If you’re looking for a free walking tour in Maastricht, The Netherlands, then you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re searching for a highlight tour in Maastricht, or simply want to go for a walk, this tour in Maastricht is everything you could wish for.
From discovering the most beautiful streets and buildings in Maastricht to visiting incredible museums in Maastricht. And whether you’re searching for architecture in Maastricht or a walking route, this excursion in Maastricht is perfect for you.
What I love about Maastricht is that this city has so much to offer and is so worth visiting. If you want to know what else you have to do and see in Maastricht, then I can recommend you to read this one day Maastricht itinerary that I wrote.
Travelling to Maastricht is one of the things you need to do in the Limburg province, so when you’re here anyway, why not try to get to know Maastricht more profoundly? That’s why this Maastricht walking tour will be perfect for you. Whether you’re a first time visitor to Maastricht, or not, this free walking tour in Maastricht shows you the best parts of Maastricht and remembers you why Maastricht is one of the places to visit in Limburg. I hope you will enjoy this walk in Maastricht and that this free walking tour will show you all the beautiful things this fantastic destination in Limburg, The Netherlands, has to offer.
The city of Maastricht is home to around 1675 monuments, it’s one of the bigger cities in The Netherlands, and as a municipality, Maastricht is home to about 120.000 people. Plus, Maastricht is officially one of The Netherlands oldest cities, the other one is Nijmegen in the province of Gelderland. So, that means that there is a lot to see in Maastricht and that this Maastricht tour isn’t going to be finished with a few kilometres.
This free walking tour in Maastricht is around 17,5 kilometres.
During the walk, you can sit down at one of the many cafes in Maastricht and enjoy the cosy atmosphere of one of my favourite Dutch cities. I can highly recommend you to read this one day in Maastricht travel blog, so you know which cafes and restaurants in Maastricht you should visit during your walking route and other things to do when you travel to Maastricht. Plus, you will discover tons of other local and insider tips to visit Maastricht the best way in that city guide.
P.S. You can make the walk a few kilometres shorter to go from the city wall part straight to Sint Pieterstraat 37, instead of walking through the parks, the Berenkuil and along the Meuse river.
I hope you enjoy seeing the best-kept secrets in Maastricht, as well as saving some money, as this is one of the free things to do in Maastricht (made by yours truly, you can thank me later).
Free walking tour in Maastricht, Limburg, The Netherlands
We start our walking tour in Maastricht at the most famous square in the city, called Vrijthof. Then you’ll walk to Vrijthof 46, where you can find the Theater aan het Vrijthof or the theatre at the Vrijthof. It’s partly found in an old city palace, called the Generaalshuis or generals house, which dates back to 1805. The front that you can see of the building at the Vrijthof side is the old part. Before the Generaalshuis was found on this location, a women’s monastery was located here. And, remains have also been found of a royal residency which was found here between 800-1000.
This theatre in Maastricht has two halls for performances, one has room for 915 people (this is where most of the concerts take place) and the other one has room for 110 people. You can watch anything in this Maastricht theatre, from opera to ballet and from musicals to cabaret and jazz. This theatre has around 60% of its programming filled with artistic productions and 40% with popular performances.
The Generaalshuis was originally named huis De Ceuleneer. Trader Petrus Franciscus de Ceuleneer bought the monastery, to demolish a big part of it and assigned the building of the current building. Architect François Hermans designed it in the neo-classist style.
Then in 1825, baron B.J.C. Dibbets (at the time a commander of the fortified city of Maastricht), bought the house of De Ceuleneer for 35.640 Guilders. Baron Dibbets later became a general, which is why the place is still nicknamed the Generaalshuis or generals house.
This building was divided into three parts in 1888. After that, a portion was used as a part of the municipality building, then as a police station, a city library, the city archives of Maastricht, the Stedelijk Museum, Conservatorium and lastly as the theatre of Maastricht since 1985.
Now continue walking on Vrijthof, to Vrijthof 36. This building dates back to the third quarter of the 18th century, but that’s not the reason why it’s crucial to Maastricht and worth stopping at. This is where the Groote Sociëteit Maastricht (which is an association that was founded in 1760) is housed. It had other locations in the city, including a more prominent place with massive gardens. This association in Maastricht was originally a club mainly for the officers of the garrison and nobility. However, it has changed a bit since the 20th century, although it’s still an exclusive club. Most lists with members have been lost, but King Willem II and King Willem III certainly visited the bigger house with the gardens, as well as Queen Emma and Princess Wilhelmina. Nowadays, the association has combined its forces with three other associations, mainly because the other two weren’t that healthy in a financial way. Nowadays, men and women can become members, but at least two members have to introduce the same person, and then the board votes them in, or not.
Then head to Vrijthof 25. Here you can find a building that is called ‘Hoofdwacht’, which is a former military building in Maastricht. The garrison commander, the court-martial, officers guard and the guardroom were found here. The current building was built in 1736 and replaced the former military building that dated back to 1642. Construction was finished in 1739, but it turned out that the building had a fragile structure, which made facades burst. That’s when a reconstruction happened in 1773, which led to the current establishment.
The Hoofdwacht is essentially the building where the most influential people of the army and officers guard were housing. They had the responsibility to protect the keys of the city walls and the other fortifications. The city guards were also sent to the city gates from here, which is the reason why it’s located in the centre of Maastricht. The Hoofdwacht also had a military delegation, with munition and cannons to make sure the army could respond quickly in case of an emergency.
From 1967, the regiment commander of the Regiment Limburgse Jagers was found here, as well as a military infantry. But on the 6th of March 2006, the regiment and the last military left Maastricht. The Dutch army sold the building to the municipality of Maastricht and nowadays it’s mainly used as an exhibition and gallery building in Maastricht.
Now head to Karel Keizerplein 3, which is where you can find the oldest church in The Netherlands: Sint-Servaaskerk. The oldest part of this church in Maastricht date back to the 6th century, others to the 11th, 12th and 15th century. This church in Maastricht is dedicated to Sint Servaas, who is found in a tomb in the grave chamber in this church. Not only is the church dedicated to Sint Servaas, but it’s also built on the grave of Sint- Servaas. This is one of the best parts of this self-guided tour in Maastricht.
It’s partly built in a Romanesque style and is a parish church of the Roman Catholic Sint-Servaas parish and is the most famous church of Maastricht. The Sint- Servaas church in Maastricht also a basilica, as it carries the title of basilica minor since 1985. Not only can you visit the church, but also the monastery halls and an incredible treasure room. It’s also called the Basilica of St. Servatius in English. The current Sint-Servaasbasiliek is probably the fourth church on this location, so before the 6th century, there were already four churches on this location. That says a lot about how old this church is and how important the city of Maastricht has been during its time.
It is said that bishop Aravatius (Servaas), went from the town of Tongeren to Maastricht to die here. He was buried there and soon after, a chapel was built on his grave, which quickly became a pilgrimage site. Around 560, the chapel was replaced by a stone church with a crypt. After a century of use, that church was replaced by a bigger monastery church.
Most parts of the current Romanesque church were built between 1000 and 1200. The church before was demolished to the foundations. The existing building was first taken in use in 1039. After the Roman church was completed, the church was several times adapted to the current times. At the end of the 12th century and beginning of the 13th century, the church was expanded on the southern side and gained the first gothic-styled part in The Netherlands. In the 14th and 15th century the church was extended to the side with chapels in the Meuse gothic style.
Then in the late 16th or early 17th century, the part of the church that can be seen from the Vrijthof had some baroque added to two 11th century chapels.
Due to the French occupation in the 18th century, where religion was forbidden, the French abolished the Chapter and deanery, and the buildings were sold, as the Sint- Servaas Chapter suddenly had to pay an insane amount of money to the French. The Sint- Servaas Chapet was very wealthy due to incomes from possessions and rights in a big area around Maastricht. The most significant part of the inventory was either sold by the French or destroyed, and the Sint-Servaas church was even used as a horse stable for a long while. In 1804, the church was allowed to exist again, and it became a parish church.
Between 1870 and 1890, the Sint Servaas church was restored by famous Dutch architect, Pierre Cuypers. He rebuilt things, fixed countless of things and replaced parts. Then in 1981, another immense restoration took place, where even 15th-century paintings were made complete amongst many other things. The last repair was so prominent that it was deemed necessary to initiate the church again. The restoration was finished in 1993. And then in 1993, there were 12 bishops (the same number as the initiation in 1039) to initiate the newly restored church of Sint Servaas.
You can visit this basilica in Maastricht, which is something you absolutely must do. After exploring this basilica in Maastricht, you will walk to Vrijthof 18.
Here you will see the beautiful building that is nicknamed Spaans Gouvernement, or Spanish government. It’s said that this is the oldest residential home the entire city of Maastricht. It’s been in use as the photo museum in Maastricht, Fotomuseum aan het Vrijthof, since 1973.
