Alkmaar is a historic city in the Province of North Holland in the Netherlands, about 10 km inland from the coast, and 40 km north-west of Amsterdam. The city’s population is about 100,000 and the urban area is more than three times that number. Alkmaar is also the regional centre for the northern part of the Province, serving about 600,000 people, and is part of the northern part of the Randstad urban area. The city centre preserves the 17th-century pattern of canals and narrow streets and has many historic buildings. The nearby beaches and dune reserves are easily accessible from the city centre.
On Friday morning, from April to the beginning of September, many visitors pour into Alkmaar. They are interested in catching a glimpse of what Alkmaar is known for, the Cheese Market on the Waagplein. A typical Dutch spectacle. Alkmaar also has a diverse range of museums and, thanks to the many canals, is ideal to explore by water.
City of Cheese
Alkmaar is of course known as the Cheese City and for centuries, the world famous cheese market has been (and has continued to be held) held on Friday mornings from April to September. A true North Holland tradition that shows the world a lot about Dutch tradition and love for cheese. Visitors from all over the world come to witness and enjoy this traditional spectacle every year. Colourful hats adorn the cheese carriers, tasty cheese and hospitable people in the lively market all make a visit to the cheese market one of the city’s highlights.
What to see in Alkmaar?
Alkmaar is best known as the cheese city, but in addition to the Cheese Market, there is much more to do and see in this historic city. Walk through the old town with its authentic shops, visit one of the hidden courtyards or look for fun at the Waagplein or the Platte Stenenbrug. With its beautiful canals, a canal cruise is also an ideal way to discover Alkmaar. You can either join a cruise or rent a rented boat and discover the city by yourself.
Hofje van Splinter
Would you like to stay away from the busy and noisy city centre? Step into the hidden courtyard that is Hofje van Splinter and enjoy the tranquillity of this historic courtyard. Founded in 1646 from the estate of Margaretha Splinter, the courtyard was intended to help unmarried ladies without children. Today, single ladies still live there. Open the doors of this hidden courtyard, step inside and leave the bustle of the inner city behind you.
Hidden under a large chestnut tree is the Kruithuisje. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in this small 5 by 5-meter gallery.
A special place in Alkmaar’s Singelpark, this square house was erected in the 18th century and served as storage for gunpowder and weapons. After years of neglect, vacancy and a fire, the house was finally renovated. Since July 2013, a gallery, coffee & tea house has been established there. There is an exhibition every month and visitors love to go there for a nice cup of coffee or tea, (inside or outside) under the big chestnut trees and just enjoy the peace, the art and activities that come with the visitors.
The entrance on the Oudegracht is not one to be missed thanks to the Wildeman Hofje. Just behind the door, you will find a beautiful, symmetrical landscaped courtyard. The courtyard derives its name from its founder, Gerrit Wildeman. He wanted to provide housing for elderly widows. Today, the courtyard is still inhabited by women from different parts of the country. Discover the history of the courtyard and Alkmaar by visiting this establishment.
The Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar
This is the home of historical photo collections, toys from the old days, paintings and modern works of art. Get to know the history and culture of Alkmaar by paying a visit to this museum. The museum presents the past in varied and interactive exhibits with high-quality collections of old and modern paintings and crafts. In addition, a detailed presentation of the beautiful Bergense School collection from 1915 to 1925 can be seen in the museum. Treat yourself to some art and learn more about Alkmaar as you do that.
Alkmaar’s town hall was built between 1509 – 1520. The building and the tower were restored in 1911-1913, and the present city hall, in fact, a copy of the original. The extension on the corner with Schoutenstraat, was rebuilt in 1694 in classicist style. The door displays the coats of arms of former mayors, and allegorical figures of Prudence and Justice. The hall contains two monochrome allegorical paintings by Romeyn de Hooghe. You can regularly see “just married” couples coming down the town hall’s stairs. When shopping in the Langestraat you can hardly go around this national monument. After the construction of the new city office, the city hall nowadays mainly serves as a wedding location.
The Beatles Museum
Who does not know John Lennon, Paul Mccartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr? At the Beatles Museum, you will find everything about The Fab Four, the Beatles. This first Beatles museum in the world opened its doors in Krommenie in 1981 and, after a number of relocations, can now be found on the edge of the old city centre of Alkmaar. In the Beatles Museum, you will find the largest private memorabilia on the popular group from the 60s. A collection that spans 41 years, the museum can boast of an impressive display of unique items that visitors find very interesting. No Beatles Museum anywhere in the world can match this one in Alkmaar.
The Cheese Museum
On the second and third floor of the Waaggebouw, you will find the Dutch Cheese Museum. From there you have a phenomenal view of the world-famous Waagplein. In the Dutch Cheese Museum, the Netherland’s two most famous kinds of cheese are on display for all to see, the small round Edam cheese and the large flat Gouda cheese.
