"Not At All What I'd Expected!" Top 5 Page for this destination Maastricht by johngayton

Maastricht Travel Guide: 1,269 reviews and 3,261 photos

I hadn't planned on visiting Maastricht this trip but when I heard about the mountain (HA!) at nearby Vaals I reckoned that would be worth a visit. All I knew about Maastricht was that it was the location where the EU treaty of that name was signed and so I'd sortof envisaged it as being a modern-style Dutch city.

This is a place where the lack of pre-planning really did work for me. The WOW! factor as I got off the train to find brickwork and cobbles instead of the expected concrete, steel and glass was immediate.

My hotel exceeded my expectations, I had some great meals (including the new season white asparagus), enjoyed the city's football frenzy and I accidentally found one of the bestest ever bars anywhere.

And I even got a g**t (multi-plural) sighting - WHEY-HEY ;))

A Little Maastricht History

Maastricht, and indeed the whole Province of Limburg of which it is the capital city, has an interesting and varied history. Its location, astride the River Maas, made it an important garrison town about two thousand years ago for the Romans who built a bridge over the river and installed a castellum (small fort) for its protection.

Following the decline of the Roman Empire the city became an important cultural and religious centre under Frankish rule and during Charlemagne's reign (768 to 813 AD) its proximity to the Carolingian capital of Aachen rendered it an important seat of ecclesiastical power.

For the next thousand years, as the European borders were belliferously drawn and redrawn, Maastricht was part of, or occupied by (in no particular order) France, Germany, Spain and Belgium. It was only in 1839 that Maastricht, and the province of Limburg, was finally settled as being part of the modern Netherlands.

About this time the city began to become industrialised with the building of Petrus Ragout's ceramics factories and by 1930 had become a major mining and industrial centre.

In May 1940 the German army advanced on the city during one of the first battles of their World War II Western Front campaign. The Germans had intended to try to capture the Maas bridges intact but the Dutch defenders managed to destroy them all before finally capitulating in order to prevent the historical city being bombarded.

In September 1944, because of its strategic location, the Allied forces, led by the US 30th Infantry, liberated the city, managing to do so without causing major damage. A commemorative monument marks the spot on the river where they made their crossing.

Following World War II the city's renaissance was swift, becoming the province's cultural focus and with the founding of its university in 1976 ( the Netherland's second youngest) has now established itself in the educational field too.

As a sort of digression - It's interesting wandering around the university area as many of the departments are housed in much older buildings which gives the impression that Maastricht is one of the oldest.

With its rich and varied history it's no wonder that the city has developed a character of its own and the statue pictured is the "Mestreechter Geis" (Spirit of Maastricht), by Mari Andriessen in 1962 on Het Bat/Stokstraat.

The "Mestreechter Geis" was a figure in Lou Maas's operetta "Drei Mestreechtenere noa de Maon" (three people from Maastricht to the moon) and has been adopted as the mascot of the annual carnaval. The statue was a gift to the mayor for his 25th jubilee.

Football Frenzy

The evening I arrived the Dutch national team had been playing in the World Cup 2010 quarter-final against Uruguay in the afternoon. I missed most of the game except the last few minutes which I caught in a bar when changing trains at Den Bosch. It seems to have been a well-contested match which the Netherlands won 3-2 (a fact that was reaffirmed by the train conductor over the speaker system as I boarded my connecting train).

The celebrations of course started immediately and were still going strong by the time I'd gotten to Maastricht, checked into my hotel and then gone out looking for dinner.

The bars and restaurants on, and leading to, the Vrijthof (the city's main square) were busy and buzzy although most diners seemed to avoid the places where the fans were clustered. Not me though - I was more than happy to sit and eat in the midst of it all and soak up the civilized (ish) celebrations.

The Dutch do drunken celebrations far, far better than the English. There's no aggressive nationalism nor macho posturing just the guys (male and female) out to enjoy themselves and celebrate the game as much as the victory.

This made for a superbly informal welcome to a city which I was already suitably impressed with.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lively, Historic and All-round A Nice City
  • Cons:The Cobblestones Make For Sore Feet ;)
  • In a nutshell:Another Place For Throwing Your Preconceptions Out The Window
  • Last visit to Maastricht: Jul 2010
  • Intro Updated Aug 28, 2010
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Reviews (44)

Comments (6)

  • jojes's Profile Photo
    Aug 7, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Aha, you've been to Maastricht ... Very close to where I live in Tongeren. We go there regularly for shopping reasons :-) Lots of products there are a lot cheaper then in Belgium. And it's a nice city to walk around in.

    • johngayton's Profile Photo
      Aug 7, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      Yes I like Maastricht - the pubs certainly and it's a very laid-back place.

  • planxty's Profile Photo
    Jun 30, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    Excellent pub, sorry nightlife, section. I would expect no less from you John. I'm looking forward to this Euromeet already.

    • johngayton's Profile Photo
      Sep 3, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      Looking at the potential numbers Ferg, I reckon we'll have to keep my favourite pub to invites only. Maybe as an unannounced late night tag-on?

    • planxty's Profile Photo
      Sep 4, 2013 at 7:16 AM

      Sounds like a plan to me, John. I know a fairly big pub which could potentially accomodate a good crowd of usbut I'll leave that organisation to those there who are doing that and with better local knowledge. It is years since I was there.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Dec 11, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Hello, John! I have enjoyed my virtual tour of Maastricht through your eyes! Thanks a lot!

  • pieter_jan_v's Profile Photo
    Nov 15, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Today's Dutch lesson: stoptreins should be: stoptreinen. PJ

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 11, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    Informative and enthusiastic tips! I've never been to Maastricht but since it's not far from Aachen I should be able to fit it in to some future trip. I hope you have a great asparagus and football season next year!

  • MacedonianUK's Profile Photo
    Sep 6, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    I really enjoyed your Maastricht page. It was nice meeting you in the City... Till the next time.

johngayton

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