Travel highlights: Maastricht in one day

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

If you liked the post about the Carnival of Maastricht and if you are now quite curious about this city, well this post meets your needs. I could write several posts about this wonderful city (and I will do it in the future), but today I'm walking in the shoes of those people that want to visit it in one day.

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Maastricht is for sure one of the top travel destinations in the Netherlands, but it's not properly part of the main touristic routes: that's if you visit it yo go off the beaten tracks. It was founded by the Romans and its original name was Mosae Trayectum ( passage over the Mosa River), a fortified village with a bridge over the Mosa River. However, besides its Roman heritage and being the oldest city in the Netherlands, Maastricht is mostly known to be an old medieval town with some really interesting landmarks.

Let's start the itinerary along this beautiful city! You can either walk or rent a bike at the railway station.

Once left the railway station, you can walk along the "boulevard" of Maastricht, Stationstraat, and Wycker Brugstraat. Here you can see many nice palaces such as the Grand Hotel de l'Empereur
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Source: www.venue.nl

 the Hotel Beaumont with the Maria monument at the crossroad with Wilhelminasingel
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Source: www.wikipedia.com
and the nice statue called "De Wiekeneer", that represents a person of this nice district, called Wyck, that welcomes people coming from the station.
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Now you get to the symbol of Maastricht, the Sint Servaas Brug, the medieval bridge built between 1280 and 1288, the oldest bridge of the Netherlands. Many people confuse this medieval bridge with the old Roman bridge, that was destroyed by a river's flooding. It's a stone arched bridge.
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Source: www.straatkart.nl
Before crossing the bridge, you can walk on the leftside and see the Waterpoort, the old water gate of the impressive Maastricht fortifications.
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From the bridge, that can be crossed only by bike or on your feet, you can have a great view of the Mosa River and also of the city too.
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At the end of the bridge, you can stop by the old tower and buy a souvenir. Then you can go to the left, once crossed the bridge, follow the street and go to Stokstraat. Here you find another important Maastricht's symbol, the  bronze statue of the Mestreechter Geis,  that represents the spirit of the local people, what the French people call "joie de vivre". It is strongly connected to the Carnival and in fact this statue, designed by the artist Mari Andriessen, represents someway the Italian Commedia dell'arte. Just ask one of the Maastrichtenaren what they think about it and you will understand that this statue represents their way to be. It's all about taking life easy and enjoy it! That's why I fell in love with this city!
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Source: www.pinterest.com
If then come back towards the bridge, you can follow the street that lead to the Bijenkorf and then turn on the right and walk along Kleine Staat. Not far from it, you will get to the VVV - the tourist office, located in the old Town Hall.
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If you follow the street you get to the Markt, the city's Town Hall. It's one of the largest squares in Maastricht and on Friday morning there's the market. The building you see here is the current Town Hall, built in 17th Century. Clearly it is not open to public: the only way to visit the main hall is to go there on Thursday before the Carnival or for some particular ceremonies.
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Also in this square you can find a couple of interesting statues. In the picture above, you find Mooswief, the same old woman that is lifted during the Carnival. You will discover the other statue in the relevant post about the Maastricht statues that will come soon.

