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Explore the Dutch city of Maastricht, close to the Belgian border
Curled around the Meuse river, just beyond the Belgian-Dutch border, is a city that combines the joie de vivre of the Dutch and Belgian Limburg region with a burgeoning creative industry and a few daring experiments in urban redesign. The old cordially embraces the new in Maastricht, with younger businesses entering the historic centre and university ventures that collaborate with the traditional chemical and health science industries around the edges of the city. In less than two hours’ drive from Brussels, you can indulge yourself in Maastricht’s blend of hipness and local folklore.
Your first stop will probably be the picturesque Vrijthof. Take a look at the gothic Sint-Janskerk, with its striking red tower, which will certainly catch your eye. From there, continue your walk through the historic centre of the city. The Meuse river flanks the historic part to the east, but don’t be afraid to cross some of its bridges as well. Beyond the eastern shore, you’ll find the up-and-coming Wyck district, where all the hip people live, work and relax. One stop you should definitely make is the Bonnefantenmuseum, showcasing works of big-name painters such as Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Luc Tuymans. Hang around in the Céramique district afterwards, where modern architecture is king: you’ll discover buildings designed by Álvaro Siza, bOb Van Reeth and Bruno Albert.
During the day, do some shopping or take a guided tour to visit some of the hundreds of monuments ranging from the 16th to the 19th century. There are several outlets where you can rent a Segway bike to follow an audio tour through the city’s history. If you love the theatre, and you’re lucky to land in Maastricht at the right time, you can find internationally renowned theatre and opera acts at Theater aan het Vrijthof, in the historic part of town. Maastricht is also the home town of conductor André Rieu, who often holds large concerts at the same marketplace. If you’re into music, check out what’s on at Muziekgieterij near the edge of the city, a former industrial complex that’s now a concert hall.
Maastricht has a certain culinary edge, where classic Burgundian cuisine fuses with more modern flavours through the arrival of younger people in the city over the last two decades. The emergence of a more hipster culture in the Wyck and Céramique districts has also resulted in a great deal of recently opened eateries. We can recommend ’t Wycker Cabinet, but that’s just one option; just stroll through the romantic streets and chances are you’ll find something to your liking. Another great venue to eat, closer to the historic part of town, is De Brandweerkantine, a restaurant inside a former firehouse. In the historic part of the city, we recommend La Bodega, a tapas bar that has made a name for itself in the city.