7 things to do in charming Delft (and a Dutch snack you just HAVE TO try)

Ah, how I love my road trip adventures.

They give you the freedom to make detours and visit amazing places you’d otherwise miss out on. Underrated, beautiful cities, small towns and villages. Places that are not overwhelmed by mass tourism. Places with an authentic feel to them. Based on personal experience, those are the places we end up falling in love with – and can’t wait to return to.

This is a guide to one of those places.

Back in May, while road tripping cross-country Netherlands, my boyfriend and I ended up in Delft, a beautiful city in the province of South Holland. And let me tell you why I regret not spending a night there – and why you should add the city  to your itinerary right now!

It’s no secret that the Netherlands is a country spoiled with idyllic scenery and quirky towns.

Delft is one of those places.

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In fact, the city looks like a mini Amsterdam. A little less bicycle traffic, none of that weed-smell, no red light district, no huge crowds of tourists. It’s like an Amsterdam for those who want the same atmosphere, the same aesthetic, but it’s just so much more quiet. Peaceful. Calm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Amsterdam. But there’s just something about Delft…

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We were on our way from Kinderdijk (and the many windmills) to Hague (the seat of the Dutch parliament), and decided to make a detour and spend a couple of hours exploring Delft – a city I had heard of, but didn’t know much about. Well, besides its pottery production, that is!

Arriving in Delft, my boyfriend and I were blown away by how much the city resembled Amsterdam, and we immediately regretted not booking a night at one of the quaint hotels by the canals. I would have loved to have the opportunity to stay longer and enjoy the calmness, the beauty and everything Delft had to offer.

It ain’t a lot, but at least we got to spend half a day exploring the city!

The time was well spent strolling along the narrow streets and along the canals and photographing everything from every angle.  At one point, we were forced to seek refuge from the sudden rain showers (in a bar). A couple of ice-cold beers, accompanied by some (most likely) very unhealthy but oh-so-delicious snacks, made us forget all about the rain. By the time we left the bar, the sky had cleared up and everything was back to being nothing but perfect.

We finished our little Delft-adventure by checking out the local flea market and admiring all the arts and crafts displayed.

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This was enough to convince me that Delft should totally be on everybody’s bucket list.

I didn’t get enough time to see everything, but perhaps you will.

In that case, may this list be enough to convince you?

Here are 7 things to do in Delft (and the snack you just have to try)

  1. Eat and drink Dutch. Visit one of the many bars on the Delft Market Square by Neuwe Kerk, or one of the bars along the canals. Order a refreshing pint of white or fruity Wieckse or, if you’re more of an IPA or Stout kinda person, a pint of Jopen . And don’t forget to order a tasty snack to go with your beer. Bitterballen is the snack you never realized you needed in your life, but you totally do. These deep fried little things have a hard, crispy crust and are soft and yummy on the inside. They’re filled with a delicious mixture of minced or chopped meat, beef broth, butter, parsley and seasoning. Dip them in mustard and enjoy! bitterballen
  2. Check out the Thursday farmer’s market. Every Thursday there’s a farmer’s market (between Neuwe Kerk and the City Hall). With around 150 stalls displayed, you will most certainly be able to find some delicious Dutch cheese, freshly baked bread, fish and meat, nuts, ecological fruits and vegetables – and much more. Do they sell Stroopwafel (thin waffles with caramel-like syrup filling)? Or Gouda cheese? Visit the market to find out (and buy some)!
  3. And the flower market (Thursdays and Saturdays). The flower market is located on the Brabantse Turfmarkt, which is a five minute walk from the Market Square (and the Farmer’s market). Thousands of beautiful, colorful flowers are displayed, obviously including the flower the country is known for; the tulip. A smaller version of the market is held every Saturday. Surprise someone you love with a gorgeous bouquet – and don’t forget to take pictures!
  4. And the flea market (also Thursdays and Saturdays)! Are you interested in antiques, art, pottery or used books? Every Thursday and Saturday, from April through October, an amazing flea market takes place in Delft. On Thursdays it’s located along the canal in the street called Hippolytusbuurt, and on Saturdays you’ll find a much bigger flea market (including a book market) along the Voldersgracht, Hippolytusbuurt and Wijnhaven canals. DSC_0942
  5. Visit the Porcelain Museum. Delft is mostly famous for its blue and white pottery, also known as Delftware, Delft Blue or Delft Pottery. To learn more about Delft’s tin-glazed pottery and its long history (dating back to the 16th century), visit the Royal Delft museum (and shop).
  6. See the works of Vermeer. One of the most well known names from the Baroque era, this is the painter who gave us the beautiful “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Learn more about the artist and see more of his works at the Vermeer Centrum.
  7. Relax and just let life happen. In a city like Delft, it’s perfectly fine to just sit down at a cafe with a good book, or take a stroll along the canals and photograph the scenery. No need to rush from one place to another. No need to make any plans. Just enjoy yourself and let Delft seduce you!delft restaurants

