Are you looking to visit a small historical Dutch city brimming with amazing architecture? Maastricht, the southern city in the Netherlands, is extremely close to the border of Belgium. It’s a lively city, drawing many visitors from its neighbouring countries, especially for its year-round festivals. Maastricht is second only to Amsterdam, for the highest number of national heritage buildings in all of the Netherlands. With all its historic buildings, one of the best things to do in Maastricht is to simply stroll the quaint streets of this pedestrian-friendly city. Use this guide to learn about which top attractions to see and the best places to visit in this historical city. 

About Maastricht The Netherlands

Considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands, Maastricht sits along the banks of the Meuse (Maas) River. The city is located in the southern province of Limburg, only 3 km from the border of Belgium and 20 km from the German border.

This historical city was settled by the Romans as it was an important stop along the trading route between Cologne Germany and the North Sea. It was fortified in the 3rd century, and again in the 14th century. History buffs will be fascinated to see the different architectural influences throughout the centuries in its key buildings scattered throughout the city. Another key moment in history was the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. The city became the symbol of the European Union, with the first meeting of the original 12 member states being held here. 

Top Things to See in Maastricht

City Hall

brown stone building with tower
Maastricht’s grand City Hall, built in the 17th century, is the city’s top attraction. The impressive tower features 49 bells. The City Hall is located on the main square, where a busy farmer’s market is held on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Basilica of Saint Servatius

Renaissance church with open door
The Basilica of Saint Servatius is a Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Servatius. It is adjacent to the Gothic church of Saint John, backing onto the town’s main square, Vrijthof. Its origins began around 570 when a large stone church was built. This church was replaced by a larger church in the late 7th century, which was then replaced by the present-day structure. It took over 100 years spanning the 11th and 12th centuries.

Basilica of Our Lady

church with stained glass windows
The Basilica of Our Lady, or Onze Lievre Vrouwekerk, is one of the oldest religious buildings in Maastricht. The impressive Romanesque façade was constructed in the 1100s. This church is known for its elaborate altar and vibrant stained glass windows.

Saint John Church

gothic church with red tower
The church of Saint John or Sint Janskerk, is one of Maastricht’s most popular landmarks. This 15th-century gothic-style church is most distinguished by its tall red tower.  

Vrijthof Square

square with table, chairs under trees
This became the city’s main market square in the 19th century. It’s lined with some of the city’s most significant landmarks. This lively square is a common meeting place, especially to enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants that line the square.

Hell’s Gate

stone gate with red door
City gate Helpoort, Hells gate, part of the old city wall in the centre of Maastricht, Limburg, the Netherlands

St Servatius Bridge

bridge over the Maas River in Maastricht, Netherlands
The St. Servaasbrug bridge connects the two sides of the city together. The old city center and the residential Binnenstad district.  This limestone bridge features seven piers and a draw bridge. It’s the oldest bridge in the Netherlands, with its origins dating back to AD 50. Of course, it has been rebuilt many times, the last being after WWII. 

Fort Sint Pieter

fort on grassy hill
Take a guided tour of Fort Saint Peter, or Sint Pieter and learn how this fortress was built to protect the Dutch region from the French. This is one of the city’s top tourist attractions.

Top Things to Do in Maastricht

Stroll the Streets in Maastricht

The wonderful winding streets of Maastricht are perfect for strolling. The streets are lined with boutique shops everything from décor to clothing to art, as well as cute cafés, restaurants, and bakeries.

Maastricht has distinct quarters and the best ones to seek out are:

  1. City centre – the old town is located between St. Servatius bridge, the Market, and Vrijthof square  
  2. Stokstraat quarter – a collection of streets next to the city centre quarter features exclusive shops with some of the best shopping in Maastricht
  3. Jerker quarter – is nestled between the old city walls and centuries-old houses known for its hip coffee houses and laid-back vibes
  4. Wyck quarter – is across the bridge and is the oldest quarter in Maastricht, with Rechtstraat the oldest street

Be sure to to go the Boekhanedel Dominicanen bookstore, built inside an old church. Even if you are not a book lover, it can be a great place to wander through with a coffee. Dominicanen is a short walk from city hall.

green bike leaning on tree

Go Underground

Maastricht Underground offers tours into sections of the vast tunnel network beneath the St-Pietersberg massif. The well-developed network of historical caves and tunnels once stretching 230km was created between the 1500s to 1800s to offer safety during times of siege. During WWII many people took shelter here during the bombing raids. This is one of the coolest and most unusual things to do in Maastricht. 

