Maastricht is a quaint university town just like Lille. With the gorgeous architecture and the peaceful river, Maastricht should be on everyone’s travel list!
A special thank you to the
for all of the information. Maastricht Tourism Office P.S. If you go during the winter and are looking for a nice warm snack to have while you people-watch, the restaurant outside of the church-turned-library has the most delicious bitterballen and very comfortable winter outside seating.
City Walk St. Pieter Fort North Caves
The Romans built the first bridge in Maastricht in the 13th century. Made of wood, the bridge collapsed in 1275 and was rebuilt in stone. The Sint-Servaasbrug bridge is believed to be the oldest bridge in the Netherlands.
With its brick, limestone and grey-stone facade, this building is a typical example of the Maastricht renaissance. At a time when people could not yet read, pictograms were used to define the building's purpose. Can you guess what this building was used for originally? [I won't spoil your fun 😉 The answer is in the next description.]
There are several instances around town that suggest the strong influence that the French had on the city. In French architecture, the use of stone is used as a symbol of wealth as it was expensive to buy and transport. While these owners wanted to show that they were wealthy, notice that they have only done the facade in stone. The rest of the house is actually built out of brick.
(Answer : Notice the gold lion on the facade of the previous picture. In French, "gold lion" is
lion d'or, which sounds remarkably similar to lit on dort meaning "bed on which we sleep". Thus, the building on the previous picture was likely a hotel.)
Following that logic, one might think that the owners of this house were significantly wealthier. Yet, if you look closely, these owners also took a shortcut. They simply took a less obvious one. Do you see a difference between the stone on the facade and that one the side? The stone on the facade is grey-stone, while that on the side is limestone, which was produced nearby and significantly cheaper to acquire.
The square Plein 1992 is at the heart of the old ceramic district. In the 1830s, the Netherlands built its first steam engine. After that, the technology was used to power the Industrial Revolution in the Netherlands. The ceramic industry was at the heart of this Industrial Revolution. The white greenhouse-looking building was built in 1880 to serve as a factory for Société Céramique. (Today, it is a theater.) The tall building to the right is called the Centre Céramique, a museum explaining the history of the ceramic industry in Maastricht. In 2006, the two largest ceramics companies--Spinx and Société Céramique merged--giving way to the revitalization of the district.
Note: If you are there in person, take a look at the ground. It will give you a hint about the importance of the building at the next stop.
The two fire-shaped buildings in the distance house the government of the Dutch province of Limburg, of which Maastricht is the capital. If you look closely, you will see that the two fire-shapes are actually connected by a bridge to form one large building. Built in 1986, this building housed the signing of the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, which created the European Union and the Euro.
that do justice to the intricacy of the building.)
In Maastricht, you will notice throughout the city the remnants of the city fortification wall, which was in place until 1900.
Helport is the last remaining gate in the city fortifications. Built in the late 13th century, it got its name from the adjacent street : Hell Street.
Pieke oet de Stokstraot is a statue of a boy who sold cigarettes to survive during one of the poorest periods of Maastricht history. The statue is inspired by a novel by Bèr Hollewijn and was completed in 1996.
Built in the 11th century, the Basilica of Our Lady (or
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwebasiliek) is known for its statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. It is located on Our Dear Lady Square ( Onze Lieve Vrouweplein), once named the most beautiful square of the Netherlands.
The Derlon Hotel Maastricht, located right next to the Basilica is said to be the only 5 star hotel in Maastricht even though it has actually only been awarded four stars. The reason why it was never awarded five stars is because it does not have a pool. In protest, it placed the city's crest in the middle of its four stars, making it look like it is actually a five-star hotel.
Built in the 7th century, the
Bisschopsmolen (or Bishop’s Mill) is the oldest functioning mill in the Netherlands.
During the Middle Ages, the mill was owned by the Brewers' Guild, and all of the beer malt was ground by this mill.
The mill is to this day powered by the Jeker River.
