Museums & Sights in Maastricht

Maastricht is known in the Netherlands and beyond for its lively squares, narrow streets, and historical buildings. The city has 1677 rijksmonumenten (national heritage sites), more than any Dutch city outside Amsterdam. The entire city centre is a protected cityscape (“beschermd stadsgezicht”). The tourist information office (VVV) is located in the Dinghuis, a medieval building overlooking Grote Staat. Maastricht’s main sights include:

  • Meuse river, with several parks and promenades along the river, and some interesting bridges:
    • Sint Servaasbrug, partly from the 13th century; the oldest bridge in the Netherlands;
    • Hoge Brug (“High Bridge”), a modern pedestrian bridge designed by René Greisch;
  • City fortifications, including:
    • Remnants of the first and second medieval city wall and several towers (13th and 14th centuries);
    • Helpoort (“Hell’s Gate”), an imposing gate with two towers, built shortly after 1230, the oldest city gate in the Netherlands;
    • Waterpoortje (“Little Water Gate”), a medieval gate in Wyck, used for accessing the city from the Meuse, demolished in the 19th century but rebuilt shortly afterwards;
    • Hoge Fronten (or: Linie van Du Moulin), remnants of 17th- and 18th-century fortifications with a number of well-preserved bastions and a nearby early 19th-century fortress, Fort Willem I;
    • Fort Sint-Pieter (“Fortress Saint Peter”), early 18th-century fortress on the flanks of Mount Saint Peter;
    • Casemates, an underground network of tunnels, built as sheltered emplacements for guns and cannons. These tunnels run for several kilometres underneath the city’s fortifications, some isolated, others connected to each other. Guided tours are available.
  • Binnenstad: inner-city district with pedestrianized shopping streets including Grote and Kleine Staat, and high-end shopping streets Stokstraat and Maastrichter Smedenstraat. The main sights in Maastricht as well as a large number of cafés, pubs and restaurants are centred around the three main squares in Binnenstad:
    • Vrijthof, the largest and best-known square in Maastricht, with many well-known pubs and restaurants (including two – one former – gentlemen’s clubs). Other sights include:
      • Basilica of Saint Servatius, a predominantly Romanesque church with important medieval sculptures (most notably the westwork and east choir sculpted capitals, corbels and reliefs, and the sculpted South Portal or Bergportaal). The tomb of Saint Servatius in the crypt is a favoured place of pilgrimage. The church has an important church treasury;
      • Sint-Janskerk, a Gothic church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, the city’s main Protestant church since 1632, adjacent to the Basilica of Saint Servatius, with a distinctive red, limestone tower;
      • Spaans Gouvernement (“Spanish Government Building”), a 16th-century former canon’s house, also used by the Brabant and Habsburg rulers, now housing the Museum aan het Vrijthof;
      • Hoofdwacht (“Main Watch”), a 17th-century military guard house, used for exhibitions;
      • Generaalshuis (“General’s House”), a Neoclassical mansion, now the city’s main theater (Theater aan het Vrijthof).
    • Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, a picturesque tree-lined square with an abundance of pavement cafes. Main sights:
      • Basilica of Our Lady, an 11th-century church, one of the Netherlands’ most significant Romanesque buildings with an important church treasury. Perhaps best known for the shrine of Our Lady, Star of the Sea in an adjacent Gothic chapel;
      • Derlon Museumkelder, a small museum with Roman and earlier remains in the basement of Hotel Derlon.
    • Markt, the town’s market square, completely refurbished in 2006-07 and now virtually traffic free. Sights include:
      • The Town Hall, built in the 17th century by Pieter Post and considered one of the highlights of Dutch Baroque architecture. Nearby is Dinghuis, the medieval town hall and courthouse with an early Renaissance façade;
      • Mosae Forum, a new shopping centre and civic building designed by Jo Coenen and Bruno Albert. Inside the Mosae Forum parking garage is a small exhibition of Citroën miniature cars;
      • Entre Deux, a rebuilt shopping centre in Postmodern style, which has won several international awards.[25] It includes a bookstore located inside a former 13th-century Dominican church. In 2008, British newspaper The Guardian proclaimed this the world’s most beautiful bookshop.[26]
  • Jekerkwartier, a picturesque neighbourhood named after the small river Jeker, which pops up between old houses and remnants of city walls. The western part of the neighbourhood (also called the Latin Quarter of Maastricht), is dominated by university buildings and art schools. Sights include:
