Maastricht is the southernmost city in the Netherlands and the furthest away from the Randstad, over 200km away from Amsterdam. Maastricht is the capital of Limburg, right on the border with Belgium and it is considered to be the oldest city in the Netherlands (by some). There are many reasons why you should visit Maastricht.
- Vrijthof Square
- Basilica of Saint Servatius & Sint-Janskerk
- The old city walls
- Hell’s Gate
- City Hall
- Maas River and Sint Servaasbrug
- The most beautiful Bookshop
- Food: Bakeries!
Even though Maastricht is not the most popular city in the Netherlands, it is one of the most beautiful cities of the Lower Lands. It is two hours away by train from the Randstad, a comfortable trip by train where you will get to enjoy the landscape of the Netherlands and see the changes when you enter Limburg, the southernmost province. German, Belgium and French heritage are clearer the closer you get to Maastricht. You will even get to see some hills! Here there are some of my favorite spots, some of the many reasons why you should visit Maastricht.
8 Reasons Why you Should Visit Maastricht
Maastricht is not a city surrounded by canals, it has hills and they have a funny Dutch accent. As different as it is from the typical Dutch cities, it is also one of the most interesting cities, with peculiar characteristics that make it even more worth visiting.
I had the pleasure of being there a couple of times, one the first time I lived in the Netherlands, while I was doing my Erasmus. I can easily say that it is one of my favorite cities and while being there I got to consider moving there. Here are 8 of the reasons why:
Vrijthof Plein is the most important square in Maastricht, the meeting point for a lot of activities and festivals going on throughout the whole year in the city.
This square has been the main part of Maastricht’s landscape since way back in the Middle Ages when during the Spanish invasion, it was chosen as the meeting point, where the house of the main generals and Government were established. Nowadays, there are hotels, beautiful terraces, cafés, and restaurants open all year round, with views of the church, old buildings and more.
During the summer, the famous music festival takes place in the middle of the square, joined by amazing Dutch artists such as André Rieu (and a lot of events for classical music lovers).
During the winter, Maastricht becomes a winter wonderland and in the middle of the Vrijthof Square, the biggest Christmas market of the Netherlands takes place. Like it happens in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and also Utrecht, Maastricht joins the Light Festival every year. They offer a map on their website with the path you can follow from the Vrijthof in order to visit the most important parts of the city, all of them illuminated for the occasion.
Basilica of Sint Servatius & Sint-Janskerk
Right next to the Vrijthof Square, you can see the two biggest and most beautiful churches of Maastricht: Saint Servatius, a Romanic-Gothic Catholic church; and the Basilica of Sint Jankskerk, an 11th-century construction, characterized by the baptistery. This is not inclined like Pisa’s but red like a poppy.
Sint Janskerk is one of the main beauties of Maastricht, a must-visit if you are going to the city. For a small fee, you can go inside and climb the tower. It is inspired in the Sint Jankskerk of Utrecht, a 70 meters tall tower with the best views of Maastricht. Legend has it that it has that intense red color because of the many battles and the blood that stained the stones with which it was constructed. In any case, I have never seen anything like it and as an art lover, I strongly recommend it.
Sint Servatius is another beauty, a more typical Romanic-Gothic church, a mix between the neighbor countries, something rare to find in the Netherlands in general, giving a peculiar characteristic to Maastricht, a not-so-Dutch Dutch city.
The old city walls
The old city walls were constructed during the 13th-, 14th-, and 15th-century. Maastricht is one of the biggest cities in the south of the Netherlands, that never stopped growing and outgrowing its city walls.
Most of these constructions are still in one piece, some of them along the river, some of them inside the “old city” and some outside. Following them will also allow you to follow its hundreds and hundreds of historic constructions, almost as many as Amsterdam.
Make sure you visit Helpoort (Hell Gate, more bellow), Du Moulin Lines and Fort Sint Pieter, important parts of the defense mechanisms of this city.
I consider Hell’s Gate (or Helpoort) to be one of the most impressive features of Maastricht, mostly because of how well it has been conserved during the decades.
It is literally a gate, the entrance to the city, the storage room, a place for artists and for defence. Nowadays, it is a nice spot to take photos with a view and to visit a piece of the history of Maastricht.
If you are interested in this type of constructions and you are planning your trip to the Netherlands, I strongly recommend you checking out my article about 100 Beautiful Castles of the Netherlands.
The City Hall is a beautiful 17th-century building, an example of Dutch classicism. If you are visiting Maastricht and you like shopping, the City Hall and the Markt district is a must. With the excuse of visiting this amazing building, you can go to this area of shopping.
I was there during the month of May and there was a beautiful antiques’ market. According to the city hall of Maastricht and touristic information, there is always something going on. Definitely worth checking it out.
Maas River and Sint Servaasbrug
A must-visit when in Maastricht is the Maas River and its main bridge, the Sint Servaasbrug. It is compulsory to cross it when you arrive by train and in my opinion, one of the most exciting landmarks of the Maastricht.
Sint Servaas bridge, named after the first bishop of Maastricht, is made of stone, arcades from the 13th-century. The Romans already created a bridge to cross the river Maas when they first arrived, but the materials kept changing until the one that we see nowadays was constructed.
The Maas river is the reason why this city is called Maastricht, legend has it, one of the oldest rivers of Europe.
The most beautiful Bookshop
Maybe this is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I am the definition of a bookworm. Therefore, one of the things I liked the most about Maastricht, besides its peculiar city and all the history, was the most beautiful bookshop I have seen in the Netherlands.
The old church of the Selexyz Dominicanen is the perfect combination of history, architecture and culture (in the shape of books). It is another 13th-century building, that became a warehouse, then a bike parking load and then a library.
The bookshop maintains the whole structure, the windows, the chandeliers and illumination and adds a few modern touches, a very Dutch design. It is also a cafe with sweets, where you can seat and read your purchase (or future purchase). This is another very Dutch concept that I love and I certainly appreciate finding this little corners everywhere I go in the Netherlands. This store is one of them.
What else to see:
I visited Maastricht a couple of years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. These are some of my recommendations about what you should do, and what worked out for me when I visited the city:
- Eat some sweets! All over the Netherlands, Limburg’s sweets are famous and very appreciated. When in Maastricht, you should definitely get some Vlaai. There are of many types and I strongly recommend city in the Vrijthof square with a cup of coffee and some vlaai to enjoy the view.
- Ask for information: at the Maastricht’s Visitor Centre (located very close to the main street), there are some experts who will be able to tell you about the free tours, when they are starting and where to expect them. They will inform you of the most interesting and actual activities. I strongly recommend swinging by at least to see what you can see. My recommendations are my own experience, it is always good to check out what YOU would enjoy seeing the most.
- The Bishop’s Molen: one of the most characteristic features of the Netherlands are its windmills, touristic attractions and pieces of history everybody likes. Maastricht also has them, and one of them is in the middle of the city centre and it is actually a bakery. If you are enjoying the historic centre of Maastricht, taking photos at this beautiful spot is another must. When I saw the Bishop’s Molen, it actually surprised me for how cute it is and how yummy their products are.