Valkenburg aan de Geul (Limburgish: Valkeberg aan de Geul) is a municipality in the south of the Dutch province of Limburg. The name of the municipality refers to the capital of Valkenburg and the river Geul, which more or less flows through the municipality from east to west. The municipality has 16,399 inhabitants (1 August 2020, source: CBS) and has an area of 3,690 hectares.
Topography and demographics
Villages, hamlets and hamlets
The municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul comprises the town of Valkenburg, 6 villages, 8 hamlets (<500 inhabitants) and 7 hamlets (<100 inhabitants).
The most important neighborhoods in the municipality are: Strucht (Sjtröch), Keutenberg (Keuteberg), Heerstraat (Hièrsjtraot), Engwegen (Ingwege), Sint Gerlach (Sint-Gerlach), Vroenhof (Vroenhof) and Geulhem (Geulem).
The municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul works together in various areas with the municipality of Maastricht and the four other Heuvelland municipalities (Meerssen, Eijsden-Margraten, Gulpen-Wittem and Vaals).
Like many municipalities in Dutch South Limburg, Valkenburg aan de Geul has also had to deal with aging and population decline since the mid-1990s. Consequences of this include increasing spending on health care, empty schools and less need for housing. In 2013, Statistics Netherlands expected a decline in the population of the municipality by 854 people in the period up to 2040 (minus 5.1%). This shrinkage is smaller than previously predicted.
The municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul was established during the municipal reorganization of January 1, 1982. On that date, the hitherto independent municipalities of Valkenburg-Houthem and Berg en Terblijt were merged. In addition, various border corrections took place with the neighboring municipalities of Wijlre, Hulsberg and Margraten (all three have now also been discontinued).
Valkenburg aan de Geul is a tourist municipality. Since the end of the 19th century, tourism has played an important role in the Valkenburg economy. The number of hotels, restaurants, cafes, holiday parks and camping sites is above average. The total hotel capacity in the municipality is approximately 4,370 beds; although it has been declining for years. The number of campsites has also fallen (9 in 2013); the number of holiday homes, on the other hand, has risen sharply since 2000 (approximately 630). In 2012, 1,136,969 overnight stays were booked in hotels, guesthouses, B & Bs, holiday apartments, recreation bungalows and camping areas in the municipality. The number of day trippers, especially in the summer months and around Christmas, is many times that. Hotel Schaepkens van St. Fijt is one of the oldest hotels in the municipality.
After the peak of mass tourism in the 1970s and the subsequent decline in visitor numbers, the municipal council decided to focus on so-called wellness tourism from the 1990s. The reason for this was the arrival of Thermae 2000 in 1989. Plans were developed with the municipality of Maastricht for a joint city of wellness. In keeping with that policy, the construction of the spa park on the Cauberg, the construction of a Kneipp spa bath in Château St. Gerlach, the establishment of a kidney dialysis center in the former Hotel Prinses Juliana, the conversion of the former monastery on the Cauberg into a luxury care home "Domaine Cauberg" and plans for a large wellness hotel with conference facilities in the former Jesuit monastery ("Boslust") with a new dependance to be built in the center ("Croix de Bourgogne").
The main tourist attractions have remained the same for a century: the nature around Valkenburg, the protected cityscape and a large number of national monuments in the historic town itself, the many monuments in the other cores, including ten castles, a few water mills and various typical Limburg square farms , a number of marl caves and other tourist attractions (especially in Valkenburg-Center), and the many activities that traditionally have a great attraction for visitors (including carnival, processions, fairs, flea markets, outdoor performances and sports events). Since the 1990s, activities during the Christmas period, such as Christmas markets in the marl caves, have resulted in an increase in visitor numbers. To make the center more attractive all year round, the Geulkades will be illuminated according to a lighting plan by the German light artist Ingo Maurer.
Hiking and other forms of nature experience have been one of the pillars of tourism in Valkenburg since the middle of the 19th century. There are several important nature reserves in the municipality, including the Cauberg, the Heunsberg, the Geulhemmerberg, the Sousberg, the Goudsberg, the Gerendal, the Sint-Jansbosch, the Biebosch, the Schaelsbergerbos and the Ravensbosch. Many of these areas are part of the Geuldal Natura 2000 area. In addition, Valkenburg has several parks, including the Geulpark, the Rock Park and the Spa Park.
Important for tourism in Valkenburg are the three protected city and village views within the municipality: the government-protected face Valkenburg, the government-protected face of Oud Valkenburg and the government-protected face of Sint Gerlach. In recent plans, the municipality aims to emphasize the historic character of Valkenburg more. Part of this is the redesign of the central streets, the restoration and making the Castle Ruin more accessible (both completed in 2013), the restoration of the two city gates (Berkelpoort and Grendelpoort), the reconstruction of the third city gate (Geulpoort) that has disappeared and the bringing back part of the city canal in Den Halderpark. There are also a large number of national monuments in other parts of the municipality. Special is the 'ribbon' of castles in the Geul valley. From east to west: Genhoes Castle, Schaloen Castle, East Castle, Den Halder Castle, St. Gerlach Castle and Geulzicht Castle.
Among the many attractions in the municipality can be mentioned: the marl caves (including Municipal Cave, Velvet Cave, Roman Catacombs, Coal Mine Valkenburg, Sibbergroeve, Rock houses of Geulhem and Geulhemmergroeve), the Wilhelmina Tower and the cable car, the Kuurpark (with Thermae 2000 and Holland Casino ), the amusement park De Valkenier and the Fairytale Forest Valkenburg.