Maastricht is the capital city of the Dutch province of Limburg, and a day trip here will definitely not be wasted!
Maastricht has a rich and ancient history; visitors can see this simply by walking its historic inner city, where many centuries-old structures still exist. Also, since it’s bordered by Germany on the east and Belgium on the west, it offers a different cultural experience than other Dutch cities.
What You Can See and Do in Maastricht
In our opinion, a day trip to Maastricht is simply not enough but if that’s all you have to spare, then feel free to pick and choose from our list of the best things to see and do in Maastricht below.
For your convenience, and whenever possible, we’ve included suggested time durations for some of the attractions below so you can gauge which ones you’d like to focus on during your day trip.
# 1. North Caves Maastricht Underground
When visiting a place, who says that your only focus should be aboveground attractions? You can do something different in Maastricht by exploring what lies beneath this historical city by visiting the North Caves Maastricht Underground. (a.k.a. St. Peter’s Caves). This attraction comes with a guide who will tell you about this city’s historical underground architecture.
Duration: 1 hour
Our Tip: Bring a jacket! Visitors are often surprised at how cold it is underground.
# 2. Fort Sint Peter
Above North Caves Maastricht is Fort Sint Peter (St. Peter’s Fortress), a military fortress built to defend Maastricht from the French around 1700. Only guided tours are allowed, so you need to reserve a slot. The cannons, secret water well, underground passages, and the stunning view from the top will then be shown to you by your guide.
Duration: 1.5 hour
# 3. Vrijthof Square
Vrijthof is one of Maastricht’s two town squares. It has no less than 38 national monuments and has not just one but two churches: Basilica of Saint Servatius and Sint-Janskerk.
The Basilica of Saint Servatius is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Servatius, the patron saint of Maastricht. It’s believed that the first structure, a large stone church, was built on-site around 570, making it the oldest surviving church in the Netherlands. Next to it is the Protestant church Sint-Janskerk, founded in the 1200s.
Our Day Trip Tip: Vrijthof Square is a day trip in itself. You can start by simply walking its surroundings and trying to spot as many of its national monuments as you can. Next, visit both churches mentioned above. If you want to climb the steps to the towers of both churches, you’re talking anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on your fitness and level of interest in the details of the churches. After you’re done with your church visits, go back down and end your day at one of the cozy cafes and terraces surrounding the square.
Our Winter Tip: If you happen to be in Maastricht in December, you’re in luck. One of the best Dutch Christmas markets is held here at Vrijthof Square, so don’t miss it!
Also, Vrijthof Square hosts various events throughout the year, such as musical concerts, food festivals, and many more. So check their website for any scheduled events.
# 4. Het Markt
Less than 500 meters from the Virjthof Square is Markt (Market Square). If Vrijthof is known for its twin churches, Markt is known for being the home of the town hall, an imposing building erected in the late 17th century. Today, its carillon with 49 bells still plays.
Our Tip: Wednesdays and Fridays are market days on the Markt, so it’s a great day to visit if you’re a foodie.
# 5. Boekhandel Dominicanen
If you’re a book worm, then a day trip to Maastricht just to visit Boekhandel Dominicanen (Dominican Bookstore) is a must. As the name suggests, the structure used to be a Dominican church. However, it lost this secular function over two centuries ago, and since then, it’s been home to various enterprises. In 2006, it finally became BoekhandelDominicanen.
With over 55,000 books, it’s easy to lose track of time here. Even if one is not a book lover, people come here just for the ‘experience’ of visiting the former church. Many also visit for a cup of coffee or light lunch at the café, which is located where the church’s choir space used to be.
Duration: 1 hour (but a whole day trip for book lovers!)
# 6. Onze Lieve Vrouweplein (Square of Our Lady)
In the oldest part of the city is the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein (Church of Our Lady). This place used to be a churchyard; today, it’s a lively terrace visited by locals and tourists alike.
Overlooking the square is the Basilica of Our Lady, popular for its westwork and Sterre der Zee (Star of the Sea) chapel.
# 7. Bisschopmolen (Bischop’s Mill)
Bisschopmolen is an ancient water mill in the center of the old town. This historic site, which dates back to the 7th century, is still in use and produces flour today. Right next door is a bakery where you may sample some delectable goods prepared from flour from the mill.
Our Tip: Don’t forget to sample a slice or two of the famous Limburgse vlaai. It’s a pie filled with sweet custard and various fruits, and Bisschopmolen is reputed to serve the best vlaais!
# 8. Hell’s Gate
Don’t be alarmed; it’s not the portal to another world. It’s actually one of the oldest city gates still in existence in the Netherlands. It was constructed in the early 13th century, and due to its imposing shape and the original purpose of its tower – to keep prisoners – it’s been dubbed Hell’s Gate.
# 9. Maas River and Sint Servaasbrug
If you want a breathtaking view of Maastricht over water, take a stroll over the Maas River via Sint Servaasbrug (St. Servatius Bridge). Built in the late 13th century, this stone footbridge is considered the oldest bridge in the country. Admire the centuries-old archways, architecture, the sailing boats beneath, and of course, take in the great Maastricht skyline as you walk this bridge.
# 10. Shopping Day
Maastricht is a popular shopping destination, so no one will blame you if your day trip goal is simply to shop till you drop.
The main retail thoroughfare is the Grote Straat, and the largest shopping centers are the Mosae Forum and Entre Deux. High-end brands can be found in the Stokstraatkwartier. When you’re exhausted, head to the Jekerkwartier to unwind like a local and dine in one of the many cafés and restaurants there.
How to Get to Maastricht
By Public Transport
Maastricht, like any capital city in the Netherlands, has excellent railway links. Major railway carriers such as NS and Arriva can bring you there from almost any Dutch location. Within the city, Arriva provides public bus transport. For more information, please check this site.
Maastricht is easily accessible through various highways. If you’re coming from Amsterdam, this would be E25/A2 highway, and the travel time would be around 2.5 hours. If you’re coming from another location, we recommend you check Googe Maps.
How to Get Around Maastricht
On Foot or By Bike
As mentioned, Maastricht is a historic city with many national monuments. Plus, it has bridges crossing the Maas River! So it’s not surprising that the city has amazing walking, hiking, and cycling routes. You can take a simple and short city center walking tour or take a long and scenic bike tour in and around Maastricht. All up to you!
Our Day Trip Tip: Make a complete day trip out of a single visit to Fort Sint Pieter: visit the fortress, go to the underground caves, and then take any available walking or hiking routes (usually 2 to 10 kilometers) around Sint Pietersberg.
Cruising down the Maas River is one of the most popular ways to spend the day in Maastricht. A boat trip will usually pass many of Maastricht’s attractions, such as Fort Sint Pieter, the Basilica of Our Lady, and others.
Duration: +/- 1 hour
Note: You can have a complete day trip by boat. Some tours will take you to nearby cities and events just across the border to Belgium and then back to Maastricht.
Accommodations in Maastricht
A wide variety of accommodations are available here to suit every type and budget. You can rent a budget or fancy apartment, book a room at a trendy boutique hotel, stay at a farmhouse loft, or even lodge at a 15th century monastery.