Surrounding area, Maastricht
The ancient town of Valkenburg was established long ago. Sieges and conquests have been the recurrent theme in the history of Valkenburg, especially in connection with Valkenburg castle. Because of its dependence of its defenses, it was forced to develop within their narrow confines. The elegant history of Valkenburg can be related to a timeline that determined the character of the city. During the Roman period, the location of the ford over the river led to the establishment of the first settlement. Then there was a period as a medieval pilgrimage city. Finally came a period as a garrison city, associated with the well-known fortifications around the city.
The cluster of sights around the city center are heart-clutchingly beautiful, but the more secret pleasures of the hushed backstreets are just entrancing. Maybe this is easy for us to say as we stayed for a longer period of time and not like most of the tourists only for one day. But even when your stay is rather short, do try to get away from the crowds and just have a 'look around'. All this may seem very though as finding your way in Valkenburg might be difficult, but in really distances are short and the signs to the main areas will help you in getting around in Valkenburg. Valkenburg with its amazing city center, the castle and the caves is simply a perfect place to walk for hours and pretending to know where you are.
Before we visited Valkenburg we already had a look at the internet. As we are from The Netherlands we are used to doing a lot by foot and we were pleasantly surprised that Valkenburg is a city in which everybody walks and you're truly able to explore all the sights by foot. Our two feet were our best friends and therefore we were able to enjoy all the fascinating scenery Valkenburg had to offer. While most tour guides don't recommend getting lost in the majority of cities, Valkenburg is the place to get hopelessly lost for half a day. Winding alleyways leading to hidden squares, undiscovered culinary treats, some amazing caves and cultural surprises. Valkenburg is studded with hidden gems - taken for granted by the locals, but waiting to be discovered by visitors. Leave the beaten track to others, and discover what Valkenburg is really like, Valkenburg as the locals know it.
Take time to meander - losing yourself in the maze of alleys, streets and lanes is one of Valkenburg's principal pleasures. Throughout the most beautiful spots in historical centre of the city we saw the curious mixture of architectural styles at the city center district, the square near the St Nicholas and Barbara Church, the city ramparts, the parks, the castle district and the many caves. The streets wind and wander with no discernible order or object with a great selection of taverns where we had our lunches and by the end of the day had a nice cold beer or rose.
Both Paulien and I have visited quite some Dutch cities over the years, but maybe there is nothing like Valkenburg. Valkenburg is located in The Netherlands, and is a small municipality that has been a major tourist attraction for a very long time. People come to visit the mines and caverns with drawings dating back to Roman times, and the castle of Valkenburg from which you can enjoy the wonderful landscape. People play chess near the recently restored defensive tower, young couples twine hands over a cup of latte at the busy Grotestraat Centrum and the centuries old city walls are flanking the town. Time to explore it!
We can honestly state that the best way to explore Valkenburg is by foot and the second best way is also by foot! Besides giving you the opportunity to roam the narrow streets and the cozy squares, it is the quickest way too. If you really want to, you can cross the city in approximately 35 minutes. Remember that sometimes it might be quicker (and nicer!) to take a few short-cuts into picturesque alleys instead of following the masses of tourists. Most people try to rush Valkenburg on a budget so they end up missing some of the highlights in a whirlwind. The key to seeing Valkenburg properly is a game plan, you must know what you want to see before setting out.
On the second day of our visit to Maastricht (19 June 2013) we made an early morning walk in the countryside, our point of departure was the village of Bemelen. Notice the characteristic hollow road, a rarity in the Netherlands.