How to get to Delft – by public transportation

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From Amsterdam: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Vlissingen, from Amsterdam Centraal.

From Schipol Airport: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Dordrecht, from Schipol Airport train station.

From Rotterdam: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Duivendrecht, from Rotterdam Centraal.

To purchase train tickets, visit the NS website.

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6 Reasons why you (with or without kids) will enjoy visiting Muiderslot Medieval Castle near Amsterdam

About 15 kilometers southeast of Amsterdam, located along the Vecht river, that’s where you’ll find the beautiful Muiderslot, or Muiden Castle – the best kept medieval castle of Holland.

My man and I made sure to visit this magnificent historical site while road tripping from one Dutch city to another, with a Lonely Planet guidebook in my already very full handbag and my beloved camera around my neck, recharged and ready for action.

We had just left Amsterdam and was on our way to go to Haarlem, but made a little detour to visit what is known to be one of the most picturesque castles in the Netherlands. We obviously didn’t wanna miss out on something as spectacular as this!

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While my man was complaining about the weather not being that great that day (gray and cloudy) my only complaint was regarding my questionable choice of attire. I was wearing a miniskirt – the most inappropriate thing to wear while climbing the steep stairs all the way to the top of each tower. I’m sure my boyfriend enjoyed his view up my skirt, but I’m not sure other people enjoyed it quite as much. And there were lots of kids there. What an eyesore that must have been for those poor children!

We learned a lot of random facts about the castle and the location of it, while wandering around from room to room, tower to tower. Mostly about Count Floris V, the guy who built the castle back in 1280. The count was later kidnapped by Gerard Van Velsen and his comrades, and was later imprisoned in his own castle. When he tried to make his great escape, he was killed by Gerard Van Velsen who stabbed him 20 times. Brutal. Gerard Van Velsen’s wife was raped by Floris V, and this was allegedly the reason for the conflict between the two nobles.

Understandable, if you ask me.

After visiting the castle, we went to see the falconer. We hadn’t actually booked an appointment or anything – which is what you’re supposed to do. We just stumbled upon a bunch of school kids on a field trip and decided to hang around and photograph the birds of prey. I was ecstatic as I absolutely love owls and I’ve never been as close to an owl as I was there. I’ve never felt as happy and jealous at the same time. While the kids got to touch the owl, I couldn’t, as I was just an intruder and not part of the group. Or a child, for that matter.

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At least I’m left with some pretty cool photos. I guess that beats touching an owl once.

Those who know me well, know how much I love medieval architecture and history. The castles from the Medieval Period remind me of those illustrated in fairy tales and Disney movies. From a (sort of) young couple’s point of view, visiting historical sites like the Muiderslot is a great occasion to take photos, educate ourselves – and sneak around and hide behind a wall, or in one of the castle’s towers and kiss our partner. Yes, I find castles romantic. Don’t you?

Speaking of romance, did you know you can book this castle for your wedding?

