Maastricht Tourist Attractions
Maastricht, capital of the province of Limburg, lying on both banks of the Maas, has many attractions to offer visitors, especially historic buildings and art treasures.
It owes its present importance to its strategic situation in the Dutch-Belgian-German frontier region between the industrial areas of Aachen, Liège, Kempen and Limburg: a factor which has become of increasing importance since the establishment of the European Community. In addition to its cultural functions, reflected in its numerous educational establishments, Maastricht is a major commercial center, the chief town in an extensive surrounding area reaching across the Dutch frontier into Belgium. Its wholesale markets, particularly in vegetables and butter, are attracting increasing numbers of foreign buyers. Industry also plays a considerable part in the town's economy, the most important branches apart from the giant DSM (Dutch State Mines) chemical works being paper-making, leather-working, printing, ceramics, cement and glass. The tourist trade also makes a significant contribution to the economy.The Roman settlement of Traiectum ad Mosam or Traiectum Tungrorum, situated - as the name indicates - at an important crossing-point on the Maas where two military roads met, was founded about 50 B.C., and is thus one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands. The town was fortified in the third century A.D., and in 382 the episcopal see of Tongeren (Tongres) was transferred to Maastricht, which occupied a central situation in the kingdom of the Merovingians and Carolingians. In 722, however, the see was moved from Maastricht to Liège. Around 1202 the town passed into the hands of the Dukes of Brabant, who ruled it, along with the Prince-Bishops of Liège, until the end of the 18th century. In the 14th century the town was surrounded by fortifications, which in later centuries were regularly strengthened. The bridge over the Maas made Maastricht a place of strategic importance from the earliest times, and over the centuries it withstood more than 20 sieges. From 1621 it was one of the most important fortresses during the Dutch struggle with the Spaniards. The establishment of the kingdom of Belgium in 1830 considerably hampered its economic development, since it was now cut off from much of its hinterland and occupied a peripheral situation in the Netherlands. Around 1867 the fortifications began to be dismantled and demolished. Since the signing of the "Maastricht Treaty" in 1992 the town has become the symbol of the European Union. The Summit Meeting of the 12 member states was held in Linberg House.
The Wilhelminabrug (1930-32; fine views of town) leads directly to the spacious Markt. The seven-arched St Servaasbrug was originally built in the 13th century, and also offers a good view of the town. On the bridge can be seen a modern statue of St Servaas (Servatius). Near the bridge a semicircular structure erected in 1984, marks the spot where the Romans built the first bridge over the river.
On the right bank of the Maas lies the Wijk district of Maastricht, with the railroad station and St Maartenskerk (Rechtstraat 2), built by P. J. H. Cuypers in 1854 after the demolition of an earlier church. From here two bridges cross the river to the left bank, on which most of the town lies. The quay wall on the east bank is a relic of the town walls round Wijk.
At the west end of the St Servaasbrug is Burgstraat, from the far end of which Kleine Staat (to the right) and Grote Staat (to the left) lead to the Vrijthof, shaded by lime-trees. As the name indicates (vrijt = "free"), this was always an open space. Originally a cemetery, it later became the parade ground of the garrison. Flanking it are the former Guard-House, St Servaaskerk, St Janskerk and a number of cafes and terraces. To the north and south are two other road bridges and a railroad bridge.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
A 16th C. residence that once was the home of the Dukes of Brabant. Included in the museum's collection is a variety of paintings, sculptures, furniture displays, glassworks and silverworks.
The old Town Hall (Stadhuis), in the Markt, was built by Pieter Post between 1658 and 1644 as a Cloth Hall. It has a neo-classical facade with pilasters and a handsome doorway approached by an imposing double staircase, designed to enable the two rulers of Maastricht, the Duke of Brabant and the Prince-Bishop of Liège, to enter the Town Hall simultaneously. In the tower (1684) is a Hemony carillon of 43 bells. Notable features of the interior are the tapestries, the stucco ornament, the ceiling paintings and the fine chimney pieces.
North of the Town Hall, in Boschstraat, stands St Mathiaskerk (14th-16th C.; R.C.), the building of which was largely financed by cloth merchants. It has a beautiful 15th century Pietà.
