Maastricht's Historical Buildings Walking Tour, Maastricht

Maastricht's Historical Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Maastricht

Founded by the Romans some 2,000 years ago, the charming city of Maastricht is one of the oldest in the Netherlands. Its long history is manifested in numerous remnants, including religious and secular buildings of any form. Over the course of the centuries, Maastricht has garnered a wealth of architecture, featuring a variety of styles: Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque and Renaissance.

Cultural places as such, these historic structures contribute a great deal to the city's atmosphere. If you like ancient churches and cathedrals, centuries-old civil edifices and other notable locations, you will be quite impressed with Maastricht.

The best place to start exploring this aspect of the city is the magnificent downtown area, called "Vrijthof", one of the most picturesque in Maastricht. Here are some of its architectural marvels worth admiring:

The Saint Servatius Basilica – a true landmark, dominating Maastricht's skyline; the oldest church in Holland (established 1039);

Spaans Gouvernement (Spanish Government Building) – one of the oldest non-religious buildings in Maastricht;

Nieuwenhof Convent and Chapel – a former 15th-century nunnery, now home to the University of Maastricht;

Eerste Minderbroederskerk (First Franciscan Friars’ Church) – a fine example of Maastricht's 13th-century religious architecture;

Dinghuis (Ding House) – another historic monument; former Medieval courthouse – currently home to the Maastricht Tourist Office;

Stadhuis (City Hall) – a site not to miss when in Maastricht, one of the most recognizable pieces of Dutch classicism.

Maastricht has no shortage of lovely historic buildings scattered around the canals, hidden alleys and spacious squares. If you wish to take a proper look at the most fascinating of them, at your own pace and in your good time, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Maastricht's Historical Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Maastricht's Historical Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Maastricht (See other walking tours in Maastricht)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilica of Saint Servatius
  • Spaans Gouvernement (Spanish Government Building)
  • Sint-Janskerk (St. John's Church)
  • Nieuwenhofklooster (Nieuwenhof Convent and Chapel)
  • Eerste Minderbroederskerk (First Franciscan Friars’ Church)
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Basilica of Our Lady)
  • Dinghuis (Ding House)
  • Augustijnenkerk (Augustinian Church)
  • Stadhuis (City Hall)
  • Sint-Matthiaskerk (St. Matthias Church)
  • Ursulinenklooster (Ursuline Convent)
  • Boekhandel Dominicanen (Dominicanen Bookstore)
Basilica of Saint Servatius

1) Basilica of Saint Servatius (must see)

The Romanesque Basilica of Saint Servatius is built on Saint Servatius's gravesite. It is likely that the current structure is the fourth iteration of churches on this site.

Saint Servatius was an Armenian missionary and Tongeren's bishop. He reportedly died in Maastricht in 384. The first church was a small memorial chapel, which was replaced by a larger church. Next, a pilgrim church was built. Finally, the current church was built between the 11th and 12th centuries. Emperor Henry III and a dozen bishops attended the church's dedication in 1039.

The impressive Berg Portal is located on the south side of the church and gives visitors access to the church via descending steps. The portal was probably built during the 12th and 13th centuries and is the first Gothic construction in Maastricht. An intricate tile labyrinth covers the floor.

The portal features vibrantly decorated walls and 72 statues of kings, prophets, apostles, saints, and angels. In addition, reliefs depict Mary's life. In 1566, many statues had their heads removed because of a cultural movement against icons. The damage was poorly repaired in 1596. A Baroque facade was added in the 18th century and removed in the 19th century.

The side chapels were added in the 14th and 15th centuries and feature Gothic architecture. A Gothic spire was added in 1556, and Baroque helmet spires were added in 1770.

French revolutionaries used the church as a horse stable in 1797. As a result, many of the church furnishings were sold or damaged. Since 1866, the church has undergone several restorations.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the Pilgrimage of the Relics took place every seven years. The pilgrimage was revived in the 19th century and again takes place every seven years.
Spaans Gouvernement (Spanish Government Building)

2) Spaans Gouvernement (Spanish Government Building)

Spanish Government building (Spaans Gouvernement) is one of the oldest non-religious buildings in Maastricht, facing the city's main square, Vrijthof. The building was originally part of the ecclesiastical territory of the chapter of the church of Saint Servatius and was probably built for one of the chapter's canons. In the early 16th century the house was rebuilt and enlarged. At that time the facade on the ground floor was largely blind, except for an arched gateway that led into the courtyard.

