One of our very first outingswe did when we moved to Germany was to the Velvet Caves in Valkenburg, Netherlands. Only afterwards did we find out that inside the caves, every Christmas, was a market. How awesome!?!?! Last year we didn’t make it, so this year I made sure we got it asap. Friday the kids had no school, so my hubby took the day off as well. We decided, why not head to Valkenburg on a Friday when the crowd is less?! So we did.
1:00 in the afternoon and parking was already terrible. We drove up the hill to a coal mine where they had parking. 4€ for the day parking, so really good compared to what it could have been. It was about a 5 minute walk downhill (going back up with sprained ankle pain at the end – not as easy..). The entrance to the caves is the same price as a normal day – 7€ for adults, 5€ for kids 4 and up. Waiting in line to go in, it looked like people who bought their tickets online in advance had trouble validating the ticket. They needed to go inside and wait in line, show the cashier their online ticket, and get a new printout – kind of defeats the purpose of online, in advance purchasing…
This time around the caves are all lit up so you can see (last time the entire tour was pretty much in the dark, which my kids hated). I was actually quite impressed by the Christmas decor. Every little nook and cranny they could find, had some sort of decorations, whether a big, or small display. A full creche scene was there, which was beautiful! Christmas penguins, Christmas polar bears, decorated trees and lights everywhere. First impression as soon as you walk in is excitement.
First vendor we get stopped by is a “as seen on tv” type of sewing machine. Cute little item, but isn’t this supposed to be a CHRISTMAS market?? Keep walking a little, and there are some decorations and ornaments, but then there’s a stand with cell phone cases, and ipod holders, etc. Then another with kids Paw Patrol and Elsa backpacks and colouring books and toys. Turn across and there are t-shirts with groups and silly sayings on it. Again, isn’t this supposed to be for CHRISTMAS??
We found a few ornament places, and a couple small decoration booths, but to tell you the truth, almost everything was a “made in China” stall – very very commercialized. I’ve been to a lot of markets where almost everything is something hand-made – here was not! Of course all markets have a little of something commercial, but here, it was a little excessive. I was a little disappointed. I think my hopes were quite high to be very Christmasy, and hopes were shot down quickly.
There is a small cafe in the middle, where you can buy drinks and some small cakes and pastries, but since they didn’t have any personalised cave mugs, we opted out. Really, what I wanted was a Valkenburg Caves Christmas mug..
All in all, other than the decorations giving a little holiday spirit, Velvet Caves is not worth the admission fee… If anyone decides to go, bring proper winter attire – inside caves is actually quite chilly, especially as you get firther underground more in the middle of the caves you get (probably why the cafe is right in the middle, to warm you up..). I’m glad we came, I would have wondered what it was like all the time if I didn’t go, but I don’t need to go back..
On a side note, once leaving the caves, go walk through the town. There is an outside market with Christmas vendors, and typical market food. I found my mug, my kids found their chips on a stick they have veen begging to find, and we took pictures in front of a giant tree. Here is where we had the most fun!!!