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Maastricht for First-Timers

Wander through caves, markets, cafes and vineyards

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The city of Maastricht offers many museums, churches, historical buildings, hidden alleys and spacious squares. Religious tourists have traveled to Maastricht for centuries to see the Basilicas of Our Lady and St. Servatius. Maastricht’s biggest attractions are its underground tours. Another attraction is a boat ride over the river Meuse. For first-time visitors, here are some not-to-be-missed things to see and do in the city of Masstricht.


Caves of St. Pieter

Over the centuries, the mining of marl in the caves of St. Pieter has resulted in the formation of a labyrinth with over 20,000 tunnels. The so-called block breakers (marl cutters) as well as various artists have left their marks behind in the form of various texts on the walls, some of which are very old. Today the mines and caves only serve as a tourist attraction.

The mining of the caves probably started in the time of the Romans, but the caves weren’t only a source of marl. Throughout the years, they have also served as a place of refuge for residents of the city during the many sieges which Maastricht has endured. Listen to the stories of survivors and watch the facilities that were put in place for those who sought shelter here.

The local tourist information office (VVV) can help you select a tour. The temperature in the caves is around 10°C, so make sure to bring a sweater or jacket. The guided tours last about one hour and are led by official guides.


Markets of Maastricht

Maastricht is a city of markets. If you visit Maastricht, it is inevitable that you will pass a market, where you will surely be tempted to browse the endless supply of wares, antique furniture and fresh food products.

The best-known market in Maastricht is the one held on the square of the same name, Markt. Surrounding by stately mansions and the imposing city hall, Maastricht’s main market is set up here every Wednesday and Friday. You can buy nearly anything at the stalls, from plants, flowers and clothes to cosmetics, food and fresh produce. The Wednesday market is relatively small, with 200 stalls, and with the addition of the fish market on Fridays, the Markt in Maastricht offers shoppers a selection from 300 stalls. The market is open on both days from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

On Saturday, the Stationsstraat becomes the backdrop for the Maastricht flea market. This flea market is a cross between a serious antique market and one offering curiosities. For collectors and “window shoppers,” it is a great market for poking through boxes of old books, gramophone records, shopping for antique furniture and lamps, and countless peculiar knick-knacks. The Maastricht flea market is open between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.


Het Vrijthof & the Basilica of St. Servatius

Maastricht is a great city with many historical structures and squares. But there’s one place in particular that you cannot miss visiting and that’s het Vrijthof. This square has attracted people since medieval times when pilgrims came to see the grave of Saint Servatius.

A Romanesque cathedral with crypts and treasures, the Basilica of St. Servatius is a historical church dedicated to Saint Servatius, an Armenian missionary who died and was buried in Maastricht in 384. The grave of the saint, as well as the many relics in the church treasury made the basilica a popular pilgrimage site. Heiligdomsvaart is a pilgrimage tradition that occurs once in seven years and which started in the 14th century.

These days, Vrijthof is known for its outdoor cafés. Enjoy one of the many different kinds of beers that are served in Maastricht or try a piece of Limburgse Vlaai, a fruit pie famous among the Dutch.


Vineyards Around Maastricht

Just outside the city of Maastricht, one finds various vineyards gracing the slopes of the Limburg hills. The vineyards of Maastricht are some of the oldest in Holland, initially planted back in Roman times. You can visit these vineyards, take a tour, and taste Pinot Noir, Riesling and Müller-Thürgau.

Although the Jeker is a small river, it has a major influence on the Limburg landscape. This small river traverses the green valley, with its hills and picturesque villages, carving a path from the Belgian border until it meets up with the Meuse in Maastricht. Not only does the Bishop’s Mill owe its existence to the Jeker, but the vineyards in the Jeker Valley are also irrigated by this modest river. We recommend visiting Wijngaard De Apostelhoeve, Hoeve Nekum, Domaine Backerbosch and Wijngoed Thorn.

This itinerary is compliments of the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions. For more things to see and do in Maastricht and South Holland, check out their website.


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