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 20th 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.
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).
Remains of Roman baths at Onze Lieve Vrouweplein
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 centuries
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.
After the Napoleonic era, Maastricht became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. It was made the capital of the newly formed Province of Limburg (1815–1839). When the southern provinces of the newly formed kingdom seceded in 1830 (Belgian Revolution), the Dutch garrison in Maastricht remained loyal to the Dutch king, William I of the Netherlands, even when most of the inhabitants of the town and the surrounding area sided with the Belgian revolutionaries. In 1831, arbitration by the Great Powers allocated the city to the Netherlands. However, neither the Dutch nor the Belgians agreed to this and it was not until the 1839 Treaty of London that the arrangement was implemented. It was during this period of isolation that Maastricht developed into an early industrial town.
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 in the Netherlands and beyond for its lively squares, narrow streets, and historical buildings. The city has 1677 rijksmonumenten (national heritage sites), more than any Dutch city, outside Amsterdam. The entire city centre is a protected cityscape ("beschermd stadsgezicht"). The tourist information office (VVV) is located in the Dinghuis, a medieval building overlooking Grote Staat. Maastricht's main sights include:
Meuse river, with several parks and promenades along the river, and some interesting bridges:
Sint Servaasbrug, partly from the 13th century; the oldest bridge in the Netherlands;
Hoge Brug ("High Bridge"), a modern pedestrian bridge designed by René Greisch;
City fortifications, including:
Remnants of the first and second medieval city wall and several towers (13th and 14th centuries);
Helpoort ("Hell's Gate"), an imposing gate with two towers, built shortly after 1230, the oldest city gate in the Netherlands;
Waterpoortje ("Little Water Gate"), a medieval gate in Wyck, used for accessing the city from the Meuse, demolished in the 19th century but rebuilt shortly afterwards;
Hoge Fronten (or: Linie van Du Moulin), remnants of 17th- and 18th-century fortifications with a number of well-preserved bastions and a nearby early 19th-century fortress, Fort Willem I;
Fort Sint-Pieter ("Fortress Saint Peter"), early 17th-century fortress on the flanks of Mount Saint Peter;
Casemates, an underground network of tunnels, built as sheltered emplacements for guns and cannons. These tunnels run for several miles underneath the city's fortifications, some isolated, others connected to each other. Guided tours are available.
Binnenstad: inner-city district with pedestrianized shopping streets including Grote and Kleine Staat, and high-end shopping streets Stokstraat and Maastrichter Smedenstraat. The main sights in Maastricht as well as a large number of cafés, pubs and restaurants are centred around the three main squares in Binnenstad:
Vrijthof, the largest and best-known square in Maastricht, with many well-known pubs and restaurants (including two - one former - gentlemen's clubs). Other sights include:
Hoofdwacht ("Main Watch"), a 17th-century military guard house, used for exhibitions;
Generaalshuis ("General's House"), a Neoclassical mansion, now the city's main theater (Theater aan het Vrijthof).
Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, a picturesque tree-lined square with an abundance of pavement cafes. Main sights:
Basilica of Our Lady, an 11th-century church, one of the Netherland's most significant Romanesque buildings with an important church treasury. Perhaps best known for the shrine of Our Lady, Star of the Sea in an adjacent Gothic chapel;
Derlon Museumkelder, a small museum with Roman and earlier remains in the basement of Hotel Derlon.
Markt, the town's market square, completely refurbished in 2006-07 and now virtually traffic free. Sights include:
Mosae Forum, a new shopping center and civic building designed by Jo Coenen and Bruno Albert. Inside the Mosae Forum parking garage is a small exhibition of Citroën miniature cars;
Entre Deux, a recently rebuilt shopping centre in Postmodern style, 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.
Jekerkwartier, a picturesque neighbourhood named after the small river Jeker, which pops up between old houses and remnants of city walls. The western part of the neighbourhood (also called the Latin Quarter of Maastricht, is dominated by university buildings and art schools. Sights include:
a number of churches and monasteries, some from the Gothic period (the Old Franciscan Church), some from the Renaissance (Faliezustersklooster), some from the Baroque period (Bonnefanten Monastery; Walloon Church, Lutheran Church);
Grote Looiersstraat ("Great Tanners' Street"), a former canal that was filled in during the 19th century, lined with elegant houses, the city's poorhouse (now part of the university library) and Sint-Maartenshofje, a typically Dutch hofje.
Boschstraatkwartier, an upcoming neighbourhood and cultural hotspot in the north of the city centre. Several of the former industrial buildings are being transformed for new uses.
Sint-Matthiaskerk, a 14th-century parish church dedicated to Saint Matthew;
Bassin, a restored early 19th-century inner harbor with restaurants and cafés on one side and interesting industrial architecture on the other side.
Wyck, the old quarter on the right bank of the river Meuse.
Rechtstraat is perhaps the most picturesque street in Wyck, with many historic buildings and a mix of specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants;
Stationsstraat and Wycker Brugstraat are elegant shopping streets with the majority of the buildings dating from the late 19th century. At the end of Stationsstraat stands the Maastricht railway station from 1913.
