Maastricht, The Netherlands
This lively town is one of the oldest in Holland, and its inviting blend of history and culture includes bustling town squares, winding cobblestone streets, stately architecture, and a spirited university scene. Set on the Meuse River in the country's southeastern region, Maastricht is included on river cruises sailing in Belgium and the Netherlands, and occasionally on Rhine River itineraries as well.
What We Love
Boekhandel Dominicanen: Churches are undoubtedly a common tourist stop in Europe, but this one caters to worshippers of the written word. The beautiful bookstore is housed in a 13th-century Gothic structure that was once home to the Dominican Order before it was confiscated by Napoleon. After sitting vacant for centuries, the space underwent a thoughtful transformation, with designers paying attention to its architectural elements, ancient frescoes, and stained glass.
Bonnefanten Museum: This fine art museum holds a mix of old and contemporary works. Its three floors showcase everything from Italian, Flemish, and Dutch old masters to medieval sculpture to modern art by names like Sol LeWitt and Richard Serra. The building itself, designed by famed Italian Architect Aldo Rossi, is easily recognized by its distinct silo-shaped tower.
Best Known For
Vrijthof Square: Start or end your sightseeing around Maastricht’s old town with a stop in this bustling cobblestone square. Grab a bite at a local cafe or enjoy a pint of one of the many different Dutch or Belgian beers served around town.
St. Pietersberg Caves: These “caves” are actually manmade tunnels carved out of limestone that were used as shelter when the city was under siege. Guided tours will take you through the shafts — a labyrinth of 8,000 passages that spans roughly 50 miles — and touch on the fascinating stories and art that make up their history. Fun fact: The caves protected nearly 800 pieces of artwork during World War I, including Rembrandt’s "Night Watch."
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: A one-time Roman settlement, Maastricht is home to more than 1,600 Dutch national heritage sites. Americans may want to visit the World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, which is 6 miles from town. The city’s most recent historical achievement? It's the birthplace of the European Union and the euro.
Ramblers: Maastricht is best explored on foot, and most ships provide guided walking tours as a port excursion.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Bundle Up: This part of Northern Europe is known for its pale sunshine; damp, chilly weather conditions can stick around well into spring.
Cruises Are Seasonal: River ships dock in Maastricht from April through September, so you’ll miss some big Maastricht events, including its Christmas markets and carnival.
Kristen Boatright is the New York City-based senior video editor of ShermansCruise.com.