The Maastricht Survival Guide for New Students and Day Trippers10 min read

After living three years in Maastricht as a student, I cannot tell you anything about its history, but I can tell you where to get the best pizza, burritos and ice cream, aka the important things in life. As a rough survival guide for new students or day visitors, I have therefore compiled this quick guide for you, so you know about the best things to do and where to spend your money and time wisely, so you get the most of your Maastricht experience! Overall, keep in mind that Maastricht is a Dutch city, so Dutch prices apply! And never forget: André Rieu visits in July, so avoid going to Maastricht at this time, as prices for hotels will skyrocket!

In this article:

Vrijthof in Maastricht, the Netherlands

Activities and Sights in Maastricht: What are the Best Things to Do?

Maastricht is very low-key, and there is not very much exciting stuff to see. However, this should not hinder you to come and visit for a day or two, as you will be enchanted by its charm! Especially in winter, when the Christmas market is taking place in the center of town and fairy lights brighten up the entire city at night, Maastricht is extremely cozy and cute.

Starting off with the main sights: the Vrijthof is the center of the city, basically a big plaza surrounded by restaurants. On one side, there is Sint Servaas and the red church, Sint Janskerk. Fun fact: in olden times (in other words, I can’t remember when) they used oxen blood to dye the church red. To the north-east, a second point for orientation is the Markt, where the city hall is. On Wednesdays and Fridays they have markets here, where mainly food (Friday) and other items (Wednesday) are sold.

Continuing more to the East, you will hit the Maas. Take some time to walk along the river and enjoy the cute Dutch houses on either side of the river. If you cross the white bridge with the wide steps, know that urban legend says that the steps are so wide due to sheep needing to be able to cross the Maas here. Mainly it serves to frustrate people as the steps are too big to take one footstep per step but too small for two footsteps per step.

A bridge in Maastricht with several pedestrians crossing

Beautiful Bookstores, Dinosaurs and Mysterious Caves

Coming back to the Vrijthof, there are many intertwined shopping streets where you can find basically whatever you’re looking for. What you should certainly not miss, especially if you’re a bookworm, is the Dominicanen. This bookstore is considered to be one of the top ten most beautiful bookstores in the world.

Fun is the Natuurhistorisch Museum, where their most prized possession is the skeleton of a Mosasaur which was dug up in the “mountain” Sint Pietersberg, right next to Maastricht. Note however that most of the exhibits are in Dutch. But it still has enough skeletons and interactive turning-globe 3D-interaction pieces to entertain younger kids.

Explore the Caves Below Sint Pietersberg

Lastly, make sure to stop by the caves. There is a huge network of caves below the Sint Pietersberg, and tours go almost daily into the tunnels. Tours are in English and Dutch. If you are extremely claustrophobic, obviously think twice. At the beginning of the tour, you will go through the narrowest part (where two people can still walk next to each other, but some tall people may need to duck). But don’t worry, after 5 minutes or so you enter the caverns which are very wide.

The tour mainly focuses on the history and, connected to that, the artwork produced in the tunnels. There will be a point when you have the option of walking through a completely pitch-black tunnel for around 2 minutes, however if you are uncomfortable with this, you always have the option of walking ahead with the tour guide (and the lights). However, I highly recommend this, as it is a completely novel experience being basically blind (unless you are blind of course, in which case, the tour is still interesting as you hear a lot about the history). Not recommended for young kids who will run away from their parents.

Street performers in Maastricht, the Netherlands

Nightlife and Interesting Tips for Students

Generally, Maastricht is rather a city to take a relaxing walk rather than do crazy things. Activities for a rather younger audience can be visiting one of the three escape room companies in Maastricht (Room Escape Maastricht, Best Escape Maastricht and The Escape Hunt Experience Maastricht) or going to the boulder hall “Radium Boulders” (around 10 – 13€ for entrance and renting of shoes).

