Maastricht – Southernmost Dutch City

Maastricht

To be honest, I knew little about Maastricht except that it’s the birthplace of André Rieu, world-renowned Dutch musician. I would soon discover that Maastricht was one of the most besieged cities in Europe for at least twenty times and today, it’s transformed into a university city. It was also in this city that the European Union was conceptualised two and a half decades ago. Maastricht is bisected by The Meuse (Maas River in Dutch), with the old cobbled section of the city situated mainly on the western riverbank. More interesting, the city centre is only 4km away from the Belgian border and 29km away from the German border.

Maastricht

Just back from Leipzig barely two months ago, this time hubby was going to attend the European Vascular Course that was held at the MECC Maastricht. Yup, even I thought it was insane to be travelling to Europe a total of three times (including Rome last September) in the last six months. Anyway, the weather in Maastricht towards the end of winter (early March) was more tolerable as the temperature was ranging between 6-12°C. Daily showers of rain were the only “problem” that could hamper any outdoor plans (Tip: prepare umbrellas or ponchos if you’re visiting around this time).

 

Flight

This trip was fully sponsored and the business class ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam on Qatar Airways came up to a whopping RM16855.38 per person inclusive of taxes. Well, we could only dream of enjoying such a privilege once in a lifetime. There was a short period of layover at Hamad International Airport, the same airport we were at six months ago. The only remarkable thing this time was a complimentary access to the exquisite Al Mourjan Business Lounge. Having had the opportunity to explore several airport lounges around the world, you’ve to take my word for it that Al Mourjan is hands down the best!

Al Mourjan business lounge

 

Accommodation

Since this was some sort of a business trip, everything was taken care of without any hassle on our part. Four nights accommodation at Apart Hotel Randwyck amounted to €432 (RM2058) inclusive all taxes. Truthfully, it’s just an average hotel which is located approximately 2.5km from the city centre. But, it’s one of the two only hotels within walking distance from the venue of the course, MECC Maastricht.

Apart Hotel

 

Transportation

Located 217km south of Amsterdam, Maastricht was not at all difficult to reach, thanks to the well-connected rail system of the Netherlands – Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The commute from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Maastricht (changing train at Utrecht) consumed a total duration of two hours and forty minutes. A one-way ticket would cost €26.99 (RM130.75). The speed of the wifi in the train was impressive, thereby making the journey not so dull.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen

Nederlandse Spoorwegen
Changing trains at Utrecht central train station.

From Maastricht central train station to the hotel was another 25-minute walk (1.8km). Within the city, cycling was definitely the best mode of transportation and the road infrastructure appeared very safe for cyclists. In fact, there were probably more bicycles on the road than cars.

Maastricht central train station

 

