When talking about the Netherlands, it’s hard not to repeat well-known facts. After all, absolutely everyone knows about the symbols of this country, which have long become tulips, mills and cheese. And for sure everyone will immediately name the most “cheesy” cities of the kingdom, Gouda and Edam. But this series would be incomplete without one more name – Alkmaar. Those who are just discovering the Netherlands should definitely visit this “surrounded by water” city, which is interesting not only for canals, cheese and the unique spectacle associated with it. However, this is enough for a good rest.
The railway station, as well as the bus station, are located very close to the old town of Alkmaar. In order to get there, you will need to exit the station and turn left and drive along the Stationsweg. After 5-10 minutes, turn right along Scharlo, cross the Singelgracht bridge and now you are in the historical part of the city. Tips for further movement in Alkmaar and information about its museums can be obtained from the information center on the first floor of the Weighing Chamber building on the Waagplein. See Citypopulationreview for weather information.
How to get to Alkmaar
The city is located just 37 km from the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, and the easiest way to get there. Trains to Alkmaar leave from the central station about every 15 minutes. The travel time to the destination is 40 minutes, and the ticket costs 7-12 EUR depending on the train and carriage class. In an hour, in a second-class carriage, you can get to Alkmaar from Leiden, and in an hour and a half or so from Rotterdam. Part of the trains go through Haarlem, so leaving from there is also not difficult. Some of the routes will require tourists to transfer from train to train. To do this, you will need to move from one platform to another, the whole path is thought out and does not create problems. If you want to go by direct train, then you need to leave from Sloterdijk station.
Train tickets can be bought at the station ticket office or from a vending machine. Buying from a vending machine will cost half a euro less, but it will require coins of different denominations: change is not provided.
There is a bus station behind the railway station in Alkmaar. There come buses from the surrounding towns, located within a radius of 30 km from the city, and flights from other major cities. Some of them, on the way to the end point, stop near the northern part of the old city (Canalkad stop), which is convenient for tourists who are not burdened with luggage.
Bicyclists need to tune in for 2-3 hours and be careful on the roads. Despite the presence of special bike paths on each highway, caution does not hurt. There will be no problems with where to leave your “iron horse” in the city, but those who have rented a car will have to work hard in search of parking.
Cuisine and restaurants in Alkmaar
Cheese tasting at the fair and beer at the thematic museum are not enough for good nutrition. Even if there are more than 80 varieties of beer in the bar at the old brewery and it is served with snacks, you still want something more substantial during the day. Then hungry tourists will have plenty to choose from. You can have a quick bite to eat in fast food establishments such as Burger King, MacDonalds, Subway, or shawarma and kebabs that have spread here too.
You can eat at one of the many cafes around the Waagplein, such as Café de Lindeboom, De Koperen Pot or Café Joey’s. From pastry shops, De Boer and Multi-Vlaai Alkmaar can be recommended. The city has cuisines of the world for every taste: Mexican Rose’s Cantina, Australian – Australian Dining & Wining, European – Abby’s Restaurant, etc. Schots Hielander, Grand Café ‘t Gulden Vlies and an expensive but worthy restaurant in the building are responsible for local cuisine Hoff Van Sonoy.
Shopping and shops
Questions about what to buy in Alkmaar usually do not arise. Here it is rather appropriate to ask how much cheese to take, and what kind. It is difficult to give advice on this matter, everyone has different tastes (and the main product of the cheese fair is given to try), but visitors can be recommended to bargain. Waagplein, of course, is not an oriental bazaar, but many sellers are happy to join the game and recklessly bargain, winning back their price for a head of farm cheese. There, at the fair, and everywhere in the old town, you can buy a wide variety of souvenirs. Moreover, the prices for the same traditional klompins, hats, toy windmills and wooden tulips are much lower than in the capital.
Questions about what to buy in Alkmaar usually do not arise. Here it is rather appropriate to ask how much cheese to take, and what kind.
Most souvenir and antique shops are located in the western part of the city, closer to the station. If you want to visit the Noorderarcade shopping center, you can reach it via a footbridge across the North Dutch Canal.
Entertainment and attractions of Alkmaar
The most important entertainment, for which many people go to Alkmaar, are cheese fairs and cheese porter shows. They are held from April to September, on Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The hard-working Dutch make no exceptions to the schedule even when the day of the fair falls on the festivities in honor of the birthday of the country’s queen. So tourists can fully enjoy the spectacle of carrying cheese heads on wooden yoke-shaped stretchers, unchanged since the Middle Ages. Everything is furnished with the utmost care: porters, sellers, controllers and peddlers of souvenirs are dressed in ancient clothes, the orchestra plays national melodies, before the start of the auction, a representative of the clergy and the mayor of the city come to Waagplein square.
After the end of the fair, acquaintance with the main local wealth can be continued in Waag, the Weight Chamber (the building itself is very beautiful), where the cheese museum is located on the second and third floors. And after it, move to the beer museum, which opens from 12.00 on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 10.00 on the days of cheese fairs (understanding people!) And from 13.00 on weekends (Monday is already a hard day, the museum and the bar are closed). Visit the wonderful oven museum and the museum of history and art of the city. Admire its mills, sculptures and ancient buildings: the city hall, the burgomaster’s house, the Hof von Sonoy tower, St. Lawrence’s Cathedral, St. Joseph’s Church… Or just wander along the narrow pavements that look like toy streets, walk along the numerous canals or go on a boat trip around the city: because, as you remember.