Postwar Maastricht develloped itself in a fast way; new suburbs were created in a srtict tempo. As in the early 60's the suburbs Belfort and Daalhof came into being, local authorities decided that the Southern part of Daalhof was exactly the right spot to build the Enci Tower, also known as the Daalhof Tower. As a matter of fact, this is quite disputed, qua name, since strictly speaking, the tower is actually situated within the southern border of the Belfort (translated as: bell- tower) suburb. the Daalhof Tower can be seen as a manifest of the cold war period, being a hughe transmittion appartus, monitoring the local airspace on hostile miltitary planes or rockets. Nowadays, to be sure, it lost that function. the tower now has a multifunctional use. In the eraly eighties it had been used as an inglorious brothel, its been used as a platform for sky-divers, and nowadays its a protected New Monument, determining the west-southern Maastricht skyline. Once a year, on the 1 th. of april, André Rieu, the worldfamous violist-entertainer gives a concert at the food of the tower. The suburb of Daalhof is also a good startpoint to visit other sights in the neighboorhood, like: the Atrium, where there is once a month the famous African Evening, (with music by artists like Yousou n'dour and ismael Lo) and in Belfort you find the house of L. vonn Rand, one of Maastricht most eloquent speakers on Rethorics and debating. Finally, in the Northern of Daalhof you ll find the well-known skyline dominating 3 hughe flats that are situated next to the old roman Heerbaan, a high-road constructed by the romans. on the other side of the street you find the Kinder-boerderij, a farm, containing more than 8 animal-types, like pigs, cows, sheeps, horses, chickens etc. you will get amazed seeing these sorts of animals. Going from the south of Daalhof there is Wolder. wolder is a pre-war annaxated village, containing a graet deal of urbianovillagio architecture.
Allready at the north of the Maasdal (Maas Valley), in Stein, you can see it shing on the horizon: DSM. Yes, we are now most off the beaten as possible, since here Maastricht Surroundings stop since Maastricht tourist offices do not generally see places like Geleen and Sittard as immediate surrounding. For tourist info on these places check under the names of Sittard and so on. For the South Limburgian tourist district, there is a good co-opration with the tourist offices in Maastricht, Valken burg and Heerlen, they overlap eachother in proviving informations, reservations, in booking hotelrooms (yes, at crowded festivals like the Preuvenemint, it is all booked out as for hotels ot restaurants; so you might find yourself being in a hotel in Heerlen). Many of the regional off the beaten places mentioned in my Maastricht pages are located in this page, since they are yet too small, and therfor not large enough to build many usefull tips about, yet, they should in my eyes be mentioned since they are absolutely interested, especially in case you want to see soemthing new. My list of off the beaten path tips will not be complete without mentioning the DSM, at the border of Sittard-Geleen city. Geleen has grown out to an importat industrial centre. Once here the biggest coalmine of Europe was located. Now the surroundinmg is dominated by a petro-chemical industry DSM. (Dutch State Mines) after the closing of the mines in South-East Limbeurg, it developed as a artifial fertilizer company. Coming/going from Maastricht at the highway to the north you cant escape the look of this factory complex. Here it is clear that we are dealing with a future new monument. Lovers of indart (industrial art) love to have it as object for photografie or artfilms. Indeed, I must admit, already as a little kid I was impressed by the large (kilometres long) complex which in the evening dark is sort of magic by its lights, tubes and towers.
The Maas Valley was already inhabited by the Romans and has eversince remained an important area for trade, cultivation, farmers and residential housing. Nowadays this area is still poular because many castles, historic village and nice nature cab be found here. The Maas omnipresent in the valley comes from the Langres platwu in France, is one of the important big rivers of the couyntry, and in the region of the maasdal the hill land means that the water is here in a river valley, namely at the food of the 110 meteres high Sint Pietersberg. The villages of the Maasdal, Susteren, Elsloo and Bunde, can be reached easy by train (by slwo train only) and they are to be reached by busses (on workdays on regular times) But in order to explore the maas valleu one better hir a bike. There are good biking paths and they are well signposted. What to visit in the valley? 1. Susteren. This is the norhern village of the Maasdal. The country is here small, only 5 kilometre. There is a cloister from the 8 th. Century and a roman church the Amelberga church, which dates from the middle ages. In the treasure room of this church you fin old midle aged plates with bible figures. Aslo some statues by the artist Steffeswert are exposed. 2. Stein. This village has an interesting museum for archeology. Roman foundings are exposed. In the nort of Stein you enter the a little village with an old historoc village center. It is a protected village. 3. Elsloo. The ‘raadhuisstraat’ is very picureque and the ceramiques from the village are well known and visible in the streek-museum Elsloo. This building is 17 th. Century. In the roman days the village was a port. The village has a castle with a french garden, having 2000 plants. 4. Finally, for a nice walk in nature, get off the train in Geulle, where the ‘bunderbos’ is accessable. This is a forrest with unique –in terms compared to the rest of the country – flowers and plants. It is a hill wood, which is also unique for the country.
Only 15 minutes by car from Maastricht, you will find Fort Eben-Emael, in Belgium.
