Surrounded by protective stone walls, Maastricht grew into a prosperous, bustling city in the Middle Ages. In 1229, the Duke of Brabant ordered the construction of a city wall with no fewer than thirteen gates. One of those city gates is still standing: Helpoort (Hell’s Gate) It now leads to a romantic, cobblestone street toward the city centre.
Large sections of the first and second city walls are also still standing. They no longer separate the inner city from the enemy, but from a peaceful city park where students can relax in the shade of ancient trees during the summer months. You can walk along the ramparts and imagine how it felt at the time. Stand on the wall and take in the phenomenal view over Charles Eyckpark and the modern district of Céramique.
The iconic St Servatius Bridge (or ‘Aw Brögk’ – ‘old bridge’ in the local dialect) is another major monument from the Middle Ages. Countless pilgrims crossed the bridge to pray in the centre. With St Servatius church housing the tomb of the holy bishop Servatius, medieval Maastricht grew into a religious hotspot in much the same fashion as Lourdes in France. At the time, many of the pilgrims stayed at ‘In den Ouden Vogelstruys’. Then an inn, it is now one of the most popular cafés on Vrijthof square.
In the Middle Ages, the safely walled city attracted many members of clergy as well as merchants. The economy was booming: the tanneries in the Jekerkwartier and the cloth-weaving mills near Markt square were thriving. Maastricht’s network of streets largely dates back to medieval times. Narrow, tall houses were built close together to save space. The wider main roads were connected to narrow pedestrian streets.
One of Maastricht’s few remaining medieval buildings is the striking Gothic ‘Dinghuis’ (1470), now the Maastricht Visitor Center. It is located on Kleine Staat, one of the city’s main shopping streets. The original entrance to the former courthouse is a double staircase with stone steps; the current entrance is at ground level. If you’re a tourist and looking to explore Maastricht, we’d be happy to give you some tips!Discover it all here