Among the many cities with long history and traditions in Europe, Maastricht, the capital of the Limburg province in the Netherlands, is particularly significant. Some specialist consider Maastricht as the oldest Dutch city – the Celts inhabited it as early as 500 BC, and near the city were found Neanderthal’s remains. Since Roman times, the city, despite changing governments, has never lacked inhabitants. However, the most important events in the history of the city have taken place in the 20th century. The Battle of Maastricht in May 1940 ended with the occupation of the city by the Germans during WWII, but on 14 September 1944 it became the first liberated Dutch city. On 7 February 1992 the Maastricht treaty was signed and thus Maastricht became the birthplace of the European Union and its currency – the euro.
One of the best features of Maastricht is that it is not the heart of Europe – it is in a better place. Maastricht is located near some of the European capitals – about 120 km from Brussel, 200 km from Luxemburg, 220 km from Amsterdam, 400 km from Paris, 500 km from London and 700 km from Berlin. In fact, the city’s boundaries coincide with the frontier between the Netherlands and Belgium and is near the frontiers with Germany and Luxemburg.
The city is well-known for its University – the University of Maastricht, founded in 1976. It welcomes students from Europe and all over the world and provides different programs not only in Dutch, but also in English and its fees are quite reasonable.
There are different ways to go around the city – by bus, by car, by bike, even by train, but the best way is on foot. Walking around will allow you to see the centre of the city, which is a pedestrian-only area. The two city squares – the Vrijthof and the Markt, are one of the best sights in Maastricht. The Markt is where the Town Hall (Stadhuis) and the Wednesday and Friday markets are located. The Vrijthof regularly hosts different carnivals and festivals, one of which – The Carnival before Lent – resembles the American Mardi Gras.
The interesting buildings around the city include The City Library, The Library of the University of Maastricht and the Stadhuis (the Town Hall). There are also different museums – The Bonnenfantenmuseum, which hosts the greatest art works from the Limburg province and The Spaans Gouvernement, where you can see typical rooms and decorations from the 17th and 18th centuries are the most significant ones.
Recommended sights for tourists are the Saint Pietersberg Caves, which in fact are marlstone mines and you can visit them with an expert guide; Kazematten – a lot of bunkers, connected in a network, from where the soldiers defended the city, and, something more contemporary, the big Shopping centre, which is abundant of products and items.
To cut a long story short, Maastricht is a great place to visit, if you want to rest actively and to combine the modern and the ancient – here you can see the ruins from Antiquity and the modern buildings, shopping centres and markets, all united by the atmosphere of the ‘most’ European cities.