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Besides photography and romance, let me give you 6 more reasons why you should take a day trip to Muiderslot from Amsterdam or nearby!

  1. You can visit Muiderslot by boat from Amsterdam with the Amsterdam Tourist Ferry! Now doesn’t that sound like a fun way to start your day trip? I sure think so! The ferry operates a daily service except from Mondays, and departs from the marina of Amsterdam IJburg, which is a 15 minute tram ride (nr 26) from Amsterdam Central Station. The ferry has an inside and outside area, toilets, heating and a bar.
  2. Muiderslot is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, if something is officially recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization it’s something worth adding to your bucket list.
  3. Get up close and personal with owls and falcons! Visits can be arranged (between April and October) to the falconer in the tent on the Bastion, next to the castle. You get to see the beautiful creatures up close and the falconer will tell you all about falconry in the time of Count Floris V.
  4. Fun and educational for kids! There’s plenty of games and entertainment for children at Muiderslot, as they explore the castle and its towers. You can buy them a small activities booklet from the ticket office, which adds a lot of interest and curiosity. They also get to dress up as knights and play with toy swords in the castle!
  5. Guided tour around the castle. Travel back in time to the 17th century, to the age of the most famous resident of Muiderslot; writer, historian and poet, P.C. Hooft. Visit the rooms used by the occupants of the castle, and learn all about the culture, customs and habits of the Golden Age.
  6. See the Water Shield and visit the historical gardens. I didn’t get around to doing this myself, as we had to make it a quick visit and prioritized seeing the birds over the gardens, but hopefully I’ll one day return and spend some time enjoying them – as well as the water shield pavilion (which is yet another thing your kids will enjoy)

Are you ready to visit Muiderslot? See, told you you’d love it!

Here’s some practical information:

The castle is open to the public all year around, but opening hours depends on the season.

From April 1st to October 31st,  visiting hours are between 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, and from noon until 5 pm during weekends.

From November 1st to March 31st, the castle is closed to the public during weekdays, and is open from noon until 5 pm during weekends. However, during school holidays from December 23rd until January 7th, you will be able to visit from noon to 5 pm, all week!

Visit the official website of Muiderslot for more information.

(below is the view from one of the towers)

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Beer bars and balcony breakfast in Haarlem (the Netherlands)

Just so you know, this post is about Haarlem in the Netherlands, not Harlem in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam). Harlem (NY) is however, named after Haarlem in the Netherlands. But apart from it all being Dutch at some point in history, those two Ha(a)rlem’s have very little in common.

So, where’s Haarlem?

The city has almost 156 000 inhabitants and is the capital of Noord-Holland (Holland is not the name of the country, but two provinces) – and you’ll easily get there from Amsterdam, as it’s only  a 15 minute train ride away.

What does beer have to do with Haarlem?

Haarlem has a long history of beer brewing – a very important industry in the city. Until the 16th century, the water used for beer, was taken from the canals in the city. But, as the canals got more an more polluted, the water could no longer be used. From the 17th century, water was transported to the breweries from Brouwerskolkje (I bet you a pint you’re not gonna remember that name). The canal that leads to there, still exists and is now called the Brewers’ Canal (Brouwersvaart).

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What did I get up to in Haarlem (besides drinking beer)?

While my significant other and I were road tripping through the Netherlands, Haarlem just happened to be our destination of choice. Conveniently located near Amsterdam, which is where I celebrated my 30th birthday, the day before visiting Haarlem – and close to Alkmaar and the famous cheese market (went there, did that). And it’s also close to Zaanse Schans, a charming little windmill village.

We went to all of these places – and many more. We followed a busy “to-do” list most of the time while visiting the Netherlands, and frankly, scheduling in two days of downtime in Haarlem was probably the best idea we had, while creating our itinerary. We needed that. And we needed those two nights of self-pampering at Haarlem Hotel Suites.