This building was located within the immunity of the Chapter of Sint-Servaas and was at first a house for the canons. It was the first residential house that was part of the immunity area of the Sint- Servaas church and got the name Prima Porta. The first time this house was mentioned was in 1333. That’s when a canon of the Sint- Servaas church transferred the house to the Duke Jan III of Brabant. In 1397, Duchess Johanna of Brabant returned the building to the Chapter of Sint- Servaas, but only if she could still stay there when she would visit Maastricht. Then in 1506, Karel van Gent (who later became emperor Karel V), inherited the title Duke of Brabant. That also meant that he became a King of Spain. That’s why next to the names Hof van Brabant or Brabants Gouvernement, the name Spaans Gouvernement slowly became the name for this building.
Between 1519 and 1550, the house was expanded several times, and mainly generals lived here until the 16th century. But in the 17th century, the entire building was returned to the Chapter of Sint- Servaas, without any visitation rights. In the 18th and 19th century, things changed quite a lot for the building as it mainly started to serve as a residential house for the military governors.
Cool to know is also that a French book printer and editor named Jean- Edmé Dufour lived here at the end of the 18th century. The first French translations of the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe were pressed here and found their way to France, with other forbidden books. After the Chapter of Sint- Servaas was abolished by the French; this building became private property.
And from 1870, it housed several offices of banks. In 1913, the building was auctioned off. A part of the building (at the corner Vrijtfhof, Sint-Jacobstraat and Papenstraat) was demolished to make room for the new office of De Nederlandsche Bank in 1923. The only reason the rest of the Spaans Gouvernement still exists today is that Lord Victor de Stuers could prevent that from happening. He let the remaining building be restored and gifted it to the municipality of Maastricht, with the wish that they would create a city museum in this building.
From 1973, Museum Spaans Gouvernement was found in the building, in 2009 Museum aan het Vrijthof and from 2020 Fotomuseum aan het Vrijthof. Interesting to know is that the building only regained its red coloured facade in 1990. After that, you will continue your free walking tour in Maastricht to Vrijthof 24.
This is yet another stunning church in Maastricht that you can also visit and it’s called Sint-Janskerk (I can highly recommend you to climb its tower for a spectacular view as well: it’s one of the best photo spots in Maastricht). This church was build in a Gothic style and is protestant. The fact that the Roman Catholic Sint-Servaas church can be found next to the protestant Sint- Jan, is something that you don’t often see in The Netherlands. Usually, these churches are way more separated than that.
The Sint- Janskerk was in the Middle Ages one of the four parish churches in Maastricht and founded by the Chapter of the Sint- Servaas church to serve as a parish and baptist church for the Sint- Servaasparish in around 1200. The reason for building this church was to relieve the Sint-Servaaskerk so that it could only be used as a pilgrimage and collegiate church. So yes, the Sint-Janskerk was originally a roman catholic church and part of the Sint- Servaas Chapter. The Sint-Janskerk was first named in 1218, but the current church mostly dates back to the 14th and 15th century. The original tower collapsed after a massive storm on the 8th of June 1366. And the present tower was finally finished in the second half of the 15th century.
In 1632, after the Dutch conquest on Maastricht by Frederik Hendrik succeeded, the Sint-Janskerk went into the hands of the protestants. Interestingly, the Sint-Servaaschurch was allowed to stay Catholic, even after 1632. From 1633, the church belonged to the Low German Reformed Church (nowadays the Dutch Reformed Church). The murals with Catholic stories on them disappeared under a thick layer of chalk until the restorations of the 20th century.
It didn’t always go that well between the Protestant and Roman Catholic neighbours. The clocks of Sint-Servaas were deemed to be too loud, and it was, according to the protestants, done to interrupt the preaching in the Sint-Janskerk. And many more of these things followed over the centuries. But, nowadays everything is looking peachy.
The tower of the Sint-Janskerk in Maastricht wasn’t always red. In writings, it is said that it was yellow in the early 18th centuries and white in the early 19th century. The church is also restored countless of times. But in 1983, during the last restoration, the tower was painted red again.
Now we’re going to walk to Henric van Veldekeplein, Sint Servaasklooster and Sint Servaasklooster 10. Here you will find a Roman-Catholic monastery in Maastricht, which partly only dates back to 1909/1910 and other parts are from the 17th century. Then, at the neighbouring number of Sint Servaasklooster 8, you can find another part of the monastery.
Then we’re making our way to Keizer Karelplein, Grote Gracht and Grote Gracht 82. Here you will see Huis Soiron, or House Soiron, which is a former clergy house in the city centre of Maastricht. It’s since 2004 owned by the University of Maastricht and was built in the late 18th century.
Huis Soiron has been built on the location of a previous house where Prince William (Duke of Cumberland in the U.K.) resided during the Battle of Lauffeld. In October 1785, the house (which was in a terrible state) was bought by Andreas Joseph Soiron and his brother, Wilhelmus Martinus, who were both Canons of the Sint- Servaas Chapter.
They said to their brother Mathias Soiron, city architect of Maastricht, to design a city palace to replace to the old house. Ten years after the house was finished, the Sint- Servaas Chapter lost its power in Maastricht and its surroundings. The French occupied Maastricht in 1794. That’s when the Chapter lost a big part of her privileges and possessions; it was abolished in 1797.
The brothers of Soiron refused to complete the oath of hatred towards the Dutch King and anarchy (which was demanded by the French). They were, together with the provost of Sint-Servaas (Thomas Jacob van Wassenaer), banned to the penal colony of Cayenne in French Guiana. Eventually, a French-minded lawyer and elected representative Charles Clément Roemers could prevent this. Because of that, the Soiron brothers could serve their punishment in the French city of Compiègne. They returned home in 1801.
Little did they know, but their palace was suddenly owned by someone else. In 1825, municipality councillor Ruys lived here, and notary Deflize lived here in 1840. Later on, members of the Regout family lived here. They sold the house to an insurance bank in 1920. In 1962, the municipality of Maastricht bought the building for their financing service.
At Grote Gracht 90, you will be able to see a courtyard in Maastricht; this is the only one that can be viewed by the public during the day when the gates are open. The building is now part of the University of Maastricht, and the other courtyards in Maastricht are entirely behind closed doors and closed to the general public. This courtyard is called Hof van Tilly and is a former city palace, Maastricht had quite a lot of those.
In 1714, the Hof van Tilly was built on the assignment of Claude-Frédéric t’Serclaes van Tilly. Through the gate, carriages could ride into the courtyard. After Tilly and his wife died, the building was used by commissionaires of the Liège (Luik) part of Maastricht, when they would stay in Maastricht.
After the French revolution, refugees from France were living in the building. Then, when the French occupied Maastricht, everything was suddenly owned by the French government, including this building which was eventually rented out.
From July 1795, the administrative services of the French department Nedermaas (Département de la Meuse-Inférieure) were found here. In 1811, French-minded lawyer and member of the Corps législatif, Charles Clément Roemers bought the building. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution took place, for them to become their own country and not part of The Netherlands anymore, Roemers was a massive supporter of the separation.
He put his house at disposal as an armoury for the rebels. The purpose was to go from Hof van Tilly, with armed forces into the city to imprison officers and soldiers of the garrison. Then General Daine of the Meuse army would help them further. But, Daine was drunk, and the plan failed on the 18th of October 1830. The commander of the fortified city of Maastricht, called Dibbets, made sure that Roemers was followed by the police regularly from that moment on. In 1834, a disappointed Roemers sold the Hof van Tilly and disenrolled as a citizen of Maastricht. From 1835, a primary school was found here.
Now continue walking to Kommel and then Kruisherengang 21. During this part of the tour in Maastricht, you will admire a stunning monastery in Maastricht. You first walk along the front part of the monastery (and will see a small garden) and then you will walk around it.
The monastery is one of the few and complete Gothic cloisters in The Netherlands. And its monastery archive is entirely intact, which is very rare. It has a monastery church and four wings that surround a quadrangle. It’s from the 15th and beginning of the 16th century and made from marlstone. This monastery is also a hotel in Maastricht since 2005, called: Kruisherenhotel Maastricht.
Construction of the church started in 1440 and the monastery itself from 1480. Its location seems perfect right now, but it wasn’t exactly the best place to live during the Middle Ages. Most monasteries were found in the area between the first and second city wall of Maastricht, as there was plenty of space to use. But, that also meant that they weren’t protected in the best way. That’s why the Kruisherenklooster in Maastricht was often damaged during attacks. Plus, the fact that it was found on a bit of higher ground on the western side of the city (which was most often attacked), didn’t help either.
During the siege of Maastricht in 1579, all monks but one died. Either due to the violent capture of Maastricht or by the plague epidemic that followed suit. After that, the monastery was uninhabitable for a while. Then in 1581, a new prior started the reconstruction after he sold a part of the possessions of the monastery.
But, while the monastery was rebuilt, it was never as successful as before. Before the siege of Maastricht, there were at least 25 monks in this Dutch monastery and only nine in 1615. Then in 1632, the Dutch state attacked Maastricht, and the French attacked the city in 1673. Because of that, the monastery was in trouble again. But, luckily Louis XIV gave the monastery 2100 Guilders to renovate the building. When the French left Maastricht in 1678, a part of the monastery was used by soldiers of the garrison of Maastricht as a housing.
