Maastricht (Dutch ; Limburgish and city dialect: Mestreech; French: Maestricht or Maëstricht; Spanish: Mastrique) is a municipality and the capital of the Dutch province of Limburg with just under 120,000 inhabitants. The city is situated on both sides of the Meuse river (Dutch: Maas) in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, near the Belgian and German borders. The city's name is derived from its Latin name, Trajectum ad Mosam or Mosae Trajectum (Mosa-crossing), referring to the bridge over the Meuse river built by the Romans during the reign of Augustus Caesar.
There is some discussion as to whether Maastricht is the oldest city of the Netherlands: although Nijmegen was the first city with Roman city rights in what is now the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Maastricht was the first with Medieval city rights, which evolved to the current system. Thanks to the Romans, Maastricht was also the first settlement with city allure.
Nowadays, Maastricht is widely known as a centre of tradition, history and culture, and popular with tourists for shopping and recreation. Due to Maastricht University, the Maastricht School of Management and parts of Zuyd University (including the Maastricht Conservatory, the Academy of Dramatic Arts and Hotel School), Maastricht also houses many students from home and abroad.
Paleolithic remains have been found to the west of Maastricht, between 8000 and 25,000 years old. Celts lived here at least 500 years before the Romans came, at a spot where the river Meuse was shallow and therefore easy to cross. The Romans later built a bridge and a large road to connect the capitals of the Nervians and Tungri, Bavay and Tongeren, with the capital of the Ubians, Cologne.
Saint Servatius was the first bishop of the Netherlands. His tomb, in the crypt at the Basilica of Saint Servatius, is a favoured place of pilgrimage: Pope John Paul II visited it in 1985. The golden gilt shrine containing some of the saint's relics is carried around the town every seven years. The city remained an early Christian bishopric until it lost this position to nearby Liège in the 8th century.
The role of the Dukes was occupied by the Dutch States General from 1632 onwards when the city was taken from the Spanish by Frederik Hendrik. The important strategic location of Maastricht in the Dutch Republic resulted in an impressive array of fortifications around the city.
The most famous Siege of Maastricht occurred here during the month of June, 1673 as part of the Franco-Dutch War, because French battle supply lines were being threatened. During this siege, one of history's most famous military engineers, Vauban, synthesized the methods of attacking strong places, in order to break down the fortifications surrounding Maastricht. His introduction of a systematic approach by parallels resulted in a rapid breaching of the city's fortifications. (This technique, in principle, has remained until the 20th century the standard method of attacking a fortress.)
After the breaching of the fortifications occurred, Louis XIV's troops started to surround the city of Maastricht. Under the leadership of Captain-Lieutenant Charles de Batz de Castelmore, also known as Comte d'Artagnan, the historical basis for Alexandre Dumas' D'Artagnan Romances, the First Company of Mousquetaires du Roi prepared to storm a rampart located in front of one of the city's gates. D'Artagnan was killed by a musket shot on 25 June 1673 during a night attack on the Tongerse Gate (this event was portrayed in Dumas' novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne).
Maastricht surrendered to French troops on 30 June. The French troops occupied the Dutch city from 1673 to 1678. It was subsequently restored to Dutch rule. The French again took the city in 1748 as part of the War of Austrian Succession, and again the city was restored to the Dutch that same year. The French would return once more in 1794, when they annexed the city to what would become the French Empire. Maastricht became the capital of the French département of Meuse-Inférieure.
After the Napoleonic era, Maastricht became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 and the capital of the newly formed Province of Limburg. When the southern provinces sought independence from the North to form Belgium in 1830, the garrison in Maastricht remained loyal to the Dutch king, though the surrounding countryside came under Belgian control. Arbitration by the Great Powers in 1831 awarded the city and the eastern part of Limburg, despite being geographically and culturally closer to Belgium, to the Netherlands and the rest to Belgium. The North and the South did not initially agree to this and it would not be until the 1839 Treaty of London that this arrangement became permanent.
Because of the resulting eccentric location Maastricht often remained more focused on Belgium and Germany than on the rest of the Netherlands. Due to its proximity to the Walloon industrial basin, Maastricht industrialised earlier than most of the Netherlands. It thus retained a distinct non-Dutch character until the First World War forced the city to look northwards.
The latter half of the century saw a decline of the traditional industries and a shift to more services-oriented economy. Maastricht University was founded in 1976. In 1992, the Maastricht treaty was negotiated and signed here, leading to the creation of the European Union and the Euro.
