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 things to do and see there: from historical places to industrial heritage sites, to beautiful nature and 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 I have collected 17 amazing things you can do in Valkenburg.
- 1 Where is Valkenburg?
- 2 How to get from Maastricht to Valkenburg?
- 3 Things to do in Valkenburg
- 3.1 1. Tour the Gemeentegrot (Municipal Cave)
- 3.2 2. Explore the Fluwelengrot (Velvet Cave)
- 3.3 3. See the Night Watch at MergelRijk
- 3.4 4. Visit the Coal Mine
- 3.5 5. See the Roman Catacombs
- 3.6 6. Explore the Castle Ruins
- 3.7 7. Discover the famous city gates
- 3.8 8. Spot the city castle Den Halder
- 3.9 9. Take the chairlift to the top of the hill
- 3.10 10. Climb the Wilhelminatoren (Wilhelmina Tower)
- 3.11 11. Have fun on top of the Hensberg
- 3.12 12. Indulge in wellness and spa at Thermae 2000
- 3.13 13. Shop at the little boutiques
- 3.14 14. Get a bite or a drink in the Old Town
- 3.15 15. Have some fun at the themed parks
- 3.16 16. Go on castle hunting
- 3.17 17. Spot the vintage mural ads
- 4 Where to stay in Valkenburg?
But first things first…
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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 usual 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 big city above.
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. Thus it makes it easier to reach the place from anywhere by public transport as there are good connections to Maastricht.
Wherever you are in the Netherlands, you can check the public transportation options from this website. Just click on the button bellow:
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: Staying in Maastricht and looking for more day trips? Read my post about the best day trips from Maastricht.
Things to do in Valkenburg
Valkenburg is full of activities and things to do and places to see both above and under the ground. I haven’t personally been to a place that has 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 C (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 walk or take the train, but I highly recommend to take a guided tour and hear all the stories this former quarry has to tell.
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 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 attraction in Valkenburg. It’s another 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. For the opening times, check here. Online tickets for adults cost 13.25 EUR and at place – 14.50 EUR, and for kids (4 – 17 yoa) respectively 10.20 EUR and 11.50 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 70s, 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.
Check the website of the Coal Mine for the opening times. Admission tickets for adults are 11 EUR, and for kids (5 – 12 yoa) – 8 EUR. There are also various combination tickets with other attractions like the MergelRijk and the Valkenier Theme Park. 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) and the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus (on Via Appia).
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.
Read more: I found this extensive article about the Roman Catacombs Museum on the internet, so if you are interested about the catacombs and how they were recreated, it’s a very good read.
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.
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 Geulport. 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, but there’s one place where you can take a chairlift and it’s in Valkenburg! Well, it’s not really an exciting trip where your blood will freeze, but the mere fact that this the only chairlift in the country makes it worth taking it. Once on top of the hill (Heunsberg) there is a plenty of other activities that you can do there. Not to mention this amazing view to Valkenburg from the top of the hill.
Online tickets for adults cost 5 EUR and at place – 5.50 EUR. Kids (4-11 yoa) pay 3 EUR. It is a return ticket, but once on top of the hill, you will still have to pay for the other activities.
10. Climb the Wilhelminatoren (Wilhelmina Tower)
This is another 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 (not that you’ll notice it’s Belgium). There is also a restaurant at the tower, which offers lovely view to the city and the hills.
A ticket to the top of the tower costs 2 EUR, kids aged 4-11 pay 1 EUR.
Note: Due to the corona safety measures, the Wilhelminatoren cannot be visited as of the summer of 2020. Check out the website of AGoGo Valkenburg for more info.
Tip: If you love panorama views from the top of an observation tower, you should climb the Boudewijn Tower at the Drielandenpunt (Three-country point) near Vaals. Then you can see for sure Aachen. Vaals is some 20 km away from Valkenburg.
11. Have fun on top of the Hensberg
Once on top of the hill there are lots of fun activities to do. There is a toboggan with 2 tracks. It was super fun to do it, although I am not very much of an adrenaline seeker. 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 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!
Note: There’s a special etiquette when visiting spas in the Netherlands. Check out the website of the resort about what is allowed and what not, so that you are not surprised unpleasantly.
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 try 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), Brand (brewed in Wijlre – 7,5 km), and Gulpener – my favorite one (brewed in Gulpen – 9,5 km).
15. Have some fun at the themed parks
This will be fun, if you are visiting Valkenburg with kids. The themed parks there are not of the scale of Efteling or Eurodisney, but they are fun enough for kids up to 14-15 years of age. One of the theme parks is De Valkenier and the other one is Fairy-tale Forest (Sprookjesbos). The second one is suitable for younger children.
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.
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 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?
As Valkenburg is pretty touristy, the choice of places to stay is mildly put, large. You can chose from cute B&Bs, rural farmhouses, campings, posh hotels, family boutique hotels, to 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.
- Parkhotel Valkenburg – large hotel with indoor swimming pool, sauna and a beautiful terrace, just outside of the historical town centre.
- 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
- 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