In the 18th century, the monastery got influenced by the outside world. Clothing changed, and wigs were worn. The influence of this monastery on the city of Maastricht was never that big, which eventually led to the abolishment of the monastery. Continue your self guided walking tour in Maastricht to the next stop.
Then walk to Brusselsestraat and Cellebroederskapel Maastricht. This chapel in Maastricht is part of a former monastery in Maastricht and dates back to the first quarter of the 16th century. From the 16th century, the monks had the job to nurse people who had a contagious disease in Maastricht, such as the Plague. When people were taken care of at home, they had to pay afterwards, when someone died one Guilder was asked. They also took care of mentally ill and disabled people, as well as priests and citizens who were depressed, plus they also buried the victims of the Plague.
Between 1705 and 1709, the monastery was renovated and expanded. But when the French army occupied Maastricht, the monasteries were all abolished. All their possessions were auctioned off, and the money went to the French state. The buildings weren’t that popular with buyers, so before it was sold, it was used as a prison.
It has since then been in use as a hospital, bank, storage and galleries. In 1940, the monastery became owned by another group of monks. This is also the year that three of the four wings of the monastery were torn down because it was decayed. In 1954, the final wing was torn down. The chapel is the only thing that remains for the entire complex. It was bought by a foundation, who then renovated it and sold it for one euro to another foundation. Nowadays it’s in use as a church building and as a concert hall.
After that, you will head to Herbenusstraat, Zakstraat, Jekerstraat, Calvariestraat, Abtstraat and Minderbroedersberg 4. There you can admire the Tweede Minderbroedersklooster (or second monastery of the Franciscans in Maastricht). Construction of this building started in around 1700 and finished about 1708. The monks left the monastery and church in 1796, and then the monastery was used as a shelter for beggars. After the last French occupation of The Netherlands (1794-1814), the complex was a prison for over 170 years. The monastery church was used as a court for a long time, but it has been used for the board of the University of Maastricht since 1995.
Now walk to Tongersestraat 6 to have a look at the commandments house. In 1725, the two houses of Tongersestraat 6 and 8 were combined to create this building. During the French Republic, the Commandement was used as a superior court, then it became the court of the Nedermaas department in 1811 and later on the court of the province of Limburg. Nowadays, the University of Maastricht owns the building.
Then walk to Kakeberg, Academieplein, Bonnefantenstraat and to Huys op den Jeker (translated to house on the Jeker river). The main reason why some houses were built over a stream in Maastricht, is due to the lack of space. This beautiful house of a perfect example of the Meuse Renaissance style and it was built in the 17th century. The house was first used by the rector of the Grauwzusters (nuns), who had a monastery on the terrain behind this building. This is a must see on your day trip to Maastricht.
Then head to Bonnefantenstraat 2 and admire another monastery building. The nuns that were living in this monastery weren’t trusted anymore, as they were thought to have connections to Spain. They were mainly busy with giving education to well off Catholic and protestant girls. Then in 1672, the monastery had three fires, and it is suspected that two were created by a nun with protestant thoughts (she then fled to the North of The Netherlands).
After the siege of Maastricht in 1673, the city was occupied for five years by the armies of the Catholic Louis XIV of France. Then monastery was rebuilt and expanded, plus several gardens that were bordering the complex were bought. Construction took place from 1686 until 1697, and the chapel (designed by Gillis Doyen) was finished in 1709. Influential families financed the beautiful details on these buildings.
During the siege of Maastricht in 1748, the chapel was used as barracks. Then in use as a chapel and monastery again. Then in 1796, this monastery was closed by the French and used as barracks until 1917. From 1924- 1930, there were 32 houses for workers found here. After that, it was in use as an atelier, then as the forerunner of the Bonnefantenmuseum and then by the University of Maastricht.
After that, you will be making your way to Ezelmarkt 4. This is where you can find Au Coin des Bons Enfants, which is a former orphanage in Maastricht, but there’s been a restaurant here since 1949. The orphanage was uninhabitable due to the Second World War and restored by architect Jean Huysmans. Fun fact: the lights were made by hand and are still originals. The first chef of this restaurant was Theo Koch; he made Maastricht a city known for its food.
Now walk to Bouillonstraat 8. This is where you can see the Hof van Slijpe or city palace of van Slijpe. It was founded when two buildings, one of a captain and one of a merchant, were combined at the end of the 17th century. The second house was first named in 1529, the other home somewhere in the 16th or 17th century. Both of these houses were bought by Isaac Slijpe of the Van Slijpe family. He was a lieutenant and stadtholder of the Land of Valkenburg and became a citizen of Maastricht in 1666.
The oldest son of Isaac Slijpe inherited the city palace in 1689. He then obtained another neighbouring plot of land. During the 18th century, it was part of the noble family of Van Slijpe but then auctioned off in 1802. Then it was owned by a commissioner and a tax inspector and his son, who was a lawyer. The lawyer was married to Sophia Marx, the sister of Karl Marx (the Karl Marx yes). He visited his family in Maastricht twice in 1865 and 1875.
In 1953, after it had been used as houses and a music school, the building was bought by the province of Limburg to be used for their planning services. From 1986 until 2002, the building was mostly empty and unused. Then, since 2002, a part of the University of Maastricht was found here, and nowadays another department of the university is located here.
At Sint Servaasklooster 41, you will see a former guardhouse in Louis XVI style, which dates back to 1770. Now walk to Papenstraat, Sint Jacobstraat, Bredestraat, Lantaarnstraat and Kapoenstraat 2. There you will see a manor house called ‘Hustinx’. It’s found only around 100 metres from Maastricht’s most important square: Vrijthof. Before this current building was made, there was another building on this same location. And while that building doesn’t exist anymore, it’s interesting to know that its basement does still exist today.
The current building was made on the assignment of Mr Hustinx, who was a coffee roaster, in 1882. In the 1920s, it was in use as a tax office and by the Provincial Executives. Since 1987, the University of Maastricht is found in the building.
Then walk to Lenculenstraat and Lenculenstraat 21. Here you can see the former Roman Catholic orphanage of Maastricht, which was in use from the 15th until the 18th century. After admiring that building, you will walk to Verwerhoek and Verwerhoek 40. Here you will see another part of the remains of the first city wall of Maastricht, which dates back to around 1229. Then walk to Klein Grachtje.
Then at Achter de Molens 26, you will see a 17th century home in the Meuse Renaissance style, with a particular carriage gate. Now continue walking on Achter de Molens and then to Witmakersstraat and Hondstraat 14. There you will see the Lutherse Kerk, or Lutheran church in Maastricht. It dates back to 1684 and has been in use for over three centuries, but has been closed since June 2013. Due to the Reformation in Maastricht (1517), the Lutheran church gained followers relatively easy, but that was mainly due to the Calvinists and Anabaptists, and only partly due to Lutherans. In 1525, Maastricht banned the faith, and in 1535 15 Anabaptists were burned on the Vrijthof square. From 1567, a German garrison was found in Maastricht, and with that, the Lutheran faith was here to stay.
After the siege of Maastricht (1579), the city was in the hands of the Spanish, and the Lutherans weren’t allowed to practice their faith anymore. Only in 1642, there was another report of new Lutheran protestants, who were probably German soldiers again. They weren’t allowed to hold public church services, so they had to go to clandestine churches, but also had to deal with raids, in which all their stuff was taken and removed.
After the city of Maastricht was occupied by Louis XIV of France in 1673, the situation of these Lutherans became better. The churches in Maastricht were then divided again between faiths. They got a place in the Sint-Matthiaskerk, which was used by the Dutch Reformed before that. But, later on, the protestants had to give it back to the Catholics again. Then the Dutch Reformed, Walloons and Lutherans all had to use one, small church, called Sint- Catharinakerk. The Lutherans held services here between 06:00 and 08:00.
In 1678, a peace treaty was signed, and then the French left. This meant the rules from before 1673 were in place once again, and they weren’t allowed to have a church building. Shortly after 1678, they got to use a small chapel that they had to share with Catholics.
In 1679, Prince William III of Orange made George Frederik van Waldeck-Eisenberg, the new military governor of Maastricht. In 1681, this governor made sure that there was a Lutheran priest. Prince William got the permission of the States-General to give the Lutherans freedom of religion and permission to build their church. The reason why permission was given is probably since the garrison of Maastricht existed mainly out of German troops, who were mostly part of the Lutheran faith. Construction first started on the 5th of April 1684, and it was taken in use at the 28th of October 1684.
Until 1846, the primary language in this church was German. In 1930, the street in front of the church was widened, and the medieval front structure was demolished. This was when the facade of the church was first seen in 246 years. In the last decades of the 1900s, the number of members of the church was rapidly declining. In 1985, there were only 20 members. In June 2013, the last church services were held.
Keep walking and head to Minckelersstraat and Achter de Comedie 14. Here you can see an old tower (and building) that was part of a Jesuits monastery in Maastricht; it dates back to 1609. Continue walking to Achter de Comedie 8, to see another part of the Jesuits monastery, and this building dates back to 1729. Then walk to Bredestraat, Plankstraat and Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 7.
