Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Market in Beautiful Maastricht, Holland

Maastricht is a beautiful Dutch city, not as famous as Amsterdam or The Hague, but still it contains much Beauty, history and charm to offer visitors.

My husband first took me here several years ago right after Christmas and I was surprised to find the Christmas market in full swing. This is how I found out many Christmas markets in neighboring cities in Holland and Belgium remain open, some as late as January 5th. 

In Germany almost all Christmas markets close on December 23rd. So when prioritizing which ones to hit at Christmastime I opt for the ones I want to see in Germany first knowing that if I don't get to the ones in the neighboring countries I have another shot after Christmas.

The main and largest Christmas market in Maastricht is located on Vrijthof Square, the largest square in the city.  I must say right up front this isn't the best Christmas market shopping. The stalls seem like an endless collection of hats, gloves and scarves, most made in China with a few  handmade and imported from Tibet. 

If you are looking for an old fashioned market with handmade ornaments and artesian crafts for sale, this isn't the place. 

However, the food selection is good. From traditional Dutch specialties to Asian stands, there is a wide selection of fun foods to try.

Whether you choose to ice skate, ride the giant Ferris wheel or toboggan.There is definitely something here for the whole family.

I admit I was temporarily a bit mesmerized by all the beautiful waffles.

But the Bollen are where it's at here. Bollen are balls of fried dough containing different flavor fillings.

You can get a sackful for only a few Euro. Stands at the markets abound selling these specialties with different flavor fillings. 

I opted to try the rum raisin version. O . M. G.  Amazing. Warm and chewy sprinkled with powdered sugar and filled with rum soaked raisins. Winner winner chicken dinner.

Speaking of chicken, for my main course I chose chicken gyros. These were ok, not amazing, I've had way better back in our small village in Germany. I was a bit disappointed but they hit the spot.

I wandered around the market for about 40 minutes checking out the merch and taking photos, not expecting to find anything special.

One score was this colorful stand selling dried fruit. Many of the usual suspect found here, but once I spotted them, a bag of dried Physalis quickly made it into my bag providing inspiration for a future baked good. That inspiration later created candied ginger physalis cake.

I've seen these before at other markets like Aachen, but they always make me smile. Chocolate tools for the handy chocolate loving man (or woman) in your life.

I left the market early to explore more of the city. The last time I was here I didn't stray farther than the market, so I left a good amount of time to wander. So glad I did. 

The shopping options are great and the town is graceful and charming. Many of the chain stores found in most European big cities were here but there was also no end of interesting boutiques, local bakeries and chocolatiers, lovely restaurants (some Michelin star) and cozy historic cafés to explore.

There are bicycles everywhere, of course, My favorite of the day was this one outside a knitting shop.

Maastericht is the self proclaimed city of lights for Christmas. As the sky darkened, I could see why.The entire city is beautifully decorated for daytime and night. 
Even the garbage bags are festive.

If I had more time I would have managed a boat ride.

Maastricht is a member of is a Most Ancient European Towns Network is a working group of the oldest cities in Europe. The city has over 1600 national heritage sites, more than any Dutch city, outside Amsterdam. It is perched along the Meuse river, said to be one of the five oldest rivers in the world. 

There are several historic sites to visit in Maastricht including Basilica of Our Lady located in one of the most beautiful squares, Onze Lieve Vrouweplein.  The 11th-century church is one of the Netherland's most significant Romanesque buildings with an important church treasury. Perhaps best known for the 15th century statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea in an adjacent Gothic chapel. There visitors make offering of salt to the Lady.

Maastricht NL is about 40 minutes from is by car and about 1 hour by train (Just a few stops past Valkenburg) from our home in Germany.  

As I walked over the bridge to head back to the train station, I vowed to not let too much time pass before I visited this lovely place again. I'll take that boat ride and explore more of the historic sites and deep history of this beautiful Dutch city.

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