A visit to Maastricht is about relishing the good life. Enjoying the crisp winter air with a warm cup of Gluehwein, eating traditional Maastricht delights and strolling along the cobblestoned streets while gazing at the illuminated trees are all part of the lure for tourists this holiday season.
The city is a bustling urban center: the capital of the province, birthplace of the euro and home to what some say is the greatest art and antiques fair in the world. Maastricht’s inner beauty doesn’t stop here — from Saturday to Dec. 29, the elegant city transforms into Magical Maastricht as the city center becomes a Christmas paradise.
During the Christmas season, a large ice skating rink, a Christmas market and an enchanting carousel will take over Vrijthof square and the entire city center will bring more festivities for everyone, young and old. Children and church choirs will put the city into the Christmas spirit, and magical theater and musical performances will take place at various cafes, museums, squares and streets in Maastricht. For more details on the musical program, visit www.magicalmaastricht.nl.
This charming town of only 130,000 people has several Michelin-starred restaurants. If these are out of your price range, you may want to consider dining at one of the 300 pubs and cafes in Maastricht.
There is a certain class of pub in the Netherlands, called a “brown cafe.” These establishments are tiny wood-paneled pubs that serve inexpensive, hearty meals.
Sjinkerij de Bobbel, located at Wolfstraat 32, is one such cafe. The name is Dutch-slang meaning a bottle for storing gin, said Taco Van der Bijl, de Bobbel’s owner. The interior is dark and cool with only seven or eight tables. The kitchen is now open daily from 10 a.m to 9 p.m. You can get several types of soup including French onion, Limburg mustard soup and goulash soup, a generous serving of quiche, sandwiches and their special coffee, Bobbelmelange.
More casual dining can be found on the street. Belgian waffles are a popular street food. Sidewalk stands serve the warm, sweet, chewy waffles dusted with powdered sugar straight off the griddle to hungry holiday shoppers and tourists. After numerous rounds of ice skating with the kids on the 800 square meter rink, grab a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the seasonal delicacy “oliebollen,” or deep-fried doughnut balls. Walk along the main shopping strip, and you will notice the decorated windows and the shops’ special winter collections.
Besides eating, Maastrichters love to shop. On Groote Staat, the main shopping street, you’ll find European department stores, designer shops, interior stores with home accessories and furniture, jewelers, antique shops and galleries. During the Christmas season, artists will have the opportunity to display their light projects within the city along the Magical Light Route, giving the inner city and shops that much more of a glow. Stroll across the “Hoeg Broegk,” or the old bridge, admire the Maasboulevard and Mosae Forum shopping center and make your way to the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, a square in Maastricht, where there will be a display of 200 mistletoe-shaped lamps.
The shops in Maastricht are open the first Sunday of the month from noon to 5 p.m. Better yet, shops will extend their hours for the Christmas season with additional shopping nights until 9 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23. For more information on shopping, the light route and must-do’s this winter in Maastricht, visit http://www.vvvmaastricht.nl/magisch-maastricht.html.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Amanda Hayward, editor and contributing writer for the Kaiserslautern American, contributed additonal information to this article.