The suite had the comfiest beds ever, and our balcony was spacious enough for the two of us to hang out in the sun, drink beer, eat chips and dip and just take a breather – and get fat and drunk while doing so.

Waking up to the staff serving us a large, varied and tasty breakfast in the room, just made the experience even better. I felt like a queen. Privileged, spoiled and pretty effin’ fabulous, I dined on the balcony, wearing nothing but an oversized bathrobe and slippers. The sun was shining, the church bells were ringing and my boyfriend was just as happy as I was. If I could do this every day, I would. Hands down.

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When we weren’t busy stacking up on calories while relaxing on the balcony or while cocooning on the couch in front of the TV, we visited downtown Haarlem and its many beer bars. Our absolute favorite was the Jopenkerk – a former church converted into a bar, restaurant and brewery. The beer menu was so overwhelming I had to ask the waiter for suggestions. The first beer I tried was slightly too bitter for my liking, but the second one was a very pleasant surprise. When the waiter introduced it to me as a sour (open fermentation) beer brewed with algae, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It sounded strange, but I trusted his opinion and gave it a try. And to my surprise, it was oh so delicious, and I just couldn’t resist ordering a second one. Ever since that day, I’ve been obsessed with old sour dark beers!

We also discovered a nice – and very instagrammable – little cafe called Native, while strolling along the streets and doing a bit of shopping. As a self proclaimed coffee addict, I am sure I would have ordered a latte or a cappuccino, if it hadn’t been so warm outside. Besides, most of the other guests at the cafe were sipping on lemonade, so I ended up ordering the same thing. An ice cold glass of elderberry lemonade. Tasty and refreshing!

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Haarlem is more than just beer and lemonade (or coffee), but checking out the bar scene is definitely a must-do while in town. If you’ve already been to Jopenkerk or you’re looking for yet another beer bar suggestion, I’ll advice you to check out Uiltje Bar, Brewery and Taproom . They offer free tours in the brewery every weekend, host events and serve great craft beer and finger food.

And the city, what does the city of Haarlem look like?

It looks like a typical Dutch city. Charming Flemish architecture, nice little canals, quaint town square (Grote Markt) , beautiful churches, busy restaurants and lots and lots of bicycles everywhere.

It was the perfect place to be for two people in need to calm down and throw that itinerary out the window, tune out and just take some time to really appreciate high quality beer and blend in with locals.

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Middelburg, Netherlands: The hotel with the parrot and the desperate need of beer

While planning our cross-country Netherlands+tiny bit of Belgium road trip, a city called Middelburg made its way into our itinerary. Why Middelburg?

Well, we just needed to fill in a gap between Alkmaar and Ghent (Belgium) and had already seen most of the interesting cities and touristic sites in between.

And we wondered; would we enjoy Middelburg as something more than just a random place to pass through while on our way to somewhere else? Or would Middelburg just be the insignificant hook-up you have while getting over a relationship before jumping into another?

Unlike most of the other destinations on our trip, we had absolutely no idea what we’d get up to in Middelburg, apart from drinking beer at some terrace bar. And believe me, sticking to that plan was as easy as pie!

Upon arrival at the hotel (Hotel de Nieuwe Doelen) I was given the key to a suite. I didn’t even realize I’d booked a suite in the first place, so I was pleasantly surprised. Whether the hotel had made some kind of mistake, or I simply just happen to have goldfish memory, remains a mystery. Before you ask, I didn’t pay a high price for the room!

Our suite was enormous and even had a jacuzzi in the bathroom. Did I use it? Heck yeah!

Before heading out to explore the city of Middelburg, we also discovered that the hotel has its own mascot: a parrot. One that talks. Well, it mainly just says “hello”. But how freaking awesome is that? I’m jealous. I want my own parrot too!

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So what did we get up to in Middelburg?

Not much. We were way too warm, sweaty and sticky to even function like normal human beings and all we wanted was to sit down somewhere in the shade with an ice-cold beer.

