Maastricht City Guide
There's a buzz in the air in Maastricht. This appealing city has a life of its own, thanks to its high student population. Located within walking distance of Belgium, Maastricht stands out both for being the southernmost city in the Netherlands as well as one of the oldest. The city's well-preserved buildings and multicultural atmosphere are all highlights of any Maastricht city guide. ¶ You can sample French-inspired haute cuisine in Michelin-starred restaurants and visit Spanish and Roman ruins on a tour of Maastricht. Yet it also is unmistakably Dutch in character, with its quaint village houses, and cobblestoned city centre. Start your exploration in the Vrijthof Central Square, with sights like the St. Servaas Church and St. Jan's Cathedral close by. Maastricht's best explored on foot so that you can indulge your whims and make your way through the ancient passageways to find a quiet spot of your own.
Things to do in Maastricht
There are several world-class museums in Maastricht, including the Bonnefantenmuseum. This art collection includes an impressive selection of Old Masters, with a particular emphasis on 16th and 17th century Flemish artists such as Anthony van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens. There's also a strong contemporary collection including paintings, installations, and projections. History buffs won't want to miss the fascinating Saint Pietersberg Caves. This secret underground passageway is one of the most popular things to do in Maastricht, featuring over 20,000 passages which have provided shelter during battles. Yet one of the greatest pleasures in Maastricht is strolling through its vivacious town centre and visiting its main public squares. The Markt is home to the Town Hall and bustling markets, leading onward to charming merchant houses.
Things to see in Maastricht
Enjoy the sights of this historic city from a boat by taking a leisurely cruise down the Meuse River, or play a few rounds at the pastorally landscaped Het Rijk van Margraten golf course. This course is set in the midst of pine-scented old growth forest and gentle country estates, providing a panoramic view of Maastricht. Follow up a visit to the Saint Pietersberg Caves with a trip to the Natural History Museum, which displays the remains of Giant Turtles and other fossils found in these caverns over the years. Although there are many modern shops and chic boutiques dotting Maastricht's cobblestoned streets, one of the most pleasurable things to see in Maastricht is all the vintage treasure at its Saturday flea market on Stationsstraat.
Maastricht is served by its own airport. However, many visitors arrive into the larger Schiphol airport in Amsterdam or Brussels Airport, both of which are approximately a 2-3 hour train ride away. The city also boasts extensive rail links, with daily service throughout Europe. Those driving into town can access it off of the A2 and A79. One of the best forms of Maastricht transport is walking, as many parts of the city centre are pedestrian-only. The Stradsbus public bus system is also quite convenient, or you may wish to rent a bike to tour around the lush green countryside.
The city really comes alive during Carnival season during the month of February, with Maastricht events rivalling those in Venice. The whole city dresses up in elaborate, colourful costumes to dance away the hours until dawn with lively music and feasting. The European Fine Art Fair draws buyers from all over the world to view and purchase works of fine art. The Amstel Gold Race is an annual bicycle race which draws participants from throughout the Limburg region, while the Koninginnedag is a local festival taking place at the end of April with an abundance of street markets and music.
Restaurants in Maastricht
There are four Michelin-starred restaurants in Maastricht, yet you'll find delectable treats in rustic taverns and cafes as well. Great attention is paid to the use of fresh ingredients, which you'll come across in regional dishes including hearty meat stews and vegetable dishes. Try a bite of the local Rommedoe cheese, or finish off a meal with vlaai, a sweet flan. ¶ The old centre offers a dense concentration of dining options, including traditional Dutch, Indonesian, and French restaurants among others. You can pick up local delicacies at the weekly organic farmer's market, held each Thursday near the train station.