May 4th, 2017, 06:40 PM

A Guide to Maastricht

By Hedvig Werner
Image Credit: Mark Ahsmann
A vibrant university city in the south east of the Netherlands.

Maastricht is the biggest city in the Dutch province of Limburg with a population of about 120,000 inhabitants. It is home to Maastricht University with departments spread all throughout the city. Maastricht is extremely close to the borders of both Belgium and Germany—the border of Belgium being only a 20 minute bike ride away. The Maas river divides the city into two parts, but connected by various bridges. The city might not be the usual vacation spot when visiting the Netherlands, but it's a charming city distinguished by a thriving cultural scene, student community and medieval style architecture. Hire a bike, and experience all of what Maastricht has to offer.

VRIJTHOF

Image Credit: Jorge Franganillo

The center point of Maastricht must be Vrijthof — a city square surrounded by restaurants, bars, and monuments. It's the home of the St. John's church, a Gothic style church, and Basilica of Saint Servatius, a Romanesque style church. Basilica of Saint Servatius, or Sint-Servaasbasiliek in Dutch, is considered to be the oldest existing church in the Netherlands. Sit down with a couple of friends at one of the cafés by Vrijthof square, and then perhaps hop over to Pinky's afterwards to top it all off with a delicious ice cream and waffle. 

St. John's church on the left and Sint-Servaasbasiliek on the right. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

RETRO & CHIC VINTAGE

Image Credit: Retro & Chic 

Maastricht has a wonderful selection of stores for anyone who enjoys a bit of shopping, but the store Retro & Chic is certainly something special. It's a vintage and second hand store with an extraordinarily friendly staff wishing to cater to every customer's need or question. If interested in a blue British worker's jacket from the 1950s, a 1970s flower power silk shirt, or flapper shoes from the 1920s — this is the place for you. They have jackets, shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, and accessories from any 20th century decade imaginable. The owners have a store in Amsterdam as well. 

Image Credit: Retro & Chic 

Heggenstraat 2
+31624933582
Open from 11:00-18:00 Monday to Wednesday, 11:00-21:00 Thursday, 11:00-18:00 Friday and Saturday, 12:00-18:00 Sunday.

CAFÉ ZONDAG

Image Credit: Café Zondag

Strolling down Wycker Bruugstraat from the train station in the direction of the Maas river, you will eventually pass the charming Café Zondag on the right side of the street. It is the perfect place to grab lunch — offering up a selection of tapas, sandwiches, salads, and paninis. It's always quite a popular spot, so if possible, try to catch a table outside. 


Image Credit: Café Zondag

Wycker Brugstraat 
+31433219300
Open from 10:00-02:00 Monday to Thursday, 10:00-03:00 Friday and Saturday, 10:00-02:00 Sunday.

PLATIELSTRAAT

Engage in some bar hopping along the Platielstraat — a street filled with eager students running between all the cheap bars. If lucky you might be greeted with a shot of liquor 43 by the door. De Twee Heren (translation: The Two Gentlemen) is a popular spot on the Platielstraat — regularly visited by both students and locals. The bar plays a mixture of 70s, 80s, and 90s music. Platielstraat is easily accessible from Vrijthof square.

Image Credit: Bert Kaufmann, Wikimedia Commons

LUMIÈRE CINEMA 

Most people might not usually go to the cinema when visiting a new city, but why not? Filmhuis Lumière is set in an old factory building, which makes for an interesting movie experience as a whole. The cinema prides itself on showing a combination of smaller independent films and more mainstream cinema. According to their website, they show up to 300 art-house films a year. Their program also consists of cinema lectures, showcases for local and regional filmmakers, and events that are arranged through partnerships with national film festivals. This is a paradise for cinephiles, but there is also room for the occasional movie-goer. In addition, the cinema also has a restaurant. A suggestion would be to grab a Sunday cinema breakfast at their restaurant before the noon showing begins. It's recommended to make a reservation via phone or at their box office beforehand to be sure of table availability. 


Lumière Cinema. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

Bassin 88
+31(0)43 321 40 80 88
Ticket office: open from 11:00-01:00 Sunday to Thursday, 11:00-02:00 Friday and Saturday 
Restaurant: open from 17:00-22:00 Monday and Tuesday, 13:00-22:00 Wednesday to Friday, 11:00-22:00 Saturday and Sunday 

FORT SINT PIETER

Fort Sint Pieter was built around 1701-1702. The fort is positioned on the northern part of the mountain St. Pietersberg. Although considered a "mountain", the rest of the world might rather regard St. Pietersberg a hill, as it measures only 107 meters above sea levels. The actual fort was used for military functions until about 1867, but has ever since been a national monument. Maastricht's positioning made the city often vulnerable to sieges by foreign rulers because of its strategic placement, and it's therefore possible to find several walls or forts situated all around the city from the different time periods.. Cycle around the city to discover the ruins of a different time — the hill leading up to Fort St. Pieter is not particularly steep. 

Fort St. Pieter. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

BONNEFANTENMUSEUM

The Bonnefanten is a modern art museum featuring artists such as Luciano Fabro, Richard Serra, and Robert Mangold in their permanent collection. Also featured is a later generation of artists such as René Danïels, Imi Knoebel, and Luc Tuymans. The museum is dedicated to showcasing local artists from around the Maastricht area, so a visit to the Bonnefanten museum is the perfect place to catch a glimpse into the artistic culture of Maastricht and its surroundings. The museum is situated along the Maas river, which makes for a spectacular view. It's not just unique for its representation of Dutch local artists, but also for the museum's distinctive modern style architecture. 

Bonnefantenmuseum. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

STADSPARK & HELPOORT

Stadspark is a large park on the southern west side of the city where both the young and old love to spend for instance a sunny Sunday afternoon relaxing on the grass. The perimeter of the park is separated from the city by a far-stretching medieval city wall that is connected to the gate Helpoort (translation: Gate of Hell). It's possible to walk on top of the wall for parts of it, which is definitely a recommended activity. Surprisingly, in certain parts of the Stadspark it's possible to spot some sweet wallabies and other animals casually enjoying the sun. 

Helpoort. Image Credit: Sergey Ashmarin, Wikimedia Commons

The Helpoort dates back to the second quarter of the 13th century—the oldest medieval gate to exist in all of Netherlands. It is now a national monument, and it's located in the Jekerkwartier. 

Stadspark and medieval city wall. Image Credit: Mark Ahsmann, Wikimedia Commons

So if Maastricht sounds like a tempting getaway for perhaps a long weekend, the cheapest travel option would be the bus. Flixbus offers one-way tickets starting from €16, but if the bus is too much of a hassle there is always the train. Through the website Trainline, train tickets are offered at €68.50 if purchased at least 28 days in advance.