Monday, 15 February 2010

Going South: Maastricht, the most beautiful

Part of the medieval walls that used to protect the city of Maastricht

Apparently, it all started when, right at the beginning of thre present era, the Romans drove the Celtic tribes out of this area of Limburg and built a bridge across the river Meuse (Maas, in Dutch language) . Maastricht or Mestreech in the local dialect, is the oldest city in The Netherlands and also the most beautiful I've visited so far.

The Stadhuis or Town Hall of Maastricht, built between 1659 and 1664 by Pieter Post.

The Hell's Gate or Helpoort in Dutch, is part of the original city walls built in the 1200s.

Maastricht is a great place to discover on foot or even by bike if you are up for the challenge (not me!). Its historic city centre is like an open museum where you can see traces of its Roman beginnings, remains of the medieval fortified city and religious centre of pilgrimage that it once was, and also vestiges of its importance as the oldest labour and industrial town in The Netherlands.

Vrijthof Square with the building of the General Guard in the centre of the picture; and St. Servatius Basilica and St. Jan's Church in the background.


St. Servatius Basilica - construction of this church began around the year 1000.

But Maastricht does not only have great appeal for those interested in history and fancying a ride in the time machine. Besides its impressive monuments, Maastricht has a very rich cultural life with a variety of museums, art galleries, performing arts schools and an events calendar that is quite impressive.
Among the latter, two of the most important events of the year are the Carnival or Vasteloavend -which is an extremely popular holiday in Maastricht; and Winterland Maastricht, a Christmas market and kermesse held during the Christmas season.

A good idea is to take a boat cruise and get a different view of the city from the river Maas.

A view of the city taken from the river Maas druing our boat trip.

The Hoge Brug (High Bridge) as seen from the river - the pedestrian and bicycle suspension bridge communicates the old city with the trendy area known as Céramique.

Maastricht is also known as "the culinary capital of capital of The Netherlands", due to its reputation for gastronomic excellence. Almost everysort of cuisine can be found here and five of the city's restaurants have been awarded with Michelin stars over the years.

This is not a Michelin-star establishment, but right in the centre of the old city, on the Vrijthof Sq., I found this Argentinean restaurant.


Not that this has anything to do with fine dining, but it is a typical sight here in The Netherlands: people eating chips with loads of mayo.

If you enjoy shopping and you like spending some coin on trendy outfits and accesoires, a walk along Wyckerstraat, Maastrichterbrugstraat and the Grotestraat will put you right in the middle of shopping paradise. There is also a new shopping centre, the Mosae Forum, located on the banks of the river Maas; and between the Vrijthof square and the Market, you will find Entre Deux, a complex that, besides known national and international chains also includes a very unique bookshop located in an old Dominican Church.

The Mosae Forum shopping arcade which opened in 2007 in the heart of the old city.
©Nicolás Garmendia photos.

An original building in the historic city centre of Maastricht. The crack in the wall, marks where the old city walls used to stand.

By courtesy of Brian Hill, I can show you photos of the wonderful Dominican church that now houses the Selexyz bookshop. As Brian put it in his photo gallery, "a bookshop made in Heaven"... You can see a couple more photos of this place by clicking on the link above that will take you to his photo stream.

Selexyz bookshop in the Entre Deux shopping complex in Maastricht. ©Brian Hill photos.

Historic church turned into a modern bookshop. ©Brian Hill photos.

Unfortunately, when my husband and I visited Maastricht last year on Palm Sunday, the weather was really awful most of the time. It was drizzling and rather cold in the morning while we were taking our walking tour in the historic city centre; then the sun broke out for a while during our boat trip along the river Maas; and later, it started to pour down heavily and looked as if it was going to last forever.
At this point, we were already soaked through and tired so we gave up and decided to get in the car and drive back to our hotel in Valkenburg.

It started pouring down with rain while we were walking in the shopping area in the city centre of Maastricht.


A coffee terrace on Vrijthof Square during the summer.
©Nicolás Garmendia photos.


Despite liking the city so much and having still so much to explore and to see there, we haven't yet been able to go back, but I have placed Maastricht on the top of my list of places to visit again this coming spring/summer.

Yoy may also like to read:
Going South: a trip to Valkenburg, in the Burgundian province of Limburg.


Acknowledgements:

Many thanks to both, Nicolás Garmendia and Brian Hill for allowing me to post their photos in this blog.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great city Eber, I will visit it in my next trip

Breigh said...

