The 10 Best Things to do in Maastricht blog post was first published on Culture Tourist in December 2018 and updated on 2 February 2024.
What are some of the best things to do in Maastricht? One of the most beautiful and unusual towns in the Netherlands is also a Dutch city which looks the least Dutch. Positioned at the border with Germany and Belgium, its architecture, culture and cuisine are very much influenced by its neighbours. Located two-and-a-half hours by train from Amsterdam, it’s a great town to visit on a weekend break in the Netherlands. To help you decide what to do in Maastricht, here are some of the Culture Tourist’s tips on the best things to do in Maastricht.
10 Best things to do in Maastricht
Maastricht is a charming town located in the south of the Netherlands. Filled with fantastic architecture, fascinating history and many heritage sites, it’s a place any cultural tourist should see in the Netherlands. After visiting that beautiful Dutch town multiple times, here is my Maastricht city guide with the best things to do in Maastricht.
1 – Visit the Basilica of Our Lady
The Basilica of Our Lady is a fascinating medieval church that resembles a fortress. The reason is in a massive westwork at its front. The church was built during the 11th and 12th centuries in Romanesque style. During that time, the city walls haven’t been built yet. So, in case of danger, the its citizens could hide inside this church.
That’s also why it doesn’t have any windows in its nave, and it’s completely dark inside. It’s one of the most fascinating churches-fortresses I’ve ever seen, and visiting it is one of the best things to do in Maastricht.
La Bonne Femme is located just behind the church. Besides delicious food, it offers the most beautiful view of the Basilica of Our Lady from its top floor.TIP: A lovely restaurant
2 – Wander around Maastricht’s Vrijthof Square
The main square in Maastricht is called Vrijthof, and you’ll find many beautiful houses, small restaurants and cafes there. It’s also where one of the best Dutch Christmas markets is organised each December.
Museum aan het Vrijthof is located on it, and it’s worth getting inside just to see its beautiful lobby. My favourite detail there is a stone relief showing the Spanish King Philip II. He started the eighty-year-long war with the Netherlands at the end of the 16th century. People of Maastricht smashed the statue’s head to show how much they disliked him. It’s an exciting history lesson you shouldn’t miss in Maastricht.
3 – Explore Basilica of Saint Servatius & Sint-Janskerk
Maastricht is filled with history, and many of its traces can be found around the Vrijthof Square. Two fascinating medieval churches are among some of its highlights.
The Romanesque Basilica of Saint Servatius used to be an important pilgrimage site. Be sure to walk around its historic atrium and visit its Treasury, home to many interesting paintings and statues. Next, you’ll find another famous historical site, Sint-Janskerk. It’s the main protestant church in the city, built in the Gothic style and well-known for its distinctive red tower.
4 – Stroll around the Maastricht’s old city walls
Maastricht is one of the rare Dutch towns where you can see traces of the Middle Ages on every corner. When strolling around it, you’ll often stumble on the remains of its old medieval city walls. They were built during the 13th and 14th century. However, not only the medieval city walls survived throughout the centuries. You’ll also find its old city gates and fortifications there.
TIP: You can see a medieval toilet on one of the Maastricht city walls’ towers. It’s located close to the Hell’s Gate on the park’s side.
5 – Visit Hell’s Gate in Maastricht
Hell’s Gate was a part of the city’s old fortification system. It used to be one of the entrances to the medieval Maastricht. It was built during the 13th century, making it the Netherlands’ oldest city gates. Because of its history and interesting shape, be sure to put visiting Hell’s Gate on your list of the best things to do in Maastricht.
6 – Explore Maastricht City Hall
Maastricht City Hall was built during the 17th century to replace the old medieval town hall. It’s interior still mostly looks like it did 400 years ago. Russian tzar Peter the Great was amazed by its tower during his visit to the Netherlands. Its influence and a similar shape could be seen today in some churches in Moscow.
TIP: A market is held in front of the City Hall each Saturday. So, if you’d like to mingle among the locals, visit it during your trip to this lovely town.