But we did force ourselves to walk around a bit and actually see the town center before escaping the heat and seeking refuge at whatever bar we’d happen to find.

We had picked up a city map at the front desk of our hotel, and studied it while wandering around.

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What seemed to be the most interesting landmark in the city, was the beautiful town hall, which is also where most of the terrace cafes were located. How convenient!

We struggled to get any clear photos of the Town Hall due to the sun blinding my eyes, my lens, everything – and me not being tech savvy enough to figure out how to take good photos even when the sun is getting in the way (I’m a slow learner).

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We also saw the Abbey Tower of Long John. Apparently you can climb all the stairs to the top and get a great view of the city. We would have done that if we weren’t so dehydrated from the sun. And lazy.

By the canal, we saw a lot of beautiful houseboats of different colors, decorated with flowers. I could definitely see myself living in one of those and waking up to the view of the canal every day. Now, that would have been spectacular!

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We finished our walk around town, and treated ourselves with a couple of well deserved pints at a terrace cafe on the main square. In lack of better things to do, I did a whole lot of people-watching and completely ignored my boyfriend for a sec. Totally not on purpose. And just like a toddler, my boyfriend will also do anything to get my attention – especially things that piss me off.

This time, he decided it would be funny to take sneaky paparazzi photos of me from awful angles, while I was sitting there, looking at people, drinking beer or texting. They were the ugliest pictures I’d ever seen and he refused to delete them. Sadly, they’re also the only photos I have of myself from Middelburg, so I might as well post one. The only one where I was actually paying attention to him and mocking myself as much as he was mocking me. What a healthy relationship!

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So, is Middelburg worth your time?

As unmotivated as I may have seemed to be – it was mainly due to the weather and not the town itself. Middelburg is actually a pretty charming little gem and I’d love to go back. And stay at the same hotel, obviously.

Because, how could you not stay at a hotel that has its own parrot?!

What else is there to do in Middelburg?

  • Are you traveling with children? Do you like theme parks? Visit the Mini Mundi miniature park, amusement park and indoor play area!
  • Another activity for the kids is the Kinderboerderij de Klepperhoeve – a farm/petting zoo with plenty of activities for the little ones.
  • Do you like to visit botanical gardens? Bring your camera and prepare to take some stunning photos at Middellandse Zeetuin Uilenbroek.

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Why Kinderdijk is perfect for amazing windmill-selfies

The Netherlands is famous for a lot of things, such as cheese, tulips, clogs and windmills. Yeah, those were probably the most stereotypical things I could think of, but it’s also what I came to see while road tripping cross-country Netherlands with my man. Well, I already knew I’d be a couple of weeks too late for tulip-season, which means  there’d be a higher probability of winning the lottery than seeing any tulips by now.  And then there’s those famous clogs. Well, to be honest,  I don’t really care that much about clogs.  So I guess that narrows it down a bit. Let’s just talk about windmills for now.

Because windmills are amazing. I mean, they have an amazing effect on me, since I’m not used to them. They turn me into an annoying little child who’s overly excited about everything and goes “wow!”, “LOOK!”, “it’s amazing” every five seconds, and that’s exactly the reason why I followed my guidebook’s advice to visit a village named Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which is the ultimate hot spot for windmill-scouting!

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Before going, we didn’t know much about Kinderdijk. We knew there’d be 19 windmills there (dating back to the 18th century) and we knew we’d have the possibility to visit the area either by foot, by bicycle (like a true Dutch) or by canal boat.

When we arrived, the first thing that caught our attention was not the windmills but an air balloon which had crash-landed into the canal. An ambulance, police officers and a rescue-team, including divers, were on site. What a traumatizing experience that must have been for everyone involved. At least they all made it out unharmed (from what I could see).

So what is there to do on site, besides watching air balloons float upside down on the canal? Well, you can rent a bicycle, or go on a sightseeing-tour on the canal, drink coffee and have a snack at the cafe, while admiring the spectacular view of the windmills.

