter is located on the south side of the city, high above the River Maas and is partly connected by corridors with St. Pietersberg. The fort dates back to the beginning of 1700 and is largely intact or somewhat restored. Outside is the view of the city, the Maas and the surrounding landscape of impressive beauty! Don’t miss out on this spectacular journey into the history of Maastricht!
10. Explore the North Caves Maastricht Underground
Do you dare to go underground and are you not afraid of the dark? Then go on an adventure in the caves of Sint-Pietersberg! No light, no sound, no smell, no radiation, no pollution, no telephone coverage, no sense of time … Just you deep underground and discovering the history hidden deep beneath the foundations of Maastricht.
In a labyrinth of more than 20,000 steps under, a professional guide takes you underground in the 80 kilometres long North cave underground system. Unique sights of the North Caves are the enormous dome, the ancient shelter of the inhabitants of St. Peter’s, the dark gothic corridor and the Kluis (where treasures and other valuable works of art were hidden/stored during WWII). Rembrandt’s Nightwatch was stored in this cave! Also, see the beautiful painting and other works of art that different artists have left behind over the years.
Note: The cave is too big so it’s not possible to have a complete tour of it. If you have a request to see something specific, please ask the guide at the beginning of the tour!
History of Maastricht
Maastricht is a city with a rich history. The city is home to several buildings that are already a few centuries old. At what is now called Maastricht, people have been living for a very long time. The history of Maastricht dates back to prehistoric times.
Maastricht in Prehistoric Times
Long before Maastricht became a city, people already lived in the area where the city is now located. During excavations, archaeologists have made discoveries dating back to the Old Stone Age. In and around Maastricht, remains of encampments, stone tools and remains of animal bones have been found. In addition to the current Maastricht, remnants of villages from the time of the first farming culture in the Netherlands can still be found.
Celts and Romans in Maastricht
Many people think that it was the Romans who founded the city of Maastricht. However, the first to settle at a fort on the Meuse were the Celts. Only five hundred years later, around the beginning of the era, were they conquered by the Romans.
Maastricht as a fortified city
Maastricht received city rights in 1204 and that gave the city the right to protect itself by means of a city wall. The first wall, the remaining parts of which are the Helpoort, was built in 1229. It took until the end of the 14th century before the second wall was finally finished.
The Siege of Maastricht
After the Pacification of Ghent, Maastricht chose the side of the insurgents. In 1579 the city was conquered by the Spanish army of the Duke of Parma. During this conquest, which was accompanied by a great deal of violence, about a quarter of the inhabitants of Maastricht lost their lives.
Stadholder Frederik Hendrik, in addition to Venlo and Roermond, also conquered Maastricht on campaigning along the Meuse in 1632. Not long afterwards the Spaniards recaptured Venlo and Roermond, but Maastricht remained part of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands until 1794.
The French Republic
In 1673, Maastricht was conquered by the French King Louis XIV, but as early as 1678 Maastricht returned to Dutch hands, as a result of the Peace of Nijmegen. From that moment on, Maastricht fell under “Staats-Limburg.” As early as 1794, however, Maastricht became part of the French Republic again, and all inhabitants of the city became French citizens. Maastricht was at that time the capital of the French department of Nedermaas. It was not until 1814 that Maastricht returned under the flag of the Netherlands and has remained so to this very day.
How to get to there
Maastricht is a small city. The major tourist attractions are all within walking distance from each other and aren’t very far from the city centre. It is also a city that’s very bicycle-friendly and is fun to do a walking tour in. Furthermore, due to the P + R services, it can be handy to visit by car and parking isn’t that expensive either. Maastricht also has an airport and it’s possible to fly in from neighbouring countries like Belgium and Germany. Neighboring airports like Eindhoven and Schiphol aren’t that far away.
Trains to Maastricht
Maastricht is easily accessible by train. Intercity trains run daily in the direction of Eindhoven, Utrecht, Amsterdam (NS) and trains to Sittard, Kerkrade and Roermond (Arriva). You can also travel by the NMBS train to Visé and Liège.
Note: KLM offers a bus service for passengers who want to travel to their destination from (the region) Maastricht and Eindhoven via Schiphol. Since last year, passengers with a KLM ticket can already book a free bus ticket to and from Nijmegen and Arnhem on klm.nl or from a travel agent. Maastricht and Eindhoven have now been added. A prerequisite for this is that the ticket is booked with Maastricht, Eindhoven, Nijmegen or Arnhem as a starting point or final destination. Transport with the KLM bus is free; this saves you costs for a train ticket, fuel or parking costs at the airport. If the bus is delayed along the way, KLM will book the passengers free of charge.
The bus runs 7 days a week, twice daily from Maastricht Central Station, via Maastricht Airport to Eindhoven Airport and through to Schiphol Airport and return.
For real-time travel information from wherever you are to Maastricht, please check out this link;
Parking in Maastricht
Maastricht has more than 7,000 parking spaces. You choose the parking space that suits your visit. The closer to the centre, the higher the rate. You can also park your car and take a train, bus or just rent a bicycle.
Some of the easily accessible “Park and Walk” (P & R) parking lots are;
Car park Stadspark/Kennedybrug (P + R)
This is a Park and Walk car park in the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein district in Maastricht. You can walk from this parking lot into the city centre in about 10 minutes. The parking lot is under the viaduct and is the cheapest car park in Maastricht.
Parking fee: the parking rate is € 1 per 43 minutes (€ 1.40 per hour). The maximum daily rate € 6, -.
The Cabergerweg Car Park
This car park is a P & R (park and walk) car park and is only a mere 10-minute walk from the city centre of Maastricht. The car park is located in the north of the center of Maastricht and has a capacity of 700 parking spaces.
Parking fee: the hourly rate is € 1 per 42 minutes (1.42 per hour). Maximum daily rate € 9, -.
Car Park Noorderbrug
This is a parking garage at the Noorderbrug shopping centre. The car park is just 12 minutes walk from the Maastricht city centre. The parking lot is open 24 hours and 7 days a week.
Car Park Noorderbrug has a capacity of 254 parking spaces and is only cheap if you park for a short time.
Parking fee: 90 minutes or less is free of charge! From 91 to 120 minutes is € 4.60 Then € 2.30 every 60 minutes. Maximum daily rate € 23.00.
Note: There are places for disabled people in the various parking garages and in paid parking spaces.
Users of a disabled card do not have to pay to park in Maastricht. This applies to the general disabled parking spaces and paid parking spaces on the street. With the disabled parking card, you can park for free 3 hours with the blue parking disc.
Please note: this exemption does not apply to permit holder locations and parking garages. In the parking garages you pay the regular hourly or daily rate.