Maastricht – One of Europe’s Oldest Cities
Situated on both sides of the Meuse River, Maastricht is the capital city of Limburg province, the Netherlands. It boasts the second largest number of important landmarks and national heritage sites in the country, right after Amsterdam. Once a Roman city, it evolved into a religious center, then a garrison city, then an early industrial center, and finally into the point of origin for the European Union, the European currency, and the European citizenship.
Being an important center of history, folklore, art, culture and education, it attracts many tourists every year, but also a continuously growing number of international students. People who have been here before love the city for its numerous interesting sights and cultural attractions, but also for its various shopping and recreational opportunities.
Maastricht is believed by some to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, but that claim has been disputed by others. However, it is still part of the Most Ancient European Towns Network, and history enthusiasts have plenty of reasons to come here and enjoy this wonderful Dutch city. Many of its most remarkable sights can be seen around the inner harbor, locally known as Bassin. The beautiful city center can be explored by foot, but everything else is also within easy reach. Whether you are looking for a little active recreation, some relaxation, shopping, or fun with your kids, Maastricht has it all.
The aforementioned city center holds two majorly significant squares, each with its own landmarks. In the Markt you will discover the Town Hall, which is the central building of the square. It was built in the 17th century, with the tower being added a few decades later than the rest of the construction. The 49-bell carillon in the tower is played every Saturday. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Markt holds markets that attract many locals and tourists alike.
The Vrijthof Square is right at the heart of the city. Cafes and churches surround it, but the most significant attractions are the Basilica of St. Servatius (Sint Servaasbasiliek), which dates back to the year 1000, and the St. John’s Church (Sint Janskerk). The latter was constructed in the 17th century and is currently one of the most beautiful churches in the country. Its tall red tower can be climbed for sweeping views.
If after you’ve visited the two squares you decide that you don’t have any more time to see the rest of the city, we recommend that you make one more stop as you leave Maastricht behind. Just outside the city there are the historic St Pietersberg tunnels, dug in sandstone by the Romans. The defensive tunnels go under the city as well, and were created over a period of 2000 years. Approximately 13 species of bats were found living in these man-made caves. If you take a tour inside them, the guide will certainly tell you how they were used by people who needed a safe shelter during World War II. The experience is amazing and is definitely worth it.
- Maastricht is excellent to visit from spring until autumn.
- There are many museums worth visiting in the city, such as the Bonnefantenmuseum and the Spaans Gouvernement.
- Sour meat is locally known as Zoer vleis and it is a dish worth tasting.
- High-end hotels include the Crowne Plaza Maastricht, Hotel Derlon and Kruisherenhotel.