Limburg Museum of Art and Antiquities
Southwest of the Markt lies Dominicanerplein. The Limburg Museum of Art and Antiquities (Limburgs Museum voor Kunst en Oudheiden) or Bonnefanten Museum was housed at No. 5 from 1987 to 1993. The name refers to the museum's former home in a convent of Sepulchrine nuns, popularly known as the Bonnefanten because they brought up girls to be good, well-behaved children ("bonnes enfants"). The convent, in Bonnefantenstraat, which had at one time also been a barracks, now houses the University Library.At present No. 5 Dominicanerplein is being used as an information center. The top Milanese architect Aldo Rossi has designed a palace-like edifice with a massive conical tower which will be opened in 1995. This will then house the exhibits of the Bonnefanten Museum; these include paintings from the south of the Netherlands (including Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Younger and Rubens), as well as Italian and modern works, prehistoric material (e.g. grave goods from a large tomb at Meerlo), Roman and early medieval grave goods found near St Servaaskerk, and a model of the old town.
Address: Avenue Céramique 250, Maastricht, Limburg 6201 BS, Netherlands
Opening hours: 11am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €7.00, Child 18 & under €3.50, Child 13 & under FREE
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
The stone-built Dominican church in Dominicanerplein dates from the 13th century. There are remains of wall paintings of 1337 and 1619 on the vaulting. Most of the Dominican friary to which the church belonged has been demolished.
The original St Servaaskerk was built in the 6th C, atop the grave of St Servatius. The oldest portion of the current church dates to the year 1000, making it the oldest church in the country.
Henric van Veldekeplein
Southeast of the Vrijthof, set in gardens in the Henric van Veldekeplein, is a statue (by Charles Vos, 1934) of the first Dutch poet, Henric van Veldeke, best known for his translation of the legend of St Servatius.
The Gothic St Janskerk in Henric van Veldekeplein dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and has been a Reformed church since 1632. Its most notable features are its tower, over 70m/230ft high, and its pulpit in Louis XVI style. The church can be seen after service on Sundays.
Natural History Museum
Farther south of Henric van Veldekeplein, by way of Bouillonstraat, is Bosquetplein. In this square is Maastricht's Natural History Museum, which illustrates the geological development of South Limburg with displays of fossils and different types of rock. There is also a biological section with collections of regional flora and fauna.
Address: Bosquetplein #6-7, Maatricht, Limburg 6211 KJ, Netherlands
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 2pm-5pm; Sat: 2pm-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian, Pentecost Sunday (Whit Sunday) - Christian, Ascension Thursday - Christian, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €4.50, Senior €3.00, Group discounts €3.00, Child 11 & under €3.00, Child 3 & under FREE
From the Natural History Museum Grote Looierstraat and Lange Grachtje run east into St Pieterstraat, in which is a former Minorite friary (13th C.). After the Minorites were expelled from the town for treachery in 1638 their church, the Minderbroederskerk, was used as an arsenal and military hospital. Since 1880 it has housed the Rijksarchief, the Archives of Limburg.
Farther east of Rijksarchief are some remains of the first circuit of town walls (1229) - the Helpoort (Hell Gate) at St Bernardusstraat 24, the oldest town gate in the Netherlands, which is now the home of a local artist, and the Jekertoren (tower) and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwewal in the street of that name. From the top of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwewal there are fine views of the municipal park with its five old cannons, the Maas and the Wijk district. The principal remnant of the town's second circuit of walls (ca. 1350) is the Pater Vink Toren, named after Pater Vink, unjustly executed by the Spanish authorities in 1579. A little way south, between two 16th century bastions washed by the river Jeker, there is a picturesque view of the Helpoort, the town's principal churches and the municipal park.
