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Maastricht is one of most charming cities in the Netherlands and it can be easily explored in a weekend. The city is perfect for a slow, romantic weekend away from Amsterdam spent exploring a beautiful cathedral bookstore, strolling the tangled streets, touring historic caves, and eating/drinking delicious regional cuisine at affordable prices. For architecture and food lovers, Maastricht is a city that you will not want to leave off any trip to the Netherlands. Read the best things to do in Maastricht!
How to get to Maastricht from Amsterdam
It’s a scenic
You’ll need about 1-2 days to explore Maastricht, which makes it a great weekend trip from Amsterdam or anywhere else in the Netherlands. Below you’ll find a map that you can download for off-line exploration and a guide to a perfect weekend in Maastricht!
Maastricht Train Station
It’s only 20 minutes on foot from the train station to the Centre with clear signage. Immediately, you will notice the elaborate and unique architecture that is a blend of different styles. Sadly, the historic bridge crossing the Maas River was destroyed in WWII.
Do not miss this bookstore! In 1580s, Catholicism was outlawed in the Netherlands. Following this period, many former-Catholic churches became abandoned. However, anyone who is a literature lover who enters the Dominicanenkerk will wonder if they’ve entered the Vatican of books.
The church itself dates back to 1294 and it has elaborate frescos on the ceiling that are being restored. It’s had many lives as a military building, a warehouse, a school, an orchestra hall, party hall, and even bike storage.
After excavating medieval tombs while determining if it could be renovated, Selexyz hired an architecture firm to help modernize and preserve this beautiful church in 2005.
Instead of praying at the altar, you can drink coffee and read books. (How holy!) The selection is more limited for English books, but fantastic for Dutch books.
After working up a literary appetite, you can walk to the Lunch N Zo, which has a reasonable and beautifully prepared lunch that comes with a surprise. The bread itself is locally sourced and they strive to keep things as fresh as possible.
At the end of the meal, they give you a shot of advocaat, which is a traditional Dutch alcoholic drink that reminds me of the filling from a Cadbury egg and burns on the way down.
The city still has the original walls, which is integrated into some newer buildings. One of the magical parts about Maastricht is wandering the tangled historic streets and finding beautiful architecture along the way. The wall below is close to Lang Grachtje.
Regional Food Specials
Limburg cuisine is quite different than other food in the Netherlands due to the unique landscape (forests and hills) and the influence of German/Belgian/French cooking.
The most famous dishes from Maastricht are
We spent the evening relaxing at Café de Zwaan. This charming craft beer bar has a great selection of local breweries, however you’ll find plenty of options for craft beer around the city.
The next day, be sure to visit the Zonneberg caves to get a fascinating history lesson in a unique location. The walk from Centre is about one hour to the caves. You will need to make a reservation in advance for a tour in English (or Dutch), but you’ll learn about how the caves were carved for their valuable building materials and aren’t caves at all.
Since Roman times, people have been carving stone from the mines and as a result, the tunnels go for miles to the extent that people who have broken in the caves have died trying to find exits.
During World War II, famous works of art (including the Nightswatch) were hidden from the Nazis in the labyrinthine network. Similarly, Dutch Resistance smuggled Jews from the Netherlands to Belgium using the same caves.
Towards the end of the war, the entire city of Maastricht, which was the first city to be taken by the Germans and the first to be freed, lived in the caves. You can even see the giant bread oven used to sustain the city as well as graffiti with signatures and advertisements.
Regional Food: Vlaai and a beer.
Following a visit to the caves, there’s a lovely café (Buitengoed Slavante) by the entrance that serves beer and fresh vlaai, which is the word for cake.
Limburg is well-known for having great pastries, so definitely take advantage of the tasty pies/cakes/chocolates. I recommend the cake and bread!
The best cake in Maastricht is quite a contentious battle although I was recommended both Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans and Bisschopsmolen, however you’ll often see cafes offering “Koffie & Vlaai” (Coffee and Cake) deals.
Where to stay in Maastricht
You’ll find a number of affordable hotels in Maastricht. For those seeking an affordable room, consider staying at the Student Hotel in Maastricht, which is not just for students. We recently stayed at the affordable cozy and basic B&B Desiree, which sits just outside of the city center. (It was 15 minutes away on the bus from the city center although I’d recommend booking early to find something in the city center.)
Seasonal Events in Maastricht
In December, Maastricht transforms into Magical Maastricht in the city center. This Christmas market has a lovely atmosphere although it’s not so big that you can’t see Maastricht during your trip. It’s free to enter although you’ll need to purchase tickets to pay for your food and drinks.
Nearby you’ll find the Valkenburg Kerststad. Valkenburg was named the best Christmas city in the Netherlands lat year and it’s just fifteen minutes away by train! The coolest part is that there’s two caves that hold beautiful Christmas markets inside…
Similarly, in February, you should be in the South of the Netherlands for Carnaval. The entirety of the south has retained the Catholic tradition of Carnaval although the traditions have evolved.
For 3 days, Maastricht, Tilburg, Den Bosch, and Breda are filled with people in costume singing Dutch songs that are made up each year. Similarly, there’s lots of interesting traditions where women can kiss anyone they want—and the cities even change names for the period. (The date changes yearly and be sure to buy a costume!)