Walking tour through Maastricht

I might be slightly biassed, but Maastricht in The Netherlands is one of my favorite cities. It has this combination of looking good, serving great food, is small enough to be still a low stress city. On top of that Maastricht is very easy to get to and very international with some typical touches of the province of Limburg. In short, time to go on a walking tour of Maastricht.

Travel like Just Been There

A day trip, arriving by train and walking around can look like this:

  • Arrive by train
  • Walk along the city wall and go through the "gates of hell" or Helpoort
  • Visit the "caves" (more on the quotes later) - Maastricht Underground
  • Walk back and enjoy a set of old city wall and related buildings, including the "Poortgebouw" on the river Jeker to end up at 't Vrijthof
  • At 't Vrijthof, visit the St Jans Church and the St Servaas Treasury
  • Next visit the Dominican bookstore and then on to City Hall
  • Optional, on the east bank of the Meuse river visit the Bonnefanten Museum (a fancy looking art museum)

Just Been There Art

Look at or buy art inspired by this trip. If you like this trip, but can't go, or you too have just been there, this unique art may rekindle fond memories of your own trip. Click the image for a link to the online store. Note: you will be leaving this site and connect to the artists site.

Maastricht Scene
Maastricht 

All art copyright by: Christine Ong-Dijcks 

First, we need to talk about "Vlaai"

Ok, you are in Limburg, the most southern province of the Netherlands. There are a few things that this province is famous for: white asparagus (only April - June!!), vasteloavend (carnaval), beer, and VLAAI...

Vlaai is what most of world might want to call a Pie... and it kind of is. It is just different, it is better, and it is the one thing you need to try. My all time favorite is "rijstevlaai met slagroom en kersen" (Vlaai with rice pudding, whip cream, and cherries)... So, while in Maastricht, sit down on one the squares and order a coffee with Vlaai, or even better, bring a whole or half (yes, you can buy a half) home to enjoy!

Walking through Maastricht - First Stop: Breakfast

Here we go. I recommend taking the train into Maastricht (and almost any other European city due to limited parking, green zones, limited cars in cities, etc.). If you do you should arrive at Maastricht (if you go to Randwijck you have gone too far) railway station, and the fun starts right away. 

Walk out of the station through the station hall onto station square (going west) and you'll wander into what used to be a bit of a run down area. Nowadays, lots of cafes, restaurants, and stores are open and if you arrive in the morning here are some recommendations to either grab a second breakfast or grab sandwiches for that picnic:

  • SoDelicious (their bread menu is here) is a beautiful store, and you can sit down and eat. We ordered sandwiches, because they bake on site and it is just great bread (with lots of fun things to put on that bread)... and yes, they have vlaai
  • Bakkerij Paulissen, which is more traditional bakery. you'll find these across towns in the Netherlands. They do lot's of great bread and you grab and go or eat a sandwich there. And yes, they too have vlaai... see the trend here?
Do not stop at the McDonald's - if you do, you are truly missing the point of going to Maastricht!

Second Stop: The Caves

After your (second) breakfast, you will wander on and hit the old Roman St Servaas Bridge. It has been under construction for some time now, but you will see the Meuse river in all its glory from an amazing bridge. Look west and you will the church towers and beyond it Belgium. Look east, and there is the station and the rest of Limburg (another post to come on that in the future).

Ones you cross the bridge it is time to decide where to go first. If you have morning tickets for the Caves, it is time for a walk along the stadswal and around the city center to the caves. If you want to go to the St Servaas and see the treasures, you'll go straight to 't Vrijthof (almost a straight line west from the bridge).

For this post, I'll describe a circle going to the caves first in roughly a clockwise direction. You can use the same route the other way if you go to St Servaas first.

A rough direction to the caves

As you can see on the map, it is about a 30 minute walk. I would recommend to calculate 45 minutes as you should take at least one detour. While walking on the wall (see that funny arrow on the map) turn right and stop by at Helpoort. It is a pretty gate and make sure to walk through it. The street behind it is really quite cute (for those looking for Instagram posts). Then loop back onto the path and wander down.

The walk through the park is really nice and you can go up the old city walls. Then you'll go to a newer part, but it is still a fun walk.

Enjoy the caves, which, really are quarries. Hence the quotes around "caves". And one reason to go to the cave/quarry first is that you will see the churches and the "mergel steen" that came out of the quarry. Pro tip: bring a jacket... it really is a constant, cold temperature. 