In 1954, the wealthy couple Frederik Wagner and Ambrosina de Wit bequeathed their art collection to a foundation based in the city of Maastricht. Since 1973 the Wagner-De Wit collection has been on display in what was then called Museum Spaans Gouvernement.

A restoration carried out between 2010 and 2012 added a neighboring building to the museum's exhibition space, as well as roofing over the courtyard. The enlarged museum is now about two and a half times bigger than the old premises.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Sint-Janskerk (St. John's Church)

3) Sint-Janskerk (St. John's Church)

The Protestant St. John's Church is immediately next to the Roman Catholic Basilica of Saint Servatius. The churches are often referred to as the church twins.

St. John's Church is named after John the Baptist and was founded around 1200 by the chapter of Saint Servatius to function as a baptismal and parish church for the parish of Saint Servatius. This relieved the load on the Saint Servatius Church and allowed it to function exclusively as a collegiate and pilgrimage church.

St. John was one of Masstricht's four Catholic parish churches during the Middle Ages. The current structure was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Gothic baptistery was added in 1414.

During the medieval times, on the Saturdays before Easter and Pentecost, the canons of Saint Servatius went in procession to St. John to consecrate the baptismal water. On that occasion, the church choir sang to the canons from the first transept of St. John's.

St. John's became a Protestant church in 1632, while St. Servatius remained a Catholic church. Some original Catholic wall paintings remain in St. John's.

The interior features an impressive rib vault. The polychrome corbels feature angels, bishops, and the twelve apostles.

The church has had dozens of renovations over the years. The church has many detailed furnishings, including a Baroque Louis XVI-style pulpit that dates to 1779. The church's organ was built in 1992 using the organ case from 1780.

St. John's main feature is its red 79-meter (259 feet) tall tower built in the 15th century after the previous tower collapsed. The tower includes a wooden belfry and a 1687 bell. A small bell, the so-called gate bell, used to be rung daily to open and close the city gates, but sadly it was stolen in 1943 by the German occupiers.

Visitors can climb the tower's 218 narrow steps to the belfry's viewing platform for a stunning view of the city.
Nieuwenhofklooster (Nieuwenhof Convent and Chapel)

4) Nieuwenhofklooster (Nieuwenhof Convent and Chapel)

Built up against the inside of the Maastricht city wall, the Zwingelput 4 complex, formally known as the ‘Nieuwenhof’ (Nieuwenhofklooster or Klooster van de Nieuwenhof) is a former nunnery.

Over the centuries this complex has served a variety of purposes. Originally built in 1484-1489 as a beguinage (a convent-like institution for devout lay women), by 1625 it had become a proper convent whose nuns cared for the ill. In 1652 the nunnery was expanded, but in 1788 it went bankrupt due to mismanagement and during the French period was closed down. In 1797 the complex was repurposed as a Catholic poorhouse to accommodate needy orphans. The Nieuwenhof served as a children’s home up until 1980.

In 1981 the property was taken over by the University of Maastricht, which radically renovated it. Following that, the then recently-established UM Faculty of Law moved onto the premises in 1982. The faculty moved out in 1998, making way for University College in the Nieuwenhof.

Part of the complex, situated within a walking distance from the bank of the River Maas, is the Nieuwenhof Chapel – a mid-sized octagonal Gothic structure built in 1492-1493. The structure was converted into a lecture hall in 2002. To retain its spaciousness, the lecture hall was situated in the open area like a piece of wooden furniture. Incidentally, the hall is oriented towards the rood loft rather than the altar. During the renovation, a common room with a glazed roof was also constructed, creating a kind of covered courtyard.

Both the chapel and the remaining monastic buildings, some of which, including lower parts of the Zwingelput complex, date from 1652, now represent a national monument.
Eerste Minderbroederskerk (First Franciscan Friars’ Church)

5) Eerste Minderbroederskerk (First Franciscan Friars’ Church)

Eerste Minderbroederskerk is a church that was formerly part of the Franciscan monastery, called Oude Minderbroederklooster, situated on Sint Pieterstraat in Maastricht. The Franciscans got permission to build the monastery in 1234. After it was dissolved in 1639, this complex of buildings has seen many different uses, including an orphanage, an arsenal, a military hospital, and an archive.