This is where you can find one of the highlights in Maastricht, called Onze-Lieve-Vrouwebasiliek. This basilica is a Roman church and one of the top 100 monuments in The Netherlands. You can visit the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwebasiliek and chapel for free, but the treasure room and cloisters of this church can be seen for a fee. The current church dates partly back to the 11th century and other parts of the 12th century; it’s not sure whether there was a church here before. The grey cornerstones are from the walls and gates from a Roman fortress that was located in Maastricht from 333 and broken down in around the 11th century.
A Chapter was connected to the church since at least the 1100s, but some think it was already there in the 9th of 10th century. In total, around 100 people were connected to this Chapter, both laity and clerics. The Canons had their seating that was divided from the laity. In the 14th century, this church was home to 33 altars. From the middle ages, the city archives of Maastricht were found in one of the towers, and the units of measurement in Maastricht were also kept here. Besides that, there was a small court in this church.
The church hasn’t been changed much since the 12th century, which is one of the reasons why it’s one of the most special monuments in The Netherlands. In the 15th century, some flat, wooden ceilings were replaced by stone arches, which then got replaced again in the 18th century. In the 16th century, a Romanesque cloister was changed into a late-gothic one. Some of these changes were made undone during a massive restoration by Pierre Cuypers at the end of the 19th century.
During the iconoclasm of 1566, the church didn’t get damaged a whole lot. A few centuries later, however, the arrival of the French changed things in 1794. The Chapter of this church suddenly had to pay huge fees/war taxes to the French. A part of the silver and other items in the treasure room were melted to be able to deliver this crazy amount. In 1797, the Chapter was abolished, and the clerics got a small pension. The French took the possessions of the Chapter (including the church). It then was turned into military storage, a cannon forge and a horse stable. Some furniture was placed in a church in Maastricht, that could stay open as a parish church.
After the French left in 1814, the Dutch government took control of the building and used it for military purposes as well. Only after forty more years, the church was used for religious purposes again. From 1886 until 1916, several restorations took place under the leadership of architect Pierre Cuypers.
On the 20th of February 1933, the church became a basilica officially. During the Second World War, there was some damage to the church, but except for a giant bell that was stolen, it wasn’t that terrible. In the 1980s and 1990s, another restoration took place, which included restoring murals, paintings, statues, vestments, placing new windows and renewing the treasure room.
Then in 1990, this basilica in Limburg got a coat of arms. The green part refers to the old diocese of Maastricht and the basilica minor. The yellow star on blue symbolises Maria and the white star on red is the coat of arms of Maastricht. Also good to know is that on the 14th of April 2014, a monument in the church was revealed to commemorate the victims of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church.
I can definitely recommend you to go inside this church which makes for an even more spectacular explorer tour in Maastricht. Not only is it one of the most picturesque places in Maastricht, but it is home to so many special items that are worth seeing.
After enjoying a visit to this basilica in Maastricht, you will walk to Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 21. There you get to see the Huis met de Pelikaan or the house with the pelican. This is a monumental building, that was built to be used as a bank in 1905. After a few fusions, the bank sold the building to art dealer Jacques van Rijn in 1975. He lived on the top floor and used the ground floor for his art and to organise the Pictura Fine Art Fair, which is a forerunner of the TEFAF. Since the beginning of the 1980s, it’s been in use by a European institution.
The reason why it’s called the Huis met de Pelikaan, is due to the pelican on top of the facade. You can also see the coat of arms of the province of Gelderland here, which is the province where the bank that first was located here came from. You will also spot an elephant, next to the entry, which refers to Eastern symbolism. And, two ram heads that refer to willpower and decisiveness.
Go to Koestraat, Stenenbrug, Sint Pieterstraat, Tafelstraat, Sint Hilariusstraat, Lang Grachtje, Grote Looiersstraat, and Grote Looiersstraat 17. This is a former house which took care of poor people and dates back to 1757. After that, you will walk to Zwingelput 2/4, to a building (and church) that is nowadays part of the University College of Maastricht.
This was part of a complex for Beguines and built between 1484 and 1489. The chapel next doors was constructed between 1661 – 1666. In 1502, the bishop from Luik forced the Beguines to follow the third order of St. Francis, and they had to become Franciscans. Then the entire complex was slowly turned into a real monastery, which wasn’t complete until 1625. In 1626, there were 25 nuns in this building. They wore a black hood and a brown habit.
These women mainly were teaching and helping noble people in their homes. In 1652, the monastery was expanded, but it eventually went bankrupt in 1788. Thanks to a bank the monastery could continue to survive, but then the French occupation abolished all church institutions, and took their valuables and buildings, in 1796. At that time, 23 nuns, six working nuns and two helpers needed to search a new place to live and a new job.
From 1797, the monastery was used as housing for the inhabitants of a poor house that was found nearby this building, whose home suddenly was used by the French government as a military hospital. From 1852 on this building was in use as an orphanage for kids in the ages 7-13. In 1980, the orphanage was closed, and since then it was used by the University of Maastricht. The chapel is nowadays a lecture hall.
Now, we’re headed to De Bosquetplein 6. There you can see the former monastery of the Grauwzustersklooster, which was home to nuns. Nowadays this building has been housing the Natuurhistorisch Museum in Maastricht, or the Natural History Museum Maastricht, since around 100 years.
The grauwzusters, or loosely translated to grey sisters, were named this way after the grey habit that they wore. This monastic order of nurses was found in Diest in the 14th century, and they made their way to Maastricht in 1664. They helped during several plague epidemics but weren’t allowed permanent residence from the state. But, when the French occupied The Netherlands, they were allowed to live in a house in Maastricht permanently, with the condition that they would work as nurses.
So, they settled in Huis Stas, which is a house from around 1650. This house was expanded several times: a gate building in 1705 and a chapel from the same time. In 1797, their monastery was abolished by the same French authority.
After they left, the building was used as a mental hospital from 1821. Then from 1847, poor and disabled women lived here. From 1859 until 1881, it was a shelter and home for young people. Later on, municipal officials lived in the monastery, while the chapel was used as an atelier. In 1920, the building was renovated and reconstructed to fit the current museum.
Then walk to Heksenstraat, admire a part of the Stadsmuur (city wall) and then cross the Jeker river in Maastricht and walk to Berenkuil. Berenkuil translates to bear pit, and that’s the reason why you will see a hole here. In the 1940s, the municipality of Maastricht bought two bears with whom they wanted to breed. It turned out they were two male bears. They were placed here, in a cage (with a casemate as their inside space) and fed old bread from bakeries all across Maastricht. To only provide a bear bread, is obviously not healthy for those poor animals. They were named Max and Pol.
When the Second World War came, the bread turned into a valuable good, and that meant that there wasn’t enough food for the bears. The municipality of Maastricht wanted to kill the bears, which the inhabitants of Maastricht prevented with giving as much food as they possibly could to the bears. The bears survived the war, but Pol became sick, and Max became paralysed. Both bears were killed, and after the pit would be empty for four years.
Then in 1950, they bought two new bears (people will never learn), a male and female named Max and Polla after the first bears. This time the bear pit was lowered as the municipality was expecting babies. And that happened, several times actually, but none of the babies survives. Polla died in 1957. Then the council wanted to sell Max to buy two new bears. This took quite a bit, and people then release poor bear Max; eventually, he’s caught again. The municipality decides to either sell Max or shoot him (brutal, I know). Finally, Max is ‘saved’ as a zoo bought him in 1962.
So, Max was sold, and in that current year a zoo in Rhenen had too much young bears, so they gave them to the municipality for free. It’s again a male and female and this time they’re also called Max and Polla. The first newborn bear was born in 1967 but didn’t survive for a long time. Then, in 1968, three little bears get born that do survive, and those are named Cor, Jacky and Jo. Max (father bear) is behaving aggressively against the three babies and is brought to another stay if you can even call it like that. He was forced to stay in another pit, that didn’t have any protection against the rain, wind and the cold, for more than two years (!!!).
In 1970, a new pit was finally finished, and the bear family was reunited, but it was way too small for five bears. They had to stay in this little place for eleven years. Then in 1981, Max and Polla move to a zoo in Belgium, but the three bears remain in the bear pit. It’s then expanded with a sandbox and a water basin, plus a big tree trunk and car tires are added to their stay. Cor died at 23, and Jacky was killed at 24, Jo was alone in Maastricht for a year until he could move to the Ouwehands Dierenpark in Rhenen and could live in the newly made bear forest until he died at 28.
The city of Maastricht took horrible care of the bears that all lived in a tiny place, with terrible food and even worse accommodation. And nowadays all that remembers is an artwork in the Berenkuil. The artwork is a woman kneeled with a dead giraffe, around that woman, there are twelve animal species that are extinct. And on a little bench, around 50 metres away, you can see the bronze statue of bear Jo who looks sad as that was obviously how he felt living there.
