Maastricht

Streets of Maastricht

By many considered to be the most beautiful city of the country, Maastricht is the southernmost city in the Netherlands. It's the capital of the province of Limburg and famous for what the Dutch call the "Burgundian" way of life. Dutch and international visitors alike flock in to enjoy this "joie de vie" and indulge in the many fine dining, arts, culture and shopping opportunities in town. The river Maas runs right through the city, offering some scenic views, and the lovely cobblestoned centre is full of historic buildings and impressive cathedrals. Whether you're here for sightseeing or just to shop till you drop, this is a great place to spend some time.

Understand

Situated within walking distance of Belgium and cycling distance of Germany, Maastricht claims to be the oldest city in the Netherlands (a claim it shares with Nijmegen). It is an especially popular tourist destination in the Netherlands because of its historical old centre and broad shopping possibilities. The city is home to approximately 120,000 people. The University of Maastricht attracts many national and foreign students to the city. Geographically, the city is split in half by a major river (the Maas), with the majority of commercial activity being concentrated on the Western bank of the river, and the train station and the Bonnefanten Museum on the Eastern side.

The VVV is a branch office of the Dutch national tourist agency. The office offers maps, souvenirs, and local, regional, and national travel suggestions. They can be located in Maastricht at Kleine Staat 1, in the city center.

For information about all (cultural) events in Maastricht, try to find a copy of the Week in Week uit . They are distributed all around the city. Also visit Crossroads , a webzine in English for expatriates in Maastricht.

Talk

Due to its location close to the border, large and internationally oriented events and of course the many foreign students and visitors, you'll find that plenty of Maastricht's inhabitants speak languages besides their own. Don't worry if you don't speak Dutch, as you'll be well able to get by with English, German or sometimes even French. Locals amongst each other typically speak the city dialect Maastrichtian, a variant of Limburgish, which is widely spoken in the region. Even for Dutch natives from the north, this tonal dialect is not necessarily intelligible. Although Maastrichtian seems to be losing words and grammar as younger generations use it, it is still widely used and locals tend to be proud of it; street signs in the city are often dual language, showing both the Dutch and the Maastrichtian name.

Get in

By plane

Maastricht is served by a small airport, Maastricht-Aachen Airport (IATA: MST ). It has direct flights to and from selected cities in southern Europe. Most flights are seasonal and all are operated by discount carriers. Ryanair flies to Maastricht from Tenerife South, Alicante, Girona-Barcelona, Milan Malpensa, Faro, and Porto. They currently fly also to London Stansted, but this service will be discontinued in March 2014. Transavia and Corendon Airlines both operate a couple of seasonal flights to Turkey and Greece. Maastricht-Aachen Airport can be reached by bus with Veolia route 59, Maastricht-Sittard and vice versa, and stops at Maastricht train station . A ticket from the Maastricht train station to the airport costs 4,50€.

Centrally located in the Euregion, major airports in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany can be convenient from travellers to Maastricht. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is just over 2,5 hours from Maastricht, with a direct train connection. It's the country's main airport with a wide array of international connections to all parts of the world. Brussels Airport , the main airport of neighbouring Belgium is a good alternative as it also serves a long list of international destinations. It's about a 2h drive, but a train trip to Maastricht requires transfers in Brussels North and Liège. Alternatively, you can book a shuttle service from a Brull taxi company (€40 single way, reserve several days in advance) Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS) is only a 70min. drive, but the train trip takes about 2.5h.

A number of other, smaller airport with low cost carrier connections are within easy reach of Maastricht. Eindhoven Airport (90min), Rotterdam Airport (2.5h), Brussels South Charleroi Airport, Weeze Airport (NRN) in Germany and Cologne-Bonn Airport (also in Germany) are all worth checking out for common discount carrier destinations.

By train

Maastricht is well served by train, with train stations (   Maastricht , near the centre of the city, and   Randwyck, in the south). There are two trains departing from Maastricht Station to the northern destinations every hour. Some popular destinations include:

City Duration Price Transfer
Sittard 0:14 € 4.20 Direct
Roermond 0:41 € 7.80 Direct
Eindhoven 1:03 € 15.20 Direct
Den Bosch 1:25 € 19.40 Direct
Utrecht 1:56 € 24.90 Direct
Amsterdam 2:26 € 28.70 Direct
Nijmegen 1:45 € 19.40 Roermond
The Hague 2:44 € 29.90 Eindhoven
Groningen 4:18 € 37.80 Utrecht

Prices in this table are one-way and non-reduced fare. For more information check the NS English language website. Local trains will take you to Valkenburg, Heerlen & Kerkrade, four times every hour.

There is an extensive rail system in the Netherlands. Travelling by train is generally a good experience in the Netherlands, although Dutch people will often complain that the trains are late and full. National train services are run by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) , and an elaborate timetable system including price information is available on their website. Prices for trips are determined by distance, with longer distances costing less per km than shorter ones. Tickets can be bought at the ticket office in the train station's main hall, but you can save yourself an extra service fee by buying your train ticket from a yellow-and-blue electronic ticketing machine (note that some machines only accept European pin passes/debit cards and only older machines accept coins). Wherever you plan to buy your ticket, make sure you buy it before boarding the train, as it is not possible to buy a ticket on-board and you'll risk a € 35,- fine (in addition to the ticket price). Tickets can be bought as either one way tickets, or as a same-day or same weekend return. If you plan to return in the course of a couple of days, you should simply buy two separate one way tickets.

