Alkmaar - the "cheese" city in the Netherlands


Alkmaar - a city in the Netherlands, an important tourist center of North Holland. Tourists are attracted by the leisurely flow of life of the Dutch province, which strikingly distinguishes Alkmaar from a half-hour drive from Amsterdam or The Hague. Medieval streets, canals inevitable for the Netherlands, tiny green areas, Gothic and Neo-Gothic churches and villas, exotic museums and cheese ceremonies, boutique hotels and miniature restaurants welcome visitors to this small city, in which there are not even hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

History of Alkmaar

The first mention of Alkmaar was discovered in manuscripts of the tenth century. In 1254, the village received the status of a city. Its oldest part lies behind a sandy dam, which in the Middle Ages protected Alkmaar from floods. The rest is the polder - a low-lying stretch of coast, reclaimed from the sea for the needs of the Dutch. An outwardly calm city has a heroic past. He was the first in the Netherlands to confront the Spaniards: in 1573, the Duke of Alba could not achieve surrender from the besieged Alkmarans. Since then, the triumph of the national spirit has been called the loud word “victory”.

A little later, the city became famous as the birthplace of first-class cheese. Wanting to attract even more merchants, in 1824 the administration raised funds for the construction of the Northholland Canal. The calculation turned out to be wrong: merchant ships sailed past Alkmaar, not stopping in his shops. In the 70s of the twentieth century, the city changed its priorities and began to focus not only on the production of cheese and beer, but also on tourism. Here the Alkmarans did not fail, and every year the popularity of the city among travelers only grows.

Alkmaar in 1912

Sights of Alkmaar

Alkmaar is predominantly built up with low-rise buildings - genuine medieval monuments or successful imitations of ancient buildings built about a century ago, such as Villa Kennenmerhoek. A tower built in 1622 overlooks the canal - initially a tax service, and then the place of deployment of voluntary squads of city police. Between the canals there is a miniature Victory Park with dozens of trees and perfectly clean paths. Of modern buildings, the mayor's office, built two decades ago in the shape of a ship, is noteworthy.

Monuments of religious architecture

The Church of St. Lawrence, or Grote Kerk, is the largest church in the city, built in 1470-1520. in the style of Brabant Gothic, and nowadays used as a multifunctional cultural center of Alkmaar. Tourists visit the Grote Kerk from the end of March to October, but even at this time they risk being at the locked doors, because the building is often rented out for private events. The lucky ones who got inside will find a semblance of a conference room with two world-famous bodies. The oldest instrument, the organ of the choir, dates from the 16th century.

The elegant church of St. Joseph with spire towers seems very ancient, but this is an illusion - it was built at the beginning of the twentieth century. The patina-covered statue of Christ at the entrance appeared even after the end of World War II. Typical for Holland mill De Groot built in 1769. It can only be viewed from the outside, like the Alkmaar town hall with the Gothic openwork tower of the early 16th century.

Church of St. Lawrence Church of St. Joseph

Cheese market

The main attraction of Alkmaar for several centuries in a row is the Cheese Market on Vag Square. Cheese played a huge role in the development of the city; it was not by chance that it was even called "Alkmaar gold." Every Friday from the end of March until the beginning of September, a performance begins on a fenced area of ​​the market square. A 10-hour bell announces the start of trading. Four teams of movers, dressed in traditional costumes of certain colors, transport huge golden heads of cheese on hand carts and lay them out in the square, weighing and showing them to wholesalers. The initial meaning of the ceremony was simple: in this place in the XIV century the only accurate scales and weights were stored in Alkmaar, now it is a fun and profitable ritual. All transfers are completed by 12:30. After that, guests can buy cheese bags with slices for 10 euros and just souvenirs. You just need to remember that on Fridays, cheese prices in the historic part of Alkmaar soar.

Cheese market in Alkmaar

Museums in Alkmaar

Fans of the “Liverpool Four” founded the Beatles Museum in Alkmaar, open from 11:00 to 16:30 daily, except Monday. The facility is located half a kilometer north of the Cheese Market, on the other side of the canal. Here is stored the first John Lennon guitar, produced in Alkmaar. The main exposition is connected with the group’s visits to Holland, the first of which took place in 1964. Ticket price is 4.5 euros.

Beer museum

A hallmark of the old Dutch city is advanced brewing. Alkmaar was no exception. The National Beer Museum De Boom in the building of the former brewery tells about the history and technology of the production of the hop beverage in the world in general and in the city in particular. The collection covers in detail the stages of the mechanization of the process, demonstrates ancient means of transporting bottles - sledges and handcarts, shows labels and bottles from different eras. In the winter season, from September to May, the museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 13:00 to 16:00, in the summer - from 11:00 to 16:30. Adults pay 4 euros for admission, pensioners 3 euros, children 7-12 years old 2 euros. The museum's gift shop sells beer mugs.