The cheese museum has an extensive collection of tools that were used in the production of cheese. The differences between cheese production on the farm and in the factory are also illustrated. There is a quest through the museum for children. They can also take part in various games. By means of films and interactive presentations, visitors get the general idea behind cheese production in the Netherlands.
The Cheese Market
Alkmaar has been a cheese city for more than 700 years. Historical records show that the city already had a cheese scale in the year 1365. Alkmaar’s status as a cheese city became spread throughout the world as more and more tourists started coming to the Netherlands. In the old days, there were no fewer than four cheese markets per week and they often lasted until one o’clock at night! At a certain point in time, the Waagplein became too small for all the cheese traders and it is reported that houses were occasionally demolished to enlarge the market square!
The famous cheese market is no longer a real market, but a show for tourists. Nowadays, cheese is no longer traded among cheese traders but produced and distributed from factories, like most food products. The replica cheese market, with cheese porters in traditional costumes, is held every Friday morning in spring and summer, from 10.00 to 12.30.
The Cheese market for children
In the summer holidays, there is the ‘Kinderkaasmarkt’, a special tour for children between 6 and 12 years. A guide explains everything about cheese and the cheese market to the children. In the end, the children are allowed on the scales and they receive a real weighing certificate as souvenirs.
De Grote Kerk (The Big Church)
This church from the 15th century can be visited. The beautiful interior is also a regular stage for exhibitions, conventions and concerts.
The Grote Kerk, or Sint-Laurenskerk, dates from the 10th century. At that time it was not the church that you find on the spot but a smaller wooden church. After a fire in the 11th century, this church was destroyed, followed by the church after it, which also went up in flames. In the 15th century it was decided to build a larger church, more than 500 years later it is still there. Today thousands of interested people visit the many exhibitions, conventions and concerts that take place in the church.
To the east of Alkmaar is a landscape of old polders and man-made lakes, with about 15 surviving windmills. The best way to see it is on a bike, but several windmills are clustered around the small village of Schermerhorn, which is served by the Alkmaar – Purmerend bus lines 121 and 127, every 30 minutes. The Netherlands is known for their windmills and quite a few of them can be found in Alkmaar. If you’re a windmill enthusiast, a visit to Alkmaar would definitely make you happy.
National Beer Museum the Boom
The Netherlands is known for her beer brands and the brewing of beer is actually considered an art in most parts of the country where breweries have been based for centuries. What is malting and why is yeast so important? The National Beer Museum is where they will gladly tell you all about it. Beer has been the most popular alcoholic beverage in this regions for a few thousand years. National Beer Museum tells you all about the tools, equipment and machines that have been used to brew beer over the past two hundred years. Thirst after the tour? The tasting room can be found right under the museum and you can go for a Belgian classic or a regionally brewed beer. The bar serves 86 kinds of beer and there is a small discount on a beer if you are a museum visitor, so make sure you do not lose your ticket!
What to do in Alkmaar?
Alkmaar is one of those cities where it’s really nice to go shopping as all the big brands can be found there. The streets of Oude Stad still remains very popular among shopaholics and the biggest brands in the region come together in the monumental buildings of this oldest part of the city to create a wonderful atmosphere for tourists and locals alike. There is definitely a lot to do in a beautiful and lively city like Alkmaar.
1. Go for a canal cruise on Alkmaar’s old canals
This is a fun and exciting way to get to know the city better. Together with a captain and a guide, you sail for 45 minutes through Alkmaar’s canals. During this cruise, you get an idea of how Alkmaar was in the past and how the city has changed over the years. The cruise is also very suitable for children.
2. Rent a bike and or sign up for a bike tour of the city
A unique bike ride through Alkmaar and surroundings, a nice way to discover Alkmaar by bicycle. Your guide will tell you all about the history of the city and take you to some of the highlights. In addition, you can see the old windmills and the ancient canals. If you opt for a longer bike ride on an e-bike, cycle towards Bergen and see the beautiful green polders and the Noord-Hollandse Duinen.
3. Buy or borrow an artwork for your collection
The Kunstuitleen Alkmaar collection comprises some 1500 artworks from around 350 artists: renowned artists, lesser-known artists and of course young talent. The works of art, carefully selected on the basis of quality and variety, can be found in various techniques and styles: photographs, paintings and graphics, but also sculptures, ceramics and jewellery. For borrowing art, you register as a subscriber of Kunstuitleen Alkmaar. Thisnis a fun way of buying a souvenir that is both beautiful and a unique work of art.
4. Go for a walk and discover the hidden gems in the city
Alkmaar’s history is, of course, intertwined with cheese and to discover the history of the city is to also discover all there is to know about cheese. In the centre of Alkmaar, there are beautiful historic buildings that remind one Alkmaar in the glory days of the (cheese) trade. A few examples of this:
- Cheese warehouse Henneman in the Achterstraat
- Block of four cheese warehouses in the Pieterstraat
- Cheese warehouse on the Gedempte Nieuwesloot
- Cheese factory Eyssen on the Kanaalkade
5. Have something to eat and drink on one of the terraces
If the weather allows it, enjoy chilling on one of the terraces in Alkmaar. Almost all bars serve food and the town offers a wide range of restaurants, varying from Dutch to Thai, Chinese to Russian/Eastern European, Spanish to Australian and from Greek to Mexican. Restaurants are typically open from around 17.00 to 23.30.