Visitors who intend to travel a lot by train in the Netherlands may consider purchasing a Voordeelurenabonnement (Off Peak Discount Pass), which will set you back €55,- but entitles you and three fellow passengers to reduced-fare tickets (40% off the price). Reduced-fare tickets can be bought from the same ticket-vending machines. The card can be purchased from any NS Ticketing Office, although an address, phone number, and passport photo is required (you are initially issued a temporary paper card, which will be replaced by a plastic card about 3 months later).

International trains

An hourly service connects Maastricht with Liège, Belgium. Although the direct, high-speed connection no longer exists directly between Maastricht and Brussels, Belgium, you can catch an express train in Liège and take it to Brussels. From there you can switch trains to Paris and London. Check out the Maastricht-Brussels Express website for more information on connecting to Brussels.

Alternatively, Eurostar includes travel to/from any Dutch station for the same price as London-Brussels.

For further information on international train journeys, check timetables and train fares at the Belgian Railways , the French Railways , or Die Bahn (German Railways) websites.

By car

There a two motorways from and to Maastricht: A2 (Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Sittard, Belgium and France - "Route du Soleil") and A79 (Heerlen, Aachen).

By bus

Get around

City gate 'Helpoort' (1229)

By foot

This is by far the most attractive option as it allows travellers to see the beautiful winding streets in the centre of the city, as well as experience the cultural melting pot that Maastricht's location allows. A particularly nice walk outside of the centre is along the river, from St Servaas Brug (The Stone Bridge near the entrance to the city) down to the JFK Bridge (near the bottom), which goes through Maastricht's largest park. Visitors can then cross the JFK bridge and go to Maastricht's modern art museum - the Bonnefanten (see below).

Maastricht Running Tours offers guided city jogging tours in Maastricht or their green surroundings. During tours you get to see more and you do your work out at the same time. The Highlight tours is about 6 km (1,5 hours). During several stops on the tour you get to hear the interesting stories behind the most interesting sights of the old historical center. The pace is very easy and adapted to the group. If that is still too much exercise you can pick up a City Walking Tour Guide (€1.60) from the VVV Tourist Office at Kleine Staat 1 and tour the town at your own pace.

By bike

There are thousands of bicycles in Maastricht, often the young gents giving their girlfriends a lift on the parcel carrier at the back, with the girls sitting "side saddle". A charming sight, and you can join in the bicycle culture very easily, there are several bicycle hire shops in Maastricht. At around €10 per day (2006 prices) you can explore the flat country of South Limburg. Dutch traffic law is heavily biased towards the cyclist, so you might find cars slowing down to let you pass when they are pulling in to a side street which you are about to cross - no sane car driver is going to cut you off since in the case of an accident the cyclist is always presumed innocent unless grossly negligent. Also while there are many one-way streets in Maastricht, almost all (if not all) of them have a cycle lane going the other way up the street.

Maastricht Gulpen Cycle Route (53 km). Exploring the river valleys of South Limburg.

Maastricht Pietersberg Cycle Route (21 km). Ancient quarries and forts along the River Meuse.

Maastricht-Biking offers 2 hour guided city tours off the beaten track.

By bus

The city has a bus system called the Stadsbus ("City Bus") that travels over most of the city and to surrounding areas. Tickets can be bought on the bus, or you can buy an 'OV chip card'. It is a magnetic card which you can recharge with chosen amount of money (minimum €5). This card costs €7.50 and can be bought at the train station, also at the vending machine at the station or in the Veolia Transport service point (Veolia is Maastricht's bus transport company). When you enter the bus, you have to put the card close to the yellow card reader which will 'log you in' at the beginning stop. When you go out from the bus, you have to do it again to 'check out'. The amount of money for the trip will be taken from your card. It is much cheaper than buying a ticket from the bus driver. 'Strippenkaart' is no longer valid in Maastricht.

By car

Travelling by car can be painful in Maastricht, largely because most of the city centre is pedestrian-only, and also due to the horrendous (€2.60 an hour, max 2 hours per ticket placement) parking rates. It is often easier to park your car outside the town centre and either walk or bus into the city.

If you need to park for the day try one of the parking areas on the edge of the centre such as the Spinx, costs €2.30 an hour but with a maximum day charge of €9; or the Stadtpark parking under the west side of the Kennedybrug (bridge), costs €1.40 an hour / €6 for day ticket. Machines take coins and V-Pay cards.

By train

Trains run four times per hour between Maastricht Centraal Station, and Maastricht Randwyck station (at the South of the City), at a cost of €2.20.

