An idyllic scene of Hoorn harbour with sailing barges moored on the right and large rowing boats returning to dry land

Discovering Four Dutch Harbour Towns

In Europe, Netherlands, Our Journeys, Road Trips, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

A day trip amongst the waterways

As part of our ‘Tulips & Cheese’ road trip, we planned to jump in the car and spend a day out and about from Alkmaar, visiting some of Hollands quaint harbour towns.

Hoorn harbour, Holland, Netherlands

In this region of Holland, it is quite quick and easy to drive between destinations.

Hoorn, our first stop for the day, was only 16 miles (26 km) away, so we took the scenic route across the countryside to enjoy the lowlands and the fields in bloom.

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.


Hoorn is a lovely little city which became wealthy during the 17th century, when it was one of the main ports for trading spices with Asia, for the Dutch East India Trading company, during Holland’s ‘Golden Age’.

Strolling around the lanes, there are plenty of shops & cafes that catch your eye, nestled amongst which are some charming little statues.

Hoorn feels unspoilt and welcoming to all visitors.

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.

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Wealthy surroundings

After spending some time around the main square of Rood Steen, which is encircled by Merchant Houses, head to the attractive harbour, passing by the infamous canals and bridges, that make Holland so picturesque.

Java Ho - Bontekoes cabin boys, Hoorn, Holland, Netherlands

Hoorn lies on the IJsselmeer, a lake north of Amsterdam and still has one of the last remaining defence towers from the 16th century ‘Hoofdtoren’.

As time prevails then take the opportunity to stroll around the bay and marina or even partake in some water sports. We were jumping back in the car, as we were now off to discover Edam.

Worth Noting

Some parking machines did not accept cash, only credit cards.

(These options are provided by GetYouGuide.Com. We will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you book through our site)

Edam - home of cheese (at least one of them)

Once again, we took the scenic route to Edam and passed windmills and wildlife galore, such a lovely way to see the country.

Now, for some reason, I thought Edam was going to be larger than it was, not that I was disappointed just surprised, as it is synonymous worldwide for its cheese.

Also, what I didn’t know about Edam was that it is a city and has around 7,400 inhabitants (well who knew).

History remains 

The wealth of this city can be seen along the lovely canals where the old merchant houses remain and would have overseen the ships loading and unloading their cargo.

In the centre of Edam is a lovely square leading off onto an open brick bridge across the canal, where sitting watching the world pass by is so easily done.


Around Edam are some lovely little shops and cafes and of course you won’t be surprised to see the local cheesemonger.

Cheese markets are not solely for Alkmaar, if you are lucky enough to be in Edam on a Wednesday during the summer months, you can witness the re-enacted tradition of cheese being brought in along the canals, quality controlled and then sold at the market.

(These options are provided by GetYouGuide.Com. We will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you book through our site)


Just around the bay from Edam is the outgoing bigger sister of Volendam. With the easy accessibility from Amsterdam, this is a popular destination for day-trippers, as it is only 14 miles (22km) away.

A sailing barge in Volendam harbour, Holland, Netherlands

Volendam was a bit busier than I expected but has some very endearing qualities, notably the bustling little harbour, with imposing Dutch barges moored up along the quay and the quaint, colourful wooden buildings that look down upon it.

Take your time

With seafood being the order of the day, sit and admire the fantastic views across the Markermeer Lake, from one of the cafes and restaurants around the harbour.

Strolling around the quay and along the bay, you feel like you are at the seaside, a world away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities.

Boat Trips

From Volendam harbour, you can hop on a ferry to take you over to the lovely fishing village of Marken. The ferries run every 45 minutes at the cost of €11.50 adult return.

As time wasn’t on our side, we would have to save Marken for another trip.

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We headed onto our last stop of the day, Monnickendam and were not disappointed with our detour, what a beautiful little town.

Immediately you felt like you had been transported back in time, with charming little shops that you rarely see anymore, such as dolls house makers & slipper producers.

The town was originally founded by Monks, hence the name, which translates to ‘Monk’s dam’. Like other fishing villages in this area, Monnickendam has some lovely canals to stroll around and are so peaceful.

Why not?

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De Waag

Once an important port in earlier centuries Monnickendam houses a 17th century weigh house or ‘de Waag’, which would have been used by merchants, along with a bell tower dating from 1591.

It was a lovely way to end the day strolling peacefully around the village, admiring all the gabled houses.

Our Tip

As these towns and villages are so close together, be sure to take the scenic route between them.

A little bit more?

If you're interested we've put together a small ~YouTube clip for you to view.

Don't forget you can subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more of our travels, and travel inspired videos.

Have You?

Had a driving tour through the wonderfully charming Holland? What are your highlights?

Inspired to visit the Netherlands?

To have a little Dutch road trip. Alkmaar makes a great base to have a look around the country, or even, like us, as one of your stopovers.

Why not check out the latest deals on Booking.Com?
Hoofdtoren - the first line of defense in Hoorn, Holland, Netherlands

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