You can continue your trip itinerary along the street along that starts behind Mooswief ( Spilstraat) and besides the McDonald's restaurant. At the end of this little street, if your attention is not captured by the shops you will find, you come into one of the main shopping streets, that is  Grote Straat. If you turn left you can see the Tourist Office building, but you will turn right and again at the first street on your rightside. Here you find an exceptional landmark: a 13th Century Dominican and gothic church converted into a modern library, called Selexyz Bookstore. So far it's the best library or bookstore I have ever seen in my life.
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Source: www.miragebookmark.ch
This is an incredible travel tip that I want to share with you of course and it's a precious gem you cannot miss. I also recommend you to stop by the old shrine to get a cup of coffee at Coffeelovers corner. Being an Italian, I don't properly love the northern coffee, but here it is a tasty one! :-)
Source: www.blogofthecourtier.com
Once visited the library and get a cup of coffee at Coffee Lovers, not far from here and coming back to Grote Straat you can easily reach the other main squares of Maastricht, the Vrijthof. This is the location of the city's main events, like the Preuvenemint, the concert of the 11th of November, the closure of the Carnival, the concert of André Rieu, etc. It is a large square surrounded by the cafés and their terraces, the churches of Sint Servaas or Saint Servatius and Sint Jan, the theater and the Museum and het Vrijthof.
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If you are not afraid of the heights, you can climb the Sint Jan tower ( the red one) and enjoy a beautiful landscape of the city. However, I strongly recommend you to visit the Basilica of Saint Servatius. It was built over the grave of Saint Servatius, an Armenian missionary who was bishop of Tongeren and died in 384 a.d. in Maastricht. It is a Roman catholic church and displays an hybrid architectural style, mainly Romanesque. The basilica is impressive and the ticket should cost around 4-5 Euros: please check the opening times since it closes around 5 pm: anyway you can find more info here. The main entrance is not in the Vrijthof, but you need to access it from a smaller street.
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 Please take a look at the impressive Southern gate.
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This is the central part of the church,

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Source: www.andrerieufan.com
you can also see the kloister,
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but make sure you don't miss the Treasury.
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Source:www.blog.appletonstudios.com
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Source: www.citytripplanner.com
Source: www.virtualtourist.com
After the visit to the stunning,  you can findanother landmark related to the Carnival (now maybe you understand the importance of this event for the Mestreechtenaren), in particular to the musical bands called Zateharmonie. Btw, this shot was taken in 2008: it's me with less kilos lol! :-)
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So what about a lunch at one of the Vrijthof's cafés? Here you can choose the one you want.

I'm going to take you to the old medieval town and the beautiful fortifications.
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Once left the Vrijthof, you could follow Bredestraat in order to reach another beautiful square, Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, literally Our Lady's square. This is one of my favourites squares, smaller and more private than for example the Vrijthof.
During a sunny day, the square is completely crowded: the Maastrichtenaren love chillin out and have a drink ( or more than one lol) at one of the terraces or eat something. Onze Lieve Vrouweplein is the ideal place to do so.
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Besides the terraces, this wonderful square has a couple of interesting landmarks: tha first one is the Derlon Hotel, not because it's a luxury hotel,  but because it was part of the old Roman castrum and normally on Sunday morning you can access to the archaelogical ruins of the Roman villas for free.
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If you do not resist to stop by one of the terraces (I would recommend you to get a Wieckse Witte or Brand beer), the other and most important landmark is the Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek or Our Lady's Basilica.
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Source: Wikipedia
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Source: www.panoramio.com
It is really difficult to know when this Basilica was built: probably there was an old Roman temple dedicated to the god Jupiter and over that temple the first church was build around the 4th or 5th Century a.d.. This is a Romanesque basilica and it is ofter referred to as the Star of the Sea ( Sterre der Zee in Dutch.)
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Source: Wikimedia
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Source: www.pleasureofthepipes.info
Once left the Basilica and the square, you can walk along Hondertmarck and then turn left to Ridder Straat. Over there you can find the Water Mill Bischopsmolen, a 17th century corn mill located close to the Stenen Bridge (Stenenbrug).

Now it's time to see some of the city's fortifications! I will also dedicate a post about Maastricht's fortifications, since an incredible fortification system that made the city almost impossible to conquer. In order to conquer it, the Spanish army at the end of the 16th Century had to build galleries in order to occupy the city.

If you leave the water mill and turn left you get to St. Pietersstraat, you find the oldest city walls, or the first defensive line, built around the 13th Century.
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Source: www.panoramio.com
During the following centuries, new defensive lines were added to the original one. Our trip itinerary will continue along St.Pieterstraat, until we find a bridge over the Jeker river. Here you can see part of the second line of defensive walls, built by the end of the Middle Ages.

