Maastricht is a city in the south of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg, close to the Belgian and German borders. The city is built on both sides of the river Meuse (Dutch “Maas”) and probably takes its name from Mosae Trajectum, “Mosa crossing”, a bridge built in the area by the Romans in the reign of Augustus, around the turn of the eras. The Celts had probably settled there 500 years before the Romans, making it the Netherlands’ oldest settlement.

Because of the curious shape of the country and the city’s location, Maastricht has historically been influenced by German and Belgian culture as much as the Netherlands’ own. Today, Maastricht’s population includes a large number of students (particularly business, medical and foreign students), towards whom much of the city’s entertainment is geared.


In the summer, taking a river cruise is a good way of seeing Maastricht’s sights. Boats sail through the city past Mount St. Pieter, with its famous caves, to the Belgian border and back again. Click [ here] for times and other details. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour of the historic city centre in the Maastricht City Tram, which leaves from the Vrijthof hourly every day. Walking tours are also available via the [ tourist office].

The beautiful Basilica of St Servatius, originally founded around the year 560, is located on the Vrijthof and houses the saint’s remains. Now a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, the Basilica is open daily from 10am-5pm and includes a museum dedicated to the Netherlands’ first bishop.

Just to the south of the city, the hill of St Pietersberg has an early 18th century fort and a huge labyrinth of caves. Over 20,000 passages were formed as the hill was dug for Marl. In the Second World War the caves were used as hiding places. The cool (take a jacket), even temperatures have made them a popular spot for hibernating bats. The tourist office leads trips there one or more times a day, depending on the season.

Back in central Maastricht, the Natural History Museum includes displays of fossils found during the excavations of the St Pietersberg caves. These include the remains of Mosasauriers and giant turtles (finds in the area have been important enough to warrant the label “Maastrichtian interval” for the period between 71 and 65 million years ago).

For more modern and lively attractions, the [ Uitbalie] in the [ Theater on the Vrijthof] (Vrijthof 47) sells last-minute tickets to a huge number of cultural events.


Because large shopping malls have so far failed to proliferate in Maastricht, there are still lots of small, local shops left in their historical settings. (They can, however, be quite expensive.) Most are located in the city centre on both sides of the river. Shops are closed Monday mornings and Sundays, except the first Sunday of the month.

Speciality coffees and teas can be found at [ Maison Blanche Dael] Wolfstraat 28, open since 1877. Maastricht’s pralines, truffles and other chocolates are also excellent.

The Wyck Neighbourhood on the eastern bank of the river is one of the oldest areas of Maastricht. It has many high-quality shops, including fashion and design stores, antique shops and delicatessens.

On Wednesday and Friday mornings there is a general market at Market Square; on Thursdays farm products and local goods can be bought from the market on Stationstraat and a fish market can be found at Boschstraat on Fridays. Stationstraat is also the place for the flea market on Saturdays.

Nightlife and Dining

Maastricht has numerous cafés, restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs. Many of these can be found on Vrijthof Square, the city’s geographical and social centre. In the summer, there is plenty of outdoor seating and you can enjoy the sun and the views. In the winter an ice-rink provides a further attraction. Another lively place is Market Square with its stalls and 17th century town hall.

Maastricht has many good cafés and “coffee shops” – in some cases the name is little more than a euphemism as the greatest attraction is the cannabis they sell (legally). Another traditional speciality is a Vlaai, a kind of fruit tart that was first made in the Limburg province but that can now be found all through the Netherlands. Cave mushrooms, apple dumplings and gingerbread are other specialities. Bars and restaurants offer some of Limburg’s many locally-brewed beers and wines.

The Stokstraatkwartier Neighbourhood on the west bank of the Meuse has lots of picturesque terraces with cafés and restaurants, as well as galleries and upmarket shops.

Dining out in Maastricht is generally expensive. It is considered the culinary capital of Holland by many and the restaurants can be exclusive and pricey as a result. Aside from the places serving traditional Dutch and Limburg food, there are restaurants offering international cuisine of all kinds.

Tourist Information

Kleine Staat 16211 ED MaastrichtThe Netherlands

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[ VVV] is the tourist agency in Maastricht and throughout the country – look for VVV signs if you need help. [ Week in Week uit] is a free “culture agenda” magazine, available in many bars and shops.


[ Schiphol airport], just south of Amsterdam, is the Netherlands’ main airport. It serves destinations all over the world, including London airports and many other UK cities. To get to Maastricht from Schiphol (around 150 miles), take the A4 towards Amsterdam, drive around the south of the city on the A10 ring road, then take the A2 to Utrecht/Maastricht.

Maastricht is also served by the smaller, local [ Maastricht Aachen Airport]. Flights serve Amsterdam, Berlin, Bucharest and holiday destinations around the Mediterranean.