Maastricht is the second most beautiful city in the Netherlands and a popular day trip destination for the locals. This southern city is famous for its laid-back atmosphere, good food and quaint charm. Although one day in Maastricht won’t be enough to see all attractions, it is still enough to get a taste the southern charm of this city.
Read more: If you decide to stay longer in Maastricht, there’s lots to see and do in the area. Discover the best day trips from Maastricht.
- How to get to Maastricht
- What to see and do in Maastricht in one day
- Relax at the Vrijthof Square
- Get a bird’s-eye view of Maastricht
- Get lost in the maze of narrow streets
- Visit the Dominicanen Bookstore
- Walk along the old ramparts
- Cross the Saint Servatius Bridge
- Try the local specialty – vlaai
- Final words
How to get to Maastricht
Being one of the major cities in the Netherlands, Maastricht has good train connections with Amsterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, and other big cities. The train station in Maastricht is only a short walk to the city centre, so getting by train to Maastricht would be the easiest way to travel to Maastricht. If you are traveling by public transport from anywhere in the Netherlands, you can use this handy site to plan your trip. Click on the button below to plan your journey.
If you decide to drive to Maastricht, you should know that the city center is car-free. You can park in one of the following parking places: Sphinxterrein, Frontenpark, Q-Park Bonnefantenmuseum, Q-Park Mosae Forum, or Q-Park Hoogfrankrijk. I recommend the first three (Sphinxterrein, Frontenpark or Q-Park Bonnefantenmuseum), as I normally park there myself. These 3 parking places are just outside of the old town and the fees are lower compared to the rest of the places.
Read more: Maastricht is the perfect destination for a day trip from Amsterdam. Curious which other places are easy to reach from Amsterdam? Read this post about the best day trips from Amsterdam.
Maastricht can be easily visited on a day trip from Aachen, Cologne or Dusseldorf, if you are staying in Germany. It can also be a perfect day excursion from Liege (Luik) and Brussels in Belgium.
Here are some distances to Maastricht from other places in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium:
- From Amsterdam to Maastricht: by car – 215 km (2 hrs); by train – 2 hrs 30 min;
- From Utrecht to Maastricht: by car – 180 km (1 hr 45 min); by train – 2 hrs;
- From Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch) to Maastricht: by car – 125 km (1 hr 15 min); by train – 1 hr 20 min;
- From Eindhoven to Maastricht: by car – 90 km (60 min); by train – 60 min;
- From Aachen (Germany) to Maastricht: by car – 38 km (33 min); by bus (line 350) – 60 min;
- From Cologne (Germany) to Maastricht: by car – 115 km (1 hr 15 min); train + bus from Aachen (line 350) – 2 hrs;
- From Liege/Luik (Belgium) to Maastricht: by car – 35 km (28 min); by train – 35 min;
- From Brussels (Belgium) to Maastricht: by car – 115 km (1 hr 40 min); by train -1 hr 40 min;
What to see and do in Maastricht in one day
As you will soon notice Maastricht is not a city for one day, but if you are visiting Maastricht on a day trip, you can still see all major highlights. Maastricht is a compact city and you can best discover it as you walk around.
Relax at the Vrijthof Square
Depending on whether you will arrive by train or by car, start your trip by walking to Vrijthof Square. Vrijthof is the most emblematic square in Maastricht. Lined up on two sides with restaurants and cafes and on one side with two beautiful churches, Vrijthof is the thriving heart of the city. All festivities happen there. If you are visiting Maastricht in the winter, the famous Christmas market with the gigantic Ferris wheel is taking place there. In the summer, the Vrijthof turns into an open-air theater hosting the world-famous conductor André Rieu and his renowned orchestra for an amazing performance.
Fun fact: The two churches at the Vrijthof Square are St. John’s Church (Sint Janskerk) and the Basilica of Saint Servatius (Sint-Servaasbasiliek). The Basilica of Saint Servatius is considered the oldest functioning church in the Netherlands.
Get a bird’s-eye view of Maastricht
Not many tourists know that you can climb the tower of the St. John’s Church (Sint Janskerk) on Vrijthof Square. From the viewing platform at 43 m you’ll have one of the prettiest views of the city. St. John’s Church dates back to the 13 century and is still an active Protestant church. The remarkable 79-m tall red church tower was built in the 15th century. The church is open for visits from Easter weekend till the end of October from 10 am till 4 pm, Monday – Saturday. The entry fee for adults is 2,50 EUR and for kids 1,50 EUR.
