South-East (Randwyck, Heugem, Heugemerveld, Scharn, Heer, De Heeg, Vroendaal)
The neighbourhoods of Itteren, Borgharen, Limmel, Amby, Heer, Heugem, Scharn, Oud-Caberg, Sint Pieter and Wolder all used to be separate municipalities or villages until they were annexed by the city of Maastricht in the course of the twentieth century.
Maastricht is a city of linguistic diversity, as a result of among others its location at the crossroads of multiple language areas and its international student population.
Dutch is the national language and the language of elementary and secondary education (excluding international institutions) as well as administration. Dutch in Maastricht is often spoken with a distinctive Limburgish accent, which should not be confused with the Limburgish language.
Limburgish (or Limburgian), is the overlapping term of the tonal dialects spoken in the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg. The Maastrichtian dialect (Mestreechs) is only one of many variants of Limburgish. It is characterised by stretched vowels and some French influence on its vocabulary. In recent years the Maastricht dialect has been in decline (see dialect levelling) and a language switch to Standard Dutch has been noted.
French formerly was the language of education in Maastricht. As of the 18th century the language occupied a powerful position as judicial and cultural language, with it being used and throughout the following century by the upper classes. Between 1851 and 1892 a Francophone newspaper (Le Courrier de la Meuse) was published in Maastricht. Currently, the language is often part of secondary school curricula. Many proper names and some street names are French and the language has left many traces in the local dialect.
German, like French, is often part of secondary school curricula. Due to Maastricht's geographic proximity to Germany and the great number of German students in the city, German is widely spoken.
English has become an important language in education. At Maastricht University it is the language of instruction for many courses. Many foreign students and expatriates use English as a lingua franca. English is also a mandatory subject in Dutch elementary and secondary schools.
Etymology and 'oldest city in the Netherlands' dispute
The name Maastricht is derived from LatinTrajectum ad Mosam (or Mosae Trajectum), meaning 'crossing at the Meuse', and referring to the bridge built by the Romans. The Latin name first appears in medieval documents and it is not known whether this was Maastricht's official name during Roman times.
There is some debate as to whether Maastricht is the oldest city in the Netherlands. Some people consider Nijmegen the oldest, mainly because it was the first settlement in the Netherlands to receive Roman city rights. Maastricht never did, but it may be considerably older as a settlement. In addition, Maastricht can claim uninterrupted habitation since Roman times. A large number of archeological finds confirms this. Nijmegen has a gap in its history: there is practically no evidence of habitation in the early Middle Ages.
A resident of Maastricht is referred to as Maastrichtenaar whilst in the local dialect it is either Mestreechteneer or, colloquially, Sjeng (derived from the formerly popular French name Jean).
Roman roads around Traiectum ad Mosam
View of Maastricht, coloured engraving by Philippo Bellomonte, 1580/82
Neanderthal remains have been found to the west of Maastricht (Belvédère excavations). Of a later date are Paleolithic remains, between 8,000 and 25,000 years old. Celts lived here around 500 BC, at a spot where the river Meuse was shallow and therefore easy to cross.
It is not known exactly when the Romans arrived in Maastricht, or whether the settlement was founded by them. It is known, though, that the Romans built a bridge over the Meuse in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Augustus Caesar. The bridge was an important link in the main road between Bavay and Cologne. Roman Maastricht was probably relatively small. Remains of the Roman road, the bridge, a religious shrine, a Roman bath, a granary, some houses and the 4th-century castrum walls and gates, have been excavated. Fragments of provincial Roman sculptures, as well as coins, jewelry, glass, pottery and other objects from Roman Maastricht are on display in the exhibition space of the city's public library (Centre Céramique).
In the early Middle Ages Maastricht was, along with Aachen and the area around Liège, part of the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The town was an important centre for trade and manufacturing. Merovingian coins minted in Maastricht have been found in many places throughout Europe. In the 10th century Maastricht briefly became the capital of the duchy of Lower Lorraine.
