I think there is no better place to celebrate Christmas than in Valkenburg. This relatively small city is located in the south of Holland, just across the Belgian and German border. From the train station on you are quietly being immersed in the Christmas atmosphere that hangs here. A friendly, luminous teddy bear wishes you a warm welcome to Valkenburg. The closer you get to the center, the brighter the Christmas lights start to shine and the louder the Christmas jingles sound.
In this post, I’ll guide you to the most beautiful attractions of the city, but be warned… It’s very well possible that you immediately want to pack your bags and head to the Valkenburg Christmas market!
The Christmas attractions of Valkenburg
In most cities you only find a Christmas market, but in Valkenburg there is much more to experience. The entire city is immersed in a Christmassy atmosphere like you have never seen anywhere else in the world. Christmas caves or above ground Christmas markets, a luminous Xmas parade with beautiful music, costumes and many dance moves, a miniature Christmas world, a surprisingly beautiful light exposition in the Roman catacombs and of course a lot of fun.
The Christmas caves of Valkenburg
Have you ever visited a Christmas market that is underground? The chances are little, but in Valkenburg you can immediately find two.
Every Christmas, the Gemeentegrot and the Fluweelengrot are transformed into the most magical place of Valkenburg. These corridors were formed long ago by diligent workers who built the villages and towns with the mined sandstone several feet above these caves.
After many years of intensive labor, caves from miles on end emerged. During Christmas these underground mazes are the setting for the most beautiful Christmas markets of the Netherlands (and I even think of the whole world).
The nice thing about a Christmas cave is that you no longer can have bad weather conditions. The rainwater doesn’t seep through the rocky ceilings and the average temperature of 13°C (55.4°F) is also pleasant enough to walk around without a jacket.
The Fluweelengrot (The ‘velvet cave’) is the closest to the center of Valkenburg. You can reach this first Christmas cave of Valkenburg within five minutes. After your ticket has been scanned, you can go and explore the winding brown-yellow walls of this underground world. The further you walk in this Xmas market of Valkenburg, the wider the corridors and the nicer the Christmas market becomes.
Fragrant fir trees with Christmas lights are seen everywhere and cheerful Santa Clauses, Christmas elves and other wintery statues greet you everywhere. The stalls seem to be glued to the rock walls. Everywhere nice Xmas items or handy gadgets are sold. Be sure to pay attention to the many wall drawings that you see along the way. This is the work of the former miners, and these works of art fit perfectly together with the very merry Christmas atmosphere that you’ll notice here!
I was amazed at how big this Christmas market of Valkenburg is. You would think that after half an hour you’d have seen it all, but make no mistake: this Xmas market is indeed very long! Fortunately, there is also an underground café where you can try out a local beer or order a tasty sandwich to regain some energy.
Address: Daalhemerweg 27, 6301 BJ Valkenburg, the Netherlands
The Gemeentegrot (‘Municipal’ cave) is also nicely decorated with stalls, fir trees, false snow and beautiful Xmas decorations. I think this Christmas cave is a little shorter than the Fluweelengrot Cave, but the underground rooms here are significantly larger. If the cave walls were not so clearly visible, you would almost think that you ended up in a concert hall.
The high and wide spaces are also filled with hundreds of Christmas decorations. Christmas hats, delicious sweets, beautiful Xmas artworks, clothing, a nice bottle of wine and even flower bulbs are sold here! Here too you have the opportunity to unwind with hot chocolate and to recover from all the walking and all the impressions you had during your visit.
Address: Cauberg 4, 6301 BT Valkenburg, the Netherlands
There is so much to see in both Christmas caves of Valkenburg, but don’t forget to also look out for the friendly Santa. This friendly man has traveled all the way from the High North to have his picture taken together with all the visitors. Would you like to get more info? Check out the official website.
The Christmas market
If you go to the Valkenburg caves, you’ll eventually also pass by the above-ground Christmas market of Valkenburg.
This small but cozy market has about a dozen stands, a beautiful carousel, a few stalls where you can eat delicious fastfood and of course also a place where you can drink in a bit of courage before you descend to the deep corridors of this city …
Although this Valkenburg Xmas market is significantly smaller than the two Christmas caves, it really is nice here. Around this square you’ll also find a lot of restaurants and cafes where you can take a break. Be sure to visit the ‘Limburg shop‘ (the building in the middle of the square). There you can take a look in the bedroom of Santa Claus. Who knows, you might bump into him. A selfie with Santa Claus! Who wouldn’t want that?
