The Christmas season in the Netherlands brings along a lot of experiences that can help expats, highly skilled migrants, and international students feel immersed in Dutch traditions.

If this your first year spending the holiday season in the Netherlands, get ready for a month filled with markets, light shows, ice-skating, and a ton of delicious oliebollen with Glühwein.

To kick-off our holiday round-up, we are starting with the most popular Christmas markets in the Netherlands, which are all in Valkenburg (Limburg).
So, grab fellow expats and some gloves and get ready to discover how the Dutch get into the holiday spirit!

Discover Christmas City

The most distinctive of all the Christmas markets you can visit in the Netherlands has to be the varying Christmas markets in Valkenburg.

Running until December 31st, Valkenburg and their annual Christmas markets cannot be missed. In fact, the Dutch refer to Valkenburg as “Kerststad” which translates to Christmas city.

From November until early January, the city hosts numerous Christmas-themed events that have earned it the “Kerststad” moniker throughout the Netherlands. The most notable events remain their Christmas markets.

Visitors can experience endless cozy stalls, tents, drinks, and bites both above and underground. The Christmas markets are both on the streets of Valkenburg but also in the historic underground caves of Valkenburg which become illuminated with Christmas lights and music.

Above ground, in the centre of the town, you will find Santa’s Village.

Every year, Santa’s Village brings together vendors in wooden chalets selling all kinds of Christmas gifts and delicious food. Plus, you can take pictures next to the Valkenburg Christmas tree at the heart of Santa’s Village.

Christmas Market Municipal Cave

While aboveground Valkenburg does look like a Christmas postcard, most visitors travel to Valkenburg for the underground Christmas experience.

Called the largest underground Christmas market in Europe, the Christmas Market Municipal Cave delivers a special atmosphere as it is set up through the corridors of a real marl cave. 

Decked out with Christmas lights and decorations, enjoy numerous stalls of unique vendors selling one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts, stalls with traditional Christmas sweets, and marvel at the endless corridors of the cave.

If you are visiting the Municipal Cave Christmas Market, you can find the entrance at the foot of the famous Cauberg hill.

But, make sure you purchase tickets beforehand as entry must be booked in advance.

Get your entry tickets and learn more about how to get to the market, opening hours, and more.

Velvet Cave Market

Also, in Valkenburg you can visit the Velvet Cave Christmas Market.

Not only do you get to enjoy stalls of vendors with gifts and food, but you get to immerse yourself in history. Running in a labyrinth under the castle ruins of Valkenburg, the Velvet Cave dates from the 11th or 12th century.

As you walk through the corridors you can see murals, inscriptions, and sculptures on the soft marlstone walls. You can also visit a chapel dating from the French period (18th century).

Like the Christmas Market Municipal Cave, you need to book your tickets for the Velvet Cave Christmas Market in advance.

Tickets are only available online. You can purchase them here and plan your visit.

More Holiday Fun in Valkenburg

Throughout the holiday season, Valkenburg also hosts other fun and family-friendly events. Through January 7th ride a cable car to the largest Christmas tree in Limburg, the Wilhelmina Tower.

You can also experience the marl tunnels of the Wilhelmina Cave while enjoying a Christmas story with the most beautiful nativity scene in Europe as the backdrop.

Valkenburg also has a fairytale Christmas parade that runs through the old town twice a week. The parade has a beautiful light procession, decked-out Christmas floats, and dancers in holiday attire. The parade runs every Wednesday and Saturday. 

At All About Expats we know it can be hard to celebrate holidays far from home. We hope that by sharing Christmas-themed events in the Netherlands you will find some cheer and discover how the Dutch celebrate the holiday season.

Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and visit our expat blog for more holiday events and rounds-ups.