Maastricht, also spelled Maestricht, (population 122,000) is the oldest city of the Netherlands, and capital of the province of Limburg. The city is situated on both sides of the Meuse river (Maas in Dutch) in the south-eastern appendix of the Netherlands in between Belgium and Germany. The name of city is derived from its Latin name Mosae Traiectum (Meuse-crossing), referring to the bridge founded by the Romans under the reign of Augustus Caesar.
Institutions located in Maastricht include the Universiteit Maastricht (Maastricht University) and the Bonnefanten Museum of art.
To the south of the city is the "mountain" of St. Pietersberg which has an old fort and a network of caves within. The caves maintain a constant temperature of 10°C and are a hibernation place for bats. It is possible to visit the caves at certain times by guided tour.
An early Christian bishopric until the city lost this position to nearby Liège, Belgium in the 8th century, Maastricht developed in the Middle Ages into a city of dual authority, with both the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and the Duchy of Brabant holding joint sovereignty over the city. The role of the Dukes was occupied by the Dutch States General from 1632 onwards when the city was taken from the Spanish by Frederik Hendrik. This duality remained in force until the conquest and annexation of the city by the French in 1794. After the Napoleonic days, Maastricht became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. When the southern provinces sought independence from the North to form Belgium in 1830, the garrison in Maastricht remained loyal to the Dutch king and in 1839 the city and the eastern part of Limburg, despite being geographically closer to Belgium, were permanently added to the Netherlands. Because of the resulting eccentric location Maastricht was often more focused on Belgium and Germany than on the rest of the Netherlands, adding to the distinct non-Dutch character of the city.
Maastricht was the first Dutch city to be liberated by American forces in World War II.