Valkenburg is perhaps one of the most popular destinations for local tourism in the Netherlands. The place is buzzing with people and there are lots of attractions: from historical places to industrial heritage sites, from beautiful nature and to fun stuff. Whatever you like, Valkenburg can offer you the right entertainment. However, popularity comes with a downside – the little Dutch town can be quite crowded in the summer months. In this post you’ll found out which are the most popular things to do in Valkenburg.
Read more: South Limburg, the province where Valkenburg is located, is famous for its numerous attractions. Read here which are the highlights in South Limburg.
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- Where is Valkenburg?
- How to get from Maastricht to Valkenburg?
- Things to do in Valkenburg
- 1. Tour the Gemeentegrot (Municipal Cave)
- 2. Explore the Fluwelengrot (Velvet Cave)
- 3. See the Night Watch at MergelRijk
- 4. Visit the Coal Mine
- 5. See the Roman Catacombs
- 6. Explore the Castle Ruins
- 7. Discover the famous city gates
- 8. Spot the city castle Den Halder
- 9. Take the chairlift to the top of the hill
- 10. Climb the Wilhelminatoren (Wilhelmina Tower)
- 11. Have fun on top of the Heunsberg
- 12. Indulge in wellness and spa at Thermae 2000
- 13. Shop at the little boutiques
- 14. Get a bite or a drink in the Old Town
- 15. Have fun at the Fairy-tale Forest
- 16. Go on castle hunting
- 17. Spot the vintage mural ads
- Where to stay in Valkenburg?
- Final words
Where is Valkenburg?
Valkenburg is an adorable little town in the southern Dutch Province of Limburg. The area is pretty hilly, which is quite unusual for the typical Dutch landscape. That’s also one of the reasons why the place is so popular among local tourists. There are also lots of Belgian and German tourists, as Valkenburg can be easily visited on a day trip from both countries. Here are some distances to Valkenburg:
- Cologne (DE) – Valkenburg: 95 km
- Monschau (DE) – Valkenburg: 115 km
- Dusseldorf (DE) – Valkenburg: 105 km
- Aachen (DE) – Valkenburg: 27 km
- Liege (BE) – Valkenburg: 40 km
- Brussels (BE) – Valkenburg: 135 km
- Luxembourg City (LU) – Valkenburg: 190 km
- Amsterdam (NL) – Valkenburg: 225 km
- Maastricht (NL) – Valkenburg: 15 km
So, Valkenburg is just the perfect day trip from any of the above mentioned big cities.
How to get from Maastricht to Valkenburg?
Valkenburg has its own railway station and it takes less than 15 minutes to get from Maastricht to Valkenburg by train. This makes it easier to reach the place from anywhere by public transport as there are good connections to Maastricht.
Read more: How to spend the perfect day in Maastricht.
If you arrive by train to Valkenburg, do not miss to take a look at the building itself. It’s the oldest railway station building that is still in use in the Netherlands. It was opened in 1853 as a stop on the first international railway line in the Netherlands connecting Maastricht with Aachen in Germany.
Tip: Read this post about using the public transport in the Netherlands. It’s packed with tips that only a local knows!
Things to do in Valkenburg
Valkenburg is full of activities and things to do and places to see both above and under the ground. You will hardly find a place with so many and different underground attractions like Valkenburg. So, what’s there to choose from…
Tip: If you are visiting Valkenburg in the summer, don’t be fooled by the scorching heat. Take a jacket if you are visiting one of the caves. The temperature underground is constant – 12℃ (53.6 F), so you’ll be freezing inside.
1. Tour the Gemeentegrot (Municipal Cave)
A former chalk quarry, a WWII hiding place and a nuclear fallout shelter, the Gemeentegrot (or the Municipal Cave) offers a fascinating look over thousands of years layers of history. There are a few options to tour the cave. You can either walk or take the train. There are also guided tours, which I highly recommend. Thus you can hear all the stories this former quarry has to tell. The Gemeentegrot is one of the most popular attractions in Valkenburg.
The opening times of the cave differ the whole year round, so the best will be to check their website for up-to-date info. Tickets for adults cost 9.25 EUR and for kids (4 – 11 yoa) – 7.25 EUR.
2. Explore the Fluwelengrot (Velvet Cave)
The Fluwelengrot (or Velvet Cave) is another former chalk/limestone quarry. The passageways cut out by the so-called “block breakers” in the Middle Ages form an extensive 5-km long labyrinth. There are also secret escape routes that connected the Valkenburg castle with the underground quarry.