Shortly after 1200 the city received dual authority, with the prince-bishops of Liège and the dukes of Brabant holding joint sovereignty over the city. Maastricht received city rights in 1204. Soon afterwards the first ring of medieval walls were built. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city remained a centre for trade and manufacturing of wool and leather but gradually economic decline set in. After a brief period of economic prosperity in the 15th century, the city's economy suffered during the wars of religion of the 16th and 17th centuries, and recovery did not happen until the industrial revolution in the early 19th century.
16th to 19th century
The important strategic location of Maastricht resulted in the construction of an impressive array of fortifications around the city during this period. The Spanish and Dutch garrisons became an important factor in the city's economy. In 1579 the city was sacked by the Spanish army under general Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma (Siege of Maastricht, 1579). For over fifty years the Spanish crown took over the role of the dukes of Brabant in the joint sovereignty over Maastricht. In 1632 the city was conquered by Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and the Dutch States General replaced the Spanish crown in the joint government of Maastricht.
Another Siege of Maastricht (1673) took place during the Franco-Dutch War. In June 1673, Louis XIV laid siege to the city because French battle supply lines were being threatened. During this siege, Vauban, the famous French military engineer, developed a new strategy in order to break down the strong fortifications surrounding Maastricht. His systematic approach remained the standard method of attacking fortresses until the 20th century. On 25 June 1673, while preparing to storm the city, captain-lieutenant Charles de Batz de Castelmore, also known as the comte d'Artagnan, was killed by a musket shot outside Tongerse Poort. This event was embellished in Alexandre Dumas' novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne, part of the D'Artagnan Romances. French troops occupied Maastricht from 1673 to 1678.
Because of its eccentric location in the Netherlands, and its geographical and cultural proximity to Belgium, integration of Maastricht and Limburg into the Netherlands did not come about easily. Maastricht retained a distinctly non-Dutch appearance during much of the 19th century and it was not until the First World War that the city was forced to look northwards.
In recent years, under mayorGerd Leers, Maastricht launched a campaign against drug-related problems. Leers instigated a controversial plan to relocate some of the cannabis coffee shops—where the purchase of soft drugs in limited quantities is tolerated—from the city centre to the outskirts, in an attempt to stop (foreign) buyers from causing trouble in the downtown area. Although the so-called "coffee corner plan" has not been entirely abandoned, the new mayor Onno Hoes has given priority to the Dutch government's approach of limiting entrance to 'coffee shops' to Dutch adults only, and to tackle the problem of drug runners in cooperation with the city of Rotterdam (where the majority of drug runners are from).
On a positive note, large parts of the city centre were thoroughly refurbished in recent years, including the area around the main railway station, the main shopping streets, the Entre Deux and Mosae Forum shopping centres, and the Maasboulevard promenade along the Meuse. Also, a new quarter, including the new Bonnefanten Museum, a public library, a theater and several housing blocks designed by international architects, was built on the grounds of the former Céramique potteries near the town centre. As a result, Maastricht looks notably smarter. Further large-scale projects, such as the redevelopment of the Sphinx and Belvédère areas, are underway.
Maastricht features the same climate as most of the Netherlands (Cfb, Oceanic climate), however, due to its more inland location in between hills, summers tend to be warmer (especially in the Meuse valley, which lies 70 meters lower than the meteorological station) and winters a bit colder, although the difference is only remarkable at a few days a year. Notable is the second highest temperature recorded in the Netherlands, and the highest temperature of a still existing station on June 27, 1947 at 38.4 °C (101.1 °F).
Maastricht is known for its picturesque squares, romantic streets, and historical buildings. The tourist information office (VVV) is located in the Dinghuis, a 15th-century former town hall and law courts building on the corner of Grote Staat and Kleine Staat. The main sights include:
City Fortifications, including:
Helpoort: a 13th-century town gate, the oldest in the Netherlands
Fragments of the first and second medieval city walls
Hoge Fronten (or Linie van Du Moulin): remnants of 17th- and 18th-century fortifications with a number of well-preserved bastions and an early 19th-century fortress, Fort Willem
Casemate, an underground network of tunnels, built as sheltered emplacements for guns and cannons. These tunnels run for several miles underneath the city's fortifications. Guided tours are available.
