Favorite thing: The old town has been protected from the invasion of too many modern buildings, possibly in part because it is surrounded by an attractive moat. The main shopping street, Lange Straat, does have some of the usual names you find everywhere these days (e.g. H & M) but has kept its charm and character. The shops themselves are over-shadowed by several more traditional buildings including the Town Hall with its attractive tower. If you’ve reached this street from the station, you’ll pass the Town Hall on your right, and by continuing a hundred metres or so further will arrive at the Waagplein, the heart of the town, where the cheese market is held every Friday from April to September – unfortunately we were there in March so a little too early in the year for this. Whether or not the market is in operation, the square is worth a visit to see the imposing and beautifully ornate cheese Weigh House, more than 400 years old. This houses a cheese museum (which we didn’t visit – how much do you really need to know about cheese???) and a good souvenir shop.
Favorite thing: In the centre of Alkmaar are a number of small canals lined with little shops, bars and restaurants. This makes a good spot for photos – look for interesting reflections or capture the gentle pace of life here from one of the bridges. As in other Dutch towns and cities you can do a boat tour on the canal, which takes about an hour and leaves from near the Waagplein, the main market square. Unfortunately though we didn’t have time for this and had to make do with a short stroll on the banks.
Favorite thing: Well it made me smile. The western half of The Netherlands is almost completely flat and yet here was a bar for skiers. Cross country skiers? Water skiers perhaps? Anytime I’d heard of someone from the Netherlands going skiing, it was usually in the Alps. Surely a skier could find a bar closer to the ski hill. But the name of the bar caught my attention, so maybe the name wasn’t so silly after all. On Houttil, in the center of town conveniently close to the National Beer Museum.
Favorite thing: Walking down a shopping street in the Netherlands can whisk you back in time with more than just the scenery. On this day I ran across a street organ that was almost 100 years old called De Barometer. This grandfather of MP3 players, belted out popular tunes from the past, while its owner kept time to the music with a cooper coin box, entreating contributions to the maintenance of this fading Dutch tradition.
Favorite thing: My Town Hall tips should in fact also be in the Off the beaten path section, but there are already so many there about the water tower. We visited the town hall and saw it inside. Here's the exterior of the town hall.
Alkmaar is a small and pretty city in North Holland, not far from the sea, famous for its cheese and its history: it dates back to 1254, when it was granted city rights. There is still so much old architecture and also such a lively atmosphere that I would highly recommend it for everybody who travels in this region. It is an ideal starting point to visit places in the area, because distances really are not big! So: enjoy!!
Fondest memory: Standing in the first row to watch the cheese market, finally finding some sun lotion to soothe my sunburn and just the more relaxed atmosphere in this cozy little town!
Patrician house, built in about 1730, by charge of Jan van Schagen, mayor.
The blackamoor house got his name from the inn that first stood at this spot.
The initials of the mayor and his wife, Cornelia Craft, decorate the door panels.
Get there early!
Anyone who has every gone will tell you this tip, get there early.
I love taking pictures of the places I go, and this place allows you to get some great colorful shots… however if you don’t get there early it’s hard to get a good shot without the back of someone’s head showing up somewhere.
Not only is the Cheese Market educational, but entraining and FREE. This combination will always attract a crowd.
The market starts at 10, you should be there no later than 9am.
Favorite thing: Because we know the mayor of Alkmaar, we were given a tour by her on visiting the town hall. This is where the mayor and the aldermen meet.
Favorite thing: Alkmaar is twinned with Brighton (UK). After the war there were many poor orphaned children in Alkmaar and the people of Brighton used to raise money for them through this collection box.
On friday morning from half of april till half of september there is a cheesemarket for on the Waagplein around de Weighhouse.
There you can find the Dutch Cheesemuseum.
Alkmaar is a mediaval town
some of the most interesting buildings are: St. Laurens Church and the Weighhouse.
The top is crowned with a richly decorated top on which time (man with cloth) truth reveals (woman with sun).
Windows, 19th century, with typical rods .