My husband and I are trying to decide where to spend a weekend for our 10th anniversary in May. We were thinking about Luxembourg but this post now has me leaning heavily towards Maastricht!

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks... Rober? I appreciate your visit ;)

@Breigh,
Oh I'm sure Luxembourg is a very nice place, too. Difficult choice... Maastricht is a really nice city; and all the region, actually, is very beautiful, with the hilly landscape and very cute villages.
Thanks for your comments!

A Touch of Dutch said...

I love to learn about the history all around us here & it sure seems Maastricht is rich with it! Plus these lovely photos, you certainly have talked me into wanting to visit :-)

Aledys Ver said...

@Isabella,
Yes, you have to visit it some time! It's totally worth it.
Thanks a lot for your comment!

~ Lopa said...

Maastricht is on our list too... Such a beautiful place and all the history around it.
May be one of these weekends, Actually i am waiting for it to be a bit less colder ;)
So may be March or April :)

aggieLap said...

I've learned a lot by reading this post, although I was there not long ago. But I was too busy taking pictures (and keeping warm that day).
I know someone else as well who hasn't been to Maastricht yet and really want to go back. I'd also like to go back another time on a warmer day :)

Aledys Ver said...

@Lopa,
We went in March - and I have to say the first day, which we spent in Valkenburg, was lovely - even warm, I remember we walked around in short sleeves. But the next day, when we had planned our visit to Maastricht, it was horrible!
So I guess it's a good idea to wait a bit ;)
Thanks for stopping by!

Aledys Ver said...

@Aggie,
Yes, I can imagine how it must've been hard for you to walk around in the cold!
My friend Nicolás, whose photos I've published on this entry, was there in the summer, and I have to say, it looks really smashing in the sunlight!
Thank you for your comments!

Nicolás said...

Ah bueno... pero qué presentación. Maravilla total. Muy prolijo. Saludos

Aledys Ver said...

@Nicolás,
Graciasssssssssssss mil por las fotos y algún día, la recorreremos juntos ;)

MIGUEL NONAY said...

Hola Aledys.

Impresionante este post, me he disciplinado para traducirlo, pero he tenido que usar a ratos el traductor. Buenisima información. Gracias.

Te informo que de momento postpongo el viaja a Holanda, por discrepancias con los organizadores, ya te contaré que es muy largo de explicar.

Por Bélgica fue genial, pasamos muuuucho frío pero las cervezas, en jarra grandeeeee y el chocolate buenísimos, y el pais es como una casita de muñecas.

Cuidate.

Besotes, guapa¡¡¡

A Salto De Mata

Presépio no Canal said...

I have been there, sitting on a terrace, in front of the catedral...I want to go there in Carnival to see how it is... this year was not possible, may be next year...
Lovely fotos, Aledys! Very good post!

Sonya said...

Wow your photos are sooo beautiful! a place I need to visit for sure!

Aledys Ver said...

@Miguel,
Oh lamento que se haya demorado el viaje a Holanda - pero en una de esas mejor, porque si lo dejas para más adelante, tendrás mejores chances de tener mejor clima... aunque aquí nunca hay garantía! :o)
Un saludo Miguel y muchas gracias!

Aledys Ver said...

@Sandra,
I got to see a few of the "poppen" they make for the Carnival and they looked like fun! I was there exactly when the "Semana Santa" was about to begin, so the mood was a bit different than during the Carnival, as you can imagine!
THanks a lot for your visit.

Aledys Ver said...

@Sonya,
Thank you so much for leaving your comments!!

Vagamundos said...

Welcome back! And what a come-back!!
Ok, we're convinced: we gotta visit Maastricht :) Excellent report and approach to show us the city. We love historical sites: funny way of "keeping" the ancient medieval walls in a modern city :) And if it has a 5-star argentinian restaurant, all the better :)
Saludos desde Copenhaga

Aledys Ver said...

@Vagamundos,
Thanks!! Wow!! :o) Yes, you have to come and visit Maastricht one day - it's a very fine place.
Bjs.

Mimi said...

Que alegría me ha dado ver esta entrada!!! he pasado algunas veces y veía que no habías escrito nada, pense escribirte para ver como estabas.

Muchos besitos

Aledys Ver said...

@Mimi,
Muchas gracias, corazón! Un besito.

Anita said...