Sightseeing In Maastricht

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (The Dome Church)
Koepelkerk (Sacred Heart of Jesus Church) A Catholic church aka The Dome Church that was built between 1921-1953. Its colossal structure took us by surprise as we walked out of the Maastricht central train station, reminiscent of the basilicas in Rome.
Bonnefantenmuseum
Bonnefantenmuseum – Located at Céramique on the eastern riverbank of The Meuse (Maas River), this is a museum of fine arts.
Maas Point Tower
Maaspunttoren (Maas Point Tower) Built in the 13th century, this medieval tower is part of the old city wall in the neighbourhood of Wyck.
Simon Mertens Gate
Waterpoortje (Simon Mertens Gate) This 13th-century medieval structure is the water gate that was used for accessing the city from The Meuse (Maas River).
The Five Heads
De Vijf Koppen (The Five Heads) This is the first bastion of the city wall fortification in the neighbourhood of Jekerkwartier that was built in the 13th century.
Hell's Gate
Helpoort (Hell’s Gate) A huge gate with two towers – Jekertoren (Jeker Tower), built in the 13th century, it is the oldest city gate in the Netherlands. A row of old cannons can be seen along its rampart – Onze Lieve Vrouwewal (Our Lady Vrouwewal),
Saint Bernard Street
Walking through Helpoort (Hell’s Gate) into the cobbled Sint Bernardusstraat (Saint Bernard Street).
Basilica of Our Lady
Basiliek van Onze Lieve Vrouwe (Basilica of Our Lady) Built in the 11th century, this stunning Roman catholic basilica is possibly the oldest church in Maastricht.
Stick Street
Stokstraat (Stick Street) This street is where archeological excavations have shown that several buildings from the middle and late Roman period were built across it. After going through expensive rejuvenation, it is a popular place for luxury shopping today.
The Bisschopsmolen
De Bisschopsmolen – Chanced upon this old mill with a water-operated wheel in its backyard. Next to it is a bakery with a cafe and museum.
First Franciscan Church
Oude Minderbroederskerk (First Franciscan Church) The oldest surviving Franciscan church that was built within the old city wall at the end of the 13th century.
Dutch Reformed Church
Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) Located opposite the Old Minderbroederskerk (First Franciscan Church), this baroque style church building was originally known as the Walloon Church (French Church).
Augustinian Church
Augustijnenkerk (Augustinian Church) – Located along The Meuse (Maas River), this baroque church was originally built as a monastery for the Order of Augustinian.
Mosae Forum
Mosae Forum – The most popular shopping centre that is located between Markt (Market Square) and The Meuse (Maas River).
Hall of Maastricht
Markt (Market Square) The best-known market in Maastricht, set up here every Wednesday and Friday from 9am to 4pm. In the middle of it is the Stadhuis van Maastricht (Hall of Maastricht), its historic town hall, which has a bell that chimes every 30 minutes.
Saint Matthias Church
Sint-Matthiaskerk (Saint Matthias Church) Built in the 14th-16th century along Boschstraat (leads to Markt), this church is dedicated to the apostle Matthias.
Dominicans Bookstore
Boekhandel Dominicanen (Dominicans Bookstore) Occupying the former 13th-century Dominicanenkerk (Dominicans Church), it is undoubtedly one of the coolest bookstores in the world with a cafe within, a definite must-see in Maastricht.
Vrijthof
Vrijthof – Largest and best-known square in Maastricht with the Protestant’s Sint-Janskerk (Saint John’s Church) on the left and the Catholic’s Basiliek van Sint Servaas (Basilica of Saint Servatius) on the right.
Maastricht University
Universiteit Maastricht (Maastricht University) Founded in 1976, it is the second youngest Dutch university. Seen here is the building which houses the Rechtsgeleerdheid (Faculty of Law).
Rivier de Jeker met Poortgebouw (River Jeker with Gatehouse) Chanced upon this amazing little house that sits above the tiny River Jeker.
City Wall
Stadsmuur (City Wall) Part of Maastricht’s remaining fortifications that were built over the centuries.
Henri Hermans Park
Henri Hermanspark – Walking through this park which has a deer park and aviary was like walking through a zoo, except that this was free.
Saint Pieter Fort
Fort Sint Pieter (Saint Pieter Fort) A hexagonal fortification full of tunnels and casemates. It was in this spot that Louis the XIV’s forces breached the walls of Maastricht. A combination ticket for both this fort and Grotten Noord (North Caves) costs €10.20 (RM48.20).
North Caves
Grotten Noord (North Caves) A labyrinth of caves beneath Sint-Pietersberg (Mount Saint Peter), measuring over 80km long that was excavated by miners over a few centuries for limestone. Top left is one of the many drawings that can be found in the caves. Bottom right is the Rijksbewaarplaats (National Storage Facility) No. 9 which kept Rembrandt’s famous Nachtwache (Night Watch) safe during World War II.
Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie (First Dutch Cement Industry) View of the gigantic quarry from a skybridge that overhangs it. On the left are the tunnels that lead to Grotten Zonneberg (Zonneberg Caves). This is a must-see and it is located just 1km south of Grotten Noord (North Caves).
Statue of D'Artagnan
Statue of D’Artagnan – Dedicated to famous musketeer, Captain-Lieutenant Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan, who was killed during the French siege in 1673.
Saint Martin's Church
Sint Martinuskerk (Saint Martin’s Church) This net-gothic church is probably the tallest structure on the eastern riverbank of The Meuse.

