I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again: the best thing to do upon arrival in a new city is to glean a glimpse of what the place looks like from a bird’s eye perspective. This not only gives you an idea of the layout of the land, but all allows you to see the new angle. And so, during my trip to Maastricht in the Southern Netherlands, my first port of call was to search for the best view in Maastricht!
The Tower of Sint-Janskerk
If you give yourself time to visit just one paid attraction while in Maastricht, make it a trip up the rather unusual tower of Sint-Janskerk. While the church itself is free to visit, for just €2.50 it’s possible to climb the 281 spiralling steps of the narrow tower and ascend onto the red roof of the church. From the top, perhaps the very best view in Maastricht is to be found.
Built in the 14th-century, St John’s Church can be found in the very middle of the historic part of Maastricht. Though it was actually built to serve as a baptistry for the St Servaas Chapter, over the years it served several purposes, including use as an independent parish church.
Since 2003, Sint-Janskerk has been part of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands. And its church tower is painted in the colour red for a number of reasons, not least because this shade of red is the colour of Maastricht. As the tower is constructed from marlstone, the material oxidies, eventually leading to large chunks of stone falling off. As a result, the tower is repainted on a regular basis, so as to hold the plaster together and prevent damage to the monument!
While not technically within the city limits of Maastricht itself, if you want to soak up some history, all the while admiring an incredible view, I highly recommend hiking a little way out of town and on to the far side of the Sint Pietersberg Park to explore some Duch Castle Ruins.
In the past, Hoeve Lichtenberg (which is also known locally as Kasteelruïne Lichtenberg), was one of the few mountain resorts in the Netherlands. Today, the castle ruins are housed within a newer farm and are free to visit. Little is left of the original fortifications, which date back to the 13th-century, with the exception of the donjon.
Climb the wooden steps, move onto the viewing platform, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views to be found anywhere in Maastricht. From here, it’s possible to see much of the Meuse Valley laid out before you. Nearby, the Sint Pieters Museum can be found in an adjacent farm building.
Fort Sint Pieter
On the fringes of Maastricht, in a place where the city meets the Limburg landscape, the fort of Sint Pietersberg soon makes it apparent why this region of the Netherlands is so different from somewhere like South Holland. After all, rather than the flat, open landscapes and sprawling cities that can be found in Holland, Limburg is all forest and rolling hills.
Fort Sint Pieter was first founded as a fort around 1700 and sits high above the Meuse River below, offering incredible views onto the city of Maastricht and beyond. For those who want to explore the history of the area on a deeper level, guided tours are available of the fort, as well as below it. After all, this area of Maastricht is home to many meandering tunnels which often date back centuries.