Fun fact: Some travel sites and renowned travel guides claim that the red colour of the tower “was originally achieved with coats of ox blood (now just paint)“. Ox-blood red is a shade of red and a pigment derived from ferrous oxide. No one has been painting the church with blood...
By the way, the tower wasn’t always red. In the 18th century the tower was yellow and in the beginning of the 19th century – white. In the 1980s during the restoration, it was painted again red, as research showed that this was its original colour.
Get lost in the maze of narrow streets
The charm of Maastricht are the narrow cobbled streets with boutique shops and the hidden squares with cute cafes. Even if you are not in a shopping spree, peak into a shop or two to get into the mood. In Maastricht you will find the loveliest independent stores, lots of seductive bakeries, ice-cream salons and deli shops.
Visit the Dominicanen Bookstore
Once a church of the Order of the Dominicans, today the Dominicanen Bookstore (Boekhandel Dominicanen) is one of the most famous bookstores in the world, each time being listed as one of the 5 most beautiful ones. This Gothic church was built in 13th century and was active until the French invaded this part of the Netherlands in 1796.
The church is now beautifully restored and there’s for sure something heavenly about housing the bookstore there. There is also a cafe inside with a lovely terrace on the small square in front of the church, where you can have some refreshments.
Walk along the old ramparts
Not much is left today of the old city walls. The first defensive walls were built in the 13th century but the city outgrew them quickly and in the 14th century a new city wall was built which enclosed a larger area. Today, the only surviving gate from the first city wall is the Helpoort (‘The Gate to Hell’). Helpoort, built around 1230, is also the oldest, still existing, city gate in the Netherlands.
Fun fact: There are many legends about the name of the gate. One thing is though sure, the gate got this name in the 18th century. One of the legends says that the name has to do with a blacksmith’s that was nearby, another one connects the name with the red light district that was in the neighbourhood, but most likely the name comes from the time when the gate was used as a gunpowder magazine.
Cross the Saint Servatius Bridge
The Saint Servatius Bridge (Sint Servaasbrug) is one of the icons of Maastricht. This medieval arched stone bridge spans over the Meuse River and connects the two sides of the city. If you arrive by train in Maastricht, you’ll need to cross the bridge in order to get to the old town. Although Saint Servatius Bridge is considered the oldest bridge in the Netherlands, not much is left from the first stone bridge built there at the end of the 13th century.
There’s a lovely view from the bridge to the city waterfront. if you want to take a nice shot of the Saint Servatius Bridge itself, then you need to cross the river at the High Bridge (Hoge Brug).
Fun fact: The Saint Servatius Bridge is named after the patron saint of Maastricht – Saint Servatius (Sint-Servaas). Saint Servatius is the first documented bishop on the lands of today’s Netherlands and the first bishop of Maastricht. He has lived in the 4th century, most likely was born in Armenia and died in 384 in Maastricht.
Try the local specialty – vlaai
You can’t visit Maastricht without trying the famous Limburgse vlaai. Vlaai is a type of a pie with sweet dough and fruit filling. The most popular vlaai perhaps is the kersenvlaai (with cherries), but my favorite one is with plums – pruimenvlaai.
Some of the best places in Maastricht to try the Limburgse vlaai, are:
- Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans (Zakstraat 9, 6211 PS Maastricht)
- Patisserie Royale (Wycker Brugstraat 13, 6221 EA Maastricht)
- Bakkerij Paulissen (Wycker Brugstraat 37a, 6221 EB Maastricht)
- Bakkerij De Bischopsmolen (Stenenbrug 3, 6211 HP Maastricht)
- Bakkerij Souren (Vijfharingenstraat 14, 6211 EC Maastricht)
- SoDelicious (Stationsstraat 21-23, 6221 BN Maastricht)
When you are visiting the city for the first time and you are spending only a day, don’t bother with museums or organized tours, just try to discover the city by yourself. Make sure you’ll relax with a glass of beer under the shades at one of the many cafes outside on the squares, looking at the passers-by. Maastricht is about enjoying life, so don’t try to do and see too many things in one day. And if you fall in love with the city, which I am sure you will, come back another time and stay longer, as one day in Maastricht is not enough.
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