The Vrijthof is Maastricht event square. This spot is the place where well-known events as the Preuvenemint, start of the Carnaval, Andre Rieu concerts, Christmas Market and fair.
The Vrijthof is Maastricht's biggest square. Centuries ago it was a cemetery.
This square in the center of Maastricht reminded me of at least two places in Augsburg, Germany, because there are two churches side by side, a large fancy one for the Catholics and a smaller, more austere one for the Protestants.
Here in Maastricht the two churches at least have different names. The thin Protestant church on the left, with the red tower, is called Saint John’s Church (Sint Janskerk). The much wider Catholic church on the right is the Basilica of Saint Servatius (Sint Servaas), named after a bishop who died in Maastricht sometime around the year 384. In Maastricht there is also a car-free bridge named after this bishop, the St. Servaasbrug across the Maas/Meuse River.
(In Augsburg there are two churches side by side that are both called Holy Cross, and another pair a few blocks away that are both called St. Ulrich’s, causing no end of confusion ever since the year 1555.)
The people in the foreground in my first photo are mainly VirtualTourist members and guests who were attending the VT EuroMeet 2015.
Second photo: This photo, looking towards the north side of Vrijthof Square, gives an idea of how large the square is, and how barren and empty. The reason it is so barren and empty is that it is actually the roof of a large underground parking garage for automobiles. (VT member OlafS wrote that when he visited Maastricht in 2003 the Vrijthof Square was “one big hole in the ground”.)
To offset the barrenness and emptiness of the square they often have festivals and events here, like a Christmas market or concerts by Maastricht-native André Rieu and his orchestra.
Third photo: VirtualTourist staff member Usctwin (Kimberly), VT’s Head of PR, Marketing & Community Relations, at the Vrijthof Square in 2015.
I must admit I am slightly confused about how this square got its name. Since there are two churches nearby, and since the Dutch word Vrijthof resembles the German word Friedhof (= cemetery), I assumed this must have been a cemetery back in the old days when people were buried in the churchyard. But when I looked up the Dutch word Vrijt it was translated as “sex” (or cuddling or making out or smooching) and Vrijt hof was translated as “sex yard”. Does this mean they used to have sex in the churchyard back in earlier centuries?
I hope some nice Dutch-speaking person will read this and be willing to clear up my confusion.
Next stop on our VT walking tour: Market and Town Hall
Once a year (around May) the Vrijthof is the location for the annual "Sint Servaaskermis" (approximate 40 attractions of which a dozen larger ones). SInce this year (2014) it includes the new designed and unique "Grand Carrousel" with it's orginal prints related to Maastricht.
As catholic resident of Maastricht, I do not mind Christmas, however this event is totally not worth visiting as it is to commercial. Most shops have nothing to sell or to do with Christmas at all (such as japanese samurai swords, and a lot of other things "made in China"). If you like to visit a Christmas market, I recommend to go to Valkenburg. The last years the number of visitors is strongly declining. For skating it remains okay for local residents, as in Maastricht there is no other ice track.
During the entire month of December Maastricht is wrapped in Christmas spheres and of course visiting the Christmas market is a must. From the central station alight route will guide you through the charming streets of the old town. At the end of the route you will find the Christmas market with ice rink and Ferris wheel at the Vrijthof. Right here you can enjoy the Christmas spirit and even start a tour through Maastricht by a tilt-cart.
We strolled along the Christmas stalls and saw some nice Christmas trinkets. We walked zigzag along the Christmas stalls were amazed by all the different stuff sold. We bought a nice hat, but even so we were able to buy candles, incense, teddy bears, airplane tickets to other Christmas market around Europe, et cetera … you name it and it was there. After we saw all the stalls it was time to indulge in an authentic bratwurst and another glass of mulled wine. You guessed it right, we stayed for quite a long time at the Christmas market. Walking around, be amazed by the great scenery, the numerous lights and enjoy some more mulled wine. What else did we need? LOL
I guess that it is quite simple: discover the magical atmosphere throughout the city centre of Maastricht during the winter time. All the squares, little streets and courtyards are filled with winter activities. The holiday season will bring you many special moments at various beautiful locations in the city center. Another nice fact is that in 2011 Maastricht was named Best Christmas Shopping city of Netherlands. Combine this with the Christmas market on the Vrijthof and it all comes together.