You can stroll around the Stadparkwhich during sunny days it's plenty of people that relax, eat, drink, take the sun or make some sport.
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Here you can see the southern bastions, built to protect the city wall during the 16th and 17th Century from the artillery. Now we can come back and walk over the same bastions and watch again these nice fountains.
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Going down from the bastions trail, you find some incredible parts of the Maastricht fortifications: first of all a breach on walls and a nice historical building
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Close to this breach, you can see the PaterVink Toren or PaterVink Tower, where the heads of five inhabitants of Maastricht who helped the Spanish army to enter were displayed.
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Not far from the PaterVink Toren you can see the most important gate, the Helpoort or Hell Gate, built in 1229: together with the other tower, it forms a spectacular picture of the medieval walls.
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Source: www.panoramio.com
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Source: www.panoramio.com
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Source: www.zy-co.com
The Helpoort has also a little museum where you could find a volunteer that can explain you the history of the city. You just need, once crossed the gate, to turn right and find a little door. Over there you can go upstairs and visit the little museum.

Then you can also walk along the Onze Lieve Vrouwewal, where there are still some old decorative cannons.
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Source: www.straatkart.nl
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Source: www.panoramio.com
Finally, after this part of the fortifications, the trip itinerary goes on: you can reach the Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek. Now instead of going back to Onze Lievevrouweplein, you can choose another street: Stokstraat. Stockstraat is the centre of a district that some decades ago was dangerous, poor and dirty: a process of requalification has made it one of the most expensive districts in Maastricht.
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If you turn left to Morenstraat and then left again, you will find Op de Thermen: there's a little and nice square where there were the Roman thermal baths of the ancient Roman castrum. If you don't like crowd of the shopping streets, this could be a nice place where to stop by and relax a bit after this long walk. You can still see the "traces" of the thermal baths, "painted" on the pavement.
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 Now you can come back to Stokstraat and then you can choose the following options.

Travel tips:
  • If you are fond of shopping, streets like Grote Straat or the streets around Stokstraat are plenty of nice shops.
  • If you want to get lost, you can stroll around the city by following your intuition. The city is not big and it's difficult you get lost, but at least there are some nice hidden streets you could reach.
  • If you want to see a real Maastricht cafè, only with local people, the Cafè de Karkol in Stokstraat is exactly what you are looking for. Don't miss also the smallest bar of the Netherlands in front of the Karkol.
    • If you can spend more than one day, there are interesting things to do: you could visit for example the St.Pieter fortress, the nothern caves of St. Pietersberg Hill, the Zonnenberg caves, the underground tunnels and bunkersthe Van de Moulin defensive line. You can even rent a bike and go to Belgium (Visè) or follow one of the hiking trails ( wandelroutes).
      Where to eat: as any Dutch city, you will find any kind of restaurants ( Italian, Greek, Argentinian, Spanish, Japanese and other Asian cuisines). However, if I had to recommend you a local place, I would recommend you the Pieke Potloed or the Eetcafè Minckelers. However, I will write a dedicated post about the Maastricht cafés ( also the nightlife).
          Where to sleep:
          • Low budget: I would recommend the StayOkay Hostellocated not far from the city centre. A double room per night costs approximately 85 Euros per night ( just 40 Euros per person). You can also choose a boat - hotel and stay at the Botel Maastricht: here the prices per double room and night are approximately 64 Euros ( 32 per person).
          • Medium budget: for sure I recommend the Kaboom Maastrichtlocated in the charming district of Wyck. A double room per night costs approximately 120 Euros ( 60 Euros per person).
          • Luxury: a particular hotel, formely and old monastery, is the Kruisheren Hotel.  A price per double room and per night is around 250 Euros ( approximately 125 Euros per person).
              Here you can see the trip itinerary designed via Scribble Maps:




              5 commenti:

              Jeroen Quint said...

              Nice review of a great City!

              Marco Zannin said...

              Thanks a lot for your comment Jeroen! This is just the first part! :-)

              Shyla said...
              This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
              Anonymous said...

              Thank you for sharing the information and pictures.

              Marco Zannin said...

              You're welcome :-)

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