A spring guide to Maastricht’s parks
May 16, 2007 Leave a Comment
Ahhh, spring in Maastricht! Outdoor chairs appear at every café, the sun shines, flowers bloom, and Maastrichters head outdoors with gusto. The parks of Maastricht become popular, and populated, once again. This time of year these public spaces have shed their gray winter coats to become sunny green magnets for one and all: dogwalkers, sunbathers, sports players, families, bikers, strollers, readers, writers, and all the rest.
Since living in the Netherlands, it seems that Dutch cities devote more space to parks than other cities I’ve traveled to, and nowhere is this truer than in Maastricht. After frequenting several of Maastricht’s parks, and then only recently discovering some others, I decided to compile a list of various public parks and green spaces in Maastricht and evaluate them in terms of what they offered to the average park-goer. The goal of this evaluation was not necessarily to compare parks to each other, but rather to establish their individual characteristics and explore their different personalities. To compile a rather extensive, if incomplete, “park guide” of this sort would be helpful, I thought, to both new Maastrichters and those already here, who are looking to get outside and enjoy our beautiful surroundings.
After many years of parking-going, I know that different people go to parks for different reasons. Some go to socialize, while others go to seek some quiet solitude. There are the active park goers, those who bike or run circles around others who prefer to sit and talk. There are the students eager to show off their bikinis and bare torsos, the parents with toddling children in kiddie-sized sunglasses, and the older people chatting animatedly on park benches. In this survey of selected parks in and near Maastricht, I tried to take into consideration all of these various people, and as it turns out, Maastricht’s parks offer something for every one of them.
Located adjacent to the Tongerseplein, Waldeckpark is a big, pleasant space, if a bit noisy, steeped in Maastricht’s history. Beautiful trees dot the walking paths, some of which dive down between grassy banks, shielding from the noise of Tongerseweg and allowing some privacy. Especially charming is an entryway of trellises and planted flowers, even as cars zoom by several meters away. Maastricht’s original fortification wall traces its way through the park, which combined with the tombs of various Dutch lieutenants, a memorial to the famous musketeer d’Artagnan who met his fate in Maastricht, and rusted old cannons, gives Waldeckpark a particularly historical feel. In fact, it’s even possible to take a guided tour of the inside of the fortification wall for EUR 4,25 , a nice activity for visiting friends or family.
On a recent Saturday, the park was well-attended but stopped short of being crowded. Dog-walkers dominated the landscape, with many couples also lying on blankets in the sun or shade. Overall, a great park for tourists, given the historical elements, and a pleasant experience for locals (tempered only by the nearby streets).
The perfect place to: Take your visiting family to tour the fortification and gaze at d’Artagnan’s memorial, before moving onto lunch at a café.
D’n Observant Nature Reserve on Mount St. Pieter
D’n Observant nature reserve and the accompanying fort St. Pieter are just outside of Maastricht’s boundaries, but this beautiful space on Mount St. Pieter, overlooking the Maas and Jeker valleys, should not be missed. Off of Luikerweg, lies the street leading straight uphill to the 120 meter-tall St. Pieter’s Mount. Of course, this street is large enough for cars, which is the preferable mode of transportation given the length and incline of Mount St. Pieter.
The impressive 300-year old Fort St. Pieter seem to function now as a multi-purpose facility. On two recent occasions, there appeared to be upscale social gatherings at the Fort; more information on the building can be found at http://www.fortsintpieter.nl. D’n Observant stretches further up Mount St. Pieter, where the view of Maastricht’s white row houses and church steeples is even more panoramic, at 120 meters.
The reserve itself is simply vast expanses of green space and forest, the former perfect for activities which take up a lot of space, like kite-flying or frisbee.
The lush grass, interrupted only by the occasional bench or picnic table, is also a great place for energetic children (and pets) to run free. On two recent visits, plenty of families frolicked in the grass, which remained spacious enough to accommodate this activity and more. In addition, three walking paths wind their way through the forested part of D’n Observant. The reserve is an excellent place to soak up nature and the Limburg sun.
After a tiring day gallivanting around the green expanses, several cozy cafés at the bottom of the hill are excellent places to refresh and regroup.
The perfect place to: Bring sun cream, a picnic lunch, and your indefatigable kids to play ball or just run around in circles until they collapse on your picnic blanket; or, enjoy a quiet stroll through nature with your significant other.
