A lot of Christmas events take place all over the city. The best known are undoubtedly the Valkenburg caves Christmas markets. No fewer than three former marl caves are transformed into a Christmas paradise during the cold winter months.
Gemeentegrot Christmas market
The largest Christmas cave in Valkenburg is the Gemeentegrot (‘Municipal cave’). Thousands of people and dozens of stalls fit in effortlessly here. The bright Christmas lights, hanging from the high ceilings and between fragrant pine trees, ensure that this underground labyrinth is beautifully lit up.
Immediately when you come in, merry Christmas figures will beckon you deeper into the caves. Christmas elves, Santa Claus, angels and other of these figurines lead you in the right direction until you have stepped through most of the winding and narrow corridors. The first Christmas stalls appear around the corner.
Vendors with or without Christmas hats show you their funniest items or their most beautiful treasures and the further and deeper you go into the Gemeentegrot Christmas market, the more varied the items that are for sale become.
Cute Christmas socks for newborns or adults, Christmas sweaters that light up when you press a button, thousands of sweets that are impossible to resist, lovely stuffed animals, shiny baubles and other Christmas gadgets are all awaiting you impatiently. But also jewels, a whole collection of wines and even flower bulbs are on offer here.
At some point, the ‘Valkenburg municipal cave’ splits up into two paths. If you go to the right you’ll keep walking on the familiar level, and along the way you’ll still be overwhelmed by what’s being sold on this Christmas market.
If you choose to walk straight ahead, you’ll get a beautiful view. From here, the Gemeentegrot Christmas market slowly goes down. From the highest point you get a phenomenal view of some of the most beautiful stalls of this Christmas market in Valkenburg.
A visit to the Gemeentegrot during Christmas is of course mainly to see all of the cozy stalls, try some delicious hot chocolate milk or mulled wine, but don’t forget to check out the large rock walls for some beautiful artworks too. The Gemeentegrot has some very beautiful murals that you shouldn’t miss out on! The black-colored masterpieces are scattered behind stalls, pine trees or Christmas figures, but they’re certainly worth a photo stop. These wall drawings were made hundreds of years ago by the miners who have excavated these aisles little by little.
This Valkenburg Christmas cave is also the oldest and most visited underground Christmas market in Europe. And that shouldn’t be surprising of course, because photos and stories from a unique Christmas market like this spread like a running fire! To fully convince you of the beauty of the Gemeentegrot Christmas Market in Valkenburg, I share some pictures of my visit below.
Address: Cauberg 4, 6301 BT Valkenburg, The Netherlands
Cost: Adults: €7,00, kids below 12: €5,00, kids below 5: free entry.
Opening times: Check out the official website of the Gemeentegrot.
Fluweelengrot Christmas market
Not far from the above-ground Christmas market in Valkenburg lies the Fluweelengrot or ‘Velvet Cave’. Although you would think that both Christmas caves of Valkenburg are very similar, I personally don’t think that’s true.
The Fluweelengrot Christmas market is much larger than the Gemeentegrot Christmas market. This Christmas cave is characterized by much more narrower aisles, and often they’re also a lot less high. Because the caves are less wide, you’ll see some stand-alone stalls, decorated with bright lighting and surrounded by narrow pine trees. The further you navigate through the winding corridors, the wider the corridors become and the more stalls that are placed next to the rocky walls.
The narrow passage ensures that this Valkenburg Caves Christmas market feels much more intimate. Here you’ll never really forget that you are exploring an underground tunnel system, and that makes your experience even more special.
Just like in the Gemeentegrot Caves you can also see a lot of wall drawings here. These are often more striking because you’re less distracted by flashy Christmas decorations or eye-catching items that are sold next to it. With a visit to the Fluweelengrot Cave during Christmas, you immediately kill two birds with one stone!
After a lot of twists and turns you end up in the broader parts of the Velvet Cave. In these places you’ll also see the larger Christmas stands and often the most beautiful stalls. Not so far away from the exit you even have an underground cafe/restaurant where you can rest for a bit. That may be necessary! Because before you’ve even realized it, you’ve already hiked quite a few miles in these caves.
