The Markt is another big square in Maastricht that vies with the Vrijjthof as the city center. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Markt wins out because market days attract crowds of locals as well as day-trippers from Aachen and Liege. Even on other days the bars and cafes are crowded, the herring stall is busy and groups of students cluster around ‘t Mooswief, a statue of a plump stallholder.
The centerpiece of the square is the Stadhuis, the 17th century town hall built 1659-1664 in Classical style by architect Pieter Post, a pupil of Jacob van Campen. There are two sets of stairs to get to the interior, a reminder of the time when the two city authorities (the Dukes of Brabant and the Bishops of Liege) literally went their own way. In the entrance chamber with a rococo ceiling the Mayor hands over the keys of the city to the Carnival Prince.
The Stadhuis has a bell tower (1684) with 43 bells and if you are lucky you may hear the carillon of bells. The 17th-century council decided to abandon solemn dirges on the bells in favor of pretty folk tunes, and the custom continues—a very pretty sound.
I spent a great morning wondering around the market, which is set out on the square around the City Hall. Fresh produce is roughly together on two sides—gorgeous flowers and plants, fruits and vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats—and clothes, cloths, crafts roughly on the other two sides. People browse, buy stuff, stop to chat and it’s a happening place. It was asparagus season, and the varieties and choices of the spears (green and white, thick and thin) was amazing to me—mostly in the USA we get just the green, and only one choice at that. It was also fun to see the special Dutch cheeses, such as Pinda Kaas, Boeren Kaas and Rommedou.
The cafes around offer all kinds of local snacks, such as asparagus omelette, asparagus soup, trout, Limburgse Vlaai (fruit flans), waffles, or gingerbread. Any of these treats can be washed down with beer, which is the typical local drink, or Maastrichter wine—which is not common but very good if you can find it. But, it was also fun to just order a tea and sit watching all the activity, which I did at Tijl Uilenspiegel