How To Spend A Day In Alkmaar

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This post is by Spencer Hart.

Alkmaar, in the province of North Holland, is best known for its traditional cheese market. However it also boasts well preserved architecture and a rich cultural heritage. It is a popular destination for day trips from Amsterdam or Haarlem: here we tell you how to make the most of a day in Alkmaar.

Why Visit Alkmaar?

Alkmaar’s appeal lies in its distinctive blend of history and culture, dating back to the 10th century. The city’s well-preserved architecture, including Grote Sint Laurenskerk and Waagplein Square, tells stories of its past. At the same time, quaint gabled houses line cobblestone streets and hidden courtyards wait for you to discover them.

Historic buildings by the side of a canal are reflected in the water
Enjoy the city’s well preserved architecture (Image by SilviaRaurell from Pixabay)

Renowned as the “City of Cheese”, Alkmaar hosts one of the Netherlands’ most famous traditional cheese markets. Elsewhere, institutions like the Stedelijk, the Beatles Museum and the Nationaal Biermuseum De Boom provide insight into the city’s cultural heritage. The city also has a vibrant sporting identity, cafe culture and dining scene.

What To See In Alkmaar

Even if you only spend one day in Alkmaar, you will find plenty to see and do. Here are some must-visit places that should be on your itinerary:

Cheese Market

No visit to Alkmaar would be complete without experiencing its famous cheese market. Witness the bustling activity as cheese wheels are carried, weighed, and traded. Engage with the locals, learn about the history of cheese production, and relish the opportunity to taste and purchase delicious cheeses, including Edam and Gouda.

Market stalls piled up with round yellow cheeses. There are stallholders on one side of the tables, and shoppers on the other side
The Alkmaar Cheese Market (Image by Frank Magdelyns from Pixabay)

Held every Friday from April to September, the market dates back to 1593, and takes place at Waagplein, about a 15 minute walk from the train station.

Waagplein Square

Adjacent to the cheese market, Waagplein Square has historic buildings and cafés. The most notable is the Rijksmonument (the Waag building), a famous national monument. It is a lovely place to enjoy coffee while people-watching.

Canal Cruises

The best way to explore Alkmaar’s scenic canals is on a boat cruise. As you drift along the waterways, you will pass bridges, canal-side houses, and notable landmarks like the Waagplein, Grote Sint Laurenskerk and Hof van Sonoy. These cruises offer a unique perspective of the city’s architecture and layout.

Canal with houses and trees along both sides. People are getting off a boat in the water.
Take a boat trip along the canals (Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay)

Grote Sint Laurenskerk

This imposing 15th century Gothic church dominates Alkmaar’s skyline. Guided tours are available by appointment, where you can see its famous organ, the oldest playable organ in The Netherlands, dating back to 1511. The church also has a tall spire that you can climb to enjoy incredible panoramic views.

Dutch Cheese Museum

If the cheese market piqued your interest, you should visit the Dutch Cheese Museum. There you can learn about the history of cheese production, discover different varieties, and gain deeper insight into the role of cheese in Dutch culture. Interactive exhibits make this museum engaging for visitors of all ages.

Secret Gardens

Alkmaar hides a collection of hidden gardens. These secluded green spaces, often tucked behind historic facades, provide a peaceful retreat from the bustling streets.

Stedelijk Museum

This fascinating museum features a collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings, showcasing the region’s artistic legacy. It opened in 1875 and is one of the oldest museums in The Netherlands, featuring over 90,000 exhibits across various genres, including Pop Art, De Stijl, CoBrA, Bauhaus, and Neo-Impressionism.

The Beatles Museum

This museum showcases a collection of memorabilia, photographs, and artefacts related to The Beatles’ career and influence on music and popular culture. It offers insights into the band’s history, their visit to Alkmaar in 1964, and their lasting impact on the world.

Tourists enjoying a day in Alkmaar. People are sitting at a cafe on a bridge over the canal. There are buildings and trees on both sides of the water.
The picturesque town of Alkmaar (Image by Evgeni Tcherkasski from Pixabay)

Practicalities For Your Day In Alkmaar

  • Alkmaar is well-connected to Amsterdam and other major Dutch destinations by road and rail, making it an ideal day trip destination
  • From Amsterdam Centraal Station, the 40 minute train ride offers picturesque glimpses of the Dutch countryside. At the same time, an excellent highway network makes hiring a car or taking a bus good options for travelling to Alkmaar.
  • Once in Alkmaar, the city’s compact nature means it is easy to explore on foot. Most of the city’s attractions are within walking distance of each other, allowing you to navigate through cobblestone streets and charming squares at your leisure.
  • Several companies operate bike hire for those who would prefer to explore on two wheels.

Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years experience producing written content for tourism-related businesses. An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he has visited over 40 countries in the world, but cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations.

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