A Christmas market in a CAVE?! Actually, it’s not just one market, but THREE markets. And it’s not just one cave, but TWO caves! Visiting the Valkenburg Christmas Market is an adventure in and of itself.
Curious what I thought of the caves and the Valkenburg Christmas Market (it may not be what you think)? Read on for my thoughts.
The Important Stuff About the Valkenburg Christmas Market
Before we dive in, here’s what you need to know if you’re going to check it out.
*The content below is info I’ve gathered, along with my own opinions, tips, and suggestions. Due to the current covid situation and rapidly changing restrictions, I urge you to double check opening hours/dates before heading out to the Valkenburg Christmas market.
⫸⫸⫸FIRST AND FOREMOST: Before you leave, check out the Valkenburg Christmas Market page for hours, dates, and current Covid restrictions. (Things can change daily!)
How to Get There
Valkenburg is located about two hours south of Amsterdam, and an hour directly west of Cologne in South Limburg (southeastern tip of the Netherlands; zoom out on map), and is easily accessible either by train or car.
We personally drove because we live near Valkenburg, but if you’re interested in taking the train in, check out their transportation page. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station to the cathedral.
Where to Park
We parked here: Walramplein, 6301 DD Valkenburg, Netherlands. This spot was a 5 minute walk to the caves—through the cutest street—and close to Santa’s Village, too. We paid 5 euro for about 3 hours.
There is a toilet in the back of the Municipal Cave/gemeentegrot). It was technically free, but they were asking for a donation to a children’s charity.
For the Kiddos
We didn’t bring our kids to this particular market, and I’m slightly glad we didn’t. There were cute light-up displays inside the caves, but that’s about all that would’ve held their attention. I know for a fact they would’ve wanted to buy all sorts of trinkets and toys what were out for purchase.
Inside Santa’s Village there was a carrousel, but nothing else specifically kid related.
All About the Mugs
Mugs are a huge deal at markets, am I right? If you’re not familiar, here’s a quick rundown on how the Christmas market mugs work:
When you get a drink at a Christmas market, they typically* come in a festive and unique mug—each market has their own design (and sometimes they’ll have multiple to choose from). You pay a deposit for the mug with your payment for the drink. Then, you get your money back when you return your mug…unless you don’t return it.
The mugs are excellent souvenirs and fun keepsakes to remember your time at the markets.
*Some Christmas markets, mostly in countries outside of Germany (France and Belgium at least), serve their drinks in reusable plastic cups. Some of them will have the town’s name on them, and some of them won’t.
Mugs at the Valkenburg Christmas Market
There was a specific mug for the Valkenburg Christmas market, but it didn’t have a date on it, so I’m not sure if they switch it up every year or if you can find this anytime you visit.
You’ll find their mug inside Santa’s Village at the one and only glühwein hut.
What to Eat at the Valkenburg Christmas Market
Food options were slightly limited since this wasn’t a large market. Inside the Municipal Cave/gemeentegrot) you have to follow your nose to the stroopwafel stand. Your tastebuds may try to deceive you into getting a waffle (they also smell fantastic, but go a bit further for a stroopwafel. Unfortunately, no pic of it…sorry!
There is a little cafe and a stall selling pulled pork (that smelled amazing) inside the cave, but we ate at Santa’s Village.
It wasn’t anything to write home about, but we had fish and frites (fries). There was also a currywurst stand, the delicious sautéed mushrooms (just wasn’t in the mood this time). If we did a do-over we’d eat at one of the many restaurants surrounding Santa’s Village.
What to Buy at the Valkenburg Christmas Market
Cheese! We loved the Dutch cheese stand and salami stands. If you’re looking for Christmas decorations or other home decor, you may find some in the caves as well. The market seemed to lack handmade/unique goods, so if that’s what you’re after, you may be disappointed.
My Thoughts on the Valkenburg Christmas Market
First things first: going to a Christmas market in a cave is pretty darn cool. And, according to their website, it’s the largest underground market in Europe, so that’s extra neat.
With that said…I was slightly underwhelmed with the actual market inside the cave. Since my husband and I were on a solo expedition while the kids were in school, we only had one morning/afternoon to check it out and we only made it to the larger of the two caves (Municipal Cave/gemeentegrot), but there’s also the Velvet Cave(fluweelengrot).
PRO TIP: Watch your step in the cave—it’s not level; there are divots all over the ground!
Why I thought it was underwhelming: I think in non-pandemic years it totally has potential, but there weren’t a lot of vendors inside, and while we did find some good things (Dutch cheese and some delicious salmon), the majority of it was just “stuff” and very manufactured stuff at that—it lacked on the handmade goods.
But the biggest kicker is that you have to pay to go into the caves (8.50 for adults and 5 for kids), which seemed like a lot just for one cave. Honestly, I was glad we didn’t bring the kids and have to pay for them—it would’ve been money down the drain.
The cave itself was cool…but was it worth it?
I’m happy we experienced it and crossed it off our list—if we didn’t go I’d be wondering about what it was really like.
While I can’t speak to the other cave, I’m assuming it’s much like the one we saw.
Since we had a little time to spare after the cave, we also checked out Santa’s Village—a free (woohoo) little area with some of the classic wooden stalls for vendors. There weren’t many stalls (truly, it was very small), but we did pick up some treats for family back home.
I wish the whole thing just had more…more vendors…more food…more of that awesome Christmas magic.
Have you been to the Valkenburg Christmas Market? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it…and what you got to eat and drink!