Binnenstad: inner-city shopping district, including Grote and Kleine Staat, and high-end shopping street Stokstraat. Maastricht is also well known for its cafés, pubs and restaurants.
Dinghuis, a medieval courthouse with an early Renaissance façade
Entre Deux, a recently rebuilt shopping centre which has won several international awards. It includes a bookstore located inside a former 13th-century Dominican church. In 2008, British newspaper The Guardian proclaimed this the world's most beautiful bookshop.
Vrijthof, the best-known square in the city. Sights:
Derlon Museumkelder, a small museum in the basement of Hotel Derlon with Roman remains.
Markt; the Market Square was completely refurbished in 2006-2007 and is now virtually traffic free. Sights include:
The Town Hall, built in the 17th century by Pieter Post.
Mosae Forum, a brand new shopping center and civic building designed by Jo Coenen and Bruno Albert. Citroën Miniature Cars, the world's largest exposition of Citroën miniature cars, is inside the Mosae Forum parking garage below the square.
Bassin, a restored early 19th-century inner harbor with restaurants and cafés. The surroundings are currently being developed into a cultural hotspot.
Jekerkwartier, a picturesque neighbourhood with the small river Jeker popping up between old houses and remnants of city walls.
Bonnefanten Museum is the foremost museum for old masters and contemporary fine art in the province of Limburg. The collection features medieval sculpture, early Italian painting, Southern Netherlandish painting, and contemporary art.
Museum aan het Vrijthof is a local history museum in the 16th-century Spanish Government building, featuring period rooms with 17th- and 18th-century furnishings, Maastricht silver, porcelain, glassware, Maastricht pistols, and a collection of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch paintings and 20th-century paintings from local artists.
Inkom, the traditional opening of the academic year and introduction for new students of Maastricht University (August).
Carnival(Dutch: Carnaval, Limburgish and Maastrichtian: Vastelaovend) - a traditional 3-day festival in the southern part of the Netherlands (February/March). In Maastricht it is largely celebrated outdoors.
11de van de 11de, the official start of the carnival season (November 11).
Tedx Maastricht, one of the top 3 TEDx-events in Europe (autumn)
Furthermore, the Maastricht Exposition and Congress Centre (MECC) hosts many events throughout the year.
On 16 December 2010, the Court of Justice of the European Union upheld a local Maastricht ban on the sale of cannabis to foreign tourists, restricting coffee shops to residents of Maastricht. The ban did not affect scientific or medical usage. While the ban is now legal to enforce, its future is uncertain as the city council of Maastricht and other cities have voted against the planned "cannabis pass system".
Maastricht Research School of Economics of TEchnology and ORganization (METEOR)
Research Institute for Knowledge Systems (RIKS)
Cicero Foundation (CF)
In football, Maastricht is represented by MVV Maastricht (Dutch: Maatschappelijke Voetbal Vereniging Maastricht), currently playing in the Dutch first division of the national competition (which is actually the second league after the Eredivisie league). MVV's home is the Geusselt stadium near the A2 motorway.
Since 1998, Maastricht has been the traditional starting place of the annual Amstel Gold Race, the only Dutch cycling classic. For several years the race also finished in Maastricht, but since 2002 the finale has been on the Cauberg hill in nearby Valkenburg.
The municipal government of Maastricht consists of a city council, a mayor and a number of aldermen. The city council, a 39-member legislative body directly elected for four years, appoints the aldermen on the basis of a coalition agreement between two or more parties after each election. The 2006 municipal elections in the Netherlands were, as often, dominated by national politics and led to a shift from right to left throughout the country. In Maastricht, the traditional broad governing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDA), Labour (PvdA), Greens (GreenLeft) and Liberals (VVD) was replaced by a centre-left coalition of Labour, Christian Democrats and Greens. Two Labour aldermen were appointed, along with one Christian Democrat and one Green alderman. Due to internal disagreements, one of the VVD council members left the party in 2005 and formed a new liberal group in 2006 (Liberalen Maastricht). The other opposition parties in the current city council are the Socialist Party (SP), the Democrats (D66) and two local parties (Stadsbelangen Mestreech (SBM) and the Seniorenpartij).
