Nestled on the Geul river, Valkenburg is one of the prettiest medieval towns I have ever seen. The ruins of the city walls and gates are encountered throughout the town, and the 12th century Valkenburg Castle overlooks it all. The castle has been in ruins since 1672, but it manages to really bring to life what medieval wars must have been like. It remains foreboding, brooding, and still majestic in spite of all the efforts to destroy it. Another site we very much enjoyed was the municipal caves, called Gementegroot. This series of caves, 75 km long in all, have been carved out of the soft chalk since pre-Roman times. Because the chalk is easy to sculpt with just your fingers, people have been leaving carvings and graffiti here for thousands of years, and you may be invited to add your own to the 21st century section. One of the more interesting sections is where Allied airmen were hidden during the WWII Nazi occupation. Tours will take you to different sections of the caves depending on the events of that day. There might be an underground market or art show, or you may get to see the original underground Roman baths.
Thermae 2000 is a large complex of hot springs, saunas and baths, built in the early 1990s, located quite near to Valkenburg Castle. There is an attached hotel complex. There are excellent restaurants in the baths, serving good quality spa food. On the day I visited, we enjoyed grilled salmon steaks in our housecoats, nestled by a gas fireplace.
There are numerous saunas and steam rooms with various essences, including the classic eucalyptus. There are at least two (one indoors and one outdoors) long meandering pools to swim in, and an excellent outdoor park. There is a clearly marked “no-bathing-suits” section. The facilities here are extensive, clean and modern. This is a 21st century take on spas in a medieval town built on Roman ruins! The whole experience is great, with lots to see and do, and I loved the blend of ultramodern and completely natural environments. In spite of a high volume of traffic, Thermae 2000 manages to feel very peaceful and provides an excellent getaway from it all.
For more details on admission prices, special packages and current offers, see their website at http://www.thermae.nl/openinghours/
Since my original visit, Thermae 2000 has expanded its facilities and branched into spa services including its own line of skin care products. I can’t wait to return and try all the new products, like the chocolate wrap in this promotional video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUenJZDFrMk
A review by Farah Ritter here: http://thethreeunder.com/2014/02/thermae-2000-european-spa/