What to visit in Maastricht?
Welcome to Maastricht! A relatively undiscovered gem in the Netherlands that is definitely worth a visit. This is a perfect stopover during a road trip with its ideal location between Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. Enter a medieval world with its beautiful architecture! Find out what not to miss during your visit to the beautiful Dutch city.
What not to miss?
Saint John's church
This beautiful 13th-century red church is a part of the Maastricht skyline and one of the most eye-catching monuments of the city. Its gothic style ages back to the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It was named after Johannes de Doper (John the Baptist), who was a prophet in the time of Jesus Christ.
The typical red color of the church is one of the property marks that the servants of Saint Servatius used for all their possessions. The paint was made from marl parts found in the marl caves in Limburg, then after crushing and burning it, the oxblood red color was made. But the myth of Maastricht is that the church owes its red color to the blood of animal sacrifices...are you ready to take a visit?
Today, you can visit the almost 80-meter-high church and go up the tower, where you have a beautiful view over the city of Maastricht, for only €2,50 (adults).
The Vrijthof is a breathtaking square with monumental buildings and highlights on every side of the court. Starting on the west side of the square, where the Basilica of Saint Servatius and the Saint Jan's church is located. Next, you have the Main Guardhouse, which was used in the 17th century as a military headquarter. Then, on the north side of the Vrijthof, you have the General's House, known today as 'Theater aan het Vrijthof' (Theatre on the Vrijthof). Then on the east side, you have the most romantic terraces where you can have a nice dinner or just a drink. Finally, on the south side, you have the Spanish Government Museum of the Vrijthof to round off the square.
But that is not everything this square represents. Most of the events in Maastricht are held on the Vrijthof. We end the year with a stunning Christmas Market worth a visit!
De Helpoort (Hell’s gate)
The ‘Helpoort’ is a part of the old city wall dating back to the early 13th century. Back then, the city wall was used to protect the city from intruders, and the gate was used as an entrance, of course. But after two centuries it was already made out of use, because of a new city wall located further from the city center. Nevertheless, it was still used as a meeting place and such functions. Presently, a big part of the city wall and the ‘Helpoort’ are still intact. It is a beautiful view of history, seeing the original old city style.
The ‘Dominicanen kerk’ was originally built in 1294 as a church, and it served as a holy church until the late 18th century. Then it lost its sacred function and became a reptile house, bicycle shed, and ‘carnival temple’. Because of these different functions, the residents of Maastricht have different memories of this building. In the present day, it is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, where you can see the historical aspects of the church. You can also go there for a delicious coffee from the local coffee company called Blanche Dael Coffeelovers or of course to read a book.
Saint Servatius bridge
The ‘Sint Servaasbrug’, named by locals as the ‘aw brögk’ (Old bridge), is the oldest bridge in the Netherlands that is still standing. It was completed in 1298, after 18 years of building. The reason for building this bridge is that the previous bridge collapsed in 1275. Therefore, this last bridge was a bridge dating back to the Romans in the first century. It was built a bit to the south of the Saint Servatius bridge.
Looking at the period the current bridge was built, the time of the Chapter of Saint Servatius, it was apparent it would be named after him. But this was originally not the case; until 1932, the bridge was called ‘Maasbrug’ (Maasbridge). Finally, it was named after Saint Servatius after it was recognized as a historic piece of the city.
What else to visit?
Boat trip on the Maas
The Maas is a big part of the character of Maastricht. The city was literally built around this river. So, to get the whole Maastricht experience, we advise you to go on one of the boat excursions from Rederij Stiphout. This company has years of experience with sailing along the Maas. You can choose between different trips and arrangements, such as an afternoon cruise with dinner or a day trip to Liege, Belgium.
Jean-Pierre Minckelers was a scientist who was born and raised in Maastricht. He studied physics and eventually started his research for a cheap solution for a source of fire in the form of gas. He ultimately invented coal gas in 1783, which is made from coal, and coal was easy to find in the area around Maastricht. But it was only until 1854 that Minckelers used his invention in Maastricht when he started the project of the first gas pipelines in the city. These pipelines were meant to back then for the first gas-driven street lightning but were the start for all other gas usages. This is why J.P. Minckelers earned a statue on the ‘Markt’ (market square) next to the Boschstraat, one of the most famous streets in Maastricht. The figure represents him with the iconic gas pipe, and this pipe even spits fire frequently as part of his memorial.
The ENCI quarry is a marl extraction that has been active for over a hundred years. Still, these activities have been stopped for a few years out of protection for the environment. So in the present day, it is a nature reserve containing a beautiful forest and a view of a lake within the quarry. The area also has a few hiking routes through nature that is really worth visiting. And it is only a 10-minute drive from the city center, so it is really a case of nature within the city area.
Get yourself a beer!
As mentioned before Maastricht is in between Germany and Belgium, 2 countries well known for their beers! Due to that Beer is a very important aspect of Maastricht, you can find darft beers in every bar and you can even find specific cafés designed for the real beer lovers!