Like I wrote before we first sat down on a heated terrace with a view of the Sint Servaasbasiliek and the Sint Janskerk, which is truly magnificent. After we enjoyed the mulled wine it was time to enter the Netherlands’ most beautiful square: Vrijthof. We started at the 800 m2 skating rink, where young and old can have fun on the ice. It is also fun to watch everybody enjoying themselves, sometime life can be so simple! Besides this you can also admire the skyline from a breathtaking height on the Ferris wheel or take a ride on the carousel. We didn’t, but I can imagine it is a lot of fun.
Whenever we decided to go to Maastricht for a weekend we wanted to combine this with the Christmas market of the city. Therefore we visited the city during December 2012 when all the winter fun was in full effect. We knew that winter in Maastricht would mean endless fun and that the historical city centre would be enjoying the holiday season. Highlight would be the winter fun at the Vrijthof square. So there we went!
When we arrived in Maastricht we saw that the entire historical downtown was connected by lit streets and squares, giving this very nice and magical atmosphere. We definitely felt the Christmas spirit and enjoyed it to the fullest. Finally we arrived at the Vrijthof, the place we wanted to be. Immediately we saw a large ice skating ring, the Christmas market and the Ferris wheel located at the square and just stopped our walk and waiting for a few seconds, tot stand in awe by the sight we saw. By now it was time to sit back and give our feet a rest. We found a seat on one a heated café terrace with a view of the majestic Sint Servaasbasiliek (Basilica of St. Servatius) and the Sint Janskerk (Church of St. John). During our break we enjoyed one of the many winter specialties such as “oliebollen” (deep-fried doughnuts) to go with, of course, mulled wine.
The Militaire Hoofdwacht or militairy guardhouse at the west side of the Vrijthof was built in 1738, replacing the old building from 1642. In former days this was the place where the keys of the gates of the city were kept.
The Military Hoofdwacht was the central building of the fortifications of Maastricht, where the guarding of most important military objects was arranged. In this building the Garrison Commander, the Military council, rooms of the Officers and soldiers of the guard were settled.
Until 1995 it was the seat of the Regional Military Commander South/ Garrison Commander Maastricht. Nowadays it is the seat of the Commander of the "Regiment Limburgse Jagers".
On the south side of Vrijthof you can see the nice palace of the Spanish government (Spaans Gouvernement, in Dutch). It belonged to the dukes of Brabant from the thirteenth century and restored in the 15th century. Now it is a historical museum with very interesting furniture, paintings, ceramics and much more from the 17th and 18th century.
Vrijthof is the best-known and most important square in the city. The many trees in the square give you the place where to relax during the summer season and it is very popular among the inhabitants. Along its sides there are ancient houses which nowadays are shops and restaurants.
The two important monuments you can see in the square are Sint Servaas basiliek and Sint Janskerk with their fantastic apses.
The Vrijthof is the main plein (square) in Maastricht's city center. The Vrijthof's main attractions are the Basiliek Sint Servaas (St. Servaas Basilica) and the Sint Jan Kerk (St. Jan Church). Along the plein, there are also numerous sidewalk cafés and pubs. It is a wonderful place to sit and people-watch.
The Vrijthof is the city's main sqaure. In the old days, there used to be a churchyard at this place, so that is why it is called "Vrijthof." This townsqaure is doninated by two monumental churches, the Sint Servaas and the Sint Jan, with it's striking red colored tower. There are many cosy pubs and pavement-café', a theater and a museum. Whenever the Maastricht people have something to celebrate - and that often happens - they do this on the Vrijthof.