Then go to Prins Bisschopsingel, Tapijnkazerne, Sint Huburtuslaan, Henri Hermanspark, Sint Lambertuslaan, Blekerij, Maasboulevard, Stadspark, Monseigneur Nolenspark to arrive at Sint Pieterstraat 37. There you can see the house of a guards that used to protect one of the city gates in Maastricht, it dates back to the 18th century. Continue walking to Sint Pieterstraat 29.
This is the Leeuwenmolen or Molen van Clemens who is named after the last miller, and its building is made from marlstone. It dates back to around the 16th/17th century. If you translate Leeuwenmolen to English, it would be lion mill. The reason for this nickname is that on the top of the facade of the mill building, there used to be a stone statue of a lion.
What is mainly interesting is that this water mill was the most significant grains and tannin producer. There are also a few other water mills in this small area, and that didn’t always work out for the owners, especially during the dry season. So, they came to a productive solution: One day, the mills on the right side were allowed to work, and the next day, the ones on the left side of the river.
In 1898, the municipality of Maastricht became the owner of the mill but sold it again the miller Hendrikus Hubertus Clemens (the man who the mill refers to). Around 1900, the only mill that still worked in this corner was the mill of Clemens. During the Second World War, and after Maastricht was liberated, Clemens mill worked at its absolute high as it was incredibly vital for the food in Maastricht.
After the 1950s, this mill was barely in use anymore, and all activities were stopped in 1956. That’s when the mill started to decay rapidly. They tried to use this mill for hydropower, but that didn’t work out. They also tried to give the building another function without changing the outside too much, but that also didn’t work out. The family of Clemens owned it until 1965.
Then walk via the Molenhofpad to Begijnenstraat 1. This is the place where you can find another water mill in Maastricht, and it dates back to the beginning of the 16th century. It’s named ‘De Vijf Koppen’, or the five heads. That might sound a tad odd for a water mill, but there’s a reason for the name.
This water mill is the lowest laying mill on the southern part of the Jeker river and the city of Maastricht ordered the construction in the 16th century. In 1533, it was leased for the first time. After the treason of Maastricht, where a few people in Maastricht were bribed by the Spanish to demolish a small part of the city wall, so the Spanish could conquer the city, several people were murdered as they were traitors. The heads of five of the prominent traitors were cut off, speared and shown to the public on the rondeau, called De Drie Duiven (the three doves). The rondeau was later nicknamed De Vijf Koppen, as well as the windmill.
In 1814, the mill was owned by the brothers Lemaire, who then rented it out to Jan Pieter Hubert Hanckar who had a cloth factory here. In 1833, he got permission to place a steam machine (the first in Maastricht) for a drive that was attached to a pump. He then eventually moved his company to another part of Maastricht.
Then, a man called Jean Baptiste was leasing the mill and started a vermicelli factory in 1840. But, in 1847 the mill was sold again. In 1864, the mill became the possession of a tanner named Hendrik Coopman and, when he stopped, other tanners were using the mill. It was then bought by the municipality of Maastricht in 1908. Some parts of the waterworks and grinding parts were demolished, but the mill and the factory buildings were reconstructed into houses, which they are still today.
When walking from the Begijnenstraat to Sint Pieterstraat, you will pass one of the best places to eat traditional and local food in Maastricht: Cafe Sjiek. After that, you will be walking to Sint Pieterstraat 6.
This is where you can see the Walloon church of Maastricht. After Maastricht was captured by the Dutch state by Frederik Hendrik, the Walloon followers of Calvinism fled from the catholic diocese of Luik to Maastricht. French-speaking protestants were allowed to practice their faith in the Seven United Netherlands, which was mentioned in the capitulation conditions of 1632. They were allowed to practice their faith here. Then in 1685, protestant members lost their rights in France, which led to tens of thousands of Huguenots fleeing to the Republic, which also led to a massive increase of refugees in Maastricht.
Their previous chapel was, because of the influx of French refugees, too small. They then expanded or created a new chapel, which was finally replaced by its current church in 1732. It took 22 months to finish construction, and it was first brought in use on the 6th of December 1733.
In the 19th century, the number of French-speaking Calvinists in Maastricht decreased rapidly. Most of the members were military of the garrison in Maastricht. But, there were also Dutch protestants that followed church services here, because French was deemed more elegant by the Dutch elites. Since 1971, no leader came from Maastricht anymore; instead, monthly services were led by Belgian pastors.
In the 1980s, the community had become so small that it sold the church for the symbolic price of one Guilder to the dutch reformed church. Then in the 1990s, there was a slight increase of members due to the influx of French-speaking refugees from continental Africa.
Nowadays, there are weekly church services for the dutch reformed church, and there are monthly services for the Walloon church members. The building in Maastricht is also used for concerts and other activities.
Continue the walking tour and head to Sint Pieterstraat 5. This is where you can find a part of the Oude Minderbroedersklooster, also named Eerste Franciscanenklooster (first Franciscan monastery). In total there were three of these monasteries in Maastricht: The second is used for the University of Maastricht, and the third was demolished in 1971.
Construction for this monastery church, which was part of a big complex, started around 1300 and was suspected to only been completed a century later. It’s mainly made from marlstone. In 1234, a bishop from Luik permitted the Franciscans to create a monastery with the whole shebang (a church etc.) in Maastricht. There was no previous church on its location, and that’s why people suspect that the choir of the church was only finished somewhere in the 15th century. The monastery is also home to vault paintings from the 14th century.
Interestingly, the church of the monastery had to be renovated due to it being derelict around 1485. So, the church was just ‘finished’, and instead of being able to celebrate that, they had to continue to work because it wasn’t constructed that great.
Of the entire building complex of this monastery in Maastricht, only a small part remains. In 1506, a big roof piece fell through the roof of the church, which created tons of damage. And it hasn’t been a monastery since 1639. It’s been used as an orphanage, arsenal, military hospital and archive. The monastery church (which is around 700 years old), has been in use for non-religious functions longer than it was used to fulfil a religious role.
Not much is known about this Medieval monastery because a big part of the archives was destroyed by religious disputes and during the French time. The monks who lived here were mainly focused on caring for the death and with teaching. After the treason of Maastricht in 1638, where one of the Franciscans of this monastery was involved (father Vink), all the monks from this monastery had to leave the city. Two monks had to stay in the buildings to protect it and only had to go in 1647.
After the siege of Maastricht in 1673, the Franciscans gained permission from the French occupiers to settle in the city. They didn’t regain the old monastery. In 1640, a reformed orphanage was found here, from 1657 it was used as an arsenal for the garrison of Maastricht, and it was used as a military hospital from 1685. It was then used as barracks from 1695 until the beginning of the 19th century.
When the fortifications of Maastricht were abolished in 1867, the garrison left, and the arsenal wasn’t needed anymore. After restoration, the church was used as a depot for the provincial archives, which was founded in 1866. From 1939 until 1942, a second renovation took place during the Second World War, which only left a part of the monastery complex and the rest got demolished as it was in a terrible state.
Walk in the little street to the left where you can see a watermill; this is the back of Stenenbrug and the back of the bakery De Bisschopsmolen where you can bake traditional Limburgse pies. Then continue your walking tour in Maastricht to the Sint Bernardusstraat and then admire the Helpoort.
This is the only remaining city gate in Maastricht and is part of the first city wall of Maastricht. People think it is dating back to around the second quarter of the 13th century, but the exact time it was built isn’t known. This also makes the Helpoort the oldest city gate in The Netherlands.
In 1229, the Duke of Brabant permitted to build a stone wall around the city of Maastricht. Before that, there were already small fortifications made from soil and poles on top of them. But this was destroyed by the bishop of Luik during the siege of Maastricht in 1204. It is thought that the construction of stone city gates, wall and towers started around 1229. The first city wall in Maastricht was about 6 to 8 metres high, 2,4 kilometres long, had 13 city gates, two water gates and an unknown number of wall towers.
People suspect that the Helpoort was built around 1230, but it was first named as Hoogbruggepoort (porta de alto ponte) in a letter of the Chapter of Sint- Servaas from 1358. But, the name ‘in alto ponte’ was already familiar in the 1260s. The term Hoogbruggepoort (or high bridge gate) refers to bridge over the Jeker river that was found here. The current name ‘Helpoort’ has only been used since the 18th century.
After the second Medieval city wall was finished in Maastricht at around 1350, the first wall was mainly a reserve defence line. That meant that most of the old gates didn’t have the job of serving as an entry gate anymore, as the new city gates took it over. However, this didn’t happen for the Helpoort: as outside the entrance, there was a different territory that was part of the dominion of Sint Pieter.
But, nothing lasts forever, the function of the Helpoort as a city gate stopped at the end of the 15th century. That’s when the gate, due to an expansion of Maastricht and partly a new wall, fell within the city walls of Maastricht and wasn’t needed for protection anymore.
Luckily for us, even though it wasn’t that important for the protection of the city anymore, they maintained the first wall until well within the 16th century. The Helpoort got a new roof in 1400, and the opening of the gate was narrowed later in the 15th century for safety reasons.