Charles Eyckpark and Nature Reserve
From the inner city’s Faliezusters park, a short pedestrian bridge, called Hoge Brug, (with practical grooves for bicycles along the side—how clever!) across the river Maas leads to the beautiful, riverside Charles Eyck park, and the Kleine Weerd Nature reserve a bit further down. Charles Eyck park, named for the famed Limburg artist (1897 – 1983) whose work often reflected nature, really does offer something for every kind of park-goer. A nearby café, with river views, is just the thing for you if you like your parks served with a cappuccino. Amply-spaced benches along the river provide for those seeking some measure of solitude, while the expanse of green grass, crowded on a recent sunny weekday, is more suited for those more communally-inclined. Finally, a bike lane stretches through the length of the park and nature reserve, where bikers and rollerbladers whiz by. A good balance between shade and sun also characterizes Charles Eyck park, with two sunny areas seemingly expressly designed for catching some rays and many beautiful shade trees located along the riverbank.
The only two less-than-perfect points of the Charles Eyck park are the gentle yet pervasive hum of traffic from the nearby Kennedy bridge and the boxy 1970s style brick building towering behind much of the park. But such complaints can be overlooked with the forward-facing view of the slowly meandering Maas, the tranquility of which happens to temper the noise of traffic.
In order to reach the extremes of the idyllic Dutch countryside, however, it is advised to go further south towards the Kleine Weerd nature reserve, just past the industrialist façade of the Limburg Province government building and under the gorgeously looming willow trees. At this spot, the beginning of the nature reserve, one can sit on a park bench directly overlooking a pond with nothing but a profusion of blooming flora and rolling green hills, dotted with church steeples, in the distance. Horses graze nearby, ducks quack chattily, and older couples mosey by, hand in hand. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon! (Of course, the traffic roaring by on Limburglaan doesn’t add to the peacefulness of the place, but the reserve’s utter beauty and quaintness more than makes up for it.) Further into the nature reserve are some small, densely forested walking paths, but besides these, and the dirt running/biking path, the reserve seems truly only for nature.
The perfect place to: Settle onto a riverside park bench to try to read that book (or those uni readings) you’ve been meaning to… but end up daydreaming, gazing at the slow-moving barges and idyllic Dutch countryside instead.
The Green Belt
The cluster of pleasant, well-attended parks on the south side of the city is referred to as Maastricht’s “Green Belt” by at least one tourist magazine—and rightfully so. This cluster of five parks is simply the place to go for a Maastricht park experience. Maastrichters of every type gather at these parks in their leisure time, making these parks the most popular and diverse of all of Maastricht.
- Aldenhofpark: Located just across from Waldeckpark near Tongerseplein, Aldenhof is a nice, quiet respite from busy Tongerseweg.
Filled with looming trees, making the park quite shady, dog-walkers mostly dominate the small space, although a nice bench in the middle of the park makes a comfortable place for a quick lunch.
- Henri Hermans Park: Small Henri Hermans Park, named for the Limburg musician and composer (1883 – 1947), lies sandwiched between Sint Hubertslaan and Van Heylerhofflaan and is primarily comprised of a large grassy area and some beautiful shade trees. On a recent sunny weekend, it was crowded with sun-bathing students.
Also important to note: the Gelato truck is located in this park, so plan your visit accordingly!
- Mgr. Nolens Park: Moving eastward, another park, named after a famous Dutch catholic leader in the early 20th century, is home to a veritable zoo of animals, bird cages, a gorgeous meandering creek, ducks and swans galore, and even a few odd-looking sculptures: a great area for kids!
Adding to its charm, Maastricht’s original fortification wall traces the park’s border, and by entering a staircase on Zwingleput one can climb to the top of the wall to walk its length. The proximity of University College Maastricht means there’s always students around studying or sunning. This park isn’t to be missed!l
- Stadspark: Along the River Maas runs Stadspark, arguably the most popular of all of Maastricht’s parks—truly the place to see and be seen.
Gorgeous scenery abounds: a pond with a fountain, lush trees, and budding flowers, with both grass fields and park benches in shady and sunny areas alike. On any given warm, sunny day, Stadspark is chock-full of people. Mostly students in bikinis or swim trunks occupy the sunny grassy areas, while clusters of elderly people gossip on benches in the shade.
Towards the river there’s a playground in the shade for the smaller park-goers, and usually one or two serious fishermen are trying their luck by the pond. Stadspark clearly offers something for everyone.
- Faliezusters Park: Just north of Stadspark, and connected to it by a footbridge, Faliezusters park is a sunny, open space, good for playing sports or biking through on your way to Stadspark. At the northern-most corner of Faliezusters are a beautiful flower shop and a couple of charming cafés: a perfect spot for mid-day refreshment.
Another part of the park features peaceful streams with a backdrop of quaint old-fashioned houses, leading out onto the very charming Pieterstraat. An outdoor café seems to open in this part of Faliezusters on select warm nights.
The perfect place to: Do just about anything—picnic, study, bike, fish, gossip, sunbathe, and the list goes on!
See you around the parks!
By Jessica Mowles
Jessica Mowles is an American student on exchange at University College Maastricht. Her fascination with free, public parks stems from her interests in the geography and demography of public space and the lack of euros in her wallet.