Despite its diminutive dimensions, the Netherlands is one of the most cosmopolitan and colorful countries in the world. Nestled in the southernmost tip is the city of Maastricht, lauded as the most beautiful city in the country.
Roughly the size of Maryland, the Netherlands is situated in the Northwest region of Europe and is a kaleidoscope of languages and cultures. Composed of 12 provinces, it is known for its iconic imagery: windmill-dotted landscapes, picturesque canal districts, blankets of tulips and bicycles that command the cobblestones.
Maastricht, lauded as the most beautiful city in the country, is a college town of just 120,000 people and is famous for what natives call the Burgundian way of life. Dutch and international visitors alike converge on the municipality during the summer months to indulge in the many fine dining, arts, culture and shopping opportunities it has to offer.
Just a five-minute walk from the train station is The Dutch. Situated in a large townhouse, the upscale 49-room boutique hotel pays homage to the ’80s.
Basking in hues of green, pink, blue and gold, the kitschy lobby, which also serves as a bar, is adorned with stuffed flamingos à la Miami Vice and murals of pop culture icons. One is of Jane Fonda wearing a leotard and leg warmers that makes the statement: Jane wants you to take the stairs.
Beyond the lobby is the courtyard, also known as the jungle. The outdoor seating area — complete with statues of a crocodile and gorilla — is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning before taking in the sights of the city.
One of the best ways to experience Maastricht is by bicycle. In a country where there are more bikes than people — 23 million versus 18 million — there is no shortage of bike rentals and guided bike tours in the province of Limburg. Almost all of the streets in the city have a cycle lane, making it easy and safe to take in some popular sights, such as the Maas (also Meuse) River, Maaspromenade and the Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek, or Basilica of Our Lady.
No trip to Maastricht would be complete without a visit to the Vrijthof. Considered the most romantic square in the Netherlands, it has attracted people since medieval times when pilgrims came to see the grave of Saint Servatius.
These days, Vrijthof is known for its outdoor cafes and concerts by world-renowned conductor and native of Maastricht, violinist André Rieu. We had the pleasure of speaking with Rieu about his love of music and entertaining.
Rieu’s summer concert series, which will be held July 4-22 is the city’s grandest spectacle, drawing more than 60,000 visitors to the city across three weekends.
Foodies and oenophiles won’t be bored in Maastricht. From Michelin-starred restaurants to wine bars to good old-fashioned pubs, the city has something for every palate.
Boasting two Michelin stars, Beluga Loves You, formerly Beluga, is a classic fine dining restaurant owned by the popular Dutch chef Hans van Wolde. Perched on the banks of the Maas River, the restaurant is famous for impeccable fare with a creative flair. For the full experience, try the five-course Xpressions lunch.
Taking inspiration from French, Italian and Spanish cuisine, Harry’s Restaurant is a must when visiting Maastricht. With an elegant and welcoming atmosphere, the luxury brasserie uses mostly locally-sourced ingredients prepared by chefs in an open kitchen.
Behind the beautiful facades along Stokstraat and Wolfstraat streets, you’ll find the crème de la crème of fashion in Maastricht. The oldest part of the city, Stokstraat is lined with elegant boutiques, such as local retailers NIKKIE and Colette Maastricht.
A must-visit for bibliophiles is Bookshop Dominicanen. Once a Dominican church that was built in the 13th century, the cleverly converted shop — which sells new and secondhand books, CDs DVDs and vinyl — receives more than 700,000 visitors a year.