When most travelers think of the Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam. From tulips to canals and museums, its popularity is well deserved. But there’s more to Holland than just one city.
Holland’s a relatively small country so wandering doesn’t require much time. A little over two hours by car or train is Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in Holland.
Bustling Maastricht Markets
The southern tip of the Netherlands, between Belgium and Germany, visitors get a different more European taste of life in this little slice of Holland.
Markets on the main square in the historic inner city bring locals and visitors through cobblestone streets to the center of town numerous times a week. It’s a social event, engrained in the culture.
Maastricht escaped war damage in the 1940s so there’s a tremendous amount of history intertwined with day to day life. Modern big name stores co-exist almost seamlessly with city walls, churches and businesses with centuries-old histories like Bisschopsmolen or Bishop’s Mill.
Every day, grain is milled using the power of a water wheel that dates back to 1442. Bread is baked in the bakery and there’s a café where you can sit down for lunch or an early dinner. There’s also free Wi-Fi for anyone trying to stay connected.
Centrally located, not far from Vrijthof Square, this more than 700 year old Dominican church has been turned into the Boekhandel Dominicanen bookstore and coffee shop. It’s popular with local and tourists.
Then there’s the KruisherenHotel. Constructed in the 15th century as a monastery, by the end of the 18th century, French soldiers called it home. During World War II it may have been used to store copper requisitioned by the Germans. Now it’s a designer hotel.
Not very far away is the Derlon Hotel. The plan was to put in a pool, until they started digging and found ruins of a Roman settlement more than 2500 years old. Now the hotel breakfast area surrounds the excavation sight. You don’t have to be a guest to see the ruins, simply ask at the front desk and as long as there isn’t an event happening at the time, they’re happy to let visitors explore.
TEFAF Art Fair
Every March the city hosts an event called TEFAF, The European Fine Art Fair. A little less than 300 art dealers come to town with 30-thousand objects, paintings, sculptures, jewelry and even furniture, they have to sell. And what they have to sell can turn heads. In 2015, there was a Van Gogh that hadn’t been publically shown for more than a century. Serious collectors and museums are the only ones invited on the first day.
Then for the next nine it’s open to the public. Obviously, most folks don’t have the financial means to buy a Van Gogh, Picasso or Matisse, but it’s exciting in the sense that art lovers can see pieces that aren’t typically on display in museums and they are all for sale.
Dana’s trip to Maastricht was organized by the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.