Exploring the historic towns north of Amsterdam


The famous green wooden houses of Marken

There are many quaint, historic towns around Amsterdam. Many of them can trace their roots back to the 16th century whilst some of them have a history that goes back even further. During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, when Dutch merchant ships could be found in every sea in the world, these towns fluorished on the heels of Amsterdam. Fishing, shipbuilding and trade were the backbone of their economies, and with the greater wealth, beautiful homes and buildings were built. Towns and villages like Marken, Volendam, Edam and Monnickendam, situated north of Amsterdam, rose to importance, the remnants of which can still be seen today.

An easy scenic drive

These towns and villages are within a half hour’s drive from Amsterdam, making them perfect for a short scenic drive whenever I have guests visiting. I often drive the loop which takes me from North Amsterdam past the picturesque village of Durgerdam, along the coast of the Markermeer (a huge lake that’s popular amongst surfing and windsailing enthusiasts) to the island of Marken, then further to the towns of Monnickendam and Edam (that’s world famous for its cheese) before heading back to Amsterdam on the N247 road.


Cycling on a dyke

Explore the villages of the Markermeer on a bicycle

Another option is to hire a bicycle in Amsterdam and cycle on the dykes along the same route. The advantage of doing this route on a bike is because the bike paths are laid on top of the dykes whilst the roads are behind the dyke. This gives cyclists a much better view of the Markermeer on one side and the gorgeous villages and grassy meadows on the other.

It’s very easy to hire a bicycle in Amsterdam as there are a variety of rental companies scattered around the city. Once you get your bike, make your way to the rear of the Amsterdam Central Station and cross the Ij Harbour to Amsterdam North (the ferries run frequently and are free). Once in Amsterdam North, make your way to the village of Durgerdam.



You’ll soon notice the beautiful houses that line the main street, all with views of the Markermeer. The village is also a good point to stop for a coffee and a snack before continuing your bike ride. From Durgerdam, the path traces the shore of the Markermeer along a dyke. You’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of the lake and many sailing boats on your right, and verdant fields with cows and sheep, farmhouses and windmills on your left. You’ll also pass various smaller lakes on the land-side, with a variety of bird-life – keep your binoculars ready to spot herons and the odd owl.


Cycling on the dyke near Holysloot


Lakes on both sides of the dyke



The path continues for about 12kms (7 miles) to the Monnickendam-Marken intersection. Turn right towards Marken. The path then follows the road on a causeway that links the island of Marken to the mainland. Marken is a historic fishing village that’s most famous for its wooden houses, many of which were built on stilts. It’s a popular village amongst tourists, who come here to stroll around the picturesque village centre and marina, visit the cheese and wooden shoe factory and have a look inside one of the historic homes. While you’re here, stop at the ‘viskraam’ (fish stall) and try some ‘haring’ (raw herring served with chopped onions) or kibbeling (fried fish nuggets) with remoulade sauce.


The Marken harbour


Kibbeling with remoulade sauce

On to Volendam

From Marken’s harbour, you can take the ferry across the Markermeer to Volendam, another tourist favourite. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes.


Leaving the Marken harbour for Volendam


Clouds above the Markermeer

Volendam is a historic fishing village that is especially popular amongst tourists. The lovely harbour is home to beautiful sailboats and is surrounded by quaint homes and shops. Tourists visit Volendam to stroll around the colourful town, see the locals, some of whom still wear their traditional costumes, and taste Dutch specialties such as pancakes, ‘poffertjes’ (mini-pancakes), herring and smoked eel.


The Volendam harbour


Try a waffle or ‘poffertjes’ (pronounced poffer-chers), little pancakes with castor sugar


Volendam – main street

If you have time, you can continue from Volendam to Edam, a short distance away, or head back to Marken on the ferry and continue back to Amsterdam via Monnickendam. This is a loop that would take a full day by bicycle but the mix of gorgeous scenery and historic villages makes the trip absolutely unforgettable. You can also visit Marken, Volendam and Edam as part of a full-day guided tour or a guided tour using public transport from Amsterdam.

View Bike route Amsterdam – Marken in a larger map


Read about other places to visit in the Netherlands

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15 Responses to “Exploring the historic towns north of Amsterdam”

  1. Willem 27/01/2016 1:44 pm

    Marken is a great choice to visit, it’s one of the most beautiful places in The Netherlands. It’s really one of the last villages which has old Dutch architecture and lifestyle. The lighthouse is also worth a visit!

  2. Keith Jenkins 20/11/2012 6:44 pm

    Netherlands is the perfect country for cycling tours. For one, it’s pretty flat. 🙂 And the facilities for cyclists are unmatched anywhere in the world. You have to come back for some good ol’ appelflappen! 🙂


  3. Keith Jenkins 20/11/2012 6:42 pm

    Hi Eugene,
    Think I’ll go get some kibbeling! 🙂


  4. Renee D'Antoni 20/11/2012 5:22 pm

    That looks amazing! Last year we RVd around Europe and spent quite a bit of time in the Netherlands, but I’d love to come back one day for a cycling trip. All those flat, safe bike lanes… And I’m missing appelflappen for breakfast.

  5. Eugene Lim 20/11/2012 4:26 pm

    I remember that day. Love the food, love the boat ride and loved loved loved the food. Too bad I only got a picture of the cutouts of Nick and Simon. They should have been out grocery shopping hahahaha. Great pics keithy. I wish I had some kibbling right now

  6. rob hermans 02/11/2012 5:11 pm

    lovely pics Keith, and I can almost smell the Poffertjes..!

  7. Keith Jenkins 22/10/2012 5:22 pm

    Hehe, thanks Jeff! I was thinking about your cruise to Volendam on Viking when I was there. 🙂

  8. Jeff Titelius 22/10/2012 4:21 pm

    I love the fact that I have been to all of these places, for once! Wonderful write-up and gorgeous pics…esp the food!

  9. Keith Jenkins 22/10/2012 4:41 am

    Thanks Deej! 🙂

  10. D.J. - The World of Deej 21/10/2012 5:31 pm

    What a great day…reminds me of a recent ride we did in Napa. Beautiful pics!


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