Nightlife can be rather low-key, with the biggest club being Complex and generally the rest of the clubs either being located at the Markt or Platielstraat (note that these may be full of Dutch sorority girls and fraternity guys during certain nights). Not located here but worth looking into are Mandril and LBB. Most of these do not charge entrance but be aware that this can lead to lots of sketchy people hanging out there.

Coffeeshops in Maastricht

(Most) coffeeshops will only let you enter and buy weed if you have a valid residence permit for the Netherlands. Therefore, most likely you will not be able to buy weed if you are not Dutch or do not live in the Netherlands. There are street vendors, but you will never know the quality of the weed they are selling you. If you do not live in the Netherlands and you want to get high – go to Amsterdam and sober up in Maastricht.

No matter if you are looking for nightlife events or general activities, check on Facebook. In this city you can find everything and anything on Facebook. Just put your location onto Maastricht and search for events around the city and you are bound to find something you find interesting.

A historic street in the Dutch city of Maastricht

Food in Maastricht

Now to the interesting part of the entire experience. As Maastricht is filled with students, the general price range is rather affordable and good quality. There are a number of fancier restaurants, mostly on the Vrijthof or Markt, but these are mostly frequented by the ages of 45+. For younger (and poorer) students, the following list should give you a good overview.

Fancier and Pricier Food

If you are going to Maastricht with your parents, they might expect a bit nicer place to eat. A favorite is going to Pêt Thai, which serves a variety of Thai dishes with different levels of spiciness. If you are a dare-devil, you can go for the 15 peppers (just kidding, you will die if you try that).

Marres kitchen, hidden away in one of the side streets in Maastricht, serves amazing Middle Eastern food. Its recommendable to order many smaller dishes (Mezze) for sharing amongst the entire group, so only go here if you are comfortable with sharing your food.

FAB (Famous American Bistro) is a great place for your parents to take you for brunch. You can choose from a menu of pancakes, bacon, potatoes, eggs and veggies, making it a nice place for early mornings or afternoons. Although not tested by me but recommended by friends is Tokyoto (sushi), Sirtaki (if you love meat, Greek style) and Cucina 50 (pizza).

Lastly, if you want to go super fancy, for example a formal event, Novo Dining is incredible. You can only order menus with five to seven dishes, so be aware that it is pricey, however the staff is very friendly and always give you an introduction to your food.

Food, mostly pastries, stalled out in a bakery in Maastricht

Cheaper Food (for Dutch Standards)

A place which is very cheap for what they offer you is Dadawan, a restaurant close to the station. While they also have a takeout place next to the restaurant, it is recommended going to the sit-down place. It is pretty fancy, so suitable for taking your parents, but still very inexpensive. The stone bowls are amazing.

There are two amazing burrito places in Maastricht: With Love Burrito and BABs (Bomb Ass Burritos). Both have great food, the staff is extremely friendly and the prices are fair. Very recommendable.

Right next to With Love Burrito is the fries shop Reitz. This shop is in every trip advisor – fairly so. They serve amazing fries, but be prepared to wait 15 minutes (probably in the rain) to get your fries. Go full on out with your sauce – I highly recommend sauce special (mayo, ketchup and diced raw onions) or Oorlog (same except sauté sauce instead of ketchup).

Student Favorite: Cato by Cato

Cato by Cato (or CatoCato) is a favorite amongst students. This takeout shop is run by a friendly older Belgian man who chats with you while serving you. You can you choose one to two bases (rice, pasta, potatoes, salad, etc.) and one to two toppings per meal. Toppings can be any kind of food from all corners of the world ranging from the South African dish Chakalaka to the cozy vegetable stew. Prices are very low (3.50 – 5.50€) but you cannot sit down, your food is cold and needs to be warmed up in a slowly-dying microwave and you get your food in take-out containers, so remember to bring your tupperware and spork! Everything is home-cooked and (generally) healthy. Definitely try the homemade bread and cake. Important to note is that everything is pre-cooked, so you cannot make adjustments to your food.