By the end of the Middle Ages, during a peaceful time, old city gates and some towers were used as houses or meeting rooms for crafts. The gates themselves were still owned by the city and officially had a military function until, at least, the middle of the 17th century. In 1562, people who worked in fulling got permission to hold meetings in the Helpoort, with the promise that they would keep the building in good shape. In 1589, boatmen used to Helpoort.
From the 17th century, the Helpoort was used as a powder house (where they stored munition, etc.) and surprisingly, it had the same function until at least 1846. It was back then often named Kruittorenpoort (powder tower gate). From the 18th century, the current name slowly made its way to the public. It is said that Helpoort (or hell gate), probably refers to a nearby house, called ‘In de Helle’ (in the hell). It was a name that was very common for bakeries and forges. But, it’s also possible that the ‘helle’ part refers to its function as a powder house.
On the 29th of May 1867, King William III of The Netherlands decided to lift the status of the fortification of Maastricht and several other fortified cities in The Netherlands. This happened after the municipality of Maastricht and others urged it. In the years after that, significant parts of the city wall of Maastricht (including its towers and gates) were demolished. The last remaining city gates of Maastricht were all torn down between 1867 and 1874, except for the Helpoort.
The destruction of the city walls of Maastricht happened well into the 20th century, but with the help of Victor de Stuers and several others, a few essential parts were kept. Victor de Stuers was a Dutch civil servant, member of the House of Representatives and a lawyer. He was a very influential man and was an advocate for the preservation of national and cultural heritage in The Netherlands, which included monument conservation, archives, and attention for museums and architecture.
Because of De Stuers and others, it was decided to keep a big part of the fortifications at the southern part of Maastricht. In 1881, the Helpoort was restored, and a big window was added to the side of the city. Above the entry of the gate, a house was made, which was first the home of the concierge of the state archives. The surroundings of the Helpoort were restored in 1906 and 1907. Even the Jekertower, which only had its hull, was rebuilt in 1911. In 1947, the Helpoort was sold to the municipality of Maastricht for one Guilder. At that time, the space above the entry point was used as an atelier by painter Jef Schipper.
In 1997, the Helpoort was restored again and ever since then it has been home of the Stichting Maastricht Vestingstad (or foundation Maastricht fortress city), which can be visited during the summer months. Inside there is an exhibition about the history of Maastricht as a fortified city.
The Helpoort is the only remaining city gate in Maastricht and is around 14 metres high at the ‘outside the city’ part and 10 metres inside the city part. The two towers are almost 24 metres high and covered with slates. In the east tower, you can find a shooting hole. The Helpoort is made from greywacke, the ridge piece from marlstone and the arch of the entry of bricks. The gate entry is around 4 metres wide. And don’t forget to look at the southern part of the gate to see the slot for the portcullis.
Up next, we’re headed to a tower that was part of the second medieval city wall in Maastricht, called Pater Vincktoren. The Pater Vincktoren was also called ‘toren achter de Feilzusters’ or tower behind the Feil nuns, as a monastery was found near it, and it’s originally a 14th-century wall tower.
This is one of my favourite areas in this walking route in Maastricht, so if you were wondering what you absolutely have to do and see in Maastricht, then it’s this neighbourhood of Maastricht (and many others, don’t make me choose). It’s also home to some of the most instagrammable spots in Maastricht, so take a few nice pictures to show everyone why Maastricht is one of the cities to visit in Limburg.
After the first Medieval city wall became too small, it was time to slowly built a new wall around the, due to shortage of space, created suburbs. This wall was finished somewhere in the 14th century, and the Pater Vincktower was the last, of the around 40, wall towers that were finished. They think it was completed in around 1370, but no one is sure about the exact date, it is known that it was at least finished before 1400.
When the status of the fortified city was lifted, and the old gates and towers were demolished, barely anyone was against it. Some fans of historical buildings despised the way buildings were destroyed. Even buildings that were in a perfect state and weren’t bothering anyone. Victor de Stuers wrote an article, called ‘Holland op zijn smalst’, or Holland on its tiniest, about the pointless demolition. Because of Victor, the Pater Vincktoren wall tower can still be seen today. After it was left in ruins, it was restored by Willem Springer in 1906.
It is said that ever since that time, it was named as the Pater Vincktoren, after Franciscan Servaes Vinck who was beheaded after he committed treason in 1638. Maastricht was in the hands of the forerunner of The Netherlands, and it was found out that people were bribed by the Spanish to demolish a small part of the city wall to get in the city. Vinck was one of them. He was also one of the people whose heads were impaled on spikes and displayed, with their face to the enemy.
The reason why they eventually named it after a traitor isn’t precisely known. But, people suspect it’s because they wanted to rehabilitate the catholic traitors and that they wanted to see them as martyrs for the catholic church.
After admiring this tower, you will walk to Faliezusterspark 8. This is the former monastery of the Faliezusters. From the 13th century on, Beguines were living between the Jeker river and the city wall. But, it’s not exactly known whether the nuns came forth from the Beguines, or whether they just arrived from somewhere else. Around 1470, both the bishop of Luik and the city council of Maastricht permitted the nuns to create an establishment for the ones who were mostly busy with caring for the sick. They got the name faliezuster (veil sister/nun) because they wore a very distinctive veil that was called a ‘falie’.
In 1674, the women started to follow the Third Order of Franciscus. They became partly contemplative and were now mostly busy with doing laundry, patching and embroidering church clothing. Their job to care for the sick was taken over by the grauwzusters (other nuns).
A big fire struck the monastery, but it eventually got rebuilt between 1647 and 1652 in the Maaslandse renaissance style. That’s also when a new chapel was constructed. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. In 1796, the monastery was forced to be abolished due to the French occupation. At the time only seven people lived here. In 1814, the monastery became barracks for the engineering corps. Later on, it became housing for police officers. The chapel was broken down in around 1865.
Then walk back through the little Faliezusterspark, towards the Jeker tower. This is a former wall tower and was the southeastern corner tower of the first medieval city wall in Maastricht. For almost three centuries, the Jeker tower was an essential part between the southern and western parts of the Maastricht city wall and found near the Helpoort. After the second wall was finished, the tower was still in use as there was not much space to expand and south of the tower, the territory of Sint Pieter began.
Because of the ever-evolving fight techniques, it was needed to reinforce the city walls with bastions. At the Jekertower, two bastions were created around the new part of the city (called Nieuwstad, or new city). Then around 1550, the Jekertower was lowered and filled with soil so that it could be used as a shooting platform.
When the fortified city of Maastricht was slowly dismantled after King Willem III of The Netherlands signed a decision to abolish several fortified towns on the 29th of May 1867. When the dismantling started at the Tongersepoort, there was nothing that said how, and even if, old documents and antiquities had to be put in archives or museums. Artist and archaeologist Alexander Schaepkens and a young Victor de Stuers decided that in the very least detailed drawings and photographs had to be made.
The Jekertower only had 2,5 metres of the body still standing, but was rebuilt in 1911. The design came from Willem Sprenger and the 1700 Guilders to rebuilt it, came from De Stuers. The part of the city wall between the Jekertoren and the Helpoort was renovated and reconstructed in 1906. The tower is around 4,60 metres in diameter and more than 15 metres tall. The walls are made from greywacke and 80 centimetres thick.
So, if you were wondering where you can find the best-kept places of the first city wall in Maastricht, then the area between the Helpoort, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwewal and Jekertoren is an absolute gem. It’s been heavily restored, but it doesn’t make it anything less special.
After that, you will walk to Onze Lieve Vrouwewal and Graanmarkt 4. Here you can see a guardhouse near the former and destroyed Onze-Lieve-Vrouwepoort (city gate). This guardhouse dated back to 1786 and was designed by famous Dutch architect Mathias Soiron, who was born and raised in Maastricht. In the 1800s Mathias Soiron was a busy man and asked a lot for many projects in Maastricht and its surroundings.
Then walk to Stokstraat, Het Bat, Eikelstraat and Stokstraat 12. Here you can find Huis In Den Moriaan, which is one of the oldest houses in Maastricht. The sidewall is from around 1540. The little alley on the side of the house is named Morenstraat, which is probably named after the building.
Since 1905, there’s a cafe found in this building. It only has a surface of around 23 square metres and is called the smallest cafe in The Netherlands (and Maastricht, of course). The cafe is called Petit Cafe Moriaan and is a great place to visit.
Now head to Maastrichter Smedenstraat, Maastrichter Brugstraat and Sint Servaasbrug. The Sint Servaasbrug is the oldest bridge in both Maastricht and The Netherlands and was built in the 13th century. It’s named after the bishop Sint- Servaas but only got that name in 1932. Before it was named, people simply called it ‘de brug’, or the bridge, as it was the only bridge where you could cross the Meuse river in Maastricht. This is also the bridge that you must visit in Maastricht.
