Sometimes forgotten due to its southern location, Maastricht has indeed something to offer for everyone. Foodies, shoppers and even history buffs will be kept busy.
Maastricht in a nutshell
Maastricht is located in the southern province of Limburg, bordered by Germany to the east and Belgium to the west. Settled by the Romans, it was an important stop on the trading route between Cologne and the North Sea.
While keeping its authentic atmosphere, Maastricht has also grown up. New contemporary architecture has sprouted, along with fashionable boutiques in the old town. Being squeezed between 2 countries has had its advantages. The city has a lively restaurant and bar scene with more than 500 pubs/cafes. We dare you to try and visit them all! The excellent cuisine – including several Michelin-starred restaurants – has helped to make Maastricht the culinary capital of the Netherlands.
Things to do in Maastricht
Like in most cities, the central marketplace is the commercial heart of the town, and Maastricht is no exception, with its Markt. There, you will find the striking 17th-century Stadhuis (‘City Hall’). Don't forget to say ‘hello’ to Jean-Pierre Minckelers, the man who invented gaslight in the 18th century and whose statue is situated at the Markt.
To get a sense for the defensive tunnels found in Maastricht, head to the Fort Sint Pieter. The fort dates from around 1700 and is still largely intact. The Helpoort – the oldest surviving Dutch town gate (1229) – is about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.
Are you a cave enthusiast? Then, head to Maastricht Underground. Tours of all sorts beneath Maastricht are run throughout the year. To top up on your museum, church and cafe quota, saunter over to the Vrijthof. Another large square in the city, just west of the Markt, it is a real active focal point of Maastricht. There’s 1 museum you definitely shouldn’t miss in Maastricht: the Bonnefantenmuseum. You'll be able to identify it by its 28-meter (almost 92-feet) high tower. The museum opened in 1995 and features Old Dutch Masters, medieval sculpture and contemporary local art. If you would like to condense as much as you can into one day, then do the Maastricht Boat Tour. There’s even time to enjoy a cup of coffee during this experience.
No matter how you enjoy Maastricht, there is one thing you really must do before leaving: eat a piece of vlaai. This pie/tart comes in several different varieties – from fruit-filled to a crumbled-butter and sugar mix. It is typical of the region of Limburg.
You’ll be heading to the southern half of the Netherlands with a visit to Maastricht. But in a country this small, that will still only take you around 2.5 hours from Amsterdam. Just enjoy the scenery as you travel, including windmills, sweeping fields and a handful of cows. As you get closer to Maastricht, you’ll start to see the landscape change gradually. Believe it or not, despite the country's flat reputation, you’ll even spot a hill or 2 in the region of Limburg.