Alternative and Vegan: Foodbank Maastricht

Only open on Fridays is the Foodbank Maastricht. The foodbank is held by a volunteer organization. Every Friday after the food market, volunteers go around collecting leftover food which the stands could not sell. They meet in an abandoned factory building to cook three courses together. As the food is leftover, it is free, but during the meal they ask for donations for spices and other condiments. It is indirectly asked that you either help with vegetable cutting at the beginning or washing dishes at the end. Everything is vegan and generally very tasty.

I recommend that you come around 8pm as if you come later, you risk not getting a space. This place is amazing for getting to know people any age and everyone is very friendly. It is important to note that is a very particular place, if you do not enjoy the alternative scene, do not like public toilets or do not agree with people smoking (joints) or drinking alcohol in public, you might not want to go here. Also, important to know is that it can get very cold in winter as there is no heating.

Piano B: The Best Pizza in Town

Lastly, we have the crown jewel of them all. No matter what time you come to Maastricht, under what circumstances or pretense, you have to go to Piano B, voted the second (unbelievable that it is not first) best pizza place in the Netherlands. This place serves the most amazing pizza you will ever eat. Italians have said that if they were in Naples, they would go to this shop for their pizza. Go there. Do it. Prices are around 7-10€.

Be aware that you cannot sit down in the shop, but still go there even in winter. Make sure to reserve a pizza close to the opening times as they often sell out during the course of the evening. You can order a pizza off their menu, but modifications are also welcome. Pizza Funghi without corn is my favorite but everything is amazing here. If you want to die in peace, go to this place.

Vrijthof with the red Sint-Jans church tower
A historic little street with flowers, chairs, and bicycles in the background

There’s Always Room for Dessert

Finish off your meal by going to Piece of Cake right of the Vrijthof: although they are on the rather pricey side, they sell amazing cupcakes and other cakes for around 2.50 – 5€ apiece. They have seasonal menus, so expect to have a variety of different desserts throughout the year. A must if you come in fall is the maple syrup sticky bun – take my advice, your taste buds will thank me.

Another place to go to during any time of the year for dessert is Teazone. Located close to the river this teashop offers a variety of teas and some coffees and cakes. While Teazone is rather a hip place recommendable for a relaxing tea, Piece of Cake is cozier and is more for dessert lovers.

If you visit Maastricht in summer (or any other time as a matter of fact), you need to visit Candiero. This is right across from Teazone and has the best ice cream in the whole of Maastricht. While the rather creamier flavors are delicious, the fruit flavors will blow your socks off. Sometimes they even have specials of tea or alcoholic ice cream. Grab your ice cream here and walk 2 minutes to the river to chill in the Staatspark.

Where to Get (Alcoholic) Drinks in Maastricht

Maastricht does not have a shortage of Irish pubs. Drop by at John Mullins, Peter’s Irish Pub or Shamrock. Make sure to check out the event of the pubs, as they sometimes have live music, sports and of course pub quizzes! A beer bar which should definitely not be missed is De Gouverneur. They don’t only have the best nachos, they also have a menu with … over a hundred beers? It’s usually quite full here, so if you can’t get a spot, Peter’s is just around the corner.

Brandweer is a bar/café in a side street off the center. It’s a relaxed place with a more open space and quieter music, therefore better for a hangout space for conversation rather than a loud bar. If you’re up for a more fun night with your friends, try out Beez. They offer a mediocre range of cocktails, but as it is one of the only affordable cocktail places in town, it can also be busy in the evenings.

Unique Cocktails at Mr. Smith

Lastly, if you have money to spend, check out Mr. Smith, a rather unknown bar squirreled away in one of the side-streets in Wijk where you can only enter with a reservation. From the outside, it looks like a normal townhouse, only by the bell saying “press here for drinks” does the bar give its location away. Be prepared to hand over some big bucks – you can expect to pay 50€ for four cocktails. However, it is worth it, as you sit in a speak-easy style one room with the bar on one side and can choose from variety of cocktails you are guaranteed not to have heard from before.

Overall, Maastricht is a cute little city worth visiting. Remember to take your time while strolling around and soak in the quaintness of the town!

This travel guide was written by Julie. The photos were provided by Roselinde.

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