Christmas concerts are being performed regularly here too. Together with a hot chocolate milk, a refreshing pint or mulled wine, you can enjoy the melodic Christmas songs and live performances.
The Fluweelengrot Christmas market is just as cozy as the Gemeentegrot during Christmas, but if you’re staying in Valkenburg I recommend to visit both Christmas caves.
Address: Daalhemerweg 27, 6301 BJ Valkenburg, The Netherlands
Cost: Adults: €7,00, kids younger than 12: €5,00, kids younger than 5: free entry.
Opening times: Check out the official website of the Fluweelengrot.
Mergelrijk Christmas cave
If you’re tired of all these Christmas markets, but wouldn’t mind digging a little deeper into the mysterious depths of this earth, then you should also go to Mergelrijk. Throughout the year you can come here for a fascinating tour to learn more about the history of the marl caves in Valkenburg.
A visit to Mergelrijk during Christmas is just a little more fun. During this event the exhibitions are decorated with beautiful Christmas decorations. Once you have descended the stairs you end up in a space where a miniature winter wonderland has been set up.
Tiny people enjoy the beautiful snowy landscapes. Their little gingerbread houses seem to be grabbed away from a fairytale!
And of course Santa Claus is also present. His reindeer let him circle around all these miniature landscapes, and a little further you can even see a mini train steaming through the landscapes. The actual exhibition begins one level below.
Statues from sandstone (they look a bit like sand sculptures!) that are normally featured in the museum exhibition have been covered in snow on for once or surrounded by little dolls that awaken the Christmas spirit in the underground.
Along the way you learn how this place was used as a war bunker, for what the marlstone was used, how mushrooms are grown here and which bats are occasionally spotted here. It’s also very nice that your children (you too, of course!) can take a piece of marlstone home after they have worked on it themselves.
The Mergelrijk Christmas cave is usually less crowded than the other Christmas caves of Valkenburg. Although this is actually more of a museum for children, I was able to enjoy it very much myself. Sometimes you have to awaken the child in yourself, don’t you think so?
Address: Daalhemerweg 31a, 6301 BJ Valkenburg, The Netherlands
Cost: Adult: €7,00, kids below 12: €6,50, kids below 3: free entry.
Opening times: Check out the official brochure of Mergelrijk.
Facilities in the Christmas caves of Valkenburg
You may wonder whether such an underground Christmas market is practical.
The answer is yes, because everything has been thought of!
- There is a toilet in both the Gemeentegrot Cave and the Fluweelengrot Cave. For 50 cents you can do what you need to do. In any case, it promises to be a very unique toilet break! Who can say that they’ve already been to an underground toilet?!
Mergelrijk has a toilet just before (or after) your visit to the museum.
- There is no Wi-Fi connection, and mobile data doesn’t work here either. But is that really such an issue? You come here to celebrate Christmas and not to play on your cell phone. Those urgent snapchats, instagram stories or facebook posts can wait.
- Hungry? Thirsty? That would be very possible, because your legs will need a lot of energy to navigate through all these Christmas caves in Valkenburg! Fortunately, restaurants and cafes can be found everywhere. In the Fluweelengrot Cave you’ll find a restaurant at the end of the Christmas market, in the Gemeentegrot you can find some seats about halfway the caves, and in Mergelrijk you’ll find a restaurant on the top floor (next to the cash desk) .
Don’t forget that you can’t really buy any hot meals in the Velvet Cave and the Municipal Caves. Next to the cash registers outside of both Christmas markets there are some food trucks where you can get hot snacks and some fast food.
- Keep your mess with you. There are enough waste bins to throw away bags or packing material.
- Benches or chairs are unfortunately not available in abundance because the corridors are often too narrow. If you want to take a break, you can of course do so at one of the cafés or restaurants.
- If you want to park your car around one of the Christmas caves of Valkenburg, it’s best to park in one of the car parks outside the center. Parking in the center of Valkenburg is much more expensive.
All parking spaces are just a short walk away from the Christmas caves. You pay €8 per day.
Are you convinced by my positive experience with the Christmas caves of Valkenburg? Or would you like some more reading material? Be sure to read this article about all Christmas markets and Christmas activities in Valkenburg as well.
Are you following me on Social Media?
Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.