Maastricht: Blending in with the students
January 1, 1970
by Rhianne Van Heese
Welcome To Maastricht
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands and home to many national and foreign students. Maastricht University and ZUYD University of Applied Sciences are the two biggest colleges in Maastricht and are located near the centre. As you may imagine, Maastricht has very much adapted to the student lifestyle. You will notice that many bars and take away restaurants will try to attract students with signs like “20 % student discount here”. While the Maastricht nightlife is not as wild and vivid as in Amsterdam, there are concerts, festivals, and live music to enjoy your night out. As one of the students myself, I will tell you about some of the most student-loved places and how to save some money on the go.
Getting There: Take The Train
If you have booked a plane ticket to The Netherlands from abroad, you will probably start your journey in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. While it is possible to rent a car, taking the train to Maastricht is more student-like. What I usually do is get some snacks from the Albert Heijn supermarket, buy a train ticket at the airport and get on the first train towards Heerlen. When traveling alone, a ticket can be rather expensive (around 26 euros) but it is possible to save money with a NS group ticket if you travel in group. The trip to Maastricht can take up to 2.5 hours, with one stop in Sittard. It sounds like a long ride, but there is Wi-Fi on the train!
When you finally arrive, instead of walking everywhere you have the option to rent a bicycle at the train station and feel like a real local. As you might know, there are more bicycles in The Netherlands than people.
Four Places to Eat and Drink
If McDonald’s and KFC are not going to be your first choices for lunch, you should visit the Brandweer Kazerne (or B Kantine). If you know this Dutch word, you can tell from the name that this place used to be a fire station. Now, it is a restaurant with a nostalgic look to it – it is decorated with 90’s furniture that gives the feeling you’re sitting in someone’s living room. They even have their own small library where you can swap one of your own old books for another you would like to read. For me, it is a peaceful place to study or have a drink with friends and it is definitely one of the more unique restaurants near the centre.
For the caffeine addicts among us, there is a chain in Maastricht called Coffeelovers. This coffee bar can be found usually where the students are. There is one next to the public library (Centre Céramique), in the Student Service Centre, and in the one-of-a-kind Dominicanen book shop. This book shop is located in the shopping street in the old Dominicaner Church. Yes, that’s right, it is a coffee bar in a church! On a rainy day, this is a cosy place to find shelter, meet with the bookworms, and read all day.
The Vrijthof is the centre of Maastricht and is very popular for tourists because of the many restaurants and its vibe. However, this is not one of the best places to get a taste of the student life. One of my favourite student bars in Maastricht is called Fresh. This bar is in walking distance from The Vrijthof and is one of the better places to blend in with the students. Fresh has two menus of colourful cocktails, gins and many tasty dishes you can try for a student price.
Last but not least, Café Forum. This place is a student magnet where you can listen to live Jazz and even join salsa classes. I have only been here once, but the place is usually crammed at night and you’ll have to go early to claim a seat at the bar.
In my experience, it is easy to meet people and make friends in these places. Most of the students speak perfectly English and they can always get you a student discount on drinks.
What To Do In Maastricht
If I have to sum up everything, this article will turn into a complete travel guide. Instead, I will give you three alternatives that are not easy to find on the list of “things to do in Maastricht”.
If you enjoy walking, then the city park is the place to go. This green park is surrounded by Maastricht’s old city walls where you can walk alongside the small Jeker river. The water makes the park home to geese, ducks, and other birds. It also keeps a few deer, goats, chickens and a beautiful peacock. When the weather is good (no, it does not always rain here), you can go to the public swimming pool or take a blanket and have a picnic on the grass.
The second one is salsa dancing in the Stayokay Hostel. This hostel is situated near the city park and has a dancefloor, a bar and a deck with view on the river Meuse. Every Friday, Stayokay hosts a Latin dance after party starting around 21h30 until 01h15. It is always free of charge and for everyone who wants to join. Trust me, you do not need to know how to dance. But if you’re up for learning something new, the dancefloor is filled with teachers and enthusiastic amateurs who can show you a few moves.
The last one is going to the movies. Maastricht has two big cinemas, Pathé and Euroscoop, that both show the Hollywood movies. Personally, I prefer going to the Lumière Cinema. This cinema has a nostalgic feel to it but it has smaller rooms. However, in the near future, it will be moved to a bigger building- an old factory called the Timmerfabriek. The movies are usually selections from the Cannes Film Festival and are showed in the original language. You must however check if the subtitles are in English or Dutch before buying a ticket to a movie you can’t understand (unless that’s what you’re going for).
All of the places I described in this article are my personal favourites where I enjoy going with my friends. To make the most of your stay in Maastricht you do not necessarily need to take on the student lifestyle. After all, events like Museum Night, the André Rieu concerts and the museums attract people from all over the world.