The most important remnant of the monastery is the church, whose construction commenced apparently shortly before 1300 and was completed a century later. Spacious and sober, a 'preachery' without a tower, this typically medieval, Maas-Gothic style Franciscan temple was built from Limburg marl on a plinth of coal sandstone.

A number of other monastic buildings still in place also date back to that period. Back in 1506, severe storm caused the roof turret to collapse through the church's roof, inflicting great damage and largely destroying the magnificent main altar. Another, Baroque altar was placed in the temple in 1624. Centuries after the Franciscans were forced out of the monastery, the altar was replaced with a neo-Gothic one – in 1852.

Curiously enough, over the course of its almost 700-year history, this monastery church has served a non-religious purpose longer than a religious one. Only a few original parts of its interior still remind of the religious use, including various carefully preserved works of art, such as the wall and vault paintings dating from the 16th century, adorning part of the marlstone rood screen and some spots inside the vault. Also notable in this respect are the thirteen ancient gravestones (or fragments thereof) found in the choir, about half of them medieval, including at least two dating back to the 13th century.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Basilica of Our Lady)

6) Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Basilica of Our Lady) (must see)

The Basilica of Our Lady is a Romanesque Roman Catholic Church, often called Star of the Sea, after the church's main devotion, Our Lady, Star of the Sea.

It's possible that a Roman temple was built on this site before the church was built. Most of the present structure was built in the 11th and 12th centuries. The westwork was built in the 11th century, and Gothic vaults were added in the 13th century.

The French Occupation used the church as a stable and a blacksmith shop during the 1790s. The church was finally returned to a place of worship in 1837.

Visitors can access the church from the Square of Our Lady through a 13th-century Gothic portal.

The interior features a 14th-century mural depicturing Saint Catherine. A mural from 1571 depicts Saint Christopher and the Infant Jesus. The church features a 1652 pipe organ, while the stained glass windows date to the 19th and 20th centuries.

Twenty symbolic capitals carved in the 12th century depict Old Testament scenes. Impressive artworks include a 14th-century Pieta sculpture, a 16th-century wood panel The Dream of Jacob, and two 15th century Virgin Mary statues.

The church features a cloistered garden that dates to the 16th century.

A 15th-century wooden statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea is located in a chapel by the main entrance. Pope Pius X crowned the statue in 1912. The statue is carried around town during religious processions.

The Basilica of Our Lady houses an impressive treasury. The treasury includes busts of silver and copper, chalices, ancient vestments, antique books, paintings, and sculptures. Items include a 10th-century reliquary horn and the ancient Robe of Saint Lambert.

The main attraction of the Basilica of Our Lady is arguably the miraculous statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. This 15th-century wooden statue was originally housed in a nearby Franciscan monastery. It was moved to the Basilica of Our Lady in 1837. You can find the statue placed in a Gothic chapel near the main entrance where it is visited by hundreds of worshipers daily.
Dinghuis (Ding House)

7) Dinghuis (Ding House)

Erected circa 1470, Het Dinghuis or the Ding House was the highest building in Maastricht at the time of its construction. Presiding over the administrative heart of the city, at the intersection of the Kleine Staat, the Grote Staat, the Muntstraat and the Jodenstraat, its soaring roof with the late Baroque ridge turret is still a distinguished part of Maastricht's skyline, especially if looked at from the Wyck neighborhood on the eastern bank of the Maas river.

The half-timbered Gothic façade on the north side was filled in with bricks only in 1699, while the main façade was built of Namur stone (Belgian marble) and marl right away, topped with a neoclassical pediment spanning the full width of the property, and containing a grand clock with a bell. This clock, albeit only with one hand, is still operational. At the top of the steeply sloped roof is a tower that was once used as a lookout.

The name «Dinghuis» (ding being the Dutch word for judicial assembly) is derived from the legal function – a courthouse – that this building had served originally and for a long time. Over the years, Het Dinghuis had also housed a prison (in its basement), and in 1713, for a while, functioned as a theater.