Address: Theodoor Dorrenplein
Mergelrijk Christmas cave
A bit further from the city center lies Mergelrijk. During the year this is an –how could it be anything else– underground museum that tells you more about the history of the marl cave. In this exhibition you’ll learn how exactly these caves were formed, for what they were used during the world war, which residents these underground corridors has/had, … But you’ll also find a lot of beautiful carved works of art (think of a stone version of ‘The Night Watch’ or some mythical beasts).
This museum is even more fun during the Christmas season. During your descent you’ll notice a beautiful miniature world with all kinds of Christmas landscapes. Snowball fights between dolls of a few inches, a twirling Santa Claus in his sleigh, gingerbread houses and more of that fun await you here. If you descend a bit more, you’ll see even more of these scenes, but you can also learn more about the interesting marl caves at the same time. As you may already have noticed, the Christmas atmosphere is never far away in Valkenburg!
Address: Daalhemerweg 31a, 6301 BJ Valkenburg, the Netherlands
Underground light exhibitions
Let’s stay underground for just a little longer.
Many years ago Jan Diepen wanted to take a piece of Rome with him to the Netherlands. Since Valkenburg is surrounded by excavated quarries, this man got the excellent idea to imitate the Roman catacombs. He bought a quarry and made his dream come true in no time… Only a few years later his perfectly imitated catacombs were already opened to the public! These Roman tombs and corridors have been recreated so well that they even received the blessing of the Vatican!
Throughout the year you can book interesting guided tours. The guide tells you a bit of history about this place, and he of course explains a lot more about the purpose of these catacombs and what has happened with them throughout the history. It’s also nice that this whole tour is done with candlelight. That makes the tour really much more fun!
If you have ever visited the real Roman catacombs, you’ll be amazed at how well they have been recreated here. Moreover, they are in much better condition than the real ones and you are allowed to take photos here. You don’t necessarily have to go to Rome to see this interesting history anymore!
After a tour full of stories, history, facts and legends, you can wander off a little further in these dark corridors. Well… Maybe not that dark. The WISH light exposition illuminates even the darkest spots of these undergrounds tombs. A dozen contemporary artists from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany present their most beautiful creations here. Some works are of course more beautiful or interesting than the other, but they all have an original concept or a meaningful message.
Every year, these colorful light decorations are set up within the concept of the Valkenburg Christmas market, because the more light that shines in these dark days, the cozier it gets here!
Do you want more info? Go to the official website of the ‘Romeinse katakomben’.
Address: Plenkertstraat 55, 6301 GL Valkenburg, the Netherlands
The Christmas parade of Valkenburg
If you can’t get enough of this Christmas town, I recommend to stay until Wednesday or Saturday evenings. Around 8:00 pm a beautiful Christmas parade takes place along the streets of Valkenburg.
Colorful figures and cute children happily dance to the tunes of dreamy Christmas music. The luminous costumes give a magical glow to the whole event, and the big parade cars are beautifully decorated! Make sure to stay to the end if you want to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus.
If you don’t feel like waiting in the cold all the time, you can also enter one of the restaurants and pamper yourself with a nice drink and a local dish. Most restaurants also have a nice terrace with nice warm infrared heaters from which you can look at the Christmas parade.
Do you need more info? Check out the official website.
Where to stay?
One day in Valkenburg is too short if you want to enjoy all of its beauty. With a weekend or three days you can visit everything much more at ease, but even then you’ll get tired! There are a lot of Christmas activities in Valkenburg, and they never really get boring. A comfortable bed makes your city trip to Valkenburg even more pleasant, and sice I was really happy with my accommodation I can wholeheartedly recommend Hotel Tummers.
This hotel is located near the station of Valkenburg and is therefore very practical if you come by train. The entrance hall is decorated with beautiful Christmas decorations and the friendly staff will gladly help you with all your questions regarding the Valkenburg Christmas market or anything else.
The rooms are equipped with all kinds of luxury, but what I personally liked the most about this hotel was its breakfast. So much possibilites! A hotel breakfast is always fun, but if it is as extensive as here, your day starts supercharged. Go wild and enjoy all the deliciousness before you head to the Xmas market of Valkenburg. Boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, salmon, fruits, different types of yoghurt, fresh croissants, other tasty breads and sweets, …
Do you want to check out other hotels in Valkenburg too? Compare here.
Where to eat?