 

Eateries

Hubby’s course ended quite late almost everyday, thus preventing a more adventurous food exploration in the city. Furthermore, most of the days had been pretty wet which lasted for quite a significant number of hours. The best and only option around MECC Maastricht was Bar Bizonder in Hotel NH Maastricht, where we dined thrice. It served a wide range of international cuisines and the quality of which was excellent. A decent meal would average around €15 (RM70.80).

Hotel NH Maastricht

It’s ironic to end up in a Mediterranean restaurant while exploring the city on one evening, which was certainly unplanned but we were left with no choice but to seek shelter in this restaurant when the rain started pouring. So why not just have dinner, right? It turned out that to have dinner at Laus Mediterranean Kitchen wasn’t a bad decision after all. You might want to check out this restaurant that is located nearby the Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein (Square of Our Lady), the next time you’re in Maastricht.

Laus Mediterranean Kitchen

 

Peculiar Things

Perhaps due to its longstanding history and proximity to the United Kingdom, the Dutch are rather eloquent in English. I don’t find any problems at all communicating with most of them. This information should give you the peace of mind when travelling to Maastricht and I believe the same applies to the rest of the Netherlands.

What about drinking directly from the tap? As in most of Western Europe, tap water in the Netherlands is safe for consumption. However, most restaurants will still not serve you a free glass of tap water. You’ll only get bottled water (of course then you have to pay). I’ve written so much about this important asset in my previous posts on Rome and Leipzig. Interestingly, I found a helpful illustration that summarizes it.

Daphne's Escapades

Daphne's Escapades

Just like Johann Sebastian Bach is to Leipzig, André Rieu has also made Maastricht famous through classical music. Having said that, André travels around the world so extensively that his sensational Johann Strauss Orchestra only performs at the Vrijthof, Maastricht in July. Missed it! Sad

 

 

NOTES:

All photos and information on Daphne’s Escapades are copyright protected. Please do not use any of the images or content without any prior permission. Should you wish to share this post, please direct this post to its original source.

8 Comment

  1. The rail system in the Netherlands really is super easy and quick. I would love to see Stick Street. It looks so romantic lit up like that at night with all of the stone work. Is good to know you can get by with English as I don’t know how easy Dutch is to learn:)

  2. I really loved this post! The information you have given is really wonderful and I really enjoy looking at all the photos you posted. Maastricht looks like such a lovely place. My partner’s family is from the Netherlands (Delft) and we plan to travel there next year. I would love to use this time to also see Maastricht and perhaps also have a quick tour through Belgium while I am there.

  3. Having travelled most of Europe I’m quite embarrassed to say I’ve never heard of Maastricht either before this post. I love the Netherlands and Amsterdam is amazing, but when I visit next, it looks like Maastricht will be on my list for sure 🙂 Those eateries look stunning and very modern, just my kind of restaurant!

  4. Gareth says: Reply

    This was an extremely readable and indeed thorough post. Certainly, for most tourists to Holland, a vast majority don’t make it much further than the capital but there is so much more to see, as your photos suggest, not to mention being a great spot to explore other countries. And well done on bagging a fully sponsored business class flight!

  5. Such a lovely and detailed post about Maastricht. The impressions that I got from your snapshots are truly beautiful and make Maastricht look like a very cozy place. I didnt know that Andrê Rieu is coming from Maastricht, interesting fact. Most interesting for me is the Tap Water graphic, this looks pretty obvious. Even though also in Western Europe there are areas, where I would definitely not drink Tap Water.
    The Hell’s Gate looks truly impressive, would love to see this one day with my own eyes!

  6. Maastricht is such a beautiful and historical place and it has so much to offer, and I have no idea that the idea of EU was born there. As a bookworm, I would just sit in the cafe in the Dominicans Bookstore and devour all the books there. It is such a wonderful place to spend the day walking around and observing the beautiful architectures, and you captured the city perfectly.

  7. These are pretty interesting info about Maastricht. It is rich of beautiful architectures and sceneries. The place looks peaceful and pleasant. I hope that I can visit this place someday.

  8. Wow, the pictures got me hooked. I had to go back again to the top to read the text. I did not know about the place before reading this. I love places which have lots of interesting history to tell.

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