Sieges and conquests have been the recurrent theme in the history of Valkenburg, especially in connection with Valkenburg castle, seat of the counts of Valkenburg (or Falkenburg). It was here that Beatrice of Falkenburg grew up, who, in 1269 at the age of 15, married 60-year old Richard of Cornwall, king of the Holy Roman Empire. In December 1672 the castle was once again destroyed by Dutch troops led by William III, trying to prevent the armies of Louis XIV of France from capturing it, this time not to be rebuilt.
In the 19th century, because of the natural beauty of the area, Valkenburg became a sought-after holiday destination for the well-to-do in the Netherlands. Tourism developed, especially after in 1853 the railway from Maastricht to Heerlen and Aachen opened. Valkenburg railway station is the oldest surviving station in the Netherlands. In the beginning of the 20th century, well-known Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers lived in Valkenburg for several years. He helped develop tourism by designing a hotel, an open-air theater and a copy of the catacombs of Rome. Furthermore he restored the medieval church and designed several tombs and a chapel in Gothic Revival style in a graveyard situated on Cauberg, a steep hill outside the town center.
For an overview of the resistance movement in Valkenburg during the Second World War, see Valkenburg resistance.
Valkenburg is no longer a fortified town but it has largely retained its historical charm, although the town suffered somewhat from mass tourism in the 1960s and 70s. Valkenburg aan de Geul still hosts more than 1 million overnight stays a year. The present aim of the council of Valkenburg is to move away from mass tourism and emphasize the natural and historical beauty of the town.