Hi Aledys,
Maastricht is indeed one of my fave cities in the NL. Medieval and breathes a grandeur from past times, it rocks !! I even asked my husband about living there years ago, he said there are fewer jobs than in the Randstaad. The only minus point I think is the absence of gardens and water, so common in Northen Holland.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Very nice! This is on our "to see" list for sure. And after reading your post, I just can't wait!

Aledys Ver said...

@Anita,
It is definitely MY favourite city in the NL! I also nagged my husband and asked why didn't we move there, since it looked in every aspect so much closer to what I was used to... but you know, it was too hard for him to think of leaving the place where he was born, his friends and fammily behind....!!!! :o)
Thanks for your comments!

@JaPRA,
Well, you better hurry my friend!!! :o)
Thanks for stopping by.

Amanda said...

Thank you for the lovely write-up about Maastricht. I've lived here about a year and we love it. Right now the statue with all the people sitting around it, is wearing a wreath made from greens and vegetables in honor of Carnival. Sadly the Mooswief comes down tonight to signal the end of the festivities this year.

Aledys Ver said...

@Amanda,
It was nice finding an expat blogger actually living in my favourite city in the NL! And it was great reading about Carnival, too. Just when some of us were wondering about what it'd be like.
THanks for your visit!!

Orangesplaash said...

We havent been to the South of Netherlands yet, except Zeeland..Maastricht definitely looks inviting from these pics. Thanks for sharing such wonderful information.

buday said...

Now you make even my husband want to go. That is one lovely place. It even looks charming in the rain, hehe, although I sure hope the weather will cooperate with you next time you visit. :)

Aledys Ver said...

@Orangesplaash,
Zeeland is also a very nice part of the NL and so different from Limburg, really - it's incredible. You should definitely go some day ;o)
Thank you for your comments!

@buday,
You tell your husband to talk to me, if he is in any doubt :o)
Oh I too hope that the weather will be better next time I go!!
Thanks for your visit!

Xoán-Wahn said...

Absolutely beautiful! The photos are fantastic! This city is definitely on my list of places I want to visit. Thanks for this great post!

Aledys Ver said...

@Xoán-Wahn,
Gracias!! If you ever come to The Netherlands, make sure to take the time to visit this city. I sometimes think that it is a pity that tourists seem to get stuck in Amsterdam and sometimes leave without getting to see the real NL ...
Thanks for your comment!!

BLOGitse said...

I miss clean air, clean streets and parks, quiet city life (any city is quiet after Cairo!)...

I love those old castles and houses. And I'd love to visit that bookshop and sit outside cafe...

I had to come here to relax - dancing the whole day is hard work! :)

BLOGitse

Aledys Ver said...

@BLOGitse,
I can imagine how you must need to change the pace from time to time!
Thanks for stopping by!!

~ Lopa said...

Thanks Aledys for nice comments on my blogs and link of my food blog on your blog :)

I feel really great the way you girls have welcomes my blog:)

If everything goes well we will have a tasty treat ;)

Melissa said...

Hi there..I found you while surfing other expat blogs and how wonderful to see a post on my soon to be new home! My husband is from Maastricht and after being in the US with me for 13 years we are moving to NL(Maastricht) in the next few months..what a fabulous city it is!
Melissa
http://willemsgodutch.wordpress.com/

Aledys Ver said...

Welcome, Melissa, to the Expat Band of Sisters hehe
I wish you all the best here in the NL and I hope to "see" you around.
THanks for your message!

Invader_Stu said...

I was in Maastricht a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. I have to go back there sometime.

Great photos.

oranjeflamingo said...

The more I see and hear about Maastricht, the more I want to visit. I didn't know it was such a big culinary center as well. Wonderful! And the bookstore! Oh my! Heaven, indeed! ;)

Pinay in Dutchland said...

My hubby studied in Maastricht and once in a while we would go there to have coffee with his former mates. I love the city. If only its not too far from where I live, I'd be there every weekend.

Daniel Dragomirescu said...

Yes, peace, love and freedom. Congratulations!
Daniel D. Peaceman, writer and editor

Droomvla said...

NICE! I've been there before and have seen some of these places but somehow these pictures make them more beautiful and interesting! lol Good job, Aledys!

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Firoz said...

I like your blog post and i enjoy reading it and Pictures are so amazing.i hope i will come back to read more new update.Thank you

Russian Sphinx said...

Thank you for nice pictures, nice architecture, I will have to change my holidays plans :)

Vivian said...

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bjk