Valkenburg Castle – The Hilltop Marvel of the Netherlands

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The only castle in the Netherlands situated atop a hill, Valkenburg Castle is an excellent place for site-seeing while taking a dive into an immersive history lesson about the country’s rich heritage. Dating all the way back to the 12th century and having survived all sorts of wars and combats, the ruins of this castle are most definitely a sight to behold. Here’s all you need to know about it:

Valkenburg Castle is the only castle located on top of a hill in the Netherlands.

The remaining stub of the tower at Valkenburg Castle.
The remains of the Gothic chapel at Valkenburg. Attribution 3.0, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Early History

Origins (12th-14th Centuries)

The earliest records of this castle date back to 1115, when Gozewijn I, Lord of Valkenburg constructed fortified structures at the location. These original structures stood until the year 1122, when the army of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, laid siege and eventually demolished the castle. In later centuries, the castle was reconstructed but once again underwent destruction as a result of the siege, this time by John III, Duke of Brabant. Today we can see the ruins of the version of the castle which was constructed in the 14th century.

The view from inside Valkenburg Castle.
The view from inside Valkenburg Castle. Valkenburg castle ruins flickr photo by mvanwassenhove shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

War Wreckage (14th-17th Centuries)

Not having the necessary reinforcements to withstand war, Valkenburg suffered great destruction in the combat between Netherlands and Spain. Its archaic structure could not bear heavy-duty cannons and weaponry, resulting in the defensive walls becoming extremely worn down and the magnanimous towers reduced to rubble. An attempt to repair the castle was made by the Dutch, but the ongoing wars against the Spaniards and the French meant that the efforts of renovation were largely unsuccessful.
The fortress was also harmed in the Franco-Dutch War of 1672 when it suffered at the hands of King-Stadtholder Willem III’s army.

Stairs inside Valkenburg Castle.
Stairs inside Valkenburg Castle. Valkenburg castle ruins flickr photo by mvanwassenhove shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

18th century onwards

After the Franco-Dutch war, the ruins of the castle were exploited as a source of mineral stones and materials by the local people. In 1795, the ruins were taken over by Napoleon’s French Army. Two years after the takeover, they sold the site to the Count of Hoen of Neufchateau, Maximilian. 

The ruins remained under the ownership of the Lords of Schaloen up until the year 1919 when they were purchased by the Valkenburg Catacomb Foundation. Although the site was already used as a tourist attraction since 1863, after officially becoming the property of the Valkenburg Castle Foundation in 1924, the castle formally began welcoming public tourists.

Valkenburg Castle overlooking its eponymoys town in 1883.
Valkenburg Castle overlooking its eponymoys town in 1883. Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

In an interesting discovery in 1937, restoration workers unraveled secret underground passages built into the rock underneath the fortress. These passages were used by knights in the medieval ages in order to escape and breakout during sieges. The rock underneath the castle had a rich mineral composition, with large quantities of marl which have been mined throughout history. 

A far-away look at the ruins of Valkenburg Castle.
A far-away look at the ruins of Valkenburg Castle. Romaine, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The secret passages led to a cave known as the Velvet Cave, which came into being as a result of marl mining from the rick. A maze of passages exists inside the rock as a consequence of centuries of marl mining. A chapel was also discovered underneath, which was used while the French had occupied the territory. The Velvet Cave also played a role as a retreat for the people of Valkenburg during September 1944 while a war was going on between the American and German troops.

Some part of the Valkenburg Castle ruins,
Some part of the Valkenburg Castle ruins, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The site is an excellent tourism spot with the unique characteristic of being the solely elevated castle in the Netherlands. Currently, it can be visited by the public for a small charge. The castle is currently owned by Foundation Velvet Caves and Castle Ruins Valkenburg.

Interesting Valkenburg Castle Facts

  • Valkenburg Castle is the only castle located on top of a hill in the Netherlands.
  • From atop the hill where Valkenburg Castle stands tall, you can get a view of the province of Limburg.
  • A highly sought-after source of marl, the castle ground has been mined for the past 2000 years.

Visiting Valkenburg Castle – Tips and Tricks

The Netherlands are a delightful country to visit in their own right, but planning a visit to Valkenburg Castle will certainly make your trip richer. Here’s all you need to know about getting there.

Visiting tourist at Valkenburg.
Visiting tourist at Valkenburg. Valkenburg castle ruins flickr photo by mvanwassenhove shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

How to get to Valkenburg Castle?

From Amsterdam, you can get to Valkenburg Castle by three means: you can take the train, board the night bus, or go via car. The most recommended and fastest means of getting to the castle is via train. You can board the train at Amsterdam Central and get off at Valkenburg after a 2 hour & 45-minute journey. From the train station, the castle is a 13-minute walk. The journey will cost you between €27-€53 ($30-$60 USD).

By night bus, the journey would take you about 3 hours and 40 minutes. You can board the bus from Amsterdam Sloterdijk, transfer at Maastricht, and finally get off at Valkenburg–from where the castle is a 5-minute walk. The journey will cost you around €18 ($20 USD).

By car, the journey will take you 2 hours and 30 minutes. The approximate fuel cost for the journey will be between €27-€44 ($30-$50 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Ticket pricing for individuals over the age of 12 years is €9 ($10 USD), while for those between 4 and 11 years of age it is €7 ($8 USD). Kids under 4 can get in for free. You can book e-tickets online prior to your visit. 

The castle is open every day from 10:30 AM to 16:30 PM.

Valkenburg Castle scenic view.
Valkenburg Castle scenic view. Kleon3, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

The site would take you around 3 hours to tour, and you may want to stick around a little longer to have a picnic on the hills and sightsee. 

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Plan your stay at the Thermae 2000 or Château St. Gerlach for a luxurious residence with breathtaking sceneries. 
  • Keep an eye out for the open-air theatre during summertime to enjoy a night of music and entertainment while you’re in the area. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes to be able to comfortably hike on the hill.

Discover more amazing castles in Netherlands, we’ve complied a list for you!

Quick Video Tour of The Main Valkenburg Castle Areas

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Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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