Of course you’ll also find a lot of food at the Valkenburg Christmas market. Tasty beignets, churros, fast food and of course roasted chestnuts or delicious waffles can be found everywhere. In the underground Christmas markets you’ll only find a very limited range of deep-fried food (there is no cooker hood underground!), but on the above-ground market or at the entrances of both Christmas Caves you have plenty of choices!
If you want a great view over the Christmas parade and at the same time want some tasty food, I can recommend Charlie’s Burgers & Steaks (address: Berkelstraat 22, Valkenburg).
Be sure to try the Hill angus burger: a tasty burger made out of local specialties. Once the Christmas parade passes by you’ll be notified and you can enjoy the joyful Xmas train under the infrared emitters. You’ll stay dry here and at the same time you’re escaping the pushing crowds from elsewhere.
Another nice thing to mention is the ‘Route d’Amuse‘. If you would like to try out some more local foods, you can do this hike between 12:00 and 6:00 pm along some great restaurants of Valkenburg. Along the way you’ll not only be spoiled with delicious snacks, but you’ll also get to see many of Valkenburg’s sights. Along the way you’ll pass some Christmas activities that I have listed above. So, why not combine both?
How do you get to Valkenburg?
My personal preference is taking public transport. Valkenburg is easily accessible by train from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. With a transfer in Maastricht you arrive within ten minutes, and the train station is only a ten minute walk from the center.
If you go by car, I advise you to park in the parking lot between the Odapark and amusement park ‘De Valkenier’. This parking space is within walking distance of the center but is cheaper than when you park in the center. You pay €8 per vehicle per day.
Christmas markets near Valkenburg
If you love Christmas very much, you might want to see more than Valkenburg’s Christmas markets alone. Fortunately, this city is centrally located between many other great Christmas cities and Christmas activities!
Holy Moly Heerlen
Heerlen is a Dutch city that is located only ten minutes away from Valkenburg, near the German border. Holy Moly has been organized for the first time in 2017. It is best described as a trendy Christmas market for young and old. Instead of the classic Christmas villages, a more modern Christmas theme is experienced here.
The city center is decorated with industrial containers that form a towering enclosure. Within these steel walls all kinds of cozy Christmas concerts are given by well-known and lesser-known artists. Within walking distance of this artistic Christmas village you can fill your hungry stomach with delicacies from all over the world. The small food truck festival is happy to prepare all sorts of delicacies for you, so that you can keep on headbanging in the ‘container city’.
If you prefer to leave the dancing to other visitors of Holy Moly, you can also relax on the square next to the church. There you’ll find a couple of giant tipi tents and warm fires to warm up numb visitors (or perhaps mulled wine can do that too?). Holy Moly is a very appealing alternative for a Christmas market!
If you’re heading to Valkenburg, you have to go to Maastricht anyway. In this cute city you’ll definitely also enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. The ‘Vrijthof’ (central square of Maastricht) is decorated with wooden huts, lots of Christmas decorations, a large ice rink and a gigantic Ferris wheel. Walk around on this beautiful spot and enjoy the warm drinks or sweet treats that you can get anywhere.
In addition to the Christmas market at the Vrijthof you should definitely try to do the light route. Once it gets dark enough, you can see the beautiful Christmas lights of Maastricht sparkling everywhere. Streets, trees, squares and buildings are decorated with fun lighting installations and on the way you also come along some of the most beautiful sights of Maastricht.
Don’t forget to visit the ‘Dominicanen bookstore’. A former church that has now been converted into a bookstore. You can immediately buy some Christmas gifts here too, if you like!
The Christmas market of Liège
If you’re commuting from Belgium to Valkenburg’s Christmas market, chances are that you’ll pass by Liège (Luik).
Twenty minutes from the central station (Liège-Guillemins) is the oldest and biggest (although I doubt it) Christmas market of Belgium. Again you can enjoy Christmas treats and the merry Christmas atmosphere that hangs there.
There’s even an attraction where children can go sledding, but then without the snow… A bit further in the city center you’ll also find a smaller Christmas market where you can show off your best ice skating tricks.
As you have already noticed, there is a lot to do in Valkenburg and its surroundings. From Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands it’ll never take more than a few hours on the train, and it really is worth the ride. No matter how long you go to Valkenburg, one thing is certain: you won’t discover any other Christmas market that is so beautiful!
Do you have any questions or would you like to know more about the Valkenburg Christmas market? Take a look at their website.
This blog post was in collaboration with kerstinzuidlimburg.nl and vvv zuidlimburg
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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.