The Dutch city of Maastricht, famous for hosting the signing agreements for the founding of the European Community in 1992, is also notable for having one of the world’s most relevant art and antique fairs: TEFAF. The European Fine Art Fair welcomes every year the most reputable art galleries, dealers and curators who bring their most precious artworks to be sold, admired or exchanges at the prestigious event. But as we have experienced, a visit to this lovely city can be a real delight at any time of the year.
Like many cities in Central Europe, Maastricht is clean and tidy. In this university enclave of 125,000 residents, close to Belgium and Germany, there is no room for boredom. Visitors are particularly attracted to its converted churches, which—given their size—could easily be considered cathedrals. One of them—the Selexyz Dominicanen—was transformed into a spectacular bookstore. The former medieval church turned book temple was once used as a bicycle garage and boxing ring. Today, the books are imaginatively stacked and, in the apse, there is a restaurant where visitors can enjoy a coffee or snack while admiring its restored frescoes. The library is located next to the Entre Deux shopping mall and the Vrijthof Square. Other magic destinations for discerning travelers.
In the vicinity, there is another captivating Gothic church, currently known as the Kruisheren Hotel. The building—dating from the 15th century—is a former monastery converted into a hotel that introduces modern elements such as its grand entrance with rounded brass plates while keeping the aesthetics of a reformed basilica. Along the main nave, the designers built a restaurant on a platform—conceived with great architectural sense—to elevate the eye and prevent the high spaces from looking too empty. The views of the city from some of the hotel’s 60 rooms—minimalist and stark—are heavenly.
If you are walking around the center of Maastricht, you must stop at the reference points mentioned above. But there are many other visits along the way, including the huge Market Square presided by the City Hall; Vrijthof Square, home to the Basilica of St. Servatius (Sint Servaas), and the Bonnefanten art museum.
The central market is a great location to take a break and enjoy the quality of the products served. Of course—and this applies to most European countries— the best season to visit Holland is spring. Maastricht can seem less friendly if it greets you with rain and cold. But a clear sky deserves a biking tour (cars are scarce) across the Meuse River through one of the bridges that lead to the old town.
We recommend the area around Tongersestraat Street for leisure and recreation. There, you will find numerous restaurants, cafes and art galleries that attract stylish young locals looking for fun. The people of Maastricht take great pride in the way they display their merchandise, so their products become immediately appealing, whether in a cheese shop or a café. The houses are equally attractive, with gabled slate roofs, a profusion of windows and very few architectural transgressions. Like the rest of Holland, Maastricht is a delicious destination. ■