Next Stop: One of the Musketeers

After the caves, saunter around Fort St Pieter, and then wander back into the old city. If you have time, I would follow the below route, with a short stop at the "Kazematten Waldeck", from where it is a short walk to meet d'Artagnan.

Walk to the Center

But the main objective is to wander around and look and enjoy the park, the river and then go into the center of town. If you follow this route, you will pass some cool spots, like the "Nieuwenhofpoortje" with it's cute bridge. 

And that is the point of this all, just enjoy looking around you.

Next up: 't Vrijthof

Now it is time to make some choices. Cultural sites or enjoying the good life and sitting in front of some of the bars and enjoying some food and of course a nice glass of beer or wine. If you for the food, or drinks, here are my three favorites:
  • Café in d'n Ouden Vogelstruys - apparently the older café (bar) in Maastricht. On a cold day, sit inside and enjoy the warmth and typical bar, and on a nice day (i.e. it does not rain or freeze) sit outside
  • Café d'n Ingel - you'll quickly see inside that Ingel means Angel... same here, if you can, sit outside or enjoy a classic interior
  • Just off 't Vrijthof you'll find De Dikke Dragonder, which is where I would go... you are just off the square, and typically will be able to get a seat outside. You're in the heart of it, but just away from those tourists...
In all these places, it is a bit dependent on what time you arrive. If you arrive around coffee time (14:30 - 16:00 or so), you go for "koffie verkeerd met vlaai"... If it is lunch (11:30 - 14:30) you go for a sandwich, or some plates to share. If you arrive somewhere around 16:30 - 18:30, I would go with borrel garnituur (Bitterballen!!)... and later, dinner...

And as with most cafés, you can hang around, enjoy the show... do some people watching. See if you can pick a true Maastrichtenear over the tourists... (hint: well dressed, saying hello to select people...).

Alternate: St Servaas

If you not hungry or thirsty yet, do visit both the churches on the square. Make sure to check the opening hours. St Servaas is the patron saint of the city, and the treasury is quite amazing. It is worthwhile to go inside, check it out.

And then off to the drinks and bitterballen, or lunch, or something.

Must do: The bookstore in the church

From 't Vrijthof, wander towards city hall, but make sure you go via the Boekhandel Dominicanen!! It is such an amazing bookstore. And ensure to find the art in the back! Walk across to the modern stores, and find the city hall. Then make your way back in the direction of the St Servaas bridge, but veer off the path and find the "Onze Lieve Vrouwe Plein". And here, you have to sit down under the trees and enjoy Maastricht food and drinks some more.

And that gets us around Maastricht on foot... you'll hopefully come away with the same feeling I have every time I visit. It is such an amazing city, old with new, great food and drinks, amazing warmth and desire to enjoy life!

Where to Stay?

Well, depending if you are going to go and visit some other things in the South, you can either stay in Maastricht or stay in some really quaint little towns. They likely will require you to not come by train, but by car... If you come by car, I would still start at the station, and park in one of the garages or parking lots there.

In Maastricht, the one place I have stayed at is the Derlon hotel. Liked it, and it is right in the center, right on top of one of the nicest squares.

Around Maastricht

Maastricht is a really cool city, but if you can consider spending some more time in the southern Netherlands! Some interesting places:
  • Valkenburg, quaint town with a castle, tourist shops, but worthwhile as it has a mix of things, including stuff for kids. Apart from the before mentioned castle, it sports an attraction park with a "rodelbaan" and a set of caves. Consider combining the castle with a cave system.
  • Vaals and the Three Country Point, where you can wander from the Netherlands into Germany and then Belgium and back in 1 second...
  • The abbey of Wittem, a short drive through some wonderfully rolling hills is a place to rest. And just down the road is the old Gulpener Brewery, which now hosts a brewpub / restaurant and does a brewery tour.
  • As you drive back to Maastricht, this is a must stop! The Netherlands American Cemetery is beautiful place of remembrance, but of course painful in that it even exists. Stop to reflect on the world as it is and how we want to stop it from sliding back to the dark days where people had to die to get back to the light!
  • Aachen, the town where Charlemagne was crowned emperor is a wonderful city to visit as well. This may be too far from Maastricht, but it is worth considering
If you want to stay closer to these locations and make Maastricht a day trip, consider some of the vacation parks where you can also enjoy the tropical swimming pools.

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