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 a lovely city to explore. 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
From here, I continued down the Koorstraat (Choir street) and strolled around the Lindegracht (Linde canal) and Oudegracht (Old canal), before making my way down Laat, another shopping street. I peered into some of the shops and spotted the Kapelkerk before turning left towards the Waagplein (Waag square).
The Waagplein is a large square dominated by the historic Waag, a gorgeous building which houses the city’s tourist office and Cheese Museum.
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.
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 ‘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).
Look up and you’ll spot 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.
From here, I walked around the Fnidsen and Hekelstraat streets. This area has a charming feel and is packed with shops and cafés.
I slowly made my way back to the Bierkade and the Turfmarkt, where I stopped for a coffee before leaving Alkmaar.
I had a great time exploring Alkmaar and I can 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 explore the surrounding countryside of North Holland.