This article was originally published at Maastricht Region: to Live.
As the weather gets slowly warmer, I encourage you to share in an old tradition and go explore the caves of Maastricht. You’ll be able to keep cool, learn a bit of history, and view a variety of remarkable graffiti and art dating back generations. If you’re afraid of the dark, don’t forget to bring your own flashlight. It’s dark.
Grotten Zonneburg was the first cave I visited in Maastricht, and it remains my personal favorite. Located just outside the city by Buitengoed Slavante, Slavante 1 on St. Pietersburg, Zonneburg is actually a cavernous mine where people have been digging the local marl stone since the Roman Empire. As time and technology wore on, people were able to dig deeper and in more layers, resulting in the twisty and confusing space you can now visit. The Zonneburg cave has also been used for growing mushrooms and as a hiding place from invading armies all the way up to World War II. The generations of graffiti and art alone is worth the visit. You can join a guided tour in English from July 2nd until September 4th at 1.50 pm. Tours are also available in Dutch and German.
Like Zonneburg, Grotten Noord is a marl cave dug out over generations. In fact, it is all part of the same network of caverns, although the two areas are blocked from each other today. Located by café Chalet Bergrust, Luikerweg 71, Noord is a slightly smaller cave, but the tour offers plenty of different information. With this tour you can learn more about the dinosaur fossils that have been discovered in Maastricht over the years. And you can see where Napoleon’s men attempted (and failed) to blow up the St. Pietersburg Fort. Tours for Grotten Noord can be had in English from April 30th – July 1st, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm; June 2nd, 11th-13th at 2 pm; and September 5th – October 30th, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Again Dutch and German tours are offered as well.
The Kazematten is a different kind of cave. Instead of an elaborate mining shaft, it is a network of defensible tunnels running beneath Maastricht that were once considered vital to the protection of the city. During sieges, the tunnels could be used to surprise the enemy or to hide civilians. After World War II, a small fallout shelter was built in the kazematten in order to protect some citizens against a potential nuclear war. The remains of the shelter can still be seen. Regular Kazematten tours are in Dutch only, but you can arrange for an English language group tour.
Want more information about these fun, underground experiences? Check out Maastricht Underground.