Maastricht is less known than it deseves to be. This city in the very south of the Netherlands is astonishingly beautiful. And since it is small enough to discover on foot I suggest to take a walk. Here are 6 spots you have got to see during your Maastricht city tour on foot.
Maastricht is well known for the treaty that was signed here in 1992 that created the European Union. It is one of the central places in the so-called Euroregion, bordering Walloon and Flanders and Germany. Since 1988, the annual European Fine Art Fair, the world’s most prominant art fair, draws in some of the wealthiest art collectors in the world. It is also the hometown of violin player André Rieu. But unfortunately, the city is less known for how beautiful it is. A city tour on foot will easily change that .
Maastricht in a Nutshell
Maastricht is ancient. The Romans founded it but not much of their early settlement survived. The historic city center is still really old, though, with quite a few 1,000 year old buildings completely intact and with an astounding large part of the 1,000 years old city wall still surrounding the medieval center. There are 1,677 national heritage buildings in the city – the second highest number in the Netherlands after Amsterdam. The old streets are literally filled with beautiful buildings, all of them hundreds of years old. It is a popular shopping destination because of its many cosy and busy shopping streets and many restaurants and cafes. It also has an important university with a large international student population.
Your Maastricht City Tour
Maastricht is not a big city. Just 121,000 people live here. And the city center is nog big either. So, it is very easy to just simply walk when you visit Maastricht. And walking is the best way to see the highlights anyway. Many nice places cannot be visited by car. If you decide to go on a city walk – let me know. I’ll be happy to show you around when I’m available. With some highlights in mind , I created 6 tips for a Maastricht city tour on foot.
1. The old city wall
A truly stunning large part of the ancient city wall is still intact in Maastricht. Where most European cities decided to remove medieval city walls when they lost their meaning as a way to defend the city from attacks, Maastricht opted to just leave it as it is. Thank goodness they did, because this really helps you take a trip back to medieval times. I recommend you to go see the wall at the following places and in this order: (1) Onze Lieve Vrouwewal, (2) Helpoort and Pater Vincktoren, (3) Vijfkoppen, (4) Lang Grachtje and (5) where Zwingelput and Nieuwenhofstraat meet. You can actually go up the wall at Vijfkoppen and at the end of the Zwingelput.
When standing at the junction between Sint Pieterstraat and Lang Grachtje, make sure to look at the building right across the street (Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg) and you will see a big gap in the wall that looks as if an explosion took place. In reality, the gap was created on purpose to show you exactly where the wall used to be. Turn around and you’ll see the remains of the inner city wall all along the street.
This is a very little known gem hidden away from the main street. You will find a walking path in the Sint Pieterstraat right next to house number 31. It looks like you are entering private property but no worries: it is a public path and perfectly open to the public. On your right, you’ll see an old water mill that will be turning when the water level is high enough. The beautiful white building on the left is private property. So don’t cry out in amazement too loud when you see this hidden gem.
3. Faliezusterspark at the Begijnenstraat
This cute house is a former monastery. There are no more nuns here. It is private housing now. But the people living here sure know how to make their place look cozy and beautiful. You get a great view of both the old monastery and the Pater Vincktoren and the Helpoort just behind it when you walk right up to the front door behind the big tree. Don’t worry, they won’t mind.
4. Bakery at the Bisschopsmolen
Another hidden gem that I love. Walk into the street called Achter de Oude Minderbroeders and take the first narrow alley on the left. You’ll walk right up to this ancient bakery. The bakery is powered by a watermill and is at least 1,000 year old. We know it belonged to the bishop of Liege, a city 30 kilometers away, in the 11th century. Other historians believe the bakery was already there as far back as the 7th century. Either way, it is amazing that it is still in use and is still producing bread up to this day.
You can go inside and see exactly how the watermill used for grinding inside the building. There is even a little café inside and you can buy fresh bread at the counter. This a good place to have a break during your walking tour of Maastricht. Check the bakery’s website for more information.
5. Onze Lieve Vrouweplein
Walk straight through the bakery at the Bisschopsmolen and through the gezellige (cozy) Koestraat and you’ll end up at one of the main city squares: Onze Lieve Vrouweplein. It is right in front of the historic church that dates back to the 11th century. The square is filled with cafes and restaurants and has a big seating area right in the middle. It is a popular place for locals to go have a drink and take a break. Feel free to join them. Everyone is welcome.
The Church right next to the square, dedicated to Mary, is always open to the public and offers several exhibits of religious icons and treasures. Oh and before I forget: if you like ice cream, make sure to walk around the Church on the right side to get some delicious ice cream at Gelateria Luna Rossa. You can continue your walk through the Graanmarkt and Stokstraat while enjoying your Italian ice cream.
6. Shopping Streets
The Onze Lieve Vrouweplein leads directly into one of the main shopping streets: Wolfstraat. This is another must-see on your visit. Be sure to look up a lot. The facades of the old buildings are great. And a special characteristic of Maastricht is often visible here: the outside of buildings cannot be changed because they are protected by law. The inside is a different matter though. So often, you’ll see fantastic historic buildings that are medieval on the outside. However, as soon as you step in, you’re in a state of the art 21ste century shop or shopping mall with modern architecture all over. Maastricht is a master in blending the old with the new and this combination is one of the city’s great features.
The Wolfstraat leads into the Grote Staat and at the corner of these two streets, you will find the colourful and tall Tourist Information Office. Have a look inside to find out more about places to visit during your time here. Opposite the Office you can see the most narrow building of the city and get some candy or a waffle at one of the candy shops right next to it.
Maastricht City Tour Continues
There is a lot more to see in Maastricht. Stay tuned for my second article on the Maastricht City Tour. In the meantime, read all about another great city walk you can do. Brussels is also great to discover on foot.