Maastricht is one of the most beautiful and unusual towns in the Netherlands. It’s 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 some two hours by train from Amsterdam, it’s a great town to visit on a weekend break in the Netherlands. There are so many great things to do in Maastricht and fantastic historical sites to visit. To make your choice of what to do in Maastricht easier, here is the Culture Tourist’s selection of 10 things you shouldn’t miss in Maastricht.
10 things you shouldn’t miss in Maastricht
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#1 – Basilica of Our Lady
Basilica of Our Lady is a beautiful medieval church that looks a bit like a fortress. The reason is in a massive westwork at its front. The church was built during the 11th and 12th century in Romanesque style. During that time, the city walls weren’t built yet. So, in case of danger, people of Maastricht could hide in the church.
That’s also the reason it doesn’t have any windows in its nave, and it’s completely dark inside of it. It’s definitely one of the most interesting church – fortresses I’ve ever seen. And one of the things you shouldn’t miss while in Maastricht.
⤷ TIP: There is a lovely restaurant called La Bonne Femme located just behind the church. Besides, delicious food it offers the most beautiful view on the Basilica of Our Lady from its top floor.
#2 – Vrijthof Square
The main square in Maastricht is called Vrijthof, and you’ll find many beautiful houses on it. It’s also the place where one of the best Dutch Christmas markets is organised each December.
One of the buildings on a square you should visit while in Maastricht is Museum aan het Vrijthof. It’s worth getting inside of it just to see its beautiful lobby. My favourite detail there was a stone relief of the Spanish king Philip II. He started the eighty years-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 absolutely an exciting history lesson you shouldn’t miss in Maastricht today.
⤷ TIP: Would you like to explore a bit of the Dutch beer culture while in Maastricht? Here is a fun beer tasting during which you can learn more about it.
#3 – Basilica of Saint Servatius & Sint-Janskerk
Maastricht is filled with history, and many of its traces could be seen around the Vrijthof Square. Two other fantastic Medieval churches are located on it.
Romanesque Basilica of Saint Servatius used to be an important pilgrimage site. Be sure to walk around its historic atrium and to visit its treasury that’s home to many interesting paintings and statues. Next to it, you’ll find another famous site in Maastricht, Sint-Janskerk. It’s the main protestant church in Maastricht, built in the Gothic style and famous for its distinctive red tower.
#4 – The old city walls of Maastricht
Maastricht is one of the rare Dutch towns where you can see traces of the Middle Ages on its every corner. When strolling around it, you’ll stumble upon its old medieval city walls at many places. They were built during the 13th and 14th century. However, not only the Maastricht medieval city walls survived throughout the centuries, but you can find its old city gates and fortifications there, as well.
⤷ TIP: On one of the towers of Maastricht’s city walls, you can see a medieval toilet. It’s located close to the Hell’s Gate on the side of a park.
#5 – Hell’s Gate
Hell’s Gate was a part of the city’s old fortification system and one of the entrances to the medieval Maastricht. They were built during the 13th century, which makes them the oldest city gates in the Netherlands. Because of its history and an interesting shape, Hell’s Gate is definitely among the things you should see in Maastricht.
⤷ Read more: History of travelling – How people started to travel
#6 – Maastricht City Hall
Maastricht City Hall was built during the 17th century as a replacement for the old medieval town hall. During his visit to the Netherlands, Russian tzar Peter the Great was amazed by its tower. Its influence and a similar shape could be seen today on some churches in Moscow.
⤷ TIP: Each Saturday, a market is held in front of the City Hall. So, if you’d like to mingle among the locals a bit, be sure to visit it during your trip to Maastricht.
#7 – Céramique neighbourhood
If you want to meet locals during your visit to Maastricht, be sure to explore 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 neighbourhood. After exploring the old medieval city centre of Maastricht, cross the bridge and head to the opposite side of the Maas River.
Céramique neighbourhood is home to some quite impressive modern architecture today, local stores, restaurants and cute cafes. It’s a lovely place for a break and an afternoon cup of coffee during your trip to Maastricht.
⤷ Read more: Haarlem Travel Guide
#8 – 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. It was built back in the 13th century on a place where an ancient Roman wooden bridge used to stand. The new construction started after the old wooden bridge collapsed, tragically killing some four hundred 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 in some of the best views on the city.
#9 – Bisschopmolen (Bischop’s Mill)
Bisschopmolen is a lovely old mill located in the heart of the old city centre. Dating all the way back to the 7th century, this historic place is still in use and produce 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 of Maastricht. Apparently, the one produced in this bakery is the best Limburgse vlaai in Maastricht!
#10 – Bookstore in a former church in Maastricht
Maastricht is home to a very special bookstore – the one located inside an old medieval church.
A beautiful library is located in a former old Dominican church, which is now converted into a beautiful bookstore. It’s actually something quite common in the Netherlands. When churches are not in use anymore, they are converted in something else – a residential building, kindergarten, 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 just browsing through them. It’s absolutely a gem for all the bookworms.
⤷ Read more: Locations linked to Vincent Van Gogh in the Netherlands
⤷ Extra TIP: If you’d like to learn more about Maastricht, its architecture and interesting history, be sure to join one of its free city tours. They are held each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more info and time slots check out the link here: F(r)ee city tour Maastricht.
Maastricht is one of the most beautiful Dutch towns. With its fascinating history, one of the rare European churches with westwork and so many beautiful cultural sites, it’s definitely worth visiting. These were just 10 things you shouldn’t miss in Maastricht. But, there are, of course, many more amazing things to do and see in Maastricht.
Have you been to Maastricht? Share with us some of your favourite places in the comments below.
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