Maastricht is located in that tiny bit of land stretching out to the south of the Netherlands, a narrow strip of land in between Belgium and Germany. And the vestiges of a Roman city beginning here as early as 50 B.C. shows Maastricht to be the oldest city in the Netherlands. Because of its strategic location it has been contested land over the years, but the medieval city center shows few scars. It was here that in 1991 the Treaty of Maastricht was signed, the document that created the European Union.
Getting to Maastricht from Amsterdam or Brussels is relatively easy; while the train is fairly direct, you might have to switch trains depending on the route. The journey is a comfortable three hours from Amsterdam, and two hours from Brussels. Or, you can take a bus from Aachen, Germany or Leige, Belgium.
Historic City Center
Almost 1500 buildings throughout the center of Maastricht are protected. Start your journey in the main square, called the Vrijthof. It is lined with cafes with large terraces serving both Belgian and Dutch beer, especially Hoegaarden, made in a nearby Belgian town. Some of the historical attractions here include the two churches, Saint Jan and Saint Servaas; they are beautifully lit both day and night. An open market also fills the square on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The River Maas
Frequent boat tours near the main bridge allow one to get some perspective of Maastricht from the waters of the River Maas. The river separates the town into two distinct halves, and the lush green shores along the water can be best seen by boat. It is the perfect afternoon treat after a morning of sightseeing.
A stay in Maastricht is incomplete without a trip to the Mount Saint Peter Caves; these are not technically ‘caves’ but man-made shafts that were used as a siege shelter for many years, as recently as WWII. The caverns contain artwork, carvings, and inscriptions by those that stayed here; you must go with a guide to explore them. Tickets can be picked up from the VVV tourist office.
Another must-see attraction is the Bonnefantenmuseum, an eclectic art museum. Its collection focuses on contemporary art, the Flemish ‘old masters’, such as Rubens and Van Dyck and even ancient artwork. A smattering of Italian paintings and a gorgeous set of Maastrciht silver art objects rounds out the offering.
Spending the Night
Given its location and great nightlife due to the local university, it is best to at least spend one night in Maastricht. The best budget choice is the StayOkay , whereas those looking to splurge might opt for the gorgeous Kruisherenhotel.
Written by Andy Hayes, for EuropeUpClose.com