It’s not all about the cheese
The welcoming city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands is around 26 miles (42km) from Amsterdam, so it makes it a great place to visit for a day trip, with trains only taking around 40 minutes.
For us, though we chose Alkmaar for our second destination on our ‘Tulips & Cheese’ road trip. We based ourselves here for a few nights so that we could explore not only Alkmaar but some of the amazing surrounding towns, like Hoorn and Edam.
We arrived at Alkmaar on Kings Day (27th April), this day of celebration undoubtedly puts a different twist on the town, that you would not see on most other days of the year, oh my the Dutch certainly know how to celebrate.
The festivities around the streets gave us the opportunity to taste the delicate little fluffy Dutch pancakes, known as poffertjes. And tasty they were too.
A helpful guide
If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.
I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
Off to market
It’s Friday, and this can only mean one thing during the Spring/Summer months at Alkmaar, it’s cheese market day.
The cheese market traditionally takes place from April through until late September, every Friday morning from 10:00 until 13:00, at the Waagplein in the heart of Alkmaar.
This Cheese Market tradition that dates back centuries to 1365 takes place in front of the Waag (the weigh station). Early in the morning around 2,200 whole cheeses would have been delivered, inspected, weighed and traded.
A little bit of history
Today this colourful display is performed mainly for tourists, to demonstrate the importance and traditions of Dutch history.
These large golden cheeses are not sold at the market, but you can buy a version of its little sister from stalls around, however it is great to see the spectacle of how every individual plays their role.
The workforce all traditionally dressed belong to a guild, they would be made up of the cheese market masters, the porters 'kaasdragers', the loaders 'zetters', the cheese tossers 'ingooiers' and the weighers 'waagmeesters'.
It is quite entertaining to watch as gradually all the cheeses are loaded individually, hurried in and out of the weigh station, and then some are even transported along the canals.
To get a little taster, take a look at our short video clip.
Exploring the City
After the market, and before you explore the rest of Alkmaar have a stroll around the lanes of this historical centre of Waagsplein, it is full of interesting shops, architecture and statues.
To keep the strength up for the remainder of our tour of Alkmaar town, we chose The Roastery, and as more often than not Gary has found a sausage on the menu.
Fully refreshed we head off to take a stroll along the canals on a voyage of discovery.
As with a lot of Dutch towns & cities we've visited it's just a short stroll from its beating heart before you find quiet lanes & peaceful canals.
Weaving our way back through the town we pass by the Late-Gothic City Hall, this building was originally built in 1520 and later restored in 1913, to include a copy of the original façade.
Head above water
Bistro de 13 Blacken
Our restaurant of choice while in Alkmaar was Bistro de 13 Blacken, it appeared to have a couple of mixed reviews but in general were pretty good.
Where we stayed
Our accommodation while we were in Alkmaar, was at the Amrath Hotel, it’s a fairly large friendly hotel, which has secure onsite parking. The parking was quite reasonable at €15 for the entire stay.
The location is just outside the Old Town, but just a short walk across the canal and you are in the heart of the city.
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