Under current mayor Gerd Leers, Maastricht has launched a campaign against various drug-related problems. The popular and often-praised Leers instigated a controversial plan to move several of the coffee shops - where soft drugs can be purchased in limited quantities - from the center to locations on the outskirts of Maastricht, in a bid to stop (foreign) buyers from entering the city and causing trouble.
However, the plan did not go down well with neighboring municipalities, who fear the problems may simply come their way. As of July 2008, it is uncertain if the so-called 'coffee corner' will indeed be created on the periphery of Maastricht, a determined mayor notwithstanding.
On a more positive note, large parts of the city center were thoroughly refurbished under Mayor Leers, including the area near the railway station, the Market Square, the Entre Deux shopping center and the Maasboulevard. Maastricht looks notably fresher as a result and more large-scale projects are underway, such as the redevelopment of the Sphinx and Belvedère areas.
Private companies settled in Maastricht include:
Maastricht consists of over 40 neighbourhoods. These are in alphabetical order:
Neighbourhoods have a number which corresponds to the postal code.
Amby, Borgharen, Heer, Itteren, Limmel, Oud-Caberg, Scharn, Sint Pieter and Wolder all used to be separate municipalities or villages until they were annexed by Maastricht.
|Party||Seats||Compared to 2002|
The mayor of Maastricht is the Christian Democrat Gerd Leers. His party, the CDA, became the largest party in the city council after the 2002 municipal elections, when they made up the coalition together with PvdA, VVD and GroenLinks.
The 2006 municipal elections saw a political landslide from right to left all over the Netherlands, and Maastricht was no exception. The present coalition still kept its majority, but the shift to the left made Maastricht one of the 39 Dutch municipalities in which an all-left-wing coalition of PvdA, GroenLinks and SP has become possible. Another factor that contributed to this situation in Maastricht, was the 2005 enduring disagreement within the VVD between the traditional and progressive members. September 2006, this lead to the establishment of the Liberalen Maastricht. Previously the VVD forced one of its members to leave the party, just a month after the 2006 municipal elections.
One issue that brought Maastricht in the news circa 2005-2006, was the supply of cannabis to coffeeshops. Under the so-called gedoogbeleid, the sale of cannabis is allowed under certain conditions, but the supply is not. This results in a paradox and obvious illegal activities including private plantations. Mayor Leers therefore proposed to let the government take over the growing of cannabis. However, the Netherlands are bound by international laws and a complication for Maastricht is its proximity to Belgium and Germany, making drug tourism a much-discussed problem.
The A2 motorway that runs through Maastricht is heavily congested and increasingly causes air pollution in the urban area.[?] A large tunnel currently being planned should solve these problems by 2016.
Due to the high number of visitors, parking in the city centre forms a major problem during weekends and bank holidays despite several large underground car parks. Parking fees are therefore deliberately kept high in order to incite visitors to use public transport or 'park & ride' facilities further away from the centre.
the Dutch Railways serves both the main station of Maastricht and a station located near the business and university district (Maastricht Randwyck). A railway branch passes through Maastricht that runs south to Liège, Belgium and north into the rest of The Netherlands, where it has a branch to Heerlen.
Intercity trains to the city of Alkmaar or Schagen in North-Holland connect Maastricht directly with Eindhoven, Den Bosch, Utrecht, Amsterdam, and several other cities. Commuter trains furthermore cover the regional area, and an international intercity train connects Maastricht with Liège and Brussels in Belgium.
A tramway linking the Belgium city of Hasselt with Maastricht is expected to be opened by 2012. The exact route of the line through the city centre is currently being decided.
Maastricht is served by nearby Maastricht Aachen Airport - often known as Beek locally - with scheduled flights to Alicante, Girona, Valencia and popular holiday destinations (e.g. Turkey) during the summer season. The airport is located about 10 kilometres north of Maastricht.
Various buslines serve the vast majority of the city and its suburbs. The regional bus network furthermore stretches to most of parts of Southern-Limburg as well as to Hasselt, Tongeren and Liège in Belgium, and Aachen in Germany.
Events & Festivals in Maastricht
The Maastricht Exposition and Congress Centre or MECC furthermore hosts many events of all kinds throughout the year.
Musea in Maastricht
Sights of Maastricht
Maastricht is known for its many sights, picturesque squares, romantic streets, and historical buildings. The main ones include:
The tourist information office or VVV is located in the so-called Dinghuis - a 15th-century monumental building on the corner of the Grote Staat and Kleine Staat, two of the main shopping streets in Maastricht.
Higher education and research
Resources for expatriates