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World > Netherlands > Maastricht
City Guide Maastricht
General Information
Maastricht is the southernmost city in the Netherlands and is very close to both Belgium and Germany. The city was founded by the Romans in 50 BC and is the oldest city in the Netherlands, full of magnificent old buildings, beautiful cathedrals, and historic cobblestone squares. A total of 1,450 monuments and buildings in the city are protected historic sites. Maastricht gets its name from the Maas river, which divides the city in two parts. Maastricht is a small city, with approximatey 120,000 residents, but is known for its vibrant cultural scene, its cuisine, and its university. The city and its surrounding region are different from many other areas of the Netherlands, not only because the food and weather are better, but also because they have a more relaxed atmosphere. In addition to its wealth of historical sights and contemporary cultural events, Maastricht also has some wonderful shopping opportunities and charming pubs, with more bars per square kilometre than any other Dutch city.
Maastricht has a mild climate with no extremes of temperature. The city is known to be one of the sunniest in Holland, and though it rains a fair amount, it is much less than the northern cities. The temperatures in Maastricht typically stay between 0 - 23˚ C, though there are some days in the summer that might reach 26˚ C. The most pleasant weather is generally from May - September, and it is hottest in July and August. In the fall and the spring, humid and foggy weather is more common.
The language spoken in Maastricht is Dutch. Nearly everyone in the city speaks good English, however, and the natives of Maastricht are more likely to be well-versed in additional languages than the Dutch in other areas of the country. It is common for people here to be able to speak German and French as well as English.
The Netherlands is quite a secular country, and has the highest percentage of atheists of anywhere in the world. Only about 39% of the population defines itself as religious. Catholics make up the largest religious group, followed by Protestants, and there is now a sizeable Muslim population as well. There is also a small number of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists, who collectively make up about 3% of the population.
The currency used in the Netherlands is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of € 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100, and the coins in use are 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and € 1 and 2.
Service charges are almost always included in restaurant bills and taxi fares, though additional tipping is customary. With small bills in restaurants, it is normal to simply round up the amount, or add a euro or two if the service was excellent. For larger bills, you can tip between 5 - 10%, but should not feel obligated to tip if the service was not satisfactory. In general, the Dutch are quite stingy when it comes to tipping, and just give whatever they feel like, not worrying about the percentage. When taking taxis, however, a tip of around 10% is customary. Hotel maids will also expect a small tip, as well as porters and restroom attendants.
Sales tax in the Netherlands is 19% and is included in all shop prices, and usually also included in the charges for services. The tax that tourists from outside of the European Union spend on purchases can be refunded whenever € 50 or more is spent in the same shop on the same day. This only works in shops participating in Global Refund Tax Free Shopping, most of which display a sign in the window. These shops will give you a form to fill out, as well as your receipt. You need to fill out the form and present to customs officials at the airport. After this, all you need to do to get your refund is go to the Global Cash Refund Office before check in (in departure hall 3). Note that whatever you buy has to be taken out of the Netherlands within three months for you to get a refund.
Maastricht has plenty of public telephones in the centre of town. They can be operated by phone cards or credit cards, and you can buy the phone cards in values of € 5, 10, or 20 at tobacco shops, telecom shops, newsstands, and post offices. The country code of the Netherlands is +31 and the area code for Maastricht is 043. To dial a number in Maastricht from abroad, dial 00 31 43, followed by the local number.
Internet cafés and easy to find in Maastricht, most of which offer a variety of services in addition to internet use, such as scanning, faxing, photocopying, CD burning, international calls, and more. You can expect fast connections and fairly reasonable rates. Many regular cafés and other public places also offer free wifi to customers.
Emergency Numbers
All-purpose emergency number (ambulance, fire and police): 112
Opening Times
In general, most shops in Maastricht are open Monday from 1 pm - 6 pm, Tues - Fri from 9 or 10 am - 6 pm, and Saturday from 9 am - 5 or 6 pm. Many shops also stay open late on Thursday, usually until 9 pm. Some businesses are closed all day on Monday, usually small luxury shops. Banking hours are Mon - Fri 9 am - 4 pm. There are night shops that stay open very late or all night and are also open on Sundays, selling basic groceries, liquour, and snacks/party foods.
Public Holidays
On the following days, most shops, banks and museums will be closed, and public transport is likely to be more limited. January 1, New Year’s Day Good Friday Easter Sunday and Monday April 30, Queen’s Day May 5, Liberation Day Ascension Day Whit Sunday and Monday December 25 and 26, Christmas
Maastricht is generally quite a safe city, and violent crimes are few. Tourists do need to be wary of pickpockets, however, and be sure to carry valuables in a safe place and never leave bags unattended. Also, take care after dark to walk on well-lit streets and not to walk alone if possible. Following these and other basic common-sense precautions should ensure that your holiday is safe and trouble-free.