In 1860, the Dinghuis narrowly escaped demolition when the city council adopted plan to build a new street to link the Grote Staat to the Sint Servaasbrug. In the end, this plan was abandoned and the Maastrichter Brugstraat was widened instead.

After a 1974 restoration, the Maastricht Tourist Office took over the building and has remained here ever since.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Augustijnenkerk (Augustinian Church)

8) Augustijnenkerk (Augustinian Church)

Augustijnenkerk is a former monastery church for the Augustinian Order in Maastricht. The temple, featuring early Liège Baroque style, was built from 1609 to 1659. Its construction was made possible thanks to the lavish donation from Edmond Godfried van Bocholtz, Grand Commander of the Biesen bailiff of the Knights of the Teutonic Order, and his predecessor, Godfried Huyn van Geleen, whose coat of arms now adorns the façade.

Underneath the benefactor's heraldry, the central round arch window is crowned by the city arms of Maastricht. Particularly striking is the eastern façade decorated with large volutes and festoons. In the top of the façade is a large relief of the flaming heart of Saint Augustine. Above the entrance, inscribed in a cartouche, is the year 1659 and the text “DOM Beatae Mariae, SS. Pontificibus Augustino et Huberto Sacrum” (dedication to St Mary, Pope Augustine, and St Hubertus).

Built of brick, marl and Namur stone, the Augustijnenkerk is a non-oriented single-aisled hall church with a wooden barrel vault. A single nave consists of five bays with large, clear windows on the south side. A ridge turret has been placed near the western corner of the slate - covered saddle-back roof. Between the nave and the presbytery is a triumphal arch decorated with Louis XV Rococo-style stucco. The choir, which was added in the early 20th century, has a stained glass window by Huib Luns from 1925, depicting the Last Supper.

At the end of the 18th century the monastery was disbanded and thenceforth the building has served a variety of functions. Presently it is used as a rehearsal space by the Maastricht Choral Society, for which purpose the interior has been fitted with sound-absorbing elements.

The Augustinian Church has been a national monument since 1966.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Stadhuis (City Hall)

9) Stadhuis (City Hall)

The historic Stadhuis is the Town Hall of Maastricht. This detached five-storey building, completely clad in Namur stone, with a sloping slate roof, was designed by Pieter Post and is considered to be an important example of Dutch classicism.

The foundation stone was laid in 1659; also, buried in the southwest corner of the structure, is a lead box containing coins and a copper plaque. The municipal council moved in here in 1664, although it wasn't until 1684 that the Town Hall's tower was completed, delayed by the lack of funds. Today, inside this 25-meter structure is the carillon of 49 bells which toll automatically every half hour.

The front façade decoration includes sculpted figures: the city maiden depicted with the Maastricht coat of arms, flanked by the seated Mars (symbol of resilience of Maastricht) and Minerva (with the head of Medusa and an owl symbolizing wisdom).

The rich, largely 18th-century interior, emerged after the French bombardment during the Siege of Maastricht (1793) which had heavily damaged the building. It reflects the duality of Maastricht, whereby the edifice is divided in two: the north half – Liège, and the south half – Brabant. The Liège rooms are on the main side because the Prince-Bishop of Liège, as a cleric, was considered higher in rank than the Duke of Brabant. The front, western part of both halves was intended for the judiciary (schout and aldermen), while the rear, eastern part was for the city administrators (mayors and councillors).

Up until the 19th century the Town Hall had housed an entire civil service of Maastricht, including the municipal library, archives, prison, weigh house and the carpentry yard. Interrogation rooms, prison cells and jailers' quarters were located on the ground floor and in the cellars.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Sint-Matthiaskerk (St. Matthias Church)

10) Sint-Matthiaskerk (St. Matthias Church)

Sint-Matthiaskerk, aka Sint-Matthijs, is a Gothic temple – one of the four Roman Catholic parish churches in the center of Maastricht, and is dedicated to Saint Mattias the Apostle.

The foundation stone was laid in 1351. However, from as early as the late 13th century, another, older church had stood on this site. Attesting to this are the documents from 1297-98 plus the foundation of marl blocks, 1.5 meters deep beneath the eastern part of Sint-Matthiaskerk, unearthed during construction of the new underfloor heating in 1988.

In 1528 the church tower caught fire after a lightning strike and had long afterwards remained in the state of disrepair; the crowning spire was installed only in 1769.

