Alkmaar is a city that is located in the province of North Holland just a 45 minute drive to the north of Amsterdam. This city has been mentioned in historical records since the 10th century and was given city rights in 1254. During the 1500’s, the city came under siege from Spanish troops, but the siege was stopped and this marked a turning point in the eighty years’ war.
In later years the city was again attacked, but this time by Anglo Russian forces but still managed to retain its independence. Fast forwarding to the present day, Alkmaar has a wider municipal population of 95,000 and is continuing to see development. With a beautiful network of canals, the famous cheese market, and its close proximity to the coast, Alkmaar remains a popular tourist destination.
Lets explore the best things to do in Alkmaar:
1. Alkmaar Cheese market
The Alkmaar Cheese market is renowned throughout the country and indeed Europe.
People flock to the city to see this fantastic event and the traditional activities that take place here.
Cheese trade in the city started as far back as 1365 and this has remained a highly traded and produced food in the region ever since.
During the cheese market, you can see a vast amount of the yellow stuff and watch the Kaaszetters loading the circular cheese into the main market square.
There is a whole host of tradition associated with the market and strict rules and procedures are followed.
For those who love history, or those who love dazzling displays of bright colour, the market really is a sight to witness.
2. Grote Sint Laurenskerk
As the main church in Alkmaar, the Grote Kerk is an imposing structure that domineers over the skyline of the old town centre.
Located at the western edge of the inner canal, the church is easy to access on foot.
Created in 1470, the church is dedicated to Saint Lawrence and contains several tombs of important Dutch figures.
The exterior of this church takes a crucifix form and has many arched stained glass windows.
Inside there are several ornate chandeliers, an abundance of light from the many windows and some beautiful decoration.
A main attraction of the church is also the two famous organs that can be found inside – One is the oldest playable organ in the Netherlands, and the other has been maintained in its original form and is one of the best surviving examples of a wooden organ.
3. Dutch Cheese Museum
Due to the city’s deep involvement with cheese, there is of course a fantastic cheese museum to enjoy.
You can find the museum on the same square that the cheese market is held – The waagplein.
By itself the structure is a spectacular historical building and the square provides a perfect setting.
Inside the museum, you can find a host of information about two particular famous cheese types – Edammer and Gouda.
Understand how cheese is made, how cheese markets help rural communities, and see artefacts such as a cheese press.
To truly understand Alkmaar as the city of cheese, a visit to this fantastic museum is a must.
4. The Beatles Museum
John, Paul, George and Ringo were megastars and created the most successful band of all time.
Most people will recognize at least one Beatles song and their musical influence still creates a legacy today.
Located just outside the main canal ring in the north of Alkmaar, the Beatles museum is a fantastic tribute to this legendary music group.
Inside you can find a host of superb memorabilia relating to the band including George Harrison’s first guitar and costumes from the Sg.
Peppers Longley Heart club band album cover.
You may be lucky enough to meet the owner of this museum too who will regale you with a plethora of Beatles related information.
5. Nationaal Biermuseum
A combination of a local bar and a beer museum, this is a truly wonderful establishment that is frequented by locals and tourists alike.
Located a short walk from the Waagplein and the Dutch cheese market, this museum and bar is great to visit on a tour of the city centre.
In one side of the establishment there is a bar that serves many different local beers and a great selection of wines – You can even sample the drinks before you buy! In the other side of the building there is an excellent exhibition about the history of beer and its creation, together with some interesting artefacts.
6. Molen van Groot
Many cities in the Netherlands have at least one remaining windmill from the golden age of wind powered industry and Alkmaar is no different.
Molen van Groot stands on the edge of what used to be the old city defences and is surrounded by woodland and a stunning view of the canal.
The Piet family have owned the mill for years and still operate it today.
Although you can no longer enter the mill, it is still a fascinating structure to admire and the photo opportunities are many.
7. AFAS AZ Stadium
Home to the AZ football club that play in the Dutch Eredivisie, the AFAS stadium is a fantastic and mighty structure.
This stadium sits on the outskirts of the city and doesn’t interfere with the charm of the old city centre.
With a capacity of 17,023 the stadium is a complete circular tiered design and boasts the clubs red and white colours on its exterior.
Experiencing a home match here is a memorable thing and the atmosphere is simply amazing.
