Valkenburg, Netherlands is a little town that boasts castle ruins with a large system of caves that run under it. These caves become Christmas Markets during the holiday season. We went right at opening time. It was crowded and full of vendors. There were several unique stands, including a person hand carving and painting clay(?) Christmas village buildings.
Of course there were wine, meat, and cheese vendors as well…
And fun little scenes to break up the space.
There was even a small restaurant area in the caves. The overall feeling of walking through was just amazing. People from all over the world were strolling through. So many languages can be heard in those painted tunnels. Painted? Yes! The inside walls of the caves had paintings like this all around:
Make sure you go in the Velvet Cave as well as the Municiple Cave! If you go on a day when the Christmas Parade is taking place, that’s even better!
One thing we have encountered a few times but found especially strange here is that all restaurants close from 2pm-5pm. Normally, this would be fine. However, for a highly touristed area such as this, we expected at least a couple of restaurants to be open to receive customers. We ended up finding a lovely Greek restaurant that opened its doors to us. After our late lunch, we wandered around the city for a bit, opting out of going to the castle.
Then we discovered Magic Sand. In the Wilhelmina Caves is the amazing exhibit of sand sculptures. These life-size sand sculptures capture a variety of holiday scenes, culminating in a Nativity journey scene. I thought the entire exhibit was great, but when we walked into the Nativity room, I was blown away. The full sculpture of Bethlehem on a hill with the Nativity journey wrapping around it was entrancing.
Here is a brief promotional video I found.
I loved Magic Sand and if you have been there, I encourage your comments!