    • a number of churches and monasteries, some from the Gothic period (the Old Franciscan Church), some from the Renaissance (Faliezustersklooster), some from the Baroque period (Bonnefanten Monastery; Walloon Church, Lutheran Church);
    • Maastricht Natural History Museum, a small museum of natural history in a former monastery;
    • Grote Looiersstraat (“Great Tanners’ Street”), a former canal that was filled in during the 19th century, lined with elegant houses, the city’s poorhouse (now part of the university library) and Sint-Maartenshofje, a typically Dutch hofje.
  • Boschstraatkwartier, an upcoming neighbourhood and cultural hotspot in the north of the city centre. Several of the former industrial buildings are being transformed for new uses.
    • Sint-Matthiaskerk, a 14th-century parish church dedicated to Saint Matthew;
    • Bassin, a restored early 19th-century inner harbor with restaurants and cafés on one side and interesting industrial architecture on the other side.
  • Wyck, the old quarter on the right bank of the river Meuse.
    • Saint Martin’s Church, a Gothic Revival church designed by Pierre Cuypers in 1856;
    • Rechtstraat is perhaps the most picturesque street in Wyck, with many historic buildings and a mix of specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants;
    • Stationsstraat and Wycker Brugstraat are elegant shopping streets with the majority of the buildings dating from the late 19th century. At the end of Stationsstraat stands the Maastricht railway station from 1913.
  • Céramique, a modern neighbourhood on the site of the former Céramique potteries with a park along the river Meuse (Charles Eyckpark). Now a showcase of architectural highlights:
    • Wiebengahal, one of the few remaining industrial monuments in the neighbourhood and an early example of modern architecture in the Netherlands, dating from 1912;
    • Bonnefanten Museum by Aldo Rossi;
    • Centre Céramique, a public library and exhibition space by Jo Coenen;
    • La Fortezza, an office and apartment building by Mario Botta;
    • Siza Tower, a residential tower clad with zinc and white marble, by Álvaro Siza Vieira;
    • Also buildings by MBM, Cruz y Ortiz, Luigi Snozzi, Aurelio Galfetti, Herman Hertzberger, Wiel Arets, Hubert-Jan Henket, Charles Vandenhove and Bob Van Reeth.
  • Sint-Pietersberg (“Mount Saint Peter”): modest hill and nature reserve south of the city, peaking at 171 metres (561 ft) above sea level. It serves as Maastricht’s main recreation area and a viewing point. The main sights include:
    • Fort Sint-Pieter, an early 18th-century military fortress fully restored in recent years;
    • Grotten Sint-Pietersberg, an underground network of man-made tunnels (“caves”) in limestone quarries. Guided tours are available;
    • Slavante, a country pavilion and restaurant on the site of a Franciscan monastery of which parts remain;
    • Lichtenberg, a ruined medieval castle keep and a small museum in an adjacent farmstead;
    • D’n Observant (“The Observer”), an artificial hilltop, made with the spoils of a nearby quarry, now a nature reserve.

Museums in Maastricht

  • Bonnefanten Museum is the foremost museum for old masters and contemporary fine art in the province of Limburg. The collection features medieval sculpture, early Italian painting, Southern Netherlandish painting, and contemporary art.
  • Museum aan het Vrijthof is a local history museum in the 16th-century Spanish Government building, featuring period rooms with 17th- and 18th-century furnishings, Maastricht silver, porcelain, glassware, Maastricht pistols, and a collection of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch paintings and 20th-century paintings from local artists.
  • The Treasury of the Basilica of Saint Servatius includes religious artifacts from the 4th to 20th centuries, notably those related to Saint Servatius. Highlights include the shrine, the key and the crosier of Saint Servatius, and the reliquary bust donated by Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma.
  • The Treasury of the Basilica of Our Lady contains religious art, textiles, reliquaries, liturgical vessels and other artifacts from the Middle Ages and later periods.
  • Derlon Museumkelder is a preserved archeological site in the basement of a hotel with Roman and pre-Roman remains.
  • The Maastricht Natural History Museum exhibits collections relating to the geology, paleontology and flora and fauna of Limburg. Highlights in the collection are several fragment of skeletons of Mosasaurs found in a quarry in Mount Saint Peter.