Church of Our Lady
On the east side of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwenplein stands Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, the Church of Our Lady. Of the original church built about the year 1000 only the lower part of the west work survives. Around 1150 the building of the west work, the crypts and the transepts began; the east choir was built about 1200, followed by the gallery over the ambulatory and in the 16th century by the northwest doorway. The fortress-like character of the Romanesque west work with its two stair turrets recalls the church's former function as an element in the town's fortifications; in its monumental simplicity it is unique in the Netherlands. The Late Gothic choir with its large crypt is a particularly notable feature of the interior. The capitals of the black columns in the ambulatory (12th C.) are richly carved. The side chapel containing the image of Onze Lieve Vrouwe Sterre der Zee (Our Lady Star of the Sea) dates from the 15th century, as does the rebuilding of the northwest doorway.The vaulting of the nave, though in 15th century style, dates only from the 18th century. Other features of interest are the west crypt, which belonged to the earlier church, the church treasury, the beautiful 16th century cloister and the west tower.
On the east side of Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk is Stockstraat, which, like Meestrechter Smedenstraat at its north end, is lined with smart shops and 17th and 18th century houses with decorative gable-stones in typical Maasland style.
At the end of Stockstraat can be seen a statue (by Mari Andriessen, 1961) of the "Meestrechter Geis", a character from Loe Maas's operetta "Four Maastrichters on their Way to the Moon" (1955) who expresses the cheerful, easygoing way of the hospitable people of Maastricht.
Op de Thermen
Just to the west of Stockstraat is a small square, Op de Thermen, with colored lines marking the position of the Roman baths which were excavated here.
Farther north of Stockstraat, at Kleine Staat 1, is the Dinghuis, with half-timbered walls and a handsome stone gable. Originally built in 1470 as a town hall, it was for many years the seat of the High Court: hence the name Dinghuis (Courthouse). In the cellars of the building, now occupied by the tourist information office (VVV), are torture chambers which bear witness to this earlier function.
In Tongerseplein, on the west side of the town, are the casemates built between 1575 and 1825 - a maze of vaulted underground passages, powder stores and bomb-proof rooms which can be seen by arrangement (apply to the tourist information office); the entrance is at the Waldeck Bastion.
The new Provinciehuis (provincial government headquarters) at Limburglaan 10 in the Wijk district, opened in 1986, is an example of contemporary architecture in a very individual style. This irregularly shaped red-brick building with its numerous angles and turrets stands partly on the right bank of the Maas and partly on an island in the river. Its picturesque situation makes a walk there well worth while; the interior can be seen by arrangement (apply to the reception desk).
Exhibition and Congress Center
During renovations of the hotel, 2nd to 4th C. Roman remains were uncovered. Visitors can see these remains at the hotel, which is also open for business.
A number of events of note occur in this city throughout the year, with music, art, and culinary delights.
European Fine Art Fair
European Fine Art Fair.The The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht is one of the world's most important annual art and antique events. Visitors have the opportunity to view and purchase fine art pieces.
Jazz Festival.The annual Jazz Festival in Maastricht takes place in October and attracts large numbers of visitors to the city.
This annual weekend festival takes place in late August. All types of Dutch food and drink are offered, making the festival a gourmet's paradise.
A number of attractions of note lie beyond the borders of the city.
St Pietersberg Caves
To the south of Maastricht are the St Pietersberg Caves, a widely ramified system of tunnels and passages, formed over many centuries by the quarrying of the local marlstone, which provided shelter for the inhabitants during the town's many sieges. Originally there were some 20,000 passages with a total length of 200km/125mi. During the Second World War some of the passages were enlarged, a well was dug and storerooms, a bakery and even a chapel were constructed, providing accommodation in which most of the town's population could take refuge and live for a considerable period.Since the rocks were formed on the bottom of an inland sea large numbers of fossils can be seen in the walls of the caves. The constant low temperature in the caves, shut off as they are from any strong inflow of air, provides ideal conditions for mushroom growing. There are regular conducted tours of the caves.
Fort St Pieter
The entrance to St Pietersberg Caves is in Fort St Pieter, on the north side of the hill. The fort, built in 1702 on a pentagonal plan, has bomb-proof rooms and a circular gallery with embrasures and a number of old cannon. It is open to visitors.
Cadier en Keer
About 5km/3mi west of Maastricht lies Cadier en Keer, with the Africa Center, which illustrates the cultures of West Africa with displays of everyday articles, objects used in ritual ceremonies and other exhibits.
Map of Maastricht Attractions