A love letter to Maastricht

Nestled in the southern tip of the Netherlands, Maastricht is a large city with a small town feel, enticingly covered in cobblestones and historic, traditionally European facades. Each building has a story, and the cultural history of the city can be felt wherever you go — it’s clear that remembering the past is a large part of Maastricht’s present.

Maastricht at sunset

A shopping hub located within the Limburg province, Maastricht is centrally located between Belgium and Germany. Belgium is so close, you can walk to the border separating the two countries; Amsterdam is a short two-hour train ride away; Cologne, Germany is a three-hour bus trip.

Amsterdam is a short train ride away

In a way, Maastricht is defining itself as a modern cosmopolitan city. In the past, Maastricht has been integral to European history, specifically as the location of the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, unifying aspects of the European union. Today, Maastricht is unbelievably welcoming, defined not only by the friendly demeanor of each and every resident, but also by the city’s various landmarks that welcome travelers and students to their wonderful city. The Maastricht star, located in a hub of the city, allows travelers to “Meet Europe” — the city has (rightfully) allowed itself to represent the continent and its history. Maastricht University, one of the Netherland’s top schools, draws students from around the world to study. The university actively seeks international students to study in Maastricht, underlining their appreciation for diversity in education. The city buzzes with intercultural communication — Americans learning Dutch ways of life, Italians appreciating a Dutch affinity for good, strong coffee. An ancient city with a modern twist on culture — that’s Maastricht.

Maastricht from Sint Janskirk belltower

Although a bustling, buzzing hub of shopping, culture, and education, Maastricht still values time off for its citizens. It’s common to spot people sitting at a café for an hour or two, enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of vlaai (a Limburg specialty), and just being. It’s important to residents of Maastricht to take time to reflect and enjoy life. As an American in Maastricht, this took me by surprise, as life in the United States is a constant whirlwind. I grew to appreciate, and then love, this emphasis on relaxation and internal reflection by slowing down your day. The Dutch affinity for good coffee and pastries might have helped with that just a little bit.

Coffeelovers > Starbucks (in my humble opinion)

I miss living in Maastricht more than I ever expected. I found a second home in a city I hadn’t even heard of until a few years ago. I see things that remind me of my time abroad almost every day, and I actively try to implement what I learned while living in Maastricht into my life in the United States. I really feel like Maastricht is the perfect city (and that the Netherlands is close to the perfect country). I may be biased, but Maastricht’s culture, it’s educational community, and overall aesthetic combines to create an extraordinary city. Maastricht is unlike anything I’ve experienced — it’s a city that makes you feel at home the second you step out of the train station.

Exploring Maastricht in my first few days abroad