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Marvelous Maastricht

© By Adam Southwood
  Maastricht At Night Located 130 miles (207 km) southeast of Amsterdam, Maastricht is the southernmost city in the Netherlands and capital of the province of Limburg. Within walking distance of Belgium and cycling distance of Germany, people here speak many languages and are happy to converse with you in English, German or French.
     Maastricht boasts magnificent buildings, cathedrals and a spectacular cobble-stoned town centre. Known for its fine cuisine, excellent shops and multi-cultural atmosphere, Maastricht is a popular tourist destination as well as home to 120,000 people. It's geographically split in half by a major river, the Maas, the majority of commercial property concentrated on the Western bank and the train station and the Bonnefanten Museum on the Eastern side.
     Most of the city centre is pedestrian-only so it's a good strategy to park your car outside the town centre and either walk or bus into the city. The Stadsbus or city bus travels to most of the city and surrounding areas. Tickets can be bought on the bus, or in advance with a pass called a Strippenkaart or strip-card. You can purchase the Strippenkaart at the train station or at any post office or news agent.
     The annual European Fine Arts Fair is one of the most prestigious art markets on the international calendar, just after the late-winter Car-nival celebration, one of the most famous in Europe with parades of elaborate floats and costumes.
     More than 150 art and antiques dealers from a dozen countries arrive with thousands of paintings and works of art. Major museums worldwide regularly attend. If you have a few extra dollars to spare, you might arrive in March to snatch an extra Rembrandt etching or Gobelin tapestry for your collection.
     You will admire the two town squares in the city centre: the Vrijthof, featuring St. Servaas Church and St. Jan's Cathedral and the Markt, featuring the Town Hall (Stadhuis) and markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Basilica of Our Lady remains a pilgrimage church today with the ruins of a Roman forum in its cellar. The ancient Roman town exudes charm, sophistication, great shopping and dining. Cafes -and restaurants cater to high-rollers who come to town to peruse art.

Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht  Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht  Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht  City Hall 

     The Vrijthof hosts large festivals throughout the year, and the city dresses up in amazing costumes and parties well into the early hours during the annual carnival before Lent, North European's version of Mardi Gras. Outside the city, be sure to visit these sites:
  • World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial: 9.5 km (6 mi) east of Maastricht, located just west of the village of Margraten. Open daily except for Dec. 25 and January 1; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Final resting place for 8,301 American military dead; a monument is inscribed with the names of 1,723 Americans whose remains were never found. The site contains a chapel and museum with three engraved operations maps describing the European Campaign.
• Caves in the Sint Pietersberg: Limestome caves which are actually mines where, during WWII, the Dutch stored national arts collections in a vault in the hill.
• Valkenburg aan de Geul: An historic town besieged often, including Valkenburg castle. There is a spa here and a casino along with tours of the old mines.
 

City Bridge - River Maas  Outdoor Cafe  Shopping 

Adam Southwood writes for Canadian, U.S. and European magazines and newspapers. He is a graduate of both McMaster University in Hamilton and UWO in London with an interest in culture and history. He has produced several educational programs for TV.

Photo Credits
Courtesy Visit Holland

If you go
Maastricht, Netherlands
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Visit Holland: http://ca.holland.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maastricht,_Netherlands
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Maastricht

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