There are a few beers that are brewed in the region on Maastricht and are definitely worth a try.
The beers from the brand Gulpener are brewed in Gulpen a small village close to Maastricht. Gulper has a big variety of beers available from bocks to lager, from weizen to I.P.A you name it they have it. But the beer that makes this brand the most interesting for the people from Maastricht is the “mestreechs aajt” (Maastricht's old) the only medieval beer from the Netherlands. A sour-sweet dark beer aged for at least a year in oak barrels
Do you want to experience this world just like we do? Then definitely make a visit to one of these beer adoring places!
City brewery Maastricht is the most famous brewery in Maastricht as mentioned before formally known as brewery de ridder! With a stunning view over the river the Maas, you can enjoy a city brewed beer at any time of day. One of their most famous beers named “De royale Martinus” won the European beer challenge 2021 in London and is worth a try! The names of their beers are all connected to a person that was an important part of Maastricht back in the day, so literally, every beer comes with a story, which makes the experience even more exciting. If you are a real beer lover you can even choose to go for the full experience and combine your drink with a tour through the full brewery.
As mentioned before Maastricht is close to the border of Belgium. That is why a lot of people in Maastricht enjoy their neighbor's beers as well. Famous names from the Belgian neighbors that the people from Maastricht enjoy the most are Jupiler, la chouffe, Leffe, and Pauwel Kwak. You can get these beers at almost every bar or café in the region.
If you are in to try all different kinds of beers and you want to make it a real experience, definitely visit the loft. It is one of the first “tab your own beer” concepts in the Netherlands, combined with an amazing dining experience and some party vibes at night you can spend your full day in this beer heaven! A must-try on the menu will always be the fries combined with the local cuisine called ‘Zoervleijs’ a sour meet stew only known in the south of the Netherlands.
If you also want to discover the specialties (and not only beers) in the Netherlands, follow us on Instagram @thewalkingparrot, to be alerted when our article about Dutch food is going to be posted.
How to get there?
Maastricht is easily accessible via different routes:
If coming from far, your first option will be by plane. Maastricht has its own airport with 10 min bus transport to the city center. It is a small airport which makes it easy to get around and find your way!
If you are traveling from Paris, Brussels or London, a good option would be the train. The big Eurostar train crossing these international borders has a stop in the station of Liege. This station is directly connected to the train station in Maastricht, which brings you to the city center. There are also trains available from Germany to get you to Achen. From Achen, you can reach the city center easily.
If you are traveling by car, Maastricht has the delight of having one of the most prominent highways in Europe passing through. This is the E25/A2 connected to the E40 and E42. If you reach Maastricht, there are a lot of different parking options. The one in the middle of the city center can be expensive, reaching up to 5 euros an hour. For a full day in Maastricht, it might be better to search for a parking place a bit outside of the city.
The Netherlands is one of the more expensive countries in Europe. Still, Maastricht is definitely cheaper than cities like Amsterdam.
For hotels, you can find rooms from 50 euros a night up to an average of 110 a night.
You can get the main course at around €15-€22 for food. If you like to have a whole 3-course dining experience, you are looking at a price around €35-€50 per person. The prices in the supermarket are on a bit of a higher standard too but not much different from other European countries with a basket price of around €75 where the average is €64.
Preuvenemint has been the biggest food festival in the Netherlands since 1982. Every year for an entire week to Vrijthof square has over 100.000 visitors come and taste at one of the food stands in Maastricht. Around 50 restaurants participate in this big event ranging from small cafés to Michelin star restaurants. The event is in August and has free entrance for the entire week. So if you are a foody just like us, you should definitely visit!
Carnaval is one of the biggest traditions in Maastricht and is celebrated by almost every citizen in the city. It is dating back to medieval times and its origin comes from the catholic fasting because they used to celebrate the last evenings before this period of fasting began. But since the 19th century, a real structure and tradition became out of it.
In the present day, it has a few traditional activities spread over the ‘Carnival season’. Beginning on the 11th of November (11-11), when the Carnival season is opened by the Tempeleers (an organization which organizes all the activities around Carnaval in Maastricht). This specific date is chosen because of the number 11 which is the iconic number of Carnaval.
The Prince of Carnival of Maastricht (a secret chosen person who will lead the celebration of carnival) will be announced by the Tempeleers in January and the real days of Carnival will arrive soon. These days differ every year according to the Easter celebration because this is both connected to the catholic calendar. These days are the most important part of the whole Carnival concept in Maastricht and start on Saturday and end on Tuesday at noon. Hereby the Sunday at 11.11 AM the Tempeleers start by shooting the cannon and rising the ‘Mooswief’ (iconic statue of Maastricht used for Carnival), after this, the party starts throughout the whole city center and the big parade called ‘De Boonte Störrem’. Then on Tuesday at noon the Tempeleers let down the ‘Mooswief’ and then Carnival is officially over.
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