7 – Tour around the Céramique neighbourhood in Maastricht
After exploring Maastricht’s old medieval city centre, cross the bridge and head to the opposite side of the Maas River. It’s where you’ll meet the locals and where you can see some of its residential areas. It’s a great way to get to know the city and its everyday life.
Maastricht used to be famous for its pottery production, hence the name of the Céramique neighbourhood. It’s home to some impressive modern architecture today, local stores, restaurants, and cute cafes. It’s a lovely place to visit for an afternoon cup of coffee and relax stroll during your trip to Maastricht.
8 – Walk along the Maas River and Sint Servaasbrug
Sint Servaasbrug is a famous stone bridge crossing the Maas River. It’s also the oldest bridge in the Netherlands, built back in the 13th century on a location of an ancient Roman wooden bridge. The new construction started after the old wooden bridge collapsed, tragically killing around 400 people.
TIP: A stroll alongside the Maas River should definitely get on your list of things to do in Maastricht if you’d like to enjoy some of the best views of the city.
9 – Visit Bisschopmolen (Bischop’s Mill) in Maastricht and try some vlaai
Bisschopmolen is a lovely old mill located in the heart of the old city centre. Dating back to the 7th century, this historic place is still in use and produces flour even today. A fantastic bakery is located right next door, where you can try some delicious products made of it.
TIP: The most famous pastry you’ll find in this bakery is Limburgse vlaai. It’s a local cake popular in the area around Maastricht. I heard from locals that the one produced in this bakery is the best Limburgse vlaai in the city! So be sure to try it during your visit.
10 – Explore the bookstore located in a former church in Maastricht
Maastricht is home to an extraordinary bookstore – the one located inside the old medieval church. A beautiful book shop is located in a former old Dominican church, now converted into a unique bookstore.
Giving a new function to former sacral spaces is common in the Netherlands. When churches are not in use anymore, they are offered a new purpose, becoming residential buildings, schools, or, in this case, a bookstore. This one is even home to one of the oldest wall paintings in the country. You’ll find it just above the cashier.
Numerous books are on sale there, and you can spend hours browsing through them. It’s absolutely a gem for all the bookworms visiting Maastricht.
Tips for visiting Maastricht
Join one of the Free City Tours in Maastricht
If you’d like to learn more about this city, its architecture and exciting history, join one of its free city tours. They are held each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more info and timetable, check out the link here: F(r)ee city tour Maastricht.
I joined their tour during one of my trips to Maastricht and learned so much about the city’s history, neighbourhoods and everyday life. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Maastricht!
Visit Maastricht Christmas Market
Maastricht is home to one of the best Dutch Christmas markets, organised annually throughout December. The biggest Christmas market in the Netherlands takes place on its main square. The city centre becomes a Christmas village for the whole month, home to an ice skating rink, many Christmas stalls and nicely decorated small restaurants and cafés.
André Rieu Concerts in Maastricht
André Rieu, one of the world’s most famous violinists and conductors, lives in his hometown of Maastricht. He has a special connection with his beloved town, organising several concerts each year. So, visiting one of André Rieu’s concerts is among the best things to do in Maastricht.
How to get to Maastricht
Getting to Maastricht from Amsterdam: If you’re visiting Maastricht from Amsterdam, the best way to get there is by train. Several direct trains connect these two Dutch cities daily, making the journey around 2,5 hours long. You can check the Dutch train time schedule on this link.
Getting to Maastricht from Germany or Belgium: Maastricht is located in the southeast of the Netherlands, making it easy to visit it from its neighbouring countries, Belgium or Germany.
With its fascinating history, one of the rare European churches with westwork, and so many fantastic cultural sites, it’s a Dutch town worth visiting. I hope this Culture Tourist’s travel guide with the best things to do in Maastricht will help you plan your trip to that beautiful place.
Have you been to Maastricht? Share with me some of your favourite places in the comments below.