Maastricht is one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands and has a rich culture and economical history. It stands as an important city for many reasons including being the birthplace of the EU and the Euro currency. Located on the Belgium/Holland border, Maastricht serves as the capital of the Limburg region which is tucked away in-between Belgium and Germany.
Settlements have been documented at Maastricht for thousands of years, and Neanderthal remains have even been found. Throughout history, different groups have entered the Limburg region including the Romans, Carolingian’s, and later the Dukes of Brabant. As an important city located on the Meuse river, Maastricht is a fantastic tourist destination and has a great deal to offer from historical buildings, to beautiful parks and some intriguing cave networks.
Lets explore the best things to do in Maastricht:
1. Maastricht Underground
Maastricht has a well developed network of historical caves and tunnels.
Between the 1500’s and the 1800’s, this network of tunnels and underground passageways was developed to aid during times of siege and for improving the cities defences.
During WWII, many people also took shelter here to avoid bombing raids and conflict.
Some networks of the tunnels once stretched for over 230km and were totally man-made.
You can now take many different guided tours of the tunnels and learn about their amazing history.
Walk through the eerie passageways and come to understand how they were built and how the citizens of Maastricht benefited from their creation.
2. Fort Sint Pieter
A truly marvellous example of a defence fortification, the Fort Sint Pieter has stood for many years since the early 1700’s and was an important part of the cities defence network.
Built on a heightened position for strategic advantage, you can climb to the top of the fort and be rewarded with stunning views across to the river Meuse and Maastricht.
A guided tour will also take you through the network of passage ways, cannon rooms and troops quarters.
See how this fort functioned, and learn about what made is such a formidable and well placed garrison.
3. Sint Janskerk
Who would expect to find a church that proudly displays a bell tower that has a pure red colour? Sint Janskerk does just that and it is more commonly known as the red church.
Made exclusively of Marl Stone, the bell tower has a unique colouring and you will not find many other buildings that look the similar.
Constructed in the middle ages, the church has no always featured its red tower and documents state that it has been both yellow and white during its history.
The interior of this church is also quite stunning with many tall stained glass windows, beautiful stone work and an ornate wooden pulpit and organ.
4. St Servaas bridge
One of the main bridges that crosses the Meuse river, this stone footbridge has remained an icon of the city for many years.
As a vital pedestrian thoroughfare from the west to the east banks, this bridge is not only an important historical structure, but also important for daily life in the city.
Walk across this fine structure for amazing views of Maastricht and the river Meuse.
Admire the limestone archways and the beautiful cobbled stonework footpath.
You can also walk a long a connecting pier here and see the various cruise boats that are docking.
5. Basilica of our Lady
The first of the major religious buildings in Maastricht, the Basilica of our lady was constructed in the 1100’s but little is known of its early history.
With an exterior that is purely Romanesque in style, the striking westwork facade looks immensely old and has two circular towers.
Inside, the interior is quite sombre and brooding with only lashings of light entering through the high windows.
The main altar and choir knave are of particular interest with a host of intricate decoration and stunning stained glass windows.
Aside from the actual structure, there is also a treasury which contains some hugely important and interesting religious artefacts from Limburg.
6. Basilica of St. Servatius
Located on the Vrijthof square, this church has stood since the 12th century in some form.
An amalgamation of many different architectural styles, the basilica is now mainly Romanesque but has Gothic elements too.
Sculptures adorn the exterior of the breathtaking church mainly carved from stone, the treasury inside also contains many artefacts and religions iconography from ages past.
With two narrow but tall towers, and a circular central basilica, the churches design is quite unusual.
Inside, the high vaulted ceilings and many decorated arches are fantastic to admire.
Heralded as the largest and most popular square in the Limburg region, the Vrijthof has a plethora of historical monuments and is a fantastic place to visit in the center of Maastricht.
Monuments that can be found here include the Basilica of St.