This was allegedly the STRONGEST FORTRESS OF EUROPE in its time. Yet, it took the Germans only 15 MINUTES to take control over the fortress when the second world war started!
You will learn how this was possible when you visit the fort, which is opened to the public only one weekend per month. So check out the website and plan your visit in advance!
On open days, a guided tour will be given, which takes you through the endless tunnels of the fortress. This tour will give you a vivid idea of how the soldiers lived there and how terribly wrong things went on that May 10th 1940.
After the interesting tour, you can walk outside on the terrain and visit the bunkers and guns of the fortress.
Moreover, halfway the marked route (3 km), there is a fantastic panorama point over the valley of the river Maas.
Do not underestimate the size of the fortress, you can easily spend half a day here, museum, guided tour through the tunnels and walk outside included!
Rue du Fort 40
a bit farther than Gulpen and Meerssen you find Wittem. Its mainattraction is Wittem Castle. This was originally a citadel, with canals. It used to have 7 towers, wheras nowadays it has only 2 towers, and there is a hotel located inside of it. a striking feature is the round chapel , build in 1845, devoted to the Mother of the Everlasting Support.
This village is one of the most beautifull in the near of Maastricht. Its situated at the food of the Gulpener mountain (berg) which is a hill of 150 metres. The village has an old churchtower dating from the 12 th. century. At the Gulpen beerbrewery you can have the wellknown Gulpener Beer. The village has also a tropic swimmingpool.
Meerssen is located nearby Maastricht and its mainattraction is the basilica, a gothic styled one, build in the 9 th century. Its built on the ground where alreday a church existed. Interesting features of the church are: the Teoteca (a nine store decorated sacrament tower), the Barbara altar (with a statue of the patron of the miners) and the windows decorated by Nicolas. The village of Meerssen has no other attracktions, except for a small waterfall 2 kilometeres north.
Nearby Maastricht you find the village of Eijsden, where the castle is the mainattraction. I't is built in 1639 at the place of a farmhouse. the castle is build in maasland renaissance style. There still live aristocrates in the castle. Apart from the castle the village is a protected village. The mediaval Diepstraat with its restaurants and pubs is a good example of it. Near this street you find the smallest church of the Netherlands,
Just by accident we found this beautiful suspension bridge on the southern edge of Maastricth, when we were leaving to continue our trip. Could not find a good angle to photograph it, but the suspension section rises from both ends to a peak in the middle, giving the bridge a very strong attitude.
The area around Gulpen has once been votest as the Dutch most beautifull and pictoresque landscape. And this is true. The dreamy sceneries among the cobblestone roads, the timber frame houses and little farms, the deep woods and the friendly relax locals make this place worth visiting. You can take a bus to Vijlen and walk through the woods along all the beautifull little vilklages in the so called Dutch Hillside Land or rent a bike at one of the many local tourist informations and explore the up- and down going hillsside roals in between the meadows. If you see a man dressed in a bird suite (black and yesllow) singing and playing guitar with the words "ich wil vögele" just remember that you are in an unique reservate where you just find these sort of fossils.
From Maastricht to Aachen follow the route provincial N287 till 300 metres behind the touristic village of Gulpen, then head for "Partij" (1 km) and follow the road to Mechelen. This lovely little village is situated next to a small river called the Brielle and is surrounded by beautifull hills and coutrysides and weadows. Here you fiend the typical peace and silence that you can expect in the Voerstreek, 5 kilometres away from the francolanguaged part of Belgium. Here you find Petit France, the authentic and beutifull timber frame farms and small roads all leading to the "pley" (dialect for grand squaire). At the pley you find the brewery stemming from 1340 which is located in an outstanding peace of local archticture. It has the typical features of Voerstreek Architecture as you can also see in Noorbeek: white houses framed walls by thichk brown beams. The interior exposes all sorts of authentic Limburgian artifacts such as ovens, beuutifull furniture, old gaslamps, handmate carpets and so on. After a visit cool down at oine of the pavement terrasses at the local brewery or the grand farm situated at the Pley. and relax, plan a hike in the nearby hills and weadows on a sunny day. Bikes can be rented at the tourist office as well as maps of the surrounding area. The place is an mediaval peace of a jewel in the south of Maastricht,. Dont miss it!!!!