Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands with its origins dating far back to Roman times. It is located at the very south of the country on a long strip of land between Belgium and Germany. Maastricht is known as the birthplace of European Union and euro currency. It’s an absolute must see city in the Netherlands.
During our time in the Netherlands I’ve heard about Maastricht from locals as a city well worth visiting in spite of the fact that it’s almost 2.5 hours away from Amsterdam. When most of the other cities in the Netherlands are within 1 hour by train from each other, 2.5 hours is considered a long trip.You can still visit Maastricht as a one day trip from Amsterdam or Utrecht as there are direct trains between these cities.
We have visited Maastricht as part of our long weekend road trip from Utrecht to Luxembourg. If you have a day in Maastricht or just making a stop over there, here is what you can see in this small and very charming Dutch town.
Maastricht City Hall (Stadhuis) and Markt square
Maastricht City Hall (or ‘Stadhuis van Maastricht’ in Dutch) is a historical building designed in the 17th century and standing at the Markt square. As the name suggests, there are markets running on the Market square on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Around the Markt square there are lots of cafes and small shops in the surrounding narrow pedestrian streets. We stayed in a hotel next to the Markt square and in the evening it was especially charming – with the illuminated City Hall and cafes and restaurants full of life.
It’s worth just walking around the narrow streets starting from the Markt square to discover historical buildings, architecture, local and international shops and many cafes and restaurants of this small Dutch town.
Few minutes walk from the Markt square you will find a Gothic church that in 2007 has been repurposed as a book shop. Now, that’s not something you find in many other cities!
Dominican church (or ‘Dominicanenkerk’ in Dutch) in the center of Maastricht is the 13th century church built as a monastery for Dominicans order. It has been restored in the 21st century and in 2007 a bookshop opened its doors in the church.
It’s an absolutely beautiful place and even if you’re not going to buy any books I recommend visiting it. We ended up buying a souvenir magnet of the bookshop to remind us about the place.
Vrijthof, Basilica of Saint Servatius and St. John Church
Vrijthof is the main town square of Maastricht. It’s quite big for a small town and surrounded by cafes, restaurants and historical buildings.
If you are visiting Maastricht during the Christmas period Vrijthof is the place to be. Well, the whole city is the place to be in December! With its Christmas markets, ice rink, Ferris wheel, all the lights and festive atmosphere the town turns into “Magical Maastricht”.
On the Vrijthof square you will also see some of the historical buildings of Maastricht. One of them is the Basilica of Saint Servatius – the 11th-century cathedral with rich history and a museum of religious artifacts inside – Treasury of the Basilica of Saint Servatius. Check their website for opening times and admission prices (only in Dutch).
Another heritage building on the Vrijthof is St. John Church (or ‘Sint-Janskerk’ in Dutch). This Gothic church stands next to the Basilica of Saint Servantus and features a tall red tower. Before the Covid-19 the tower was opened for visitors, so you could climb the stairs and enjoy the beautiful view over Maastricht. Check their website for opening hours and admission prices (only in Dutch).
The Onze Lieve Vrouweplein
Maastricht is not short on nice public squares in the historical part of the town. One of them is The Onze Lieve Vrouweplein – Square of Our Lady. There is a basilica with the same on the square – Basiliek van Onze Lieve Vrouwe (Basilica of Our Lady) – the 11th-12th century church with stained glass windows.
You will also find many cafes on the square and the surrounding streets. Our boys especially appreciated an ice cream shop and a chocolate cafe nearby.
Sint Servaasbrug is the oldest bridge in the Netherlands. It’s a stone pedestrian bridge over the Meuse River built in the 13th century. It was built in place of an old Roman bridge that collapsed and at that time was the only bridge over Meuse river. The original wooden Roman bridge actually gave name to the city of Maastricht – it meant ‘crossing of the Meuse’ in Latin.
Sint Servaasbrug has been renovated several times and now has a drawbridge attached to the main bridge.
You can cross Sint Servaasbrug, walk on the east bank of the river, along the Stenenwal street, passing the old city watergate – Waterpoortje. Return via Hoge Brug – a modern pedestrian bridge with nice views on the river and the city. Right into the green space of Maastricht’s riverfront park – Stadspark.
Maastricht is not only home to the oldest bridge, but also to the oldest city gate in the Netherlands!
Helport is a large city gate built around the 13th century as part of the wall around the city.
Interesting facts about Maastricht
We had a great time at Maastricht and would absolutely recommend visiting this small Dutch town. Even if you are just passing by and have a few hours to spare – go for it! You won’t regret making a short stop in Maastricht or spending a weekend in it.
Here are few interesting facts about Maastricht:
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. It has the oldest bridge – Sint Servaasbrug, and the oldest city gate – Helpoort in the Netherlands.
Maastricht is the birthplace of European Union and the Euro currency. Treaty of European Union (also known as The Maastricht Treaty) was signed by European countries in 1992 in the city of Maastricht. The single European currency – Euro – has been also established at that time.
While you probably already knew about the birthplace of European Union, I bet that next fact will surprise you.
Did you know that D’Artagnan, the hero of The Three Musketeers novel by Alexandre Dumas’, was based on a real historical figure? Charles de Batz de Castelmore (also known as D’Artagnan) was a French Musketeer who lived in the 17th century. What does it have to do with Maastricht? – you ask. Well, the real D’Artagnan died in 1673 during the Siege of Maastricht in the Franco-Dutch War. This event was mentioned in Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne.
The Dominicanen Bookshop in Maastricht has appeared in the popular British newspaper ‘The Guardian’. It has been mentioned as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. I couldn’t agree with it more!
After Maastricht, why not visit Cologne? It’s only one hour drive away! Read next my post about Cologne – What to see in Cologne in a day or two