Check out the clubs schedule before visiting Alkmaar and come to see the mighty AZ on their home turf.
8. Walking tour of the Alkmaar canals
The canal system of Alkmaar is hugely interesting, especially the outer canal that circles the old town centre.
A great way to see the city first hand, explore, and admire the architecture is by walking through the canals.
Starting at the Accijnstoren tax tower, you can walk along the Werronkenoord canal and see the old drawbridge.
Passing the Laurentiuskerk church, you can then turn right and head along the Mient canal and onto the Waagplein where the Dutch cheese markets are held.
Finishing off, turn right again and head onto the Luttik Oudorp canal and end up at the Victoriepark.
9. Cross the N302 to Lelystad
Alkmaar is located in close proximity to the Markemeer and Ijsselmeer bodies of water.
These two colossal stretches of water flow out into the North Sea and form a gap between the two regions of the Netherlands.
In order to form crossings between these regions, two long stretches of road were created – The E22 and the N302. For those who love man-made structures and enthralling road journeys, crossing the N302 to Lelystad will provide some fantastic memories.
Starting at Enkhuizen, make your way across the N302 and onto the open expanse of this road – On either side you are presented with the vast expanse of the Markemeer and Ijsselmeer and half way there is a stopping point called Houtribdijk and even a restaurant! Spend some time here to take some photos and admire the stunning views.
10. Egmond aan Zee
A small and charming town on the coast of the Netherlands, Egmond on see is a great place to visit to soak up the sea air and relax on the long stretches of beach you can find here.
Located to the west of Alkmaar, Egmond is approximately a 20 minute drive and there is plenty of public parking and also a regular bus service.
Stroll along the length of the beach, relax on a sun lounger or take to one of the beach restaurants for a bite to eat.
For those who love the sea, and the personal feel of small seaside towns, Egmond delivers – This is the perfect place to escape the city and seek some rejuvenation.
11. Stedelijk Museum
This intriguing museum is found in close proximity to the Grote Kerk and is only a short walk in the old town centre on the Canadaplein.
As with the other Stedelijk museums in the Netherlands, its primary aim is displaying the cultural and historical heritage of Alkmaar and the surrounding region.
Inside this fascinating building you can find various pieces of artwork, artefacts, sculptures and displays relating to the city.
For an engaging look at what makes this city unique and insight into its past, the Stedeljik is wonderful museum.
12. Alkmaar City Hall
The old city hall of Alkmaar lies on one of the main shopping streets – Langestraat.
A long building, the Stadhuis has a fantastic front façade with a stunning striped design, red shutters and a small hexagonal clock tower.
Constructed in 1520, this Gothic building has been renovated after fires destroyed much of its original complex.
Two lions stand guard at the entrance bearing the Alkmaar shield of arms and many weddings and ceremonies are held here.
While entrance to the building is prohibited, you can still walk down the Langestraat from the Grote Kerk and wonder at the delightful architecture of this important building.
13. Accijnstoren van Alkmaar
One of the last remaining defence and excise structures from the 1600’s, the Accijnstoren was originally a tax house.
Constructed in 1622, this building was used as a tax office where merchants must declare their goods etc.
A simple square stone structure with a wonderful blue and white central tower, the tax office provides some fantastic photographic opportunities, especially on its canal setting.
14. Oosterhout Park
One of the fine parks in Alkmaar, the Oosterhout park has recently undergone renovations and can be enjoyed by the public.
You can find this open public space to the south east of the old city centre on the Vondelstraat Street.
In the grounds of this charming park there are a series of footpaths and cycle trails, several bodies of water with quaint bridge crossings and even a small petting zoo and adventure playground for the children.
For those who are health conscious, there is also a fitness centre and sports complex.
Visit Oosterhout to enjoy the outdoors and seek some fun family time.
15. Sint Laurentiuskerk
A lesser revered church than the Grote Kerk but still an impressive structure the Laurentiuskerk can be found in the old town centre not far from the Waagplein.
A recent construction, this church was created in 1859 in a Gothic Revival style.
Its exterior has a striking façade with a large circular stained glass window and several marble statues.
The interior has a great deal of detailed brickwork, painted frescos and ornate religious fixtures.
Furthermore, the holy blood altar contains religious artefacts and is a stunning centrepiece with an abundance of gold and religious depictions.