In 1566 the church fell prey to iconoclasts. From 1576 to 1579 it had been in the hands of the Calvinists, but after the Siege of Maastricht (1579) the Catholics were allowed to return. After the conquest of the city by Frederik Hendrik (1632), the church was assigned to the Protestants and remained in their hands until the arrival of the French in 1794. In 1802, the church was returned to the Catholics.

Built of marl on a plinth of Namur stone, the Sint-Matthiaskerk is designed in Maas-Gothic style. The Neo-Gothic Calvary group of statues, above the entrance, dates from 1882.

Inside the church there are late Gothic frescoes, such as Resurrection from 1585 in the north aisle, several late Gothic statues, including a 15th-century Pieta and a female saint (commonly referred to as Cecilia) by Jan van Steffeswert, a Louis XIV pulpit, an 18th-century baptismal font, and a large 3-manual church organ, originally built by Joseph Binvignat in 1808 (restored in 1990). The stained-glass windows are mostly from the 19th century, with some later additions by Charles Eyck.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Ursulinenklooster (Ursuline Convent)

11) Ursulinenklooster (Ursuline Convent)

Ursulinenklooster is a former convent of the Ursuline sisters of the Roman Union in Maastricht. The complex comprises the actual convent building, a chapel and various schools, including several national and municipal monuments.

The convent itself was built from 1890 by architect Johannes Kayser; the design was influenced by German Gothic architecture. The Ursuline chapel – a three-aisled building with a five-sided closed presbytery – was inaugurated In 1892.

On its roof is a wooden ridge turret with a spire, covered in copper. The side elevations are supported by buttresses and flying buttresses, between which there are lancet windows. The low side aisle on the Capucijnenstraat side has remarkable round- and pointed-arch windows. These form a gradual transition to the adjacent school building in Neo-Romanesque style. The walls are decorated with glazed bricks and ornamental masonry. The short sides of the nave show the stepped gables, typical of Kayser's oeuvre.

The chapel's interior is still largely preserved in its original condition. Among its special features are: the stained-glass windows depicting episodes from the life of Saint Ursula of Cologne; the main marble altar and the communion rail by Leo Brom; plus the organ, from about 1870, created by the Pereboom & Leijser firm.

Today the convent houses the De Merici residential and care center for people with mental disabilities.

As for the chapel, it is home to the Sjoen Limburg museum, showcasing, among other exhibits, scale models of architecture illustrative of the cultural history of Limburg. There are also old photos of the convent, the Ursuline schools, the boarding school and the surroundings of the Grote Gracht.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Boekhandel Dominicanen (Dominicanen Bookstore)

12) Boekhandel Dominicanen (Dominicanen Bookstore) (must see)

This unique bookstore features an independent bookstore located in a 13th-century church.

The Gothic-style cathedral was built in 1294. The church features a 14th-century fresco showing scenes from Thomas Aquinas' life. The fresco is known as Netherlands' oldest ecclesiastical wall painting. Other wall paintings date to the 1600s.

In 1794, Napolean Bonaparte used the church to house personnel and store equipment. After the monastery's dissolution in the 18th century, the church found a variety of other uses. For example, it was used as bike storage, a warehouse, a carnival, a boxing ring, and a printing house.

In 2006, the ancient church was converted into the Selexyx bookstore. The conversion project is known as Selexyz Dominicanen Maastricht. The conversion features open spaces, and the bookstore has been divided into three stories. The bookstore's design doesn't interfere with or detract from the church's stunning interior.

Selexyz became Polare, and Polare filed for bankruptcy. In 2014, the bookstore became independent and updated its name to Boekhandel Dominicanen. The bookstore features Dutch and English titles, children's books, art histories, travel guides, and more. In addition, the bookstore has a music department with vinyl records and CDs.

Over 150 events take place every year in the bookstore. Visitors can attend interviews with authors, readings, and debates.

The Dominicanen Bookstore also has a delightful cafe. Visitors can enjoy lunch and coffee in the former church's choir area.

Whether you are looking to peruse books, attend an event, grab a coffee, or enjoy the beauty of the ancient church, Dominicanen Bookstore is a must-see.

Walking Tours in Maastricht, Netherlands

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