The small city of Maastricht is located in Limburg, the southernmost province of Netherlands some 200km from Amsterdam. Maastricht is chic, classy and has a very different feel to the northern cities - it lies very close to the Belgian and German borders. It's a great place for a day trip or weekend visit and is reached by a 2 1/2 hour train journey from Amsterdam. This brief overview will give you a flavour of the city...
Maastricht can be easily explored on foot in a few hours. From the train station - which is located east of the centre - walk out and down Stationstraat in a westerly direction.
Within 10 minutes walking you reach the Sintservas bridge which has sweeping views over the river Maas. The city centre lies just across the bridge on the western side with the tourist information (VVV) just up the street and to the right at Kleinestraat.
Shopping - Maastricht has lots of interesting independent shops as well as the usual Dutch chains. There is an antiques and flea market each Saturday near the station along Stationstraat.
The main shopping drag is on Grote Staat. Be sure to drop by the Boekhandel Dominicanen bookstore - one of the world's most beautiful book shops, housed in a 13th-century Dominican church. There is a café at the back where you can enjoy the architecture and ambience. Located at Dominicanerkerkstraat 1 just off Grote Staat.
Squares - The 2 main city squares are Markt which has the City Hall (Stadhuis) and the Vrijthof with the churches St Servaskerk / St Janskerk and the 16th- century Spanish Government House.
City walls - Take a stroll along the old city walls at Helpoort near the Maas river bank. There are more walls running west along the smaller river Jeker.
De Hoge Brug - This modern bridge for pedestrians and cyclists also provides lovely views over the river Maas.
Bonnefanten museum - A few minutes walk south along the river Maas (eastern side) is Maastricht's most famous museum - the Bonnefanten with its interesting post-modern architecture and distinctive cupola - designed by Italian architect Aldo Rossi. The museum has various art exhibits including old Dutch, Flemish and Italian paintings as well as some modern art. The museum is open 1100-1700 Tue-Sun, closed Mondays. Admission costs €9 for adults, €4.50 for ages 13-18 and free entry for 0-12 and Museumkaart holders. Special exhibitions can attract a small supplement.
Of interest to kids, there is the Natural History museum (Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht) at De Bosquetplein 7 in the centre. The museum houses a collection of items documenting the geology, palaeontology, flora and fauna of the Limburg region. Open 1100-1700 Tue-Fri, 1300-1700 weekends. Admission costs €6 for adults, €4 for ages 5-11 and free entry for 0-4 and Museumkaart holders.
For local history visit the Museum aan het Vrijthof in the Spanish Government House at Vrijthof 18. It features 17th- and 18th-century period rooms and a varied collection of Maastricht silver, glassware, porcelain, pistols and Dutch paintings. Open 1100-1700 Mon, 1000-1800 Tue-Sun. Admission costs €8 for adults, €4 for ages 13-18, €2 for children 7-12 and free entry for 0-6 and Museumkaart holders.
There are many cafés and restaurants around the city. For example, try lunch at Boulevard (Stationsstraat 2) or Grand Café Maastricht Soiron at Vrijthof 18. For a drink near the river have a Gulpener (local beer) at the Brasserie Bonhomme, not far from the Sintservas bridge.
For an evening meal some suggestions are Harry's (international brasserie at Wycker Brugstraat 2), Spice of India (Achter het Vleeshuis 27) or La Bodega (Spanish tapas at Platielstraat 9). For a splurge, the 2 Michelin star rated Beluga is at Plein 1992.
Side trips from Maastricht:
The Maastricht area is known for its landscape of green rolling hills, unlike the rest of the country which is flat. An easy short trip to make by train is to Valkenburg, a small touristy town with a castle. The journey takes only 10 minutes and the trip costs €6.60 return. In December, Valkenburg is renowned for its Christmas market held in the municipal caves.
The Drielandenpunt (3 country point) is located at Vaalserberg (near Vaals) and is the border meeting point of Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The area has been converted to a tourist attraction with panorama viewing tower, labyrinth maze and small theme park. It is probably best to visit with a car.
Getting to Maastricht from Amsterdam
Maastricht can be conveniently reached from Amsterdam by direct Intercity trains which normally run every 30 minutes. The journey (which goes via Utrecht, Den Bosch and Eindhoven) will take just under 2 1/2 hours. A day return costs €51 (2nd class) or €86.80 (1st class) - 2016 prices. There is a €1 surcharge for disposable tickets.
Maastricht-Aachen airport is located about 9km north-east of Maastricht city centre. The main airline at the airport is Ryanair which has services to Dublin, London-Stansted and various European destinations. The airport can be reached easily by taking Veolia bus 59 (€4) to/from Maastricht NS station.
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