The Maastricht Caves

November 17, 2011 by

Best Of Lists, Day Trips

One of the modern cave paintings in the Maastricht Caves
- photo courtesy of Miss Tess Macher via Flickr

I have to admit that due to my well-developed claustrophobia visiting caves is not high on my list of things to do. Especially not caves as intricate and deep as the Maastricht Caves. Located under Saint Pieterberg Hill and stretching under the city, there are over 20,000 passageways creating this labyrinth of tunnelling dug by centuries of miners of marl, a lime stone for building houses. Over the years the caves were used by local residents to shelter during various sieges and from the bombings of World War II. The ceilings of the caves are high (about  30-60 feet/10-20 metres), and there’s even a makeshift church dating from World War II.

I’m reliable informed that the caves are well-worth visiting and that one of the best things about them is the wall painting – and even some wall writings – done by centuries of miners and others. There’s a dinosaur mural and one of dragons – both more products of the imagination than life I’m guessing. There are many entrances to the caves dotted around the city but all are locked as it’s easy to get lost down there in the pitch dark. The tourist entry is along the river and you can catch a ferry down to it. It’s cold underground so take a sweater as the guided tours last about an hour. There are no tours of the caves during winter because of bats. Not because they’ll scare us but because we’ll scare them when they’re sheltering from the winter cold; bats are a protected species in the Netherlands. So, Maastricht cave touring is for the summer months: April to end of October. Just before Christmas there’s a special market set up inside the caves but don’t expect anything too special: the usual souvenirs.

-Philippa Burne

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