The Sint Servaas bridge in Maastricht was built on the assignment of the Sint- Servaas Chapter to replace the previous bridge between 1280 and 1298. The earlier bridge was found 100 metres south of the current one collapsed in 1275 and was a Romanesque bridge which presumably dated back to the first century. However, other people think that the bridge that collapsed was an early Medieval bridge on the same location as the current Sint- Servaasbrug.
The money for this famous bridge in Maastricht partly came from fines that were paid to the church for sins. Initially, the bridge had nine stone arches and a wooden span on the side of the Wyck neighbourhood. The reason for that was because it could’ve been broken down quickly, in case the enemy rapidly arrived at Maastricht. City gates were found on both sides of the bridge.
The owner of the bridge, the Sint- Servaas Chapter, followed a definition for maintenance by emperor Rudolph I set in 1274. This stated that not more money had to be spent on maintenance than the toll that has been received. While that all sounds fun, because saving money is great (we’re Dutch after all), it wasn’t such a good idea. This led to reparations of the only most necessary parts of the bridge, which led to collisions between the city council and the Chapter. In 1349, the city council of Maastricht took over 75 per cent of the maintenance costs of the bridge, but the Chapter had to give in money too. Plus, they agreed that the bridge would undergo a yearly inspection.
While the bridge is magnificent, not every event that took place on the bridge was as pleasant. During the Spanish Fury of 1576 and the Siege of Maastricht in 1579, horrendous events happened on the Sint- Servaasbridge. The massacres were painted and spread all over the place until far in the 17th century.
In the 17th century, the state of the bridge was genuinely terrible. That’s when the council had enough, and the bridge was finally entirely owned by the city of Maastricht in 1647. The Sint-Servaasbrug was restored in several phases between 1683 and 1716. Luckily, this happened almost wholly with the use of the old stones. Pillars and arches were dismantled from the bridge and then built again, with those stones.
The first arch that you can see nowadays was restored by the famous Franciscus Romanus in 1683. The second and third by Jan van der Poel in 1698 and 1699. The fourth and fifth by Jan Collard in 1714. The remaining arches by Gilles Doyen in 1716. Luckily, they learned from this, because after this restoration the bridge was maintained pretty good for its time.
In 1714, the toll to cross the bridge for one person, a pig, a cow or a sheep was one oort or 0,0125 Guilders. A horse costs one stuiver, or 0,05 Guilders (5 cents), but if you had a carriage with one horse, this would be 0,15 Guilders. However, it could go up to ten stuivers or 0,50 Guilders if you had a big carriage with four or six horses. This money was used for the maintenance of the bridge, but it wasn’t enough. So, every citizen, soldier and cleric, had to put in their testimony to leave one rijksdaalder (50 stuivers, or 2,50 Guilders) to the city. New citizens had to pay straight up two Guilders for that cause. And, when people got sentenced (to prison, etc.), there was a bridge tax collected as well.
When the French occupied The Netherlands, the bridge became owned by the French state. In 1799, a part of the bridge was restored. Then in 1801, one of the city gates was demolished, and the wooden part of the bridge was replaced by a stone arch in 1827. This part of the bridge was filled with so-called ‘mijnovens’, that could easily be blown up when the ‘enemy’ would be headed for Maastricht.
During the 20th century, the Sint- Servaasbrug couldn’t handle the ever-increasing traffic. The council of Maastricht wanted to tear down the entire bridge and to replace the whole thing. The people of Maastricht were highly against it, as well as the Dutch government. So, the Wilheminabrug was placed around 300 metres north of the Sint- Servaasbrug. The Sint Servaasbrug got restored between 1932 and 1934.
During the Second World War, this bridge didn’t exactly have a great time. On the 10th of May 1940, the steel part on the Wyck neighbourhood was blown up by the Dutch army (luckily the rest of the bridge was fine) to keep out the Germans. Unfortunately, the German military didn’t have any more trouble occupying Maastricht, closed the hole, and on the 11th of May, there was a temporary bridge already there, which was replaced by a ‘definite’ emergency bridge on the 28th of August.
In 1944, when the German army started to retract from Maastricht, the bridge got damaged more heavily. On the 13th of September (the day the Wyck neighbourhood got freed and one day for the liberation of Maastricht) a special commando unit blew up a big part of the bridge. But, the people of Maastricht didn’t lose their bridge, as the restorations of the 1930s were that good, that they could be relatively quickly restored. And on the 27th of September, the Sint Servaasbrug was in use by traffic yet once again.
After the Second World War was finished, the bridge got overburdened by traffic once more. The new John F. Kennedybrug in 1967 and the Noorderbrug in 1984, made it a lot more doable for the Sint Servaasbridge to cope with the traffic numbers. That’s also the reason why it was made possible to close the bridge for motorised traffic around 1990. In 2000, the bridge was remodelled for pedestrians and cyclists.
Fun fact about the Servaas bridge in Maastricht: At the beginning of the 1980s, an architect named Harry Gulikers had a plan to cover a part of this bridge with shops like the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze (Italy). I’m glad that didn’t work out because I think it’s much more charming without any shops.
Then walk to Cörversplein, Stenenwal and then to a small watergate, known on maps as Waterpoortje. Hoogbrugstraat and then to Hoogbrugstraat 37. Here you will see a former hospital, called Hospitaal van Sint Gillis, which dates back to 1762.
After admiring that building, continue walking in Maastricht to Wilhelminasingel, Bourgognestraat, Wycker Grachtstraat, Kattenstraat, Wycker Brugstraat, Wilhelminasingel, Sint Maartenslaan and Rechtstraat 2. This is the main church on the other side of the Meuse river in the Wyck neighbourhood in Maastricht and it was built by legendary Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers.
While the current Sint- Martinus church isn’t old (only from the 19th century), there were churches on this same location before. A church was at least found here in 1157. Also interesting is that when the previous church was demolished in 1855 (which people were massively against), they found a roman statue two metres below the foundation of the choir of the church. This has led people to think that this old location was probably located on a roman main road, called Via Belgica. Maastricht was a pretty important location in this region during the Roman Empire. The current church was built between 1857 and 1858.
Then keep walking and head towards the Wycker Pastoorstraat, Oeverwal, Sint Maartenslaan, Sint Maartenspoort, Wilhelminasingel to end up at the Wilhelminabrug. This is one of the main bridges in Maastricht.
It was built because the only bridge in Maastricht at the time, Sint Servaasbrug, couldn’t handle the continually increasing traffic at the beginning of the 1920s. The 600-year-old Sint Servaasbrug was in desperate need of restoration at that time, so at first, the council thought about tearing down this bridge. But then, they figured how tearing down a bridge and building a new one, would increase traffic problems for the next upcoming years. Plus, the people from Maastricht were heavily against tearing down the Sint Servaasbrug, rightly so.
So, in 1928, it was decided that the Sint Servaasbrug could stay and that they would build a new bridge: Wilhelminaburg. They wanted to place the new bridge around 300 metres north of the Sint Servaasbrug, right between the Markt and Wilhelminasingel. And not everyone was a fan of that plan. At the western side of the bridge, this decision had massive consequences. Three entire house blocks between the Markt and Meuse river had to be torn down, which made both the Drieëmmerstraat and Kwadevliegenstraat history. The intimate and closed character of the Markt square was also changed.
The new bridge was built relatively fast from May 1930 until April 1932. 450.000 Kilograms of reinforcing steel, 35.000 cubic metres of concrete and 2800 cubic metre of natural stone were used to complete the Wilheminabrug in Maastricht.
Now walk to Kesselskade 43, to admire the Augustijnenkerk in Maastricht. This baroque church building was built as a monastery church for the Augustines in the 17th century. It was built after the chapel that they used before became dangerously ruinous. They got a gift of 8000 Guilders and 100.000 bricks by the council of Maastricht, and that’s when construction started in 1609. Then in 1618, they got another 1500 Guilders and 300 marble blocks. But only after another gift, this time from Edmond Godfried van Bocholtz, the monastery church was completed in 1661. At the end of the 18th century the monastery due to the French occupation. Because of the French occupation and their no religion policy, the inventory of the church (and the monastery of the Augustines) was taken, sold or destroyed.
From 1825, the church was used as a school for poor people from Maastricht and later on it was used as a theatre. During the First World War, the church was a school for the children of Belgian refugees. In 1920, the church was restored and served as a parish church for the new Sint- Jozef parish. But, due to the depopulation of the centre of Maastricht, the number of churchgoers decreased very quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1964, the church closed, and most of the inventory went to other churches in Maastricht.
After another restoration in the 1970s, the building was used for cultural manifestations. From 1991, it was used primarily as a rehearsal and club building for the Mastreechter Staar, which is a singing club that has been active since 1883. Then around 1998, the remaining church inventory was sold, and the church became a club for a few nights a week. Until 2014, the church was a children playing ground and since that the building has been mainly used for events. The Mastreechter Staar still rents a part of the building.
Walk to Mariastraat and Muntstraat. Then head to Kleine Staat 1, you will have a look at the Dinghuis which dates back to around 1470. The Dinghuis is a Medieval courthouse in Maastricht. The name ‘Dinghuis’ refers to the legislative function the building had. And a ‘ding’ was in the old German times a place for jurisdiction.