When visiting the Fluwelengrot, you need to buy a combined ticket for a visit to the castle. You can visit the castle without visiting the cave, but not the other way round. So, a ticket for the castle and the cave costs for adults 13 EUR and for kids (4 – 12 yoa) – 10 EUR. Tickets can be purchased only at place, no e-tickets are available. The cave also has quite varied opening hours, so the best is to check their website for the latest information.
Tip: If you are visiting Valkenburg in the days before Christmas, there is this amazing Christmas market in the Fluwelengrot (Velvet Cave).
3. See the Night Watch at MergelRijk
MergelRijk is another popular underground attraction in Valkenburg. It’s a former chalk quarry, where you can see various stone carvings with the most popular being the Night Watch of Rembrandt.
You can do a self-guided tour of MergelRIjk and even make your own souvenir from stone. Tickets for adults cost 17,50 EUR and for kids (3-17 yoa) respectively 15,50 EUR.
4. Visit the Coal Mine
Just next door to the MergelRijk is another important attraction – the Coal Mine (Steenkolenmijn). Limburg became rich due to the coal mines in the region, but after they we closed for good in the 1970s, the region suffered from impoverishment and today it relies mainly on tourism. The Coal Mine is the only mine in the Netherlands that is still open for visitors. You can experience how it was to be working underground and what it was like to be a mine worker.
Admission tickets for adults are 13 EUR, and for kids (5-17 yoa) – 10 EUR. You can also book a guided tour in English, German or Dutch and it costs 20 EUR extra. The guides are former mine workers.
5. See the Roman Catacombs
This is a very unusual museum. It’s actually a replica of the Christian catacombs in Rome (Italy). The wealthy textile magnate Jan Diepen decided to built his own museum in the underground labyrinth of Valkenburg. He was fascinated by the Roman cultural heritage and after an extensive research, together with the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, he created this extraordinary museum. The Roman catacombs Museum opened in July 1910. There are 14 catacombs featured in the museum with the most famous being the Catacombs of Priscilla (on Via Salaria in Rome) and the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus (on Via Appia in Rome).
Fun fact: Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921) is perhaps the most famous Dutch architect. He’s the one who designed the Rijksmuseum and the Central Station in Amsterdam.
6. Explore the Castle Ruins
So, it’s time to leave underground Valkenburg and start exploring above the ground. The ruins of this once impregnable fortress, today boast as the only castle in the Netherlands built on a hill. The first fortress on this place was built in 1075 and the second one in the beginning of the 12th century. Both fortresses were captured and demolished. The castle, which remnants we can visit today, was built at the beginning of the 13th century. In 1672 the castle was blown by Willem III to prevent that it would fall in the hands of the French troops and it was never rebuilt again.
Visiting the Castle Ruins is one of the top things to do in Valkenburg. See the info about the Velvet Cave for entry tickets and prices information.
7. Discover the famous city gates
Valkenburg developed as a fortified settlement in the foot of the hill with the castle surrounded by bulwarks, towers and other defensive structures. From the 7 city gates it once had, today there remain only 3 of them: Grendelpoort, Berkelpoort and Geulpoort. Just walk around in the old town and you will come across them for sure.
8. Spot the city castle Den Halder
The city castle Den Halder is part of the old bulwark. It was built around 1329 and expanded a few times. During WWII it suffered major damages. It was completely renovated in 2000. Today, it’s rented out as offices. There is a lovely park around the castle (Halderpark), which was developed in 2014.
9. Take the chairlift to the top of the hill
Flat as a pancake, the Netherlands doesn’t come with mountains. The only place where you can take a chairlift is Valkenburg! The chairlift will take you to the top of the Heunsberg hill. Once on top of the hill, there are a lot of activities, not to mention the amazing view to Valkenburg and surroundings.
Online return tickets for adults cost 5 EUR and at place – 5.50 EUR. Kids (4-11 yoa) pay 3 EUR. However, you will need to buy separate tickets for each activity.
10. Climb the Wilhelminatoren (Wilhelmina Tower)
The Wilhelmina Tower is one of the symbol of Valkenburg. The 30-meter high observation tower was built in 1906 with the purpose to attract tourists to the area. It reminds of a rocket and you can spot some Gothic Revival elements in it. The view from the tower is simply amazing. They say that on a clear day you can see Aachen from there or parts of Belgium. There is also a restaurant at the tower, which offers lovely view to the city and the hills.
