Have you ever noticed that little bit that sticks out at the bottom of the Netherlands?
The province of Limburg is well worth exploring . . . who knew there were vineyards here? Its largest city, Maastricht, situated on the River Meuse, is the home of world-famous violinst and conductor Andre Rieu.
Despite being one of the oldest cities in the country, it has a youthful, relaxed feel due to its large university. There are plenty of great restaurants and narrow, cafe-filled streets along which to meander.
Maastricht, situated on the River Meuse, is the home of world-famous violinst and conductor Andre Rieu
Where to stay
The Green Elephant
This eco-friendly hostel-hotel crossover is just a few minutes’ walk from the station, and about 15 minutes from the city centre. There are shared and private rooms, including Tiny Dream Houses, which are indoor wooden cabins for two with shared bathrooms. There’s also a vegan and vegetarian cafe which does an impressive buffet breakfast. Room-only doubles from £38, thegreenelephant.nl.
Dormio Hotel De Prins van Oranje
Situated next to the Belgian border by an 18-hole golf course, this hotel is still only a 15-minute pedal from the centre if you do what many Dutch do and hop on a bike. There’s a posh restaurant on the top floor, food trucks downstairs in the evenings, with dishes ranging from Italian to Tex-Mex, and a Dutch pub with lots of local beers just across the way. There’s a pool, too. Room-only doubles from £67, dormio.uk.
As the name suggests, this 52-room hotel is housed in an old monastery, with parts dating from the 14th century. Rooms are air-conditioned and come with free wi-fi and Nespresso machines. Even those in the ‘small’ category have been thoughtfully designed. It’s in a good location, easily walkable for sightseeing and dining, although there’s an on-site cafe if you don’t fancy going out. Room-only doubles from £77, hotelmonasteremaastricht.com
This 49-bedroom hotel is in the trendy Wyck district, just a short stroll from the city centre across the River Meuse. Wake up with a breakfast bag of yoghurt, granola and fruit, plus orange juice and a pastry, delivered to your room, then pop downstairs to the lobby to enjoy a free cappuccino as you make your plan for the day. Talking of free, drinks from the minibar are included if you book directly, rather than through an online travel agent. B&B doubles from £57, hotelthedutch.com
What to see and do
Even if you can’t read Dutch, pop into Dominicanen bookshop in the middle of town for a nosy
Even if you can’t read Dutch, pop into this bookshop in the middle of town for a nosy because it’s housed in a gorgeous 13th-century church that has real wow-factor.
Actually, there is a good smattering of English books if you decide you want to take something home, and a nice cafe at the altar if you need pepping up (boekhandeldominicanen.nl).
Maastricht lends itself to pottering, with its quaint streets, bar-filled squares and medieval city walls. But, if you want to get your bearings and some local information, consider a two-hour guided walking tour in English, which you can book at the tourist information office at Kleine Staat (from £7). Some explore the city’s underground tunnels that were started in the 16th century and used to shelter citizens in World War II (visit maastricht.com).
For coffee lovers
Caffeine addicts should follow their nose to Maison Blanche Dael. This quaint coffee shop on Wolfstraat is more than 140 years old and supplies the Dutch royal family. As well as being able to buy all sorts of locally roasted coffees and teas, you can visit the atelier at the back to be shown how to brew the best cup and taste some of the shop’s products. They also roast fresh peanuts on site every day, which make a cheap snack while you sightsee afterwards (blanchedael.nl).
If you’ve never heard of Andre Rieu, imagine the hair of Michael Bolton meets the waltzes of Johann Strauss. Rieu’s legion of fans truly love him. You can catch his over-the-top shows here in his home town with lots of singalong-able classics every July (tickets from £55), when he takes over the whole of Vrijthof Square for 12 nights to play in front of thousands (andrerieu.com).
Museum aan het Vrijthof
This museum on one side of the city’s main square highlights both modern art and antiques, with revolving exhibitions, too (tickets cost £9, museumaanhetvrijthof.nl).
Where to eat
Tasty: Choose a counter table at Onglet so you can see dishes
The butcher’s shop on Wycker Brugstraat may look shut for the night, but ping the doorbell and someone will let you in and take you through to the restaurant hidden at the back. Choose a counter table so you can see dishes such as dry-aged entrecote with polenta and carrots (£18.30) or roasted beetroot with ricotta and green olives (£11.50) being prepared (onglet.nl).
A cost, informal spot in which to stop for a French-inspired lunch if you’re wandering downtown. The friendly owner can talk you through suggestions such as a ham and cheese crepe (£7.25) or lamb filet (£12.40). Address: Stenenbrug 6.
This brasserie is unpretentious, managing to pull off tourist-friendly without being touristy. The menu is wide-ranging with everything from fish fingers for kids (£5.50) to steak and chips for adults (£18.70). If you want to go local, there’s Zoervleis, a horse-meat stew with apple sauce (cafesjiek.nl).
t’ Wycker Cabinet
This airy bistro bar is open all day, whether you want something snacky or more substantial. For breakfast you could try banana bread with berries, yoghurt, granola, fruit and honey (£7.50), or later in the day gruyere, bacon and onion pizza (£11.80). wyckercabinet.nl.