In the beginning, in the basement of the Dinghuis, there were prisoner cells, and after a while, also in other places in the building. Even when the new city hall of Maastricht was finished (where prisoner cells were made), the Dinghuis was still in use as a prison. The facade of the Dinghuis was taller than the current one, but a bombardment hit it in 1793. Then, during renovations, they decreased the size with one floor.
In the 18th and 19th century, the Dinghuis had several functions, the council for linen weavers held meetings here, and it was even in use as a theatre around 1713. Then, in the 19th century, military marching bands rehearsed here and sculptor and engraver A. Esser taught here. Surprisingly, the Dinghuis is still standing today, as the municipality wanted to build a new road between Grote Staat and Servaasbrug, and the Dinghuis had to be demolished for that to happen. Eventually, the plan wasn’t executed, and the Dinghuis survived.
From 1881 until 1914, a small history museum was found in the Dinghuis which was a forerunner of the nowadays Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. Then a phone company, the chamber of commerce, the mobilisation office and the air-raid protection service were found here between 1891 and 1945.
After the Second World War was finished in Maastricht, the building was used to support the Dutch military during political actions in the Dutch Indies. Then between 1948 and 1958, the building was rented to a foundation that gave courses to girls aged 17 and up. In 1948, the basement of the Dinghuis became a puppet theatre, which was eventually led by famous puppet player Pieke Dassen from 1953. Until 1967, many successful shows were held here. Interestingly, from 1952 until 1968, on the top floor of the Dinghuis, there was a club for high school students. From 1974, the building was restored, and since then it has been in use as the tourist office in Maastricht.
Head to Jodenstraat, Kesselskade, Maastrichter Brugstraat, Kersenmarkt, Achter Het Vleeshuis, Minckelersstraat and Bredestraat. Then at Heggenstraat 13, you will then see the former carriage gate of Grondsveld, which dates back to the 17th or 18th century. You will see quite a lot of these carriage openings throughout the city, that look very similar to each other. And yes, they were almost all used as carriage gates.
Now walk to Sint Amorsplein, Platielstraat, Leliestraat, Grote Staat, Spilstraat and Markt. The next stop will be Markt 78, which is where you can see the city hall in Maastricht. The first plans to built a new town hall in Maastricht date back to the late 16th century, but due to the war situation at the time, construction wasn’t possible.
Then, in 1655, the council of Maastricht assigned the creation of the city hall in Maastricht to Pieter Post who was a student of the very famous architect of Jacob van Campen. Jacob van Campen has designed many palaces for the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Royal family. The fact that the council of Maastricht chose it that a ‘Hollander’ (person from Holland) was allowed to design this building of high importance in the city says something about the influence of the States-General in Maastricht.
Post headed to Maastricht to decide the best location for the new city hall in 1659. He chose the middle of the Markt square, which not everyone was a fan of, especially not the administrators of Luik who governed Maastricht at the time. Several houses, a part of the first city wall, two city gates and other buildings had to be demolished to make the plan work and to have a square city square for the town hall. A prince bishop from Luik refused to give up two houses, which is why the city hall of Maastricht was moved a bit more to the Southeastern corner.
Construction first started in 1659, and the Maastricht town hall was first taken in use in 1664. However, the building wasn’t finished at that time just yet. There was no money left to create a tower. Only in 1684, a master builder from the city of Aken called Adam Wynandts could finish the construction of the tower following the design of Pieter Post.
When the town hall was finally finished, the interior was rather sombre. But from 1700, that started to change with extra money for furniture, beautiful stuccowork and wall coverings. A part of the interior was damaged heavily during the siege of Maastricht by the French bombardments in 1793.
Interestingly, the city hall in Maastricht also housed a city library, the city archives, a prison, the weighing house (or Waag in Dutch), a carpentry workshop, amongst others. On the ground floor and in the basement of the town hall, the interrogation rooms, prisons and guards accommodations were found. Executions took place in front of the town hall on scaffolds and last took place in 1860. For less severe offences, at the left side of the town hall, a pillory was found for men and a ‘draeyhuysken’, or a wooden cage that can be turned, for women.
Fun fact: An almost exact copy of the tower of the city hall in Maastricht can be found at the Russian monastery of Troitse-Sergieva Lavra, near Moscow.
Nowadays the town hall in Maastricht still serves its task, although most services are found in the new Mosae Forum since 2007.
Then walk to Gubbelstraat, Kleine Gracht and Markt again. At Boschstraat 107, you will be able to see the birth house of one of Maastricht’s’ most famous writers, poets and directors: Alphonse (Fons) Victor Olterdissen. His work is some of the most famous books that were made in The Netherlands in the dialect of Maastricht, called Maastrichts. His stories, plays and operas were written all in Maastrichts. And the final part of the opera Trijn de Begijn is the official anthem of Maastricht since 2002.
Then head over to Boschstraat 99 to admire the Sint-Matthiaskerk (also named Sint-Matthijs). This church in Maastricht is one of the four Roman-Catholic parish churches in the centre of this city in Limburg. It’s dedicated to the holy apostle Mattias. The parish of Sint- Matthijs formed as it split from the Sint- Servaas parish in the Middle Ages. However, until the end of the French time, this church was secondary to the Sint- Servaas church who had the right to appoint new pastors etc.
Constructions for the current church started back in 1351. At the end of the 15th century, this church was reconstructed and newly initiated by a bishop from Luik, called Jan van Horne. In 1528, the tower was struck by lightning which caused a fire. The building stayed uncompleted and only got its spiral at the end of the 18th century.
In 1566, the iconoclasts attacked the church. Then from 1576 until 1579, the church was in the hands of the Calvinists. Luckily, after the siege of Maastricht, the Catholics were able to return in 1579. But, when Prins Frederik Hendrik of Orange occupied the city of Maastricht, this church together with the Sint-Janskerk was given to the protestants. It was a protestant church until it was given back to the Catholics in 1802.
Walk to Sint Catharinastraat, Uitbelderstraat, Bogaardenstraat, Capucijnengang, Capucijnenstraat, Lindenkruis, Maagdendries, Bogaardenstraat and Boschstraat 69. There you can see the former Refugie van Hocht, which was used as a refugee home of the Abbey of Hocht. The first refugee home of the Hocht abbey in Maastricht was found in the Spilstraat, but it was relocated to the Boschstraat somewhere in the 14th century. Over the centuries it has been used for many different purposes, from a refugee house to a monastery to a hotel.
Now walk to Achter De Barakken and Achter de Barakken 31/Andriespoort 11. The reason why I’ve placed two addresses on is that the name of the street has changed, but on maps, it hasn’t. Here you’re able to see the former Sint-Andriesklooster or monastery, that was founded somewhere in the 14th century in a part of the city of Maastricht that was only walled in the middle of the 14th century. It was an impressive monastery for women in the centre of Maastricht. The monastery itself was abolished in 1796. However, the monastery chapel and a part of the monastery weren’t demolished. The chapel dated back to the 14th century and was expanded in the 15th century. This chapel hasn’t been in use as a church since around 1950.
Around 1780, the church was renovated due to war damage. Then during the French occupation of The Netherlands, the monastery was abolished, and the goods were nationalised, brought over to France and some were melted. This happened all over The Netherlands, but Maastricht had it difficult during that time. Important pieces from the treasure rooms of the Sint-Servaaskerk and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk were melted, and other items were sold, etc. The French even stole the first mosasaur skull that was found in the world (near mountain Sint Pieter in Maastricht), nowadays it’s still found in a museum in Paris. It was brought to France in 1794 and immediately turned into national heritage, while it’s not French, it has been placed in Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle since 1898. Many attempts have been made to return the remains to Maastricht, last in 1994. France still hasn’t agreed to send back the mosasaur skull.
Finally, you will walk to Boschstraat, Sint Teunisstraat, Bassin and will end your self-guided tour in Maastricht at Van Hasseltkade, where you can have a beautiful view on the Meuse river and the Wyck neighbourhood in Maastricht.
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I hope you enjoyed this city tour of Maastricht or stadswandeling in Dutch. It is filled with hidden gems to explore in Maastricht, as well as landmarks you cannot miss. Although it is quite a walk, I can guarantee that you will love everything about this Maastricht self-guided walking tour. It takes you to places in Maastricht that you would never discover and gives you a view on what Maastricht is like, beyond the city centre and top sights.
If you’re visiting Maastricht for a weekend, then I certainly recommend you to add this tour in Maastricht to your itinerary. It’s filled with the best sightseeing locations in Maastricht, as well as attractions to visit and other fun things to do.
Whether you were looking for the most instagrammable places in Maastricht or cheap things to do, I think this free tour in Maastricht ticked all the boxes you wished for. What I mostly love about this free walking tour in Maastricht, is that it’s one of the things you can do during winter, spring, summer and autumn. This makes it one of the top activities in Maastricht, and that while also visiting tons of unusual places.
I genuinely hope that you enjoyed seeing some of the most idyllic spots in Maastricht during this self-guided tour. Share this post!