After visiting the main exposition, you can get a discount coupon and go down to the basement of the museum for beer tasting on any day, except for those when a cheese fair is held in the city. In summer, you can sit on a barge on the canal. The institution is open from 13-14 hours until midnight and later. It is always crowded, on Thursdays jazz sounds.

Alkmaar Beer Museum

Cheese Museum

In the XVI century House of Scales, 100 m southwest of the Beer Museum, the city Cheese Museum is located. A popular dairy product began to be produced several millennia ago, in the Netherlands, the heyday of cheese production occurred in the Late Middle Ages. Cheese from Alkmaar, Gouda and Edam began to be exported in the 17th century. The Alkmaar Cheese Museum tells about production technology, features of the cheese trade, the role of the product in the history of the city. The museum is open from 10 to 16 hours, the ticket price is 5 euros, for children 4-12 years old - 2 euros.

Cheese Museum in Alkmaar

City Museum

Alkmaar City Museum is located in the historical part, in Canada Square. Founded in 1873, he moved to his current place less than 20 years ago, and before that he was in the building where the city police were based in the past. The permanent exhibition “The Golden Age of Alkmaar” includes the works of the most famous local native, painter Caesar van Everdingen, a collection of silverware, porcelain, an inlaid chest with portraits of Luther and other figures of the Reformation. Painting of the twentieth century is represented by the artists of the Bergen school - the Dutch expressionists, gloomy and restrained in comparison with their German colleagues, nevertheless very expressive. The interactive presentation “Portrait of Alkmaar” talks about cheese, the victory over the Spaniards and many other glorious pages of the city’s history.

The museum has a cafe where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or Alkmaran beer and order dishes made from organic products. In summer, guests enjoy a terrace with views of St. Lawrence Church. The museum shop sells books and souvenir ceramics. Children under 18 are admitted to the City Museum for free, pensioners over 65 pay entrance fees of 9 euros, adults - 13 euros. The museum is open from 11 to 17 hours, the day off is Monday.

City Museum of Alkmaar

Things to do in Alkmaar

Alkmarans, despite the unhurried pace of provincial life, are athletic and agile. The Dutch's favorite sport is ice skating, which brilliantly confirms an excellent skating rink, which hosted the sprint world championships about 40 years ago. The local Velodrome annually hosts the Dutch Track Cycling Championship. But the main urban entertainment, the Cheese Market, is designed primarily for visitors, and local residents participate in it as actors.

Cafes and restaurants

Almost all catering establishments are concentrated in the historical center of Alkmaar. The Friethyis potato diner is popular, where the chips are fried directly at the client and they offer him many sauces. Among the expensive establishments, the hotel restaurant MIJ or Stokpaardje, specializing in seafood, is appreciated. Alkmaar is not without the ubiquitous branches of McDonald's and King Burger.

Shopping in Alkmaar

The main local produce is cheese. Inexperienced tourists buy it at the fairground, but if you wander along the streets of Alkmaar, in private shops you can find offers much cheaper. In the historical part of the city there is a Bierwinkel store, famous for a huge variety of beers. Of the inedible Alkmaar souvenirs, Christmas balls are especially interesting, painting on which is applied from the inside.

Where to stay

Hotels in Alkmaar are not cheap, as elsewhere in the Netherlands. In high season, a night in a room will cost at least 4000 rubles, in low season, with a preliminary reservation, you can find offers from 2000 rubles. Among the popular hotels is a quiet place Golden Tulip with 4 stars, 2 km from the city center. Pension Onassis, 500 meters southwest of the historical center, asks for 5,000 rubles per room. The object is decorated in Roman style, it has a sauna with a small pool. Due to the peculiarities of urban development in Alkmaar, boutique hotels such as MIJ flourish, offering only 8 rooms with an original design. In the direction of the village of Bergen on the territory of 2.8 hectares there is a campsite.

How to get there

Amsterdam and the northernmost point of the country Den Helder connects the highway passing through Alkmaar. The A9 highway leads to the city from the capital, then the N9 road goes north. Rail links Alkmaar to Den Helder, Amsterdam, Utrecht and other cities. Traveling from Amsterdam costs about 7 euros, travel time is 40 minutes, trains leave from the Central Station every 15 minutes. A pier has been built on the Northhollands Canal, from which you can go on a city tour. In addition, public buses run along Alkmar and its suburbs, although tourists prefer to walk on foot - from the station only 10 minutes walk south to the historic center.

General information

The small town of Alkmaar is located in the north-west of the Netherlands in North Holland (province), 37 kilometers from Amsterdam. Through it are railways and roads, the Northholland Canal. Machine-building factories, metal-working enterprises, and food-processing enterprises work here, a shipyard operates, but tourism is the basis of economic welfare.

