The small city of Alkmaar is famous for one thing: its cheese. Since 1622, people have flocked from all over Europe to visit the famous Alkmaar cheese market to buy and sell huge wheels of Gouda, Edam, Maaslander, and Leerdammer cheese, and many more local varieties. Many of the 17th century traditions remain in place, with cheese carriers wearing traditional costumes and following quaint protocols such as the Cheese Father’s Roll Call. Against the backdrop of the historic cobbled streets and canal-facing houses of the city centre, visitors could be forgiven for thinking they had wandered back in time. Outside of the cheese season, Alkmaar is just like any other vibrant Dutch city–friendly, cultural, and beautiful, with a lively nightlife scene–centred around the cheese market, of course.
Location: Alkmaar–Built from cheese
There’s no getting away from it–this is the city that cheese built. Many of the street names and notable buildings are cheese-themed, and the market represents a popular meeting point in the city centre. It is easy to get around Alkmaar on foot or by bike, and regular trains connect the city with Amsterdam (just 40 km to the south), Utrecht, Eindhoven, Maastricht and The Hague as well as many other Benelux and German destinations.
Business: The old ways remain
The old ways of the cheese market says all you need to know about Alkmaar–this is a city which is steeped in history, from the classic Dutch architecture to the wealth of museums. As a result, tourism is a big business here, as people clamber for a glimpse into the past. Proximity to Amsterdam means that Alkmaar is popular with commuters as well as day-trippers.
Culture: Cheese, beer and The Beatles
The Holland Cheese Museum is a must-visit. It is set inside the old weighing house, and offers some fascinating insights into the trade history of Alkmaar. When you’ve had your fill of cheese facts, head down the street to the National Beer Museum where you can work up a thirst for the local brews. The city also hosts its own Beatles Museum in honour of John Lennon’s first guitar–which was made in Alkmaar, of course.
Activities: Burn off some calories on the bike
If you’re going to visit the city of cheese, you need to be able to burn off those calories. Luckily, Alkmaar has a world-class velodrome, which hosts the national track cycling championships each year. Take a spin on a high-speed bike, or practice your cycling skills by hiring a bike and touring the city on two wheels.