6. Discover the Oude Stad (Old City)
Be surprised by the unique character of the streets in this district. The merchants and warehouses of old now serve as space for shops.
Enjoy the special atmosphere that surrounds these historical streets and the buildings that can be found on them. In the second half of the 19th century, the Fnidsen, the Hekelstraat, the Appelsteeg and the Mient were the shopping and craft centres of Alkmaar. Customers came by boat and went into d’Oude Stad to do their shopping. Nowadays, the history from this past periods can still be seen. Dive into the history of the city by paying a visit to these streets and finding out which businesses have passed through generations and the history that accompanies them.
7. Pay a visit to the Hof van Sonor
This building has had many functions over time. First monastery and then a restaurant. A place where the rich history of the city can be felt. The St. Mary Magdalene monastery was built in the 15th century to the north of the city but nowadays, due to urban expansions, is located in the middle of the city. Since the construction, in addition to being a monastery, it also served as a homeless shelter and then a private home. Nowadays, it is just a restaurant and a nice place to go for a romantic dinner.
8. Catch a concert or some street performance on the Canadaplein
Canadaplein is where all the activities happen during summer. Be entertained by a concert or show on this cultural square or relax at one of the restaurants located there. Thanks to the ideal location: between the Grote Kerk, the Library, the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar and Theater de Vest, it is not surprising that this square is also called the cultural centre of the city. Don’t miss out on the cultural activities that take place there!
9. Chill at the Platte Stenenburg
Around the Platte Stenenbrug is where you will find cosy cafes and enjoy the sun from the comfort of a terrace. From there you can walk into the old city and discover the history of the city of Alkmaar. Platte Stenenbrug houses a lot of cafés with a sunny terrace and tasty cold drinks. You can also regularly enjoy live music.
10. Visit and shop at the Kooltuin
Where the vegetable garden of castle Torenburg used to be is now Alkmaar’s Kooltuin. Along the canal of the Kooltuin lay the vegetable garden of this castle, hence the current street name Kooltuin. This street is one of Alkmaar’s most beautiful streets with a few nice shops and a pub. The most striking building on this street and also the oldest is the one on the corner of the Luttik Oudorp. It was built in 1593 and in terms of style can be traced to drawings by Anton Pieck.
How to get to there
Trains to Alkmaar
From Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam is only 35 minutes by train and 5 trains depart the station every 30 minutes to Alkmaar. The tickets costs € 7,60 and the railway station is about 5 minutes walking distance from the city centre.
From Schiphol Airport
Trains leave Amsterdam Schiphol Airport every 15 minutes and the train journey is about 45 minutes. A train ticket costs € 9,50 for a one-way train ride.
Alkmaar by Ferry
You can get to visit Alkmaar from the UK by using a ferry to the Netherlands. There are a number of ferry companies based in the North East of England whos ports in the Netherlands (IJmuiden) are only a short drive away from Alkmaar.
Cycling to Alkmaar
- Free bike storage Canadaplein – A large, guarded bicycle parking area under the Canadaplein, open every day until midnight.
- Free bicycle parking Ridderstraat – This free bicycle parking is open during the opening hours of the shops.
- Bicycle parking Station Alkmaar – The central station also has a guarded bicycle parking.
Parking in Alkmaar
The train is probably the best way to visit Alkmaar. However, if you choose to visit by car (via the A9 highway from Amsterdam), there are several car parks in the city centre. Parking in Alkmaar can be difficult. We have some useful tips for you and we advise you to park in one of these P + R parking garages. Parking is often not that expensive there. Throughout the city, there is a parking system that indicates how many free spots are still available in the parking garages.
1. Parking Garage De Kwakel
For only € 3.00 per day, you park safely and covered.
Parking garage De Kwakel is only a few minutes walk from the city centre of Alkmaar.
2. Garage Kanaal Schiereiland
Parking garage Kanaal Schiereiland is within walking distance of the centre of Alkmaar. In short, ideal when you go shopping!
3. Garage Kazerne
De Kazerne car park is a garage on top of the fire department and is within walking distance of the city centre of Alkmaar.
4. Garage De Singel
Parking garage De Singel or the Singel garage is a well-known parking garage in Alkmaar. It is one of the largest parking garages in Alkmaar. You can park well if you have to go to the hospital.
Parking on the Street
In and around the city centre of Alkmaar, visitors can always park on the street. for a price.
If you intend to stay in Alkmaar for a whole day, then you definitely fall under long parking. Your only option is the P + R free parking.