See

City Centre

The Vrijthof and Basilica of St. Servatius

Perhaps one of the best (free) sights of Maastricht is simply to admire the two town squares in the centre of the city and the many old buildings around the street near the university and town wall:

River Maas and Saint Servatius Bridge from the Hoeg Brogk

Civic buildings

Museums

Tourist attractions

Do

Carnival

Maastricht's carnaval is known for its costumes, which might be the most colourful ones in the country

Few Dutch cities take their carnival celebrations as seriously as Maastricht and when the weather is nice, the omnipresent music, laughter, costumes and parades might even make you think of Rio. It's a major happening and the highlight of the year for many of the locals. For a day or three, virtually all of regular life comes to a standstill as the mayor symbolically hands over the key of the city to Prince Carnaval, who is always accompanied by his jester and "council of eleven" advisors. Shops, museums and other institutions close their doors and people from all over the country flock to Maastricht to join in the merry celebrations that go on from late in the morning till the early hours of the next.

Start of the season

The whole thing -locals call it Vasteloavend rather than carnival- starts as early as November. As eleven is the fool's number, the carnival season is opened at the 11th of the 11th, at 11.11h. The Vrijthof is the stage for the first events and the first appearances of Maastricht's zate hermenikes, or drunken bands. They are small music bands, often in costume, often deliberately performing in a slightly amateurish way. A "blue ship" travellers the streets, a tradition going back to the 12th century and linked to the theme of Hieronymus Bosch's painting: The ship of fools. For outsiders, things may seem quiet after that, until the actual spring celebrations, but in reality numerous parties are organized behind closed doors during those months, typically involving a satiric sort of stand-up comedy in local dialect.

Main events

For outsiders, the spring celebrations are most interesting. Dates vary as they are related to Easter, but the main events take places on Saturday to Tuesday.

Green, yellow and red are the official carnival colours and alaaf! is heard everywhere as a greeting. Dressing up is not obliged, but you don't want to be and outsider, pick up at least a few carnival gadgets (widely available in the days before). Upcoming carnival dates are 1-4 March for 2014, and 14-17 February for 2015.

Buy

Shops are generally open between 9:00 and 17:00 but many are closed on Monday morning. Thursday some shop are open until 21:00. Also Sunday opening between 12:00 and 18:00.

Saturday Flea Market in Maastricht

Eat

There are many excellent places to eat in the town. Key areas to peruse are around Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, Vrijthof, Maaspromenade and Wycker Brugstraat. Also around Tongersestraat, close to the Economics and Law faculties of the Universiteit Maastricht.

Eating out in Maastricht is not always cheap, with most restaurants catering more to a posh older crowd rather than the student population. On weekdays there are a number of good and relatively low-priced sandwich outlets, as well as the usual fries based take-aways.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Maastricht has many bars, restaurants, pubs and dance clubs, located on Vrijthof and Market Squares, and in the centre of downtown it's nearly impossible to walk around and not see anything to do.

Bars

Non alcoholic

"Coffeeshops"

In the Netherlands, the policy regarding soft drugs (such as weed, hash and magic mushrooms) is lenient. Therefore, there are several coffee- and headshops where you can buy these products. It is tolerated to buy up to 5 grams of marijuana. Make sure you bring your identification card or drivers license with you, because the shops are very strict about age and they will check it no matter how old you look. You have to be at least 18 years old to enter a coffee- or headshop. As of May 1, 2012, only those with a Dutch passport and clubpass are being allowed entry.

The coffeeshops in Maastricht have a lot (2.2 million annually!) of foreign customers, so they are able to understand Dutch, English, French and German. The Mississippi boat is the most popular with coffeeshop visitors from abroad. It is a coffee shop built in a large boat which lays in the Maas river and is certainly worth visiting. However it is regarded as having overpriced products and lower quality by locals and connoisseurs. Recommended are; Black Widow, a small coffeeshop located outside of the city center but having reasonable prices and good quality, Easy Going for its centrality and Heaven 69 for the open roof diner. Club 69, just around the corner of the Cool Running, is the oldest, smallest but most laid back one in town. For tourists other than Dutch, German or Belgian, there is a coffeeshop at Koestraat near the Beluga restaurant that is outside of the "union" and will serve you.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 50
Mid-range 50 to 150
Splurge Over 150

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Talk

Maastricht is a very multilingual city, and it is not uncommon to regularly hear people speaking Dutch, English, French and German. In addition, many locals speak in the widespread local dialect Maastrichts, which is a variety of Limburgish. Street names tend to be written in both Dutch and Maastrichts, which has a French influence. Consequently, there are many languages to learn in Maastricht, both in the city or through lessons.

Cope

Religious services

Phone: 043-3437120

Phone: 043-3436598 

Holy mass in Catholic churches in Maastricht:

Directory of Christian churches in Maastricht:

Saint John Chrysostom Orthodox Church,St. Maartenslaan 37. Check website for service times.

Go next

The terraced Chateau Neercanne is located just outside Maastricht, before the Belgian border
Routes through Maastricht

Amsterdam Geleen  N  S  Belgium Border (6 km) Liège
END Heerlen  E  w  END
Aachen Vaals  E  w  Belgium Border Sint-Truiden


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.