Maastricht is one of the 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!
Thanks to Visit Maastricht for collaborating with Wanderlustingk for my recent trip back to Maastricht. All opinions are my own.
How to get to Maastricht from Amsterdam
It’s a scenic
You’ll need at least one very full day and one night 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! I recommend staying overnight as it’s a great city that isn’t rushed through and it’s well suited to a weekend trip.
Explore the cool Wyck neighborhood for independent shopping
One of Maastricht’s coolest neighborhoods has to be Wyck, one of the neighborhoods between the station and the river. During Roman times, this neighborhood was the site of a Roman temple and castle! This cool neighborhood centered around Rechtstraat. You’ll find lots of cool little shops, thrift stores, galleries, and independent shops. I ended up stopping off to peek into Magnolia Thrift Store and We-ar Vintage & Design.
Maastricht is known for shopping, however. I found this area to have a way more interesting selection than at the major retailers in the center. This area has a few boutique hotels, including the Dutch, if you’re looking for a central location to stay. The walk along the Maas river is absolutely beautiful and worth doing. You’ll also find a few cafes on this side of the river with a gorgeous view.
On my recent trip to Maastricht, I visited Coffeelovers Plein 1992 with my friend. Although the name is very coffee-oriented, this is one of the most popular lunch restaurants in Maastricht. (They have a few locations.) I ordered the daily special while my friend ordered a sandwich.
There are vegan options and I loved my cappuccino that had a mix of plant-based milk. Their coffee comes from Blanche Dael, a well-known Maastricht coffee roaster. Simply, the meal was done to perfection. It’s close to the station, which is handy if you’re coming into Maastricht for the day by train. (On a previous visit, we visited Lunch N Zo, which was a good option within Maastricht’s historic city center.)
Do not miss this bookstore! In the 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, Boekhandel Dominicanen 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. The design section is particularly nice and it’s a great place to pick up gifts/souvenirs. They also sell postcards.
The city still has the original walls, which are 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.
Shop until you drop
Maastricht is famous among Dutchies for its fantastic shopping. Although I enjoyed the Wyck neighborhood mentioned above, I also found a number of scenic shopping street as I explored Maastricht on foot. In particular, Minckelersstraat is full of fun design shops worth popping into. Similarly, Boschstraat is a nice area to pick up handmade chocolates (Guanaja Chocoladebar).
Be sure to try Bourgondische food!
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. This regional food is often referred to as Bourgondische. The reason is not so clear to explain without a bit of history, namely that the Bourgondische kingdom was a rich kingdom in medieval times. People in Brabant and Limburg were often referred to as Bourgondische as they enjoyed such rich food and drinks.
The most famous dishes from Maastricht are
On my last visit to Maastricht, I had a delicious and surprising meal at Bijzonder. This restaurant specializes in using local and organic ingredients to surprise you whether you’re gluten-intolerant, vegan, or simply someone who loves a beautiful dish. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was a short 15-minute walk from the city center to Bijzonder and it was certainly worth the walk.
Our four-course dinner was both beautiful and delicious with every single detail addressed from my own issues with lactose to my friend’s note that she could not eat one thing. Don’t worry if you’re vegan and your partner eats meat as they cater perfectly to both parties! The staff is incredibly warm and friendly while the restaurant itself is cozy. Be sure to make a reservation and ensure that you’re not in a rush as you’ll want to linger over your food!
Sample the local beer!
We spent the evening relaxing at Café de Zwaan. This charming craft beer bar has a great selection of local breweries. There’s no shortage of great nice beer cafes in Maastricht that you can enjoy either outside or inside. While at de Zwaan, I tried the local craft beer from Brouwerij Zuyd, a small Maastricht craft beer producer.
Explore the Zonneberg Caves
Be sure to visit the Zonneberg caves to get a fascinating history lesson in a unique location. The walk from the center is about one hour to the caves although you can also take the bus. 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. 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. Although I wasn’t sure that I’d love visiting these ‘caves,’ they really exceeded my expectations! There’s a cafe by the entrance (Buitengoed Slavante) if you’re feeling a bit peckish after!
Have a bite of vlaai!
Limburg is well-known for having great pastries, so definitely take advantage of the tasty pies/cakes/chocolates. I recommend the cake and bread! Vlaai is simply a fruit pie, typically made with cherry, apples, and other fruits. It’s a popular dish in Limburg.
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. I’m a lover of sweets and I have to say that the Bisschopsmolen did not disappoint. I really loved their mixed fruit (apple and something else!) last time that I was there! This historic bakery has an old mill that is still used to grind flour, so even if you’re not big on sweets, I recommend watching the mill when it’s operational during the weekends during the day.
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.) For something a bit more hip, consider staying at Fitz Roy Urban Hotel, Bar and Garden in the city center near the Vrijthof
Enjoy the seasonal events in Maastricht
Christmas 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. Be sure to give yourself a few hours to enjoy the market itself if you visit during this time. It’s free to enter although you’ll need to purchase tickets to pay for your food and drinks. You can read more about my recent trip to Maastricht for Christmas here!
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 are two caves that hold beautiful Christmas markets inside…
Enjoy André Rieu in concert
One of Maastricht’s most famous sons has to be André Rieu, who still proudly lives in Maastricht (albeit in a castle now). This famous Dutch musician is known all over the world for his romantic songs, Christmas albums, and concerts broadcast on television. I recently saw André Rieu for his Christmas series in Maastricht, which I’ll be writing up soon, which was absolutely fantastic. If you’re a lover of classical music, it’s really worth it–and ensure that you can stay until the very end. During the summers, he plays concerts in the Vrijthof as well.
Celebrate Carnaval in Limburg
Similarly, in February typically, 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. It’s a blast, so definitely look up the dates for the upcoming year`!