Maastricht is one of those classic towns that never go out of fashion. It has enough history and old architecture to be beautiful, yet enough trendiness and new architecture to be interesting.
It has European and international institutions that gives it its cosmopolitan flair and a university and different academies, filled with young students, that spices up the ambiance of this contemporary city.
In many ways, the most beautiful architectural highlights of Maastricht – which in our humble opinion are the Dominicanenkerk and the Kruisherenhotel – both exemplify this contrast, embrace and harmony between old and new.
So, lets head for a tour through this vibrant city. Below we have compiled a walking tour of approx 5 km. As with everything else on this site:
MAGENTA means Travel (practical information etc.)
GREEN means Culture (art, architecture, food & drink)
Park & Walk
We start at the Park & Walk (P) parking area at Stadspark. This is one of the cheaper parking areas near the city centre (1€ for 43 minutes) but remember to bring coins, as the machines don’t accept bills or international credit cards. We recommend spending minimum 3 hours in Maastricht if you want to do the tour without stress. 5 hours if you want time for shopping, a bite or a visit to a museum.
From here it’s just a short walk to Helpoort (1), the historic city gate from 1229 that is part of the original city wall. Yeah: you guessed right: it means Hell’s Gate – probably (but quite boring) because the street used to be named Helstraat.
Walk the wall
Turn right after Helpoort and climb up the stairs to the city wall – Onze Lieve Vrouwewal (2) – and walk along it until you can descend. Turn right heading to the riverside and follow the Maaspromenade alongside the river, where you can admire the old bridge Sint Servaasbrug (3). This bridge was built in the end of the 13th century as replacement for an even older Roman bridge, dating back to 50 A.D., which was the first bridge to cross the Meuse, and therefore baptized this Roman settlement: “crossing of the Meuse” in Latin translates as “mosae trajectum” which again became “Maastricht”.
From Sint Servaasbrug, follow Maastrichter Brugstraat, that with a right turn will take you to Kleine Staat, where a short walk will take you past the Tourist Office (4) and into the bustling shopping area of the Stokstraat Kwartier with lots of pedestrian streets, so you don’t have to watch out for traffic while window shopping. But keep your (old) shirt on and follow Muntstraat to Markt (5), that really lives up to its name every Wednesday and Friday when a market is held with up to 300 stalls, selling everything from apples to zucchini from 9 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. The Stadthuis, or City Call then provides a prominent backdrop to the brisk business together with the other stately mansions on the square.
It’s about time for a break. Head back into the pedestrian labyrinth along Spilstraat, turn right into the shopping area “Entre Deux”, keep your focus and turn left, which will bring you through the back outside terrace of Brasserie Amadeus, under an old arch and into Dominicanerplein, just outside our favourite spot in Maastricht – the Boekhandel Dominicanen (6) in the old Dominican church. Sit outside and enjoy the outside view, if the weather permits, or venture inside, where a café at the apse of the church can provide caffeine, rest and a chance to silently enjoy this thrilling piece of architecture.
Churches, books and great architecture are three of my addictions, and to have all at the same time, well let’s just say I was exalted and impressed. Architecturally, it is a stroke of genius with this massive steel structure going through the nave of the medieval church. The way modern materials and contemporary use harmoniously interacts with the historic ambience and grand space is exemplary. I’d wish to see more of this. And when I find it – I’ll definitely tell you!
Churches and Cloisters
Invigorated by coffee and perhaps weighed down by some book purchases, let’s go back to Grote Staat that will lead us to Vrijthof (7) – a vast square with great views of Gothic church of Saint John and the Basilica of Saint Servatius. Get closer to the two buildings at you walk towards the Gothic church of Saint John or Sint-Janskerk (8) and then turn right to get to the entrance to Basilica of Saint Servatius or Basiliek van Sint Servaas (9). The basilica is actually built on the grave of Saint Servatius that is said to have died in 384 in Maastricht. Pay the entrance fee of 4,5€ and venture inside to take a look at the church and cloister. Or not.
Now, let’s head for another architectural gem. At the end of Sint Servaasklooster, that runs parallel to the church, turn left on Oude Tweebergenpoort and left again on Kommel until you reach another old church, that’s been rebuilt for modern purposes – this time for a hotel. The Kruisherenhotel (10) might not like nosy tourists, but they won’t say no to customers. You can either stay in the hotel, enjoy a drink at the bar in the apse or a dinner in the elevated structure in the nave.
The hotel makes use of the same architectural instruments as the Boekhandel Dominicanen but does it with more luxury and greater contrast. Some of the effects enhance the experience, others overdo it. But that’s a subjective opinion. Come and see if you disagree!
Time for a break
Head back to Vrijthof (7) and head into Platielstraat or get lost in tome of the other labyrinthine cobble stoned, pedestrianised alleys and go shop-amok. Let’s meet again at Onze Lieve Vrouweplein (11) where you can have a beverage, beer or a bite (if you haven’t already found some nice, local pit-stop and done so) and do some people-watching, preferably behind the anonymity of dark sunglasses. Best done in sunshine – you don’t want to look like you’ve just been to a coffee shop instead.
Oldest working water mill
If you haven’t tired of churches, go inside the Basilica of Our Lady or Basiliek van Onze Lieve Vrouwe (12). This one is free of charge. When done, exit the square at the left corner and follow Koestraat. At the end of this cobblestoned street lies Bisschopsmolen (13) that is both a bakery and the oldest working water mill in Maastricht. Go inside to see the millstone and out into the courtyard to look at the mill wheel turning. From here, you can enter the street of Achter de Oude Minderbroeders. A left turn will take you to Sint Bernardusstraat and a right turn will get you back to Helpoort (1). From here you can stroll around Stadspark or head to your car at the Park & Walk (P), depending how much time you have left on your parking ticket.
Hope you enjoyed our guided tour of Maastricht. Below we have compiled a list of websites, most in English, that you’ll might find useful before your trip to Maastricht. Have a great tour and don’t hesitate to tip us on gems, that we’ve missed!
- Parking information in Maastricht
- Maastricht on Wikipedia
- Maastricht Tourist Office
- Boekhandel Dominicanen website (in dutch)
- Basilica of Saint Servatius website
- Kruisherenhotel website