Fish were sold here at the Visbank until 1998. The columns (first wood, later stone) were replaced with cast-iron pillars. The fish were sold on the stone tables, usually after being kept fresh in baskets in the canal behind the stall. The door gave access to the canal, which was also to transport the fish: similar fish stalls in other old towns also back onto a canal. The pomp dates from 1785, and was renewed in 1882. Another typical feature of these fish stalls are the copper grilles on the drains: the salt (used to preserve fish) would corrode iron grilles.
So, whenever you are in Alkmaar I do recommend to visit the Visbank and just sit on the bridge over the canal and look at the beautiful building and imagine you are part of the thrilling vibe of the fish market. Another good tip is to end this visit with a refreshing cold beer or wine at one of the many restaurants and bars facing the canal. One of my favorites is the café / restaurant ‘Buren’ just near the Visbank itself. Enjoy!
As you have read in the first tip of the Visbank, it is situated south of the Waagplein at the corner of Mient and Verdronkenoord. It is very interesting to learn something about the daily markets in the Netherlands -> Until the 19th century, most food and agricultural products were traded on street markets. The larger the town, the more specialized street markets it had. The names of these markets survive as street names in old European cities: for instance, Haymarket / Heumarkt / Hooimarkt. The Hague for example has a Kalvermarkt, Varkenmarkt, and a Dagelijkse Groenmarkt (calves market, pigs market, and daily vegetable market). Alkmaar also has a Paardenmarkt (horse market) and a Turfmarkt: turf was the main domestic fuel until about 1870.
A very nice thing about the Alkmaar fish market was a that there was a stork present here on market days. This particular stork was officially hired by the city of Alkmaar and had a real Office chain around the neck. He just ran over the market and his task was getting rid of the fish waste. Maybe it was a bit pathetic as the stork had emaciated wings, therefore he could not fly away. But anyway, maybe the question was if he really wanted to with all those goodies up for grabs.
For tourists Alkmaar is a popular cultural destination. Especially visiting a (daily) market always captures the imagination. In all the old Dutch cities were formerly several market squares or streets on which certain products were sold, for example a butter market, grain market or turf market. Alkmaar is well known for its traditional cheese market and maybe the city is less known for its fish market. In my opinion that is a true shame as I always visit the Visbank (former fish market) in Alkmaar. I simply love the remaining buildings there, the wide canal and the vibe existing there.
What does this place make so special to me? I don’t really know, it probably is some kind of feeling, but let me try to explain. First of all the simple covered fish stalls were first built way back in the 16th century, and renovated around 1755 and later on in the 19th century. To me it is always surprising to see such a building like this right in the middle of the old city of Alkmaar, where old monuments and beautiful facades dominate the sights. It is located in the corner of a canal and therefore I always have the feeling that I am kind of bumping into it.
If you stand on the stone bridge at the Mient street and have a look at the houses, you will see the Leeuwen-burg (roughly translated "Lion-castle").
The Leeuwenburg was re-built in 1707 by Mr Leeuwenburg, the two lions in the gable refer to his name.
Mr Leeuwenburg had some problems with the city of Alkmaar, he thought he had to wait too long for his building license, and the city-architect even changed several things in the blue prints.
Mr Leeuwenburg showed his irritation by positioning the two lions with their behinds facing the coat of arms of Alkmaar!
The Weighing House (Waag-gebouw) at the Waagplein/square dates back to 1390 and also houses the Cheese Museum AND the Tourist Information Office (called VVV).
At the VVV you can get booklets with information about Alkmaar.
We got a booklet (2.50 euros) with a nice walking tour that took us along most of the places of interest, in about two hours.
The famous Cheese Market is every Friday from 10:00 till 12:30 at the Waagplein, starting the first Friday of April until the first Friday of September.
Most of the museum is about the Golden Age of Alkmaar (16th and 17th century), but the museum has some modern art and temporary exhibitions as well.
You can start with an informative introductory movie of 10 minutes about the history of Alkmaar.
There's also a small cafe and museum shop.
See the website for detailed information.
A "hofje" is a courtyard with almshouses around it.
This one was built in 1713 thanks to the last will of Mr Wildeman (1627-1702). Obviously, the statue refers to his last name, translated "Wild Man".
The statues next to it (not on the picture) depict Old Age and Poverty.
It was built for old, single women of Alkmaar.
In the park on the west side of the old city, you can find an old storage cellar for gunpowder, built in the 18th century. In Dutch it is called "Kruithuisje".
After 1850, the cellar was used to store ice. The ice was cut out of the canal during the winter, stored, and used later to e.g. preserve food.
Nowadays, the cellar houses a family of bats.
The pictures were taken from the canal Singel Gracht, during a canal tour by boat.
The Korenschoof is a typical old warehouse from the 18th century.
These warehouses were supplied with boats, using the canals.
Note the crane on the roof, used to hoist the merchandise to the doors at the different levels of the warehouse.
The warehouse now houses architects.
There are several companies that offer canal boat tours.
We took the one opposite to the Weighing House (De Waag).
The boats fit just under the low bridges of Alkmaar...We had to duck a million times in order not to hit our heads...Kind of exciting!
A trip of 45 minutes was 5.30 euros. See the website for up-to-date information.
This windmill was originally a wooden mill built in 1605.
It was replaced in 1769 by the current stone mill, used for the grinding of grain.
Officialy the mill is called Mill De Groot (The Great), but it is better known as "De Molen van Piet", or Piet's Mill.
This name refers to the family Piet, who have been taking care of the mill for several generations.
This beautiful wooden house dates back to 1557.
Allegedly, during the Spanish siege of Alkmaar in 1573, the house was hit by a bullet/cannon ball which destroyed the chair on which a girl was sitting. None of the 7 inhabitants was injured and the canon ball was mounted to the front of the house.
You have a great view at the Weighing House/Waaggebouw from the bridge in front of the house!
A train return trip is € 12,10.
At the tourist office in Alkmaar, a city map is free.
The cheese market on Fridays is free.
A canal tour is (if I remember correctly) about 7 euro.
You can eat lunch for an average of 10-15 euro per person including a drink and a coffee.
The Cheese museum is € 3.
So all in all, a DIY day tour sets you back about € 35 per person.
Interesting sights around Alkmaar, lovely old buildings still remaining from through the centuries, the canal surrounding the town, old churches and architecture through the time periods, monuments and this statue here beside the lovely canal with its lush green surrounds depicting a or The Good Shepherd!
Note the clogs hes wearing!
One of my guidebooks writes thats this town has at least 400 monuments and that the street layout with old merchant houses and small courtyards can still be seen - well i certainly didnt see Alkmaar to this extent but i was impressed by the number of attractive buildings I did see, especially as I walked up and around the main streets and as I was guided along the canal tour.
This included being impressed by the very attractive Town Hall up the main street near the Grote Kerk.
Dillenburgstraat 1, Alkmaar, 1814 JV, nl
Good for: Families
Gedempte Nieuwesloot 36, Alkmaar, 1811 KT, The Netherlands
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
The hotel faces a small moat and park on the other side of the road. Directly behind it is the city...more