According to the latest census in the Netherlands in 2015, 107,600 people lived here. According to the forecasts of specialist demographers who take into account the population growth dynamics of the city, in 2018 it will grow to 130 thousand.

Alkmaar means "surrounded by water." Like many settlements in the Netherlands, it is indented by canals. Narrow streets, low houses built in the 17th century, antique-style more modern buildings determine its appearance. There are many attractions, visiting which you will make your vacation unforgettable.

How to get to Alkmaar from Amsterdam

The best way to get from Amsterdam to Alkmaar is to use the services of the Netherlands railway. From the central station of the capital every 15 minutes there are trains in a given direction. A ticket costs from 8 to 15 euros (the class of a train and a car affects the price). Journey time 40 minutes. Tickets are bought at the box office and in special machines (they accept only coins, and a ticket costs half a euro cheaper than when buying through the box office).

You can also get there by bus or rental car. True, parking a car may cause problems already at the final destination. You can also come to Alkmaar from Amsterdam by bicycle. The trip takes about 3 hours.

Going to Alkmaar (Netherlands) on a tour, take care in advance of the cultural program of your stay in the city, itinerary and overnight.

Video: walk around the city of Alkmaar.

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Cheese capital

Alkmaar is the center of the Netherlands for the manufacture and distribution of cheese, a kind of “cheese” capital. On almost every street you can find something related to this delicious miracle. Every Friday, from spring to autumn, “Cheese fair". The goods are delivered here not only from local farms, but also from other cities of the Netherlands. The cheese delivery itself is a fascinating sight. The special guild of peddlers, in white suits with a straw colored hat, weighs all imported Dutch cheese and checks its quality. Then begins no less interesting bidding of buyers with sellers.

During the fair, you can participate in tastings, watch various performances, listen to cheese lectures in different languages ​​of the world. And the cost of the product itself is quite affordable for any buyer.

On the main square, in the former chapel of the hospital building, the Weight Chambers (1390) were arranged to weigh the goods. The Museum of Dutch Cheese also opened its doors inside. Here are a variety of exhibits dedicated to both the production of cheeses and their history.

In 1508, during a severe fire, the city hall burned down in Alkmaar. In this regard, it was decided to build a new town hall. The construction money was donated by the Cathedral of St. Laurenitis. And by 1520, not far from their benefactors, the New Town Hall was built in the Gothic style.

"House with a core"

The unique wooden structure, presumably of the beginning of the 16th century, is located not far from the cheese square - this is the “House with a core”. According to local legends, during the Spanish occupation, a cannonball hit its walls. But the most amazing thing is that the house remained completely unscathed, not one of its residents was injured. Only the spinning wheel into which the core fell broke. By the way, at this time, the daughter of the owner of the house sat behind her and spun.

Great Church of St. Lawrence

The church was erected in the 15th century, in the typical Brabant Gothic style typical of the Netherlands. Its height is 35 m. Inside there are two organs: an old small organ (1511) and a large organ (1645). Since the church is still not consecrated, it is currently operating as a city cultural center, where various concerts and other events are constantly held. For free visits, the building is open in summer.

City Guard House

Also quite a curious building in Alkmaar. It was built in 1618, in the form of the letter "T". Based on the name of the building, it can be understood that the city guard was previously located here, responsible for its safety. Inside, you can see several traditional group portraits of the guards. This guild lasted until 1907. Now there is a city archive in the building, access to which, unfortunately, is not possible at normal times.

Mill De Grotto

In the historical center of the city you can see an old mill in 1769. It was used, unlike other Dutch mills, for grinding grain, and not for pumping water. Due to its unusual design, the mill is taller than its counterparts.

Such a structure allows the wings not to touch the ground and catch more wind flows. Unfortunately, you cannot get inside. However, with luck, you can see how it works, since occasionally it is still used for its intended purpose.

Mills at Audorp

Near the city of Alkmaar are four of the six surviving water mills, which are definitely worth a visit. They are very good to admire from the opposite side of the canal. They were built in 1630. In 1941, there were only five mills left. Soon, one of them was decided to be dismantled and transported to the museum, but during the next bombing she did not reach the place.

City museums

In addition to the Cheese Museum in Alkmaar, you should also visit the City Museum. There they will tell you about the history of the region, its traditions, show the contemporary art of local creators, ancient exhibits, clothes, dishes.

Those who love the work of the English Beatles must definitely go to the museum of the same name, organized by a local resident. Their ardent admirer - he, throughout his life, collected things, tools, photographs that once belonged to the group.

Another interesting place is the Museum of National Beer, which should not be missed by all fans of this foamy drink. Especially if you can taste it!