11. Have fun on top of the Heunsberg
Once on top of the hill there are lots of fun activities to do. There is a toboggan with 2 tracks. You can also do tubing and play midget golf. If you love a bit of adventure sports you can slide down a rope from the top of the Wilhelmina Tower. There is also a unique laser-game facility in a cave. With so much to do, you can easily spend a whole day on the hill, however all activities cost extra money.
12. Indulge in wellness and spa at Thermae 2000
If you are up to some relaxation or wellness treatments, you should visit the spa complex Thermae 2000. They have a spa, a sauna and a swimming pool. They also offer different massage treatments. The health resort is located on Cauberg – one of the most famous recreational and holiday spots in the Netherlands. Thermae 2000 have their own hotel, so why not even stay there!
13. Shop at the little boutiques
I’m not sure if recreational shopping is a thing, but Valkenburg is just perfect to go on a shopping spree – countless little shops and boutiques, lovely streets and buzzing atmosphere.
14. Get a bite or a drink in the Old Town
You will be surprised how many restaurants and cafes there are in Valkenburg. And the choice of cuisines is also astonishing. You can try Mexican food, Italian pasta, Spanish tapas, Greek food, and why not some typical dishes from Limburg like zuurvlees (a type of stew) and Limburgse vlaai (a type of pie). When in Limburg, you can’t skip the beers. The famous local beers include ALFA (brewed in Schimmert – 12 km from Valkneburg), Brand (brewed in Wijlre – 7,5 km), and Gulpener – (brewed in Gulpen – 9,5 km).
15. Have fun at the Fairy-tale Forest
If you are visiting Valkenburg with kids, do not miss this themed park. The Fairy-tale Forest (Sprookjesbos) is not of the scale of the Efteling or Euro Disney, it is still fun for yonger kids.
16. Go on castle hunting
An easy walk from Valkenburg is to the Schaloen Castle with the Castle Garden of Oud-Valkenburg (Kasteeltuinen). The trail is a bit less than 2,5 km and you’ll be passing along Castle Oost (Kasteel Oost), the Geul River and the Geulpark. The Castle Garden of Oud-Valkenburg is super lovely and there’s an old water mill there. A few hundred meters further is another castle – the Genhoes Castle. Although you can’t visit any of the castles, it’s a lovely walk to experience South Limburg at its best. At the Schaloen Castle you can have some refreshments at the local cafe (Schaloen Brasserie), enjoying a lovely view to the castle itself.
17. Spot the vintage mural ads
Quite unexpectedly, Valkenburg possesses a rare treasure – a number of vintage mural ads. At this moment there are about 30 of them which are beautifully restored. The murals were made between 1895 and 1930. You can spot ads of the Batavier Lijn, a ferry line which brought tourists from Rotterdam to London, of the first Philips light bulb, Van Nelle’s coffee and tea, or of the Pathé’s gramophone.
Where to stay in Valkenburg?
Being one of the major tourist destinations in the Netherlands, Valkenbueg offers a great choice of places to stay. There are cute B&Bs, rural farmhouses, campings, posh hotels, family boutique hotels, holiday parks, spa hotels and even castles.
Here’s a small choice of places to stay in Valkenburg in different price categories, but they all have one thing in common: charm and character.
Château St. Gerlach – pure indulgence! Set amidst a meticulously manicured park, this chateau offers lavishly decorated suites, a swimming pool and an amazing restaurant.
Hotel Janssen – a small hotel in the heart of the Old Town with a beautiful view
Hotel Valkenhof – a cute hotel in the middle of the Old Town with all shops and restaurants
Thermae 2000 – one of the most popular spa hotels in the Netherlands. If you need to de-stress and detox, this is the place.
Bella vista – a high-end B&B in a beautiful villa with stylishly decorated rooms
Aan de Cauberg – a charming B&B in a half-timbered house, located halfway up the Cauberg hill
Valkenburg is a destination that offers lots of activities. You can easily spend there anywhere between 1 day up to 2 weeks, without even getting bored. The locals love to spend their summer holidays in the area. Valkenburg is also a popular day trip from Maastricht, Aachen, and Luik/Liege. Some of the top things to do in Valkenburg include visiting the former quarries, known as caves, climbing to the ruins of the only hilltop castle in the Netherlands, and taking the chairlift to the Wilhelmina Tower.
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