Maastricht Underground: Taste the Adventure with an impressive History

November 07, 2017

I was not really excited about these caves when I heard about them first. Thought, after all they are man-made and "just another" attraction to fool the tourists. But after visiting the caves, my view has completely changed, I'm so impressed!

Whoever complains about our 9-5 job, should visit these caves to realize the definition of hard work. At a freezing cold temperature combined with a nasty 98% humidity, the people of Maastricht have sawn-off more than 200 kilometers long underground marl-stones to build this defense system.

A short history behind the caves:
These mountains of Marlstones (sort of/like limestones) were formed from the accumulation of bones and shells of animals deposited at the bottom of the then sea. (It’s not hard to believe that this portion of Netherlands was a sea once, Isn’t it?).

Romans, during their era in the Netherlands (50 years Before Christ) materialized the limestones as a building / construction substance. Though limestones are very soft in nature, they get extra-strong when let them dry or heat. That was the start of these caves!

They took away tons and tons of limestones from these mountains for construction of houses, churches, safety walls and towers. We can still see many houses in the Vrijthof Square (the center of Maastricht) constructed with limestones. Continuous evacuation of stones started making caves / tunnels underground.

Then, in the late 17th century when this region has become a favorite of all the invaders, people of Maastricht started used these caves as their temporary hiding station. With a fertile delta created by river “Mass”, this region was always on demand; Maastricht city was invaded 21-times by different empires and dynasties; and every time these caves provided safe shelters to the local people.

People extended the tunnels to move from Netherlands to the Belgium region underground, and vice-versa. We can still see some writings and paintings from the 17th century inside the walls of the caves. They made not only mandates like toilets and cooking ovens inside, but also built a deep well for water inside the caves.

These tunnels were extended to about 14-kilometer-long during the 18th century, so that I could house up to 25,000 refugees. The caves underneath the Saint Pietersburg Mountain made a critical contribution during the World War-II. It’s known that as much as 45,000 people were living inside these tunnels for about 10 days.

Then there came ENCI (Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie) translated as the “First Dutch Cement Industry) who made good use of these limestone caves and extended them to a maze of 20,000 tunnels and to a distance of 230-kilometer long.

Back To the Present 😃:
In the early year-2000 period, ENCI stopped excavating further, since all the usable stone layers were run out. But already a large portion of the corridors got demolished because of the dynamites used during stone excavation. We see only about 80 kilometers long corridors are existing today. Around 2006 period, the Dutch national art treasures took over these caves and started allowing tours inside these caves.

Above is the original tunnel system found inside the caves. Heard that this was drawn in the 1940’s. Everything on the left of the red line has disappeared and, who knows, some of it may have been used for the construction of your home (wherever you’re in the world; ENCI was the main supplier of cement for the whole world during that period!).

Tourists can get-in to these caves through 3 entry points: Fort St. Pieter, the North Caves, the Zonneberg Caves and the Casemates. You see those entrances marked in the above maps as well. We entered through the St. Peter's Fort. The blue line on the right of the above map is roughly the path we followed during our guided tour. The Zonneberg Caves are a little further south and, just like the North Caves, they form part of the large cave area there used to be.

North Caves and Fort St. Pieter:
The Grotten Noord (North Caves) are the easiest to reach from the center of the city. You can walk (takes about 25 minutes).
You can also take a bus, line#7 in the direction of St Pieter and get out at the second stop on "Mergelweg, St Pietersberg".
By car: set your GPS to Luikerweg 71, 6212 Maastricht

Zonneberg Caves:
Zonneberg is bit away from the city, not easily accessible by public transport!
you can reach by car (15 minutes) or bicycle (20 minutes) from the Maastricht city center.
GPS address: Slavante 1, 6212 NB Maastricht

💭  This experience is not for those with claustrophobia or who are afraid of the dark.
💭  The temperature in the caves is 9 to 10 degrees Celsius so visitors are advised to bring a vest, sweater or jacket.
💭  Some floors are uneven. Please take care when walking on such floors.
💭  Don’t worry about your kids – Initially, I was bit skeptical and scared about taking my 6 years old daughter inside the caves. But, nothing to worry, my daughter really enjoyed the whole tour.
💭  Last, but very important: You always need a trained guide to take you inside the caves; never try to explore by yourself , you'll be definitely lost in the darkness :)

OVERALL: No light, no noise, no smell, no radiation, no pollution, no reach with your phone, no time sense ... inside the caves. It was really one of the life-time experiences.

There is absolutely something so captivating in these hidden caves, you can feel the symbols of love, perseverance, courage – and on the contrast: war and suffering. I really like the caves, I would return again to see the other parts of the caves.

➤  Admission prices for the North Caves: Adults: € 6.60 ; Children aged 4-12 years: € 5.20
➤  Admission prices for a combination of Fort St. Pieter and North Caves: Adults: €10.20
Children aged 4-12 years: €7.90
➤  All tickets are time-boxed and non-refundable. So if you’re not sure on your arrival time, better to buy the tickets on-the spot. All the 3 places have a ticket office next to the entrance.
➤  Free car parking available
➤  More information: to
➤  Further details about St Pietersburg and its natural environment:

Tags: #maastrichtunderground , #maastricht #netherlands #caves #grotten

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