Visit a Museum

The most popular museum in Maastricht is Bonnefaten Museum. The unusual style of the building will capture your immediate attention. A large modern circular-shaped tower, resembling a barn silo, followed by an E-shaped building is unlike the rest of the architecture found in Maastricht. Exhibitions focus on fine art both historical and contemporary. Artwork from the 12th to 17th centuries as well as modern art from the 20th century can be found here. The Maastricht Natural History Museum is also a top museum in Maastricht to visit for history lovers. 

Try Limburg Pie

Maastricht is famous for its Vlaai or Limburg pie. This sweet pie has a rich creamy custard filling topped with crumbly streusel topping.

pies in shop window

There are many pie shops that serve both the traditional way or numerous varieties of vlaai–filled with chocolate, rice pudding, or fruits such as cherries, strawberries, apples, and bananas. Take your pick, they are all delicious. The best pie shops in Maastricht are:

  • Bisschopsmolen
  • Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans
  • or, Stadcafé Lure  

Visit Bishop’s Mill

The Bishop’s Mill or Bisschopsmolen, is the oldest and still working watermill in the city. Let your nose be your guide in finding this, as the heavenly scent of fresh bread and pies waffles through the air. You will see the bakers hard at work and can sample their treats at the adjacent cafe. 

watermill

Day Trips from Maastricht

The main city in Limburg is Maastricht. Here is a selection of places that can be visited on a day trip to/from Maastricht, not only in the Netherlands but also in Belgium and in Germany.

  1. Day Trips from Limburg villages -Valkenburg (15 mins), Sittard (30 mins), Thorn (30 mins) Hoensbroek Castle (25 min)
  2. Day Trips from Germany – Aachen (30 mins), Cologne (75 mins), Monschau (60 mins)
  3. Day Trips from Belgium – Liege (30 mins), Brussels (90 mins), Leuven (60 mins)

As a holidaymaker…

The city of Maastricht is such a beautiful setting along both banks of the River Maas. Let your feet be your guide. As you stroll through the streets, you will find some of the best well-preserved, historical landmarks that are Maastricht must-see sites. It’s a city that feels like you’ve stepped back in time, yet has a modern, hip vibe. Maastricht shopping, dining, and sightseeing are all reasons why this is one of the best day trips you can make whether you are in the Netherlands or Belgium. 

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16 Comments

  1. We would certainly want to visit what might be considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands. Wandering around Maastricht looks like a great way to see all the beautiful and varied architecture. But it sounds like we should head underground for a different view of this city. I know David will want to try that Limburg pie – but he might want his to be filled with chocolate. Looks like a stay for a few days would let us try some day trips too.

  2. I love how beautiful and grand these buildings look from the outside and the inside! It’s such a cute little place to explore within a day.

  3. I’m going to the Netherlands for the first time in a couple of weeks and if it’s half as amazing as I keep seeing I think I’ll have to plan more trips, with Maastricht being one of them. What a lovely town. The history lover in me likes the sound of the underground tour, how unique. And any kind of bakery and local sweet delicacy is always high on my list

  4. When I was in The Netherlands I considered Maastricht as a place to visit and now wish I did! The city reminds me of Belgium more than The Netherlands. Maybe that’s because I only visited Holland? Lovely write up.

  5. A beautiful place and to be honest, I would love to explore more in Belgium and The Netherlands. Their architecture and historic buildings really transport you back in time. Let’s see if Maastrich is so close to the German border, I may give it a go based on your recommendation. Germany is currently in talks of introducing a very cheap train ticket over the summer which would allow travel across the country very cheaply. I can see myself doing an adventure to the other side of the country including then a day trip to Masstrich.

  6. Wow! I love the beautiful architecture – no wonder why it’s considered one of the prettiest cities! Limburg pie sounds delicious!

  7. As a Brit I always remember Maastricht from my schoolday lessons as being the place wehre the EU was effectively founded, and have always wanted to see it for that alone.
    Now I see there is so much more to this beautiful city. From your decriptions it clearly holds the title of many of the oldest buildings and structures in the Netherlands.
    You had me at Limburg pie. I’ve not heard of this before but the sound of it is tempting me even more to get here.
    230 km of tunnels is impressive and no doubt were well used during WW2.
    I feel a trip to Maastricht is on the cards, especially as it is close to me and relatively cheap to fly to from the UK I hear. Thanks for an eyeopener to this city.

  8. I’ve been to the Netherlands several times and no one told me there’s a medieval city gate in Maastricht, or mentioned this city at all! I feel cheated!

    1. I’ve been twice to this city, that’s how amazing it is. It’s definitely a city worth returning to – great for history and architecture, shopping, eateries. It’s got such a good vibe. Highly recommend adding it to your itinerary when in Netherlands or Belgium.

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