Notice the round windows. At one point, the city had 90 functioning mills throughout the city, all used for various tasks (ex. paper mill).
Today, the mill includes a coffee shop where you can taste the regional dessert :
vlaai (or the Dutch version of pie).
Remnants of the wall attached to an adorable wall
Built in the early 14th century, the First Franciscan Church of Maastricht and the former monastery complex of the Friars Minor have housed the Regional Historic Center since 1881. This conversion of monasteries to archives, libraries, universities and social housing is a very prominent phenomenon in Maastricht. At one point, Maastricht had a total of forty monasteries, compared to only five today.
Once the city fortifications were no longer in use, people looked to use the extra space to build houses. Check out this tiny house at Looierstraat 4!
Once the ceramic industry moved out of Maastricht, the city shifted its economic structure from being an industrial city to being a university city. The University of Maastricht was founded in 1976 to attract citizens (and money) to the city.
Near the University of Maastricht is located the Statue of Fons Olterdissen, the writer of the city's anthem. He is an important cultural figure for the city as he wrote extensively in the local dialect. Olterdissen is depicted here reciting to his three children. The statue was sculpted by Willem Hofhuizen and unveiled in 1961.
This ex-church at 4 Zwingelput is now the University College of Maastricht
University of Maastricht Student Services Centre
University of Maastricht Faculty of Law
Basilica of Saint Servatius is dedicated to the Armenian missionary who died in Maastricht. At the end of the 6th century, a chapel was built over his grave and the church was rebuilt twice more before becoming what stands on the Vrijthof Square today.
The praying visitors have hollowed out a dent in the floor before the gate.
On the other side of the Vrijhof is the ex-Dominican-church-turned-bookstore. Definitely worth a look! Also, I highly recommend their loose teas.
At the end of the day, feel free to take a stroll on the old city fortifications, which now serve as a park.
If you're in the mood for a nice, relaxing beer to end the day, feel free to grab a beer at the Tapijn Brewery, located in old military barracks.
During the summer, enjoy the city park from the brewery's terrace.
Maastricht's city fortress is located on the Mount of St. Pieter.
Due to its strategic position in Europe, the city was often under attack. For this reason, a fortress was designed at the highest point of the city to keep the citizens safe.
When the fortress was in use, it was filled with many cannons. The advantage of cannons over mortars was that cannons could shoot at a 45-degree angle (unlike mortars which could only shoot straight up), which allowed them to shoot farther. The disadvantage, however, was that the cannons required more operators than mortars did (8 vs. 2).
This bridge-like structure provided cover while the soldiers fired the cannons.
When the fort was in use, each of these slots contained a cannon, each weighing between three and six tons.
If you look past the fog, you will see the city of Maastricht.
These holes in the wall allowed soldiers to shoot from behind cover in case the enemy got too close.
The land that makes up Mount St. Pieter has been building for millennia. The area that has been dug out was above ground about 200 million years old.
The caves were formed due to the local building needs. The limestone was relatively easy to get out and cheaper than other stones to build since it was dug out right next door.
From 1575 and 1825, about 80 km of caves were created due to the excavation.
Miners would typically tie a string to the exit and then wrap the other end around themselves, so they could follow it to find their way out of the caves.
The caves also served as shelter for 25,000 people during WWII.
While the caves can serve as a shelter for those who are well prepared, they can be deadly for those who are not. If you lose light and survive long enough in the caves, you will go blind due to the complete lack of light. When the light is out, you won't even be able to see your hands one centimeter in front of your face. Before this happens, though, you will likely die from hypothermia. While the caves maintain a constant temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, the moisture will seep in your clothes and bones and rob your body of its heat.
Yet, due to this moisture and constant temperature, it is possible to grow certain types of root vegetables in the caves.
The caves are filled with paintings made after the caves were retired.
After the hike through the caves, enjoy a nice hot chocolate in the little restaurant on the hill.