Alkmaar (map) is a historic city in North Holland, about a 45-minute drive northwest of Amsterdam. Alkmaar was granted city rights way back in the 13th century. In 1573, the city played a pivotal role in the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain, an event that is still celebrated in Alkmaar till this day (on 8th October). Famous for its traditional cheese market and medieval architecture, Alkmaar is absolutely worth a visit. You’ll find picturesque canals, rows of houses with beautiful gables, lively squares, a plethora of boutiques, antique and art galleries, and ornate churches. On my recent visit, I spent an afternoon strolling around the city and discovered many things to see in Alkmaar. Follow me on my walking route around Alkmaar:

Beautiful gabled houses at the Mient (facing the Gewelfde Stenenbrug).

Things to see in Alkmaar

Alkmaar is easily reached from Amsterdam by car (the A9 highway) and train (37 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station). I drove and parked my car at the edge of the historic city centre at the Schelphoek parking garage next to the Turfmarkt.


As I exited the garage, the first thing I saw was the beautiful row of buildings lining the Turfmarkt canal.

A modern block of buildings in historic style at the Turfmarkt.


I continued walking towards the historic Accijnstoren. Built in 1622, this building functioned as a tax office where duties were collected for goods shipped into the city.

The Accijnstoren

Sint Laurentiuskerk

From here, I walked down the Verdronkenoord canal towards the heart of the city centre, passing lovely houses and charming side streets. I noticed that the doors to the Sint Laurentiuskerk (or Alkmaarse Cuyperskerk), an 18th century church in Gothic Revival style, were open. I stepped inside the church to find a gorgeous nave, beautiful stained glass windows and frescoes.

A drawbridge across the Verdronkenoord canal.
Inside the Sint Laurentiuskerk.
The beautiful stained glass windows.

Platte Stenenbrug

At the end of the canal was a little square packed with cafés and terraces. It was a sunny day so I stopped for a beer and a quick bite. I soon learned that the square was in fact a bridge (Platte Stenenbrug or ‘flat stones bridge’) across the canal.

The cafés and terraces on the Platte Stenenbrug bridge.

I continued my walk to the Vismarkt (Fish Market) around the corner to the Mient (a lovely row of historic buildings) and the Gewelfde Stenenbrug (another bridge which looks like a square).

Gewelfde Stenenbrug alkmaar photo
The ‘Gewelfde Stenenbrug’ square on a bridge with its alfresco cafés.

Stadhuis Alkmaar

From here, I went down the Langestraat (Long Street), Alkmaar’s main street. Towards the end, I passed the gorgeous Stadhuis (City Hall). Built in 1620, this Gothic-style building has a striking striped façade and a hexagonal clock tower.

The Langestraat.
The beautiful Stadhuis or City Hall.
Just off the Langestraat, in the Gedempte Nieuwesloot, I found this historic building which houses the Heeren van Sonoy restaurant. It’s possible to book a dinner in the top of the tower.

Grote Sint Laurenskerk

As I approached the end of Langestraat, I could see the imposing Grote Sint Laurenskerk (Great St. Lawrence Church). Constructed in the 15th century, the Grote or Sint Laurenskerk is one of the Alkmaar’s most treasured monuments. Adjacent to the church, the Kerkplein (Church square) is another lovely square filled with cafés and restaurants. The Kerkplein leads into the Canadaplein (Canada square) where the Stedelijk Museum (City Museum) is located.

Grote Sint Laurenskerk alkmaar photo
Sint Laurenskerk
things to do in alkmaar holland
The beautiful nave of the Sint Laurenskerk.
Cafés at the Kerkplein opposite the Sint Laurenskerk.

From here, I continued down the Koorstraat (Choir street) to De Molen van Piet (Piet’s windmill) before backtracking and continuing down the Lindegracht (Linde canal) and Oudegracht (Old canal).

things to see in alkmaar holland
De Molen van Piet (Piet’s windmill).

From here, I passed Laat, another shopping street. I peered into some of the shops and spotted the Kapelkerk before turning left towards the Waagplein (Waag square).

The Kapelkerk


The Waagplein is a large square dominated by the historic Waag, a gorgeous building which houses the city’s tourist office and Cheese Museum.

Waagplein and the Waag building.
A close-up of the façade of the Waag.

Every Friday morning (April to September), the Waagplein is the venue of the famous Alkmaar traditional cheese market, a popular tourist attraction. Of all the things to see in Alkmaar, this is probably the most visited attraction.

The Alkmaar cheese market (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

From the Waagplein, I walked to the National Beer Museum ‘De Boom’ before continuing my stroll along the Zijdam canal. This is one of Alkmaar’s prettiest canals and offers views of beautiful canalside houses and the Waag.

The National Beer Museum ‘De Boom’.
The Zijdam canal with a view towards the Waag.

The ‘Huis met de kogel’ (House with the Cannonball)

Right next to the drawbridge across the Zijdam canal is a green wooden house, one of two remaining medieval wooden houses in Alkmaar, and one of just a few in the country. This is the ‘Huis met de kogel’ (House with the Bullet or Cannonball).

The green wooden house next to the drawbridge.

Look up and you’ll spot one of the most intriguing things to see in Alkmaar: the ‘kogel’ or cannonball hung on the façade of the house facing the canal. This cannonball (supposedly) struck the house during the Siege of Alkmaar in 1573. From this date, due to the risk of wooden houses catching fire during a siege, the construction of wooden buildings in Alkmaar was forbidden.

Look up to spot the cannonball. Under the ball is the date of the Siege of Alkmaar (1573).

From here, I walked around the Fnidsen and Hekelstraat streets. This area has a charming feel and is packed with shops and cafés.

The charming shops on Fnidsen alley.
There are so many beautiful houses to look at in Alkmaar.

I slowly made my way back to the Bierkade and the Turfmarkt, where I stopped for a coffee before leaving Alkmaar.

Houses along the Bierkade in Alkmaar.

There are lots of things to see in Alkmaar. I definitely recommend a visit, perhaps as a day trip from Amsterdam or as part of a road trip around the Markermeer. Or you can make Alkmaar your base to visit Amsterdam or the surrounding countryside of North Holland. Read more about the best towns to visit in the Netherlands.

Read more about The Netherlands on Velvet Escape

13 Responses

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Appeared In