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Places Around Maastricht: Grotten Zonneburg

Type of Place: Cave Tour
Location: Near the Buitengoed Slavante, Slavante 1, Maastricht. Reachable by bike, car, bus, boat, and foot.

Grotten Zonneburg is the larger of the two marl caves (actually mines) in St. Pietersburg that you can tour with a guide and is one of my favorite places in Maastricht. We’ve visited it three times (twice this summer) and since it offers an English language tour more frequently than Grotten Noord I’m sure I’ll experience it again. The Zonneburg tour usually focuses on the history of the caves creation, WWII, and mushroom production. For stories about the invasion of Napoleon, Sint Peiters fort, and aquatic dinosaurs, try Grotten Noord which also offers an excellent touring experience (and one closer to Maastricht).

Guide at Zonneburg

Guide at Zonneburg

After having been through the caves multiple times I think what really draws me to the experience is the feeling of connecting a little to the people of Maastricht through history. There is something very intimate about descending into a labyrinth of tunnels continuously dug for hundreds of years by local hands.
The first tunnels were dug out in Roman times to make use of this pervasive building material. Later, the St. Jans church on the Vrijhof (and many other buildings besides) was built of marl from these very mines. People have hidden, been born, married, grown food, and stored wine in these spaces. No doubt some have died. In a sense, your tour guide is giving you a little history of Maastricht when he or she gives you the history of the caves themselves. All to the light of a few flickering gas lanterns several tens of meters below the surface.
You can learn more about Grotten Zonneburg through their website (warning: Flash) and the liberal use of Google Translate. English language tours are offered 7 days a week at 1:50 PM from July 5th to September 6th. During the months that Zonneburg isn’t offering English tours, Grotten Noord will be. The entrance fee is 4,90 for adults and 3,90 for children.

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