Best European Christmas markets: Valkenburg, the Netherlands

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Valkenburg aan de Geul is a nice city close to Maastricht, in the southern province of Limburg, in the Netherlands.  It is a place where to spend a day close to other places such as Maastricht. 

Personally I've been several times to this town, but for the first time I could visit it during the Christmas period. I discovered also that it is rated as one of the CNN's Top 10 World Christmas destinations and honestly I agree with that. The Kerststad Valkenburg  was an incredible surprise. Follow me!

If you want to read this article in Italian, please click here!
Diaries of an explorer
In this little tour, you will have also the possibility to visit the city besides the Christmas tour. You can get there by train or by car, but if you want to park please be prepared to park at least at 500 meters from the city centre, since the parking cost per hour is quite expensive.

If you go by car from Maastricht to Valkenburg, you can find a typical Dutch landscape with a windmill, even if it's not the typical Limburg or "Euregio" landscape.
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Going from the Neueweg to the city centre, you can find some of the beautiful landmarks of Valkenburg, such as the Geul river, the ramparts of the medieval town and the cathedral.
Diaries of an explorer
From the small bridge you can also see the big Christmas tree, part of one of several Christmas markets.
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From the same point you can also see the cathedral.
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Now it's time to access to the Kerststad, that means the Christmas town, between beautiful palaces and Christmas lights.
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Shops, cafes and restaurants are decorated and designed with Christmas items: I want to advice you this beautiful shop.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
You can also see and visit the ruins of the Valkenburg Castle, the only castle built upon hill in the Netherlands, destroyed in 1672 in order to not leave it to the French troops of Louis XIV. You can visit the ruins by paying 5 Euros.
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You can access to the restaurant terrace and see how the castle was and also look at the town's landscape.
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The castle's complex was connected to the gates of the old medieval town like this one:
Now it's time to start the real Christmas tour, starting from the wonderful Magic Sand, or Magisch Zand, the largest underground Nativity Scene in Europe. You can find it in the Kerststal Wilhelminagrot.
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Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
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Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

After the Magic Sand, another great Christmas market is represented by the Gemeentegrot or Municipality Cave, the largest and oldest underground Christmas Market in Europe. It is really huge. Here you can see some of the main pictures of this cave.

Another impressive Christmas market is represented by the Fluweelengrot or Christmas Market Velvet Cave. Since the Municipality Cave is the largest, personally I found this smaller one more precious and interesting. You can enjoy the impressive mural paintings, sculptures, the unique 18th century chapel and of course market stalls.

Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
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Another interesting place where to go is the Santa's Village, especially for its Christmas tree, the Europe's largest singing tree with 5000 lights, Christmas balls and dozen of candles. Then you have the classic German-style wooden shops, but honestly they are not that worth.

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Close to the Santa's Village you can also find the beautiful tourist office, the VVV with an interesting group of statues.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

And then? Well you can have a walk around and enjoy the city and its lights. Do not miss the oldest train station of the Netherlands!  


Travel tips:
  • I would recommend to spend an entire day, since you could spend a lot of time in visiting the caves. Keep in mind that I did not visit the Christmas in Mergelijk cave.
  • Please avoid the Santa's factory: it is promoted but it is not worth a visit.
  • Valkenburg has also two interesting attractions: the Thermae 2000, a wellness complex, and the casino. I've been several times to the Thermae 2000 and I love this spa, but never ever to the casino, since I don't want to lose money in a place where the casino almost always wins.
  • You can also visit the castle ruins: the ticket costs again 5 Euros.
  • If you want to hike, there are several hiking trails around: I will dedicate a special post about the hiking trails in the Limburg province.
  • Where to eat:  I found a nice cafè with affordable prices and decent food, the Pub Henry VIII.
  • How to get to Valkenburg: you can find the relevant information here. However, the best way to reach Valkenburg is by train or car.
Where to sleep:
  • If you are on a budget, I would recommed the Hotel Sonnenblick, 49 Euros per night per double room.
  •  If your budget is a medium one, I would recommend you the Hotel Vroenhof, approximately 100 Euros per night per double room.
  • For "luxury" travellers, the Chateau St. Gerlach can be a great option, since you will sleep in a castle: the price is around 210 Euros per double room and per night.
Do you want to read this article in Italian? please click here!

2 commenti:

Cocoa and Lavender said...

I really wish we had magical Christmas markets like this in the U.S. Thanks for sharing this - I generally only knew the German Christkindlmarkts, but would love to visit these caves! Buon Natale, Marco! ~ David

Marco Zannin said...

Thanks a lot David and welcome back here! Because of a full time job I could not write many posts,but I'm back too. I'm so used to the German markets that this one was a total discovery also for me too. Tanti auguri di buon Natale e felice anno nuovo anche a te! :-)

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