What’s Doing in Maastricht
Maastricht is situated on the river Meuse (“Maas” in Dutch) and is home to over 120,000 people. Known today for the Maastricht Treaty (the Treaty of the European Union, which was signed there in 1992, created the European Union, and led to the single European currency the euro), the city, which directly borders Belgium and is not far from the German border, gets its name from the Latin “Mosae Trajectum”, which means “crossing-place on the Meuse” (river).
Maastricht, one of the oldest if not the oldest city in the Netherlands is the capital of the Dutch province of Limburg, which comprises the southern part of the Netherlands.
Given its location, Maastricht is a city of many languages. While Dutch is the national language, many residents speak Limburgish, a common dialect in the Limburg and Rhineland regions near the common Belgian/Dutch/German border. German and English are widely spoken as well and French, which was the language of education in the 19th century, has left its imprint on the local dialect.
Start your visit with a stop at the tourist information office (VVV) located in the Dinghuis, the city’s former town hall that dates from the 15th century. find it at the corner of Grote Staat and Kleine Staat.
The Binnenstad (inner city) features numerous shops (including many high-end ones), cafés, restaurants, and sights.
Most of the city’s Catholic churches are still in use today, but not as one would think. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered a large number of churches closed but they were not to be demolished. One former church is now a leading luxury hotel, the Kruisherenhotel Maastricht on the Kruisherengang. Another 800-year-old church is a bookstore, the Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen on the Dominicanerkerkstraat, which the Guardian called the “most beautiful bookstore” in the world.
Starting at the Vrijthof is the best way to begin a walking city tour. Thanks to local musician violinist André Rieu, the square is one of the best known places in the Netherlands. Each year, Rieu performs a free open air concert for his hometown at the Vrijthof.
The Basilica of St. Servatius (St. Servaas Basiliek) and the Chruch of St. John (St. Janskerk Church) are directly located behind the Vrijthof. The Basilica of St. Servatius is named after an Armenian missionary who also became the first bishop of Maastricht. During the French occupation the church was closed and used as a horse stable by the French troops.
Besides the historical buildings, which are hard to miss while walking through the city, it is also impossible to miss the huge fortifications that had been built in past centuries. These include the fragments of the first and second medieval city walls, the Helpoort, a town gate built in the 13th century and the oldest in the Netherlands, and the Hoge Fronten (also known as Linie van Du Moulin), which are remnants of 17th and 18th century fortifications.
Click here to continue to Page 2 – The Caves of Mount St. Pieter and Virtual Tours of Maastricht and Mount St. Pieter
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