A scene from Alkmaar's cheese market with 2 porters, in their distinctive all-white uniforms, running, with 8 rounds of cheese stacked on a cradle suspended between them.

City of cheese, Alkmaar, Holland

In En-Route, Europe, Netherlands, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

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.

Preparing poffertjes, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

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.

Poffertjes, dusted with icing sugar, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

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.  

Arrive early

If you want a front row experience then you need to get there early. We arrived 30 minutes before the start and were three rows back. 

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.

Our tip

Take a wander around before the market has finished and you’ll be able to observe the process within the weigh station.

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.

The close-up of the tower, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

You can even give the little Dutch girl a kiss.

Why not?

Start creating your own adventure and discover the delights of the Netherlands for yourself, British Airways and easyJet are a couple of options. 

Pit Stop

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.

Walking tour

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.

The merchants houses, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands
The canals of Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

Passing by bridges and old Merchant Houses, we emerge by the Accijnstoren the old tax office built in 1622 to collect excise duties.

The Accijnstoren, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

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.

A little further along and the 15th century Great Saint-Laurenschurch, appears in full view.

Kanisstraat 1, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands
Great Saint-Laurenschurch, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

Heading off down the old cobbled lane of Geest, on the corner of Kanisstraat 1, you will find a late medieval house, one of the oldest surviving houses in Alkmaar.

Tempted to?

Discover more of Holland, you'll be amazed how easy it is to tour around by car with. You can then visit the iconic towns of Edam & Gouda and also see the 19 traditional windmills at the UNESCO site of Kinderdijk.

Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

Head above water

Alkmaar is amazingly only 1 metre (3ft) above sea level, originally around the city, there were ten windmills, today only one remains, Mollen van Piet named after its owner and was built in 1769.

Dutch tipple

Gary had read about Genever gin before we arrived in the Netherlands and he is very much of the philosophy ‘when in Rome’.

We gave it a go, not too sure if we would rush to have it again, but it wasn’t unpleasant, I preferred the aged one out of the two.

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.

Well, I must say from our experience it was fantastic, the staff were all extremely welcoming, the chef even came out to say hello. But ultimately the food was wonderful if ever we are back in Alkmaar this is a must for us.

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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Have You?

Been to Alkmaar? Did you see the cheese market? Or have you visited on of the other Dutch cities that hold cheese markets, such as Gouda?

Inspired to visit Alkmaar?

Does the cheese market tempt you? Remember it's just Fridays so plan carefully, and get there early!

Why not check out the latest deals on Booking.Com?

The close-up of the tower, Alkmaar, Holland, Netherlands

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