The aldermen and the mayor make up the executive branch of the municipal government. The current mayor of Maastricht is Onno Hoes, a Liberal (VVD), who was appointed after the popular previous mayor, Gerd Leers (CDA), decided to step down in January 2010 following the 'Bulgarian Villa' affair.
One controversial issue which has characterized Maastricht politics for years and which has also affected national and even international politics, is the city's approach to soft drug policy. Under the pragmatic Dutch soft drug policy, a policy of non-enforcement, individuals may buy and use cannabis from 'coffeeshops' (cannabis bars) under certain conditions. Maastricht, like many other border towns, has seen a growing influx of 'drug tourists', mainly young people from Belgium, France and Germany, who provide a large amount of revenue for the coffeeshops in the city centre. The city government, most notably ex-mayor Leers, have been actively promoting drug policy reform in order to deal with its negative side effects.
Under one of the latest proposals, known as the 'Coffee Corner Plan' and proposed by then-mayor Leers, the city council unanimously voted in November 2008 to relocate most of its coffeeshops from the city centre to the edge of town, where the sale and use of cannabis can more easily be monitored. The purpose of this plan was to reduce the impact of drug tourism on the city centre, such as parking problems and the more serious issue of the illegal sale of hard drugs in the vicinity of the coffeeshops. The Coffee Corner Plan, however, has met with fierce opposition from neighbouring municipalities and from national government, where the Christian Democrats take a notably more conservative approach to soft drugs than their local party and mayor. Bordering towns and the federal government in Belgium have also opposed the city's policy, citing Maastricht's plan to move the coffeeshops towards the Belgian borders as a violation of European law. The plan has been the subject of various legal challenges and has not yet been carried out.
Maastricht is served by the A2 and A79 motorways. The city can be reached from Brussels and Cologne in approximately one hour and from Amsterdam in about two and a half hours.
The A2 motorway that runs through Maastricht is heavily congested and causes air pollution in the urban area. Construction of a two-level tunnel designed to solve these problems is scheduled to start in 2011 and last until 2016.
In spite of several large underground car parks, parking in the city centre forms a major problem during weekends and bank holidays due to the large numbers of visitors. Parking fees are high in order to incite visitors to use public transport or park and ride facilities away from the centre.
Maastricht has a river port (Beatrixhaven) and is connected by water with Belgium and the rest of the Netherlands through the river Meuse, the Juliana Canal, the Albert Canal and the Zuid-Willemsvaart. Although there are no regular boat connections to other cities, various organized boat trips for tourists connect Maastricht with Belgium cities such as Liège.
Distances to other cities
These distances are as the crow flies and therefore not represent actual overland distances.
Willy Brokamp (1946) star football player of MVV Maastricht in the early seventies, which were "the golden years" for this club. Also former caterer in several Maastricht establishments.
The town of Maastricht has insofar played a part in the birth of contemporary philosophy of life called "Vivism", that its founder, Nicolas Pleumekers, originating from a nearby village, went to college here and later on, after having finished his academic study, lived here permanently for eight years. In this context one of the main facts of that stay was that during these years he decided to stop eating plants.
In 2002 the municipal government officially adopted a local anthem (Limburgish (Maastrichtian variant): Mestreechs Volksleed, Dutch: Maastrichts Volkslied) composed of lyrics in Maastrichtian. The theme was originally written by Alfons Olterdissen (1865–1923) as finishing stanza of the Maastrichtian opera "Trijn de Begijn" of 1910.
Maastrichtian municipal anthem(Mestreechs Volksleed) (adopted 2002, written 1910)