Servatius, the Spanish Government, the cannon house and the post office.
Aside from the delightful buildings, you can also find many shops and restaurants, plus regular markets and events are held in this square such as Magical Maastricht and the Maastricht Carnival.
8. Market Square
The second of the major squares in Maastricht, the market square is actually in close proximity to the Vrijthof but offers something different.
In the centre of this charming square lies the city hall – This imposing building takes pride of place and its design and style are undeniable.
Surrounding the market square are a host of cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating where you can people watch and have a fantastic bite to eat.
Additionally you can find a myriad of trendy shops in the adjacent Mosae Forum shopping center.
As a starting point for exploring the city, there is no better place.
Translated literally as “Hells Gate”, Helpoort is one of the last standing remnants of the city walls and defences that were constructed in the 1200’s.
Named due to the fact that prisoners were actually locked away in the tower of the gate, this structure once served as the main southern entrance to the city.
Standing proudly today as it has done for hundreds of years, the Hell Gate contains a museum that details the history of the fortifications of Maastricht.
A fantastic piece of the cities history, this building is a must see and provides great insight into the age old power of Maastricht.
10. Bonnefanten Museum
Located on the east banks of the Meuse river, the Bonnefanten Museum has a striking design with a large circular shaped main tower followed by an E shaped structure.
Exhibitions inside this magnificent structure are centred around fine art both historical and contemporary.
Old art displays include wooden sculptures from the 13th century, and Italian and Dutch paintings from the 12th to 17th centuries including works from Rubens.
The modern art section includes many collections from notable 20th century artists that covers artistic movements such as Neo-expressionism, Arte Povera and Minimal Art.
11. Maastricht Natural History Museum
Although only a small museum in the centre of Maastricht, the natural history museum hosts a huge range of artefacts and displays on a number of different subjects.
Located near the university and the Stadspark, the museum is easily accessible and can be visited during a walk-around of the city center.
Inside the museum you can find some wonderful displays centred around the geology, flora and fauna and palaeontology of the Limburg region including ancient fossils and other specimens.
Notable finds include a rat king, and giant turtle specimens.
12. Boekhandel Dominicanen
You would not expect to find a bookstore in a church.
The Boekhandel Dominicanen however is a fantastic book store located in the confines of a 12th century church.
Many people simply come here to admire the beauty of the building and its high arched ceilings and original fixings and stone work.
For those who love literature, the bookstore features a wide variety of different classifications and the atmosphere is simply charming and peaceful – A true haven.
Valkenburg is one of the main tourist villages that people visit as a day trip from Maastricht.
Only 20 minutes to the east of the city, Valkenburg has a great deal to offer including a world renowned thermal spa (Thermae 2000), two theme parks, a toboggan run and a series of underground caverns.
Furthermore, the town boasts the highest castle ruins in the country and a great host of bars and restaurants and beautiful surrounding landscapes.
14. Boat tour on the Meuse river
The Meuse river is one of the most important in Europe and runs through both Belgium and the Netherlands.
At 925km long the Meuse has many towns and cities on its banks and Maastricht has always used this waterway as a key means of transport and trade.
For a fantastic relaxing journey on the Meuse, there is no better way than to take a boat cruise with Rederij Stiphout.
Various different cruises are available including an evening dinner cruise, and even a tour that takes you to the Belgian city of Liege.
See the fantastic scenery a long this fantastic river and learn about the history of Maastricht and the region from the knowledagble guides.
15. Thorn (The White Village)
Another of the wonderful villages in the Limburg region, Thorn offers a fantastic day trip from Maastricht and can be found approximately 30 minutes to the north of the city.
Also known as the white village, this quaint settlement used to be a principality and was home to nuns and noblewomen who lived at the Abdijkerk Monastery.
You can still see the monastery today together with the beautiful small white houses and cute cobbled side streets.
This magical place will transport you back in time and provides a welcomed change from the usual tourist attractions of large cities.