A Visit to a Christmas Market in a Cave in Valkenburg, Netherlands

21 Dec

I love festivals and everything associated with them – from the decorations & lighting, to the traditions followed, to the gifts exchanged and most importantly to all the very tasty food. While Diwali is a favorite time to be home in India, being in a place to which a festival is local, is a definite “cherry on top” for any trip. Last year I was in Netherlands in mid-November and as luck would have it, my friends P & J told me that the first Christmas market was opening in Valkenburg, Netherlands that weekend. Apart from being the first Christmas market to open, this market is truly unique as it is held inside a cave.

Very many Santas at the Christmas market, Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Valkenburg is a city located in the province of Limburg, in the south of the Netherlands and quite close to Maastricht. It is known as the Dutch city of Christmas and holds many festive events, markets and other activities from the middle of November until early January. There are many caves here, but two caves host Christmas markets – the Gemeentegrot (or the “Municipal Cave”) and the Fluweelengrot (or the “Velvet Cave”). Although these are called caves, they are not natural caves but old quarries that have been mined since Roman times.

Christmas Market in a cave, Valkenburg, The Netherlands

I was super excited for my first ever Christmas market and read that the Gemeentegrot cave market is said to be the oldest, largest and most visited underground Christmas market in Europe. Super excited (i.e. me) we drove to Valkenberg and once parked, walked through a beautifully decorated city towards the market. Christmas decorations and signage were everywhere and we could feel the festive cheer in the air.

Entrance to the Gemeentegrot Christmas market, Valkenburg, The Netherlands

There was an entry ticket which we bought at the entrance. We had reached around the time the market had opened which avoided the crowd, though P told me that they limit the number of people in the cave at any point in time resulting in waiting, a crowded entrance and at times queues lasting an hour long.

Christmas decorations, Christmas market, Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Christmas decorations, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

We passed the control point and entered the cave market. The entire cave was beautifully lit up with Christmas decorations everywhere. The brown yellow walls and high ceilings in the passage coupled with fairy lights helped create a surreal / mystic atmosphere of the market.

Christmas decorations, Christmas market, Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Even though it was a cave, it was quite spacious with very high ceilings, festive decorations and stalls that form a part of Christmas market. There were signages everywhere with directions to walk and we walked through the market admiring the decorations, sampling the tasters in food stalls and picking small gift items from gift stalls.  

Notice the high ceiling of the cave, Christmas Market, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

Few walls showcased the many charcoal mural paintings and sculptures providing a glimpse into the history and past usage of these caves.  

Charcoal paintings in the cave, Christmas Market, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

Charcoal paintings in the cave, Christmas Market, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

Sculptures and decorations in the cave, Christmas Market, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

Amongst loads of toys and gifts around, I especially loved the Santa figurines and decorations and was quite tempted to buy a few of them to bring back home with me.

There were a few food options inside but we didn’t eat much. Also most importantly there were toilets inside too.

My purchase from the Christmas Market, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

We spent a couple of hours exploring the caves and then exited and walked around the open markets in the city. These were also beautifully decorated and I am sure made quite a sight lit up at night. We had a quick lunch here and then started our drive back home to Vaals.

Christmas decorations, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

Overall I loved my visit to this Christmas market and it being in a cave just added to the entire experience. I hope to someday return to Europe and explore all of its other famous and unique markets too. A big thanks to my awesome hosts P, J, M and N for always taking me to experience Europe in such unique ways.  

Christmas decorations, Valkenberg, The Netherlands

Tips for the trip –

1. There is a limit on how many people are allowed inside the caves at any point in time, however, it’s possible to skip the line by buying tickets online.

2. If possible, do try and visit this market first thing in the morning to avoid crowds and long queues.

3. There are loads of Christmas activities organized in Valkenberg around this time such as festive parades, fresh food stalls, and other Christmas themed attractions. Check the schedule of these activities and attend accordingly.

4. There are many other things to see and do around – the castle ruins, the oldest train station in the Netherlands, the other caves, the reconstructed city gates and defensive moat, churches, a small fairytale amusement park and buildings designed by famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers (who also designed the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Amsterdam Central Station). The caves also have guided tours where you can view charcoal drawings, sculptures and learn about the history of their use.

25 Responses to “A Visit to a Christmas Market in a Cave in Valkenburg, Netherlands”

  1. arv! December 21, 2019 at 22:40 #

    Cool. Never heard of this city.

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 22, 2019 at 22:14 #

      yah.. Neither had I but its very popular with locals as a tourist destination..

      Like

      • arv! December 24, 2019 at 07:17 #

        Great.

        Like

  2. NicholeS December 22, 2019 at 04:04 #

    what a fascinating place! Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    Like

  3. Govardhan December 23, 2019 at 10:50 #

    Reblogged this on Vijayagiri views.

    Like

  4. runawaywidow December 23, 2019 at 12:16 #

    Very interesting and I enjoyed your photos. Would love to visit one day

    Like

  5. Maverick December 27, 2019 at 13:43 #

    True spirit of xmas 🙂

    Like

  6. adionmoncur December 27, 2019 at 18:36 #

    This place took Christmas holiday very seriously! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Epi B December 30, 2019 at 02:36 #

    Wow, I’ve lived intjenetherla ds for most of my life but I did not know about the Valkenburg Xmas market!

    Like

  8. Laura December 30, 2019 at 08:40 #

    Looks like a very festive place to visit and so unique

    Like

  9. ashok December 30, 2019 at 13:12 #

    So beautiful

    Like

  10. Chris Karas January 2, 2020 at 00:39 #

    Valkenburg sounds as awesome as the market. I love the fact that the market is set in old Roman mines. Adds some serious mystique to such a festival! I love your post!

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 2, 2020 at 11:16 #

      Hi, Thank you for visiting my blog and the kind words.. The Christmas market was definitely unique and fun and I hope to further explore the city in summers someday 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. travelpictorium January 2, 2020 at 18:24 #

    This place looks amazing!

    Like

  12. thegenxtravels January 2, 2020 at 22:35 #

    This looks so much fun! Such an interesting place!

    Like

  13. Ace Vision Treks & Tours (P.) LTD January 10, 2020 at 19:56 #

    Hello
    It’s Amazing Pictures with Post,Thank you for Shearing.
    https://www.acevisionnepal.com/

    Like

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