Céramique, a modern neighbourhood on the site of the former Céramique potteries with a park along the river Meuse (Charles Eyckpark). Now a showcase of architectural highlights:
Wiebengahal, one of the few remaining industrial monuments in the neighbourhood and an early example of modern architecture in the Netherlands, dating from 1912;
Sint-Pietersberg ("Mount Saint Peter"): modest hill and nature reserve south of the city, peaking at 171 metres (561 ft) above sea level. It serves as Maastricht's main recreation area and a viewing point. The main sights include:
Fort Sint-Pieter, an early 18th-century military fortress fully restored in recent years;
Grotten Sint-Pietersberg, an underground network of man-made tunnels ("caves") in limestone quarries. Guided tours are available;
Slavante, a country pavilion and restaurant on the site of a Franciscan monastery of which parts remain;
Lichtenberg, a ruined medieval castle keep and a small museum in an adjacent farmstead;
D'n Observant ("The Observer"), an artificial hilltop, made with the spoils of a nearby quarry, now a nature reserve.
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.
Stadspark, the main public park in Maastricht, partly 19th century, with remnants of the medieval city walls, a branch of the Jeker river, a mini-zoo and several public sculptures (e.g. the statue of d'Artagnan in Aldenhofpark, a 20th-century extension of Stadspark). Other extensions of the park are called Kempland, Henri Hermanspark, Monseigneur Nolenspark and Waldeckpark. From 2014 onwards, the grounds of the former Tapijn military barracks will be gradually added to the park;
Jekerpark, a new park along the river Jeker, separated from Stadspark by a busy road;
Frontenpark, a new park west of the city centre, incorporating parts of the elaborate fortifications of Maastricht from the 17th to 19th centuries;
Charles Eykpark, a modern park between the public library and Bonnefanten Museum on the east bank of the Meuse river, designed in the late 1990s by Swedish landscape architect Gunnar Martinsson.
Griendpark, a modern park on the east bank of the river with an inline-skating and skateboarding course.
The Meuse river and its green banks in outlying areas.
Other nature reserves and recreational areas, such as:
Picturesque bike paths through agricultural areas in several outlying quarters (like "Biesland" amd "Wolder").
Dousberg and Zouwdal, a modest hill and valley surrounded by urban development on the western edge of the city, partly in Belgium. A large part of the hill is now in use as an international golf course (Golfclub Maastricht).
Jeker Valley, along the river Jeker, starts in the city centre (Jekerkwartier and Stadspark) and leads via Jekerpark to a natural valley with meadows, some vinyards on the slopes of Cannerberg, several water mills and Château Neercanne, and continues further south into Belgium;
Landgoederenzone, an extended area in the northeast of Maastricht (partly in Meerssen) consisting of around fifteen country estates, such as Severen, Geusselt, Bethlehem, Mariënwaard, Kruisdonk, Vaeshartelt, Meerssenhoven, Borgharen and Hartelstein. Some of the castles, villas and stately homes are surrounded by industrial areas or quarries;
Pietersplas, an artificial lake between Maastricht and Gronsveld that was the result of gravel pits on the banks of the Meuse river. There is a beach on the northern slope of the lake and a marina near Castle Hoogenweerth. The eastern riverbed between Pietersplas and the provincial government building is now a nature reserve (Kleine Weerd).
BioPartner Centre Maastricht – life sciences spin-off companies
Since the 1980s a number of European and international institutions have made Maastricht their base. They provide an increasing number of employment opportunities for expats living in the Maastricht area.
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).
Aldermen and mayors
The aldermen and the mayor make up the executive branch of the municipal government. After the popular previous mayor, Gerd Leers (CDA), decided to step down in January 2010 following the 'Bulgarian Villa' affair, an affair concerning a holiday villa project in Byala, Bulgaria, in which the mayor was alleged to have been involved in shady deals to raise the value of villas he had ownership of.
The current mayor of Maastricht is Onno Hoes, a Liberal (VVD), the only male mayor in the country, who officially is married to a male person. In 2013 Hoes was the subject of some political commotion, after facts had been disclosed about intimate affairs with several other male persons. The affair had no consequences for his political career.
One controversial issue which has dominated Maastricht politics for many years and which has also affected national and international politics, is the city's approach to soft drugs. 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 (around 13) 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.
One of the proposals, known as the 'Coffee Corner Plan', proposed by then-mayor Leers and supported unanimously by the city council in 2008, was to relocate the coffeeshops from the city centre to the borders of the town (in some cases coinciding with the national Dutch-Belgian border). The purpose of this plan was to reduce the impact of drug tourism on the city centre, such as parking problems and the illegal sale of hard drugs in the vicinity of the coffeeshops, and to monitor the sale and use of cannabis more closely in areas away from the crowded city centre. The Coffee Corner Plan, however, has met with fierce opposition from neighbouring municipalities (some in Belgium) and from members of the Dutch and Belgian parliament. The plan has been the subject of various legal challenges and has not been carried out up to this date (2014).
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 entrance to coffee shops to residents of Maastricht. The ban did not affect scientific or medical usage. In 2011, the Dutch government introduced a similar national system, the wietpas ("cannabis pass"), restricting access to Dutch coffeeshops to residents of the Netherlands. After protests from local mayors about the difficulty of implementing the issuing of wietpasses, Dutch parliament in 2012 agreed to replace the pass by any proof of residency. The new system has led to a slight diminishment of drug tourism to canabis shops in Maastricht but at the same time to an increase of drug dealing on the street.
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.
The Dutch and Flanders governments have reached an agreement in 2014 to build a new tram route called Spartacus. It is scheduled to take three years, from 2015 to 2018, and cost €283 million. When it is completed, Spartacus will carry passengers from Maastricht city centre to Hasselt city centre, the capital of Flanders’ Limburg province, in 30 minutes. It will be operated by the transport company De Lijn, with 3 scheduled stops in Maastricht and further 10 in Flanders.
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.
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)
The (outlying areas of the) following villages are bordering the municipality of Maastricht directly, which means among others that in many a case a considerable number of their inhabitants is originating from Maastricht.