Not So Great Christmas Markets With Kids: Valkenburg & Maastricht

by farrah on December 8, 2013 · 10 comments

Yesterday was salvaged by my husband. We tried our hand at our first trip seeing some Christmas markets- and had he not pushed us forward I’d probably not be feeling the love for seeing any more. I don’t have a single photo from our first attempt- it was that bad.

This photo is from Maastricht. Attempt #2.

The stage was set

Leaving the house was a struggle. Sometimes it’s easy to get the kids ready to go somewhere, sometimes it’s not. Saturday it was not. I had gone great lengths to plan ahead and bring all the necessary fire extinguishers for any potential fires (kids motrin, umbrellas, rain boots, suckers) but it didn’t matter. We loaded into the car fighting over who had to sit in the middle seat and arrived at Valkenburg just over an hour later. We were hoping to see what I thought was going to be the most interesting Christmas market of the season.

We parked, and it drizzled a bit. C wasn’t feeling that well- but I was armed with medicine. The stroller canopy kept the rain off the boys and we walked to the city center where the caves were located- as with the particular market they were in caves. That sounded fun.

It was 12:30 before we made it to the center so stopped at the first restaurant we encountered- an old church transformed into a Greek restaurant. I was really looking forward to a gyro, it has been so long since I had one.

An overpriced miserable lunch? Check.

This restaurant choice wasn’t my best idea ever. C was miserable the entire time- so I ate with him on my lap for the most part. B didn’t like the chicken, and the service was rather slow, thus we just tried to hurry up and get out of there. When my husband showed me the bill for our $100 lunch I about fell over. We had three hot cocoas, a coke, a beer, two gyros, a kid chicken and a side of gyro. This did not bode well- as blowing that much on lunch was not in the budget. They harassed us for a tip and when I asked to have the chicken wrapped up (as they offered) they threw it out instead. Sometimes all you want in life is the greasy neighborhood Greek restaurant like we had back in Detroit!

The caves

We left and followed the people on the street to where the crowd seemed to thicken. Suddenly we found ourselves stuck with people not moving in what appeared to be a big line. Part of me knew right away that this line was to get into one of the caves, but I was holding out some hope that it wasn’t. My husband asked, and of course it was. There was no way the boys could wait in a line like that.

I was ready to go home, but my husband insisted that we were not giving up just yet. We started to walk back to the car and passed by a toy store. The boys were excited, so we decide to pop in. Bad idea. The person working there didn’t want us in his store from the start and eventually went up to my husband and made it clear we should leave. So much for that. I am the first one to admit when my boys are acting unruly- Linc was playing with plastic toys on the floor and knocked one over. Apparently it was more than this guy could stand in his toy store. So with that, we went back out into the rain and decided that Valkenburg was not the market for us.

Maastricht instead

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The train ride had people smiling right away.

Fifteen minutes later we arrived in Maastricht. They had an open air market complete with giant Ferris wheel at the entrance as well as a mini train ride. For that, it was worth it and my boys were happy at last. We walked around and peered into the stalls (what’s up with all the stuff made in China?!) and I did manage to find three ornaments which I hope were made in Germany. I’m telling myself that they were.
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Finally! After a waffle, a happy Chase!

I did like the atmosphere, the ice rink and the overall good mood. But the crowd- I realize I am getting older and pushing a double stroller and dragging a four-year old- so those really aren’t so much fun. We need a new strategy for doing the market thing and hope that our next attempt is better.
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View above the ice rink

Overall Market Recommendations:

Would I recommend Valkenburg? No. The area was dirty, the crowd was huge and it’s not really the friendliest area I’ve been. Keep in mind we didn’t even make it to the actual market, so as always my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.

Would I recommend Maastricht? Maybe. I wouldn’t drive out of my way, but if you don’t have another one close by this will probably serve- don’t expect much.

The Maastricht Ferris wheel that we rode, and double-decker carousel. Those were cool!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ann December 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

I’m sorry that you’re first experience with markets wasn’t the best.

If you make it to one in Germany, there’s a few things I would suggest. A lot of the markets here also have stuff made in China (ours is an International market so has stuff from all over, but I’m guessing a lot is still made in China). However, there are many, many markets that have stuff not made in China and good food options and all of that (off the top of my head, Nurnburg is very selective of the vendors they have there)… There’s a store called Kathe Wohlfahrt that’s at so many of the markets. It’s a stall, but it’s completely enclosed, so it feels like a regular store. Everything inside is authentic stuff, it’s expensive, but it’s good quality. I got my one big Christmas decoration of the season there.

There’s nothing that ruins my mood more than an overpriced meal. I can not stand it.

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2 farrah December 9, 2013 at 6:33 am

I think for the average person, hanging out in the rain in the winter here- waiting in line is probably no big deal. Things started off badly for us and it was hard to recover, you know? Plus the average person doesn’t have a double stroller (even though ours is fairly slim) to contend with. The meal was our own stupidity. I mean, hello! I’ve lived here a year- I should know better by now!

And thank you for the tips- I saw your shots of Cologne yesterday and we really want to try it. But I agree- during the week has got to be better.

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3 Gayla December 8, 2013 at 11:50 am

I’m so sorry. What a rotten experience for you guys. You’re not the first to tell us that the Valkenburg market isn’t worth it…and that was from someone who actually got in to it. We haven’t been there and I’m guessing probably won’t based on the reviews. 🙁
So happy that Maastricht made for a better time for you.
We enjoyed the Dusseldorf Weihnachtsmarkt yesterday, but it is crowded so I’m not sure how Mom-with-kids-friendly it really is, but as for items to look for when in Germany, I second Ann’s comments about Kathe Wohlfart, we love their stuff! Have you considered markets in Belgium or France (Strasbourg is beautiful!)…

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4 farrah December 9, 2013 at 6:34 am

I think we’re pretty open as long as it isn’t too far of a drive. We probably need to reconsider our plan since I don’t think the NL ones are really worth the whole crowd for us. Good tips- thanks!

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5 Chamisa December 10, 2013 at 6:32 am

What a bummer! I also avoid Christmas markets with a stroller. If we go with the kids, it’s right when the market opens on Sunday since it’s usually calmer then. This year, we’re going to attempt it on a weekday afternoon and probably with a backpack, not a stroller. We went to the one in Colmar without kids two weekends ago, and there was plenty of room for walking around even if we had brought the pram. It’s probably a little far for you to trek down to France, though!

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6 Leighann December 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Not a great experience at all… too bad really. Hopefully the next trip will be better.

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