Or just stroll along the footpaths, take photos, walk some more, take more photos.

And that’s exactly what we did. We’d paid for parking for just one hour and a half, and we didn’t wanna waste our time. Our plan was to go hardcore paparazzi on the windmills. Each and every one of them. Well. As many as we could before we had to return to the car to avoid getting a parking ticket.

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With the exception of all the tourists who were doing exactly the same thing as we were doing, Kinderdijk seemed to be a very peaceful village. I would have loved to bring my own bicycle, follow the pathway, get distracted by the beautiful scenery, fall off my bicycle, get back up again, ride a little further, feel overly exhausted and almost vomit, and eventually stop somewhere to have a nice little picnic and fight off flies, wasps, ants and other creatures that can’t resist my food and beverages. Now that would have been lovely!

Sadly, I don’t actually own a bicycle anymore (it got stolen – many years ago).

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“Can you take a picture of me for my Instagram?” I begged my boyfriend, in the most annoying way possible. As much as I love sharing photos on my social media platforms – especially Instagram – I feel like the biggest loser on the planet whenever I have to ask someone to take a picture of me for my Instagram. It makes me feel like I’m some kind of narcissist, and a try-hard wannabe-fashionista (note: I suck at fashion) whose only reason for traveling is to take cringe-worthy photos that pretty much scream “look at me, I’m relevant. The background isn’t”. Yuck. Maybe I am one of those people without even realizing it? Maybe I’ve tricked my mind into thinking I wanted to go to Kinderdijk to photograph windmills, but in reality, I went there only to have photos taken of ME in front of windmills? I’m sure my partner would say I’m semi-narcissistic, and also that we went to Kinderdijk for multiple reasons.

To learn, to see, and to make it a teeny tiny bit about me.

Enough with that selfie-talk.

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Some of the windmills of Kinderdijk can be visited (for a fee of 6,50 euros) and function as museums. If you wanna learn more about the history of windmills in the Netherlands, this is a fun way to do it!

And how do you get to Kinderdijk? 

There are direct trains to Kinderdijk from Utrecht and Rotterdam. If you’re visiting by car, the distance from Amsterdam to Kinderdijk is 98 km (via A2) and 53.9 km from The Hague (via A13).

As previously mentioned, there is parking on-site.

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Cool stuff in the Netherlands: Visit the Alkmaar Cheese Market!

I don’t know about you, but I love cheese. I actually love it so much that I’m sure it’s the main reason why I have my love handles and enormous thighs. Because, not a single day goes by without me eating some kind of cheese at some point of the day.

Last week, my partner and I went road tripping through the Netherlands – and ate A LOT of Dutch Gouda, every single day. We claimed we did it to be cultural, but let’s face it, we’re two fatties who just love everything food-related (and especially cheese).

Being someone who loves to try local specialties when I travel, I am always interested in learning about the traditions, the food culture and participate on local culinary events and celebrations wherever I go. So before going to the Netherlands, we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t miss any kind of event related to Dutch cheese. Because..cheese.

Which is how we ended up visiting Alkmaar for the weekly Alkmaar Cheese Market!

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Uhm.. What exactly is this Cheese Market?

The Cheese Market is the main attraction in town!

From April until the end of September, you can watch the art of cheese trading, according to a tradition which dates back to 1365.

The cheese would be delivered early in the morning, the cheese market masters and traders would then check to see whether the cheeses had been well stacked, and then lots of cheese – something like 30 000 kilos (2200 cheese wheels) would be lined up and ready for purchase.

…And you’ll get to watch all of this at the market!

The most fun part of the cheese market is watching the kaasdragers (cheese porters) identified by their differently colored straw hats, carry the farmers’ cheese on barrows and take them to the weighing house.

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Alright! What else is there to do at the market?

Taste cheese, buy cheese, eat cheese, eat stuff that isn’t cheese, drink beer at one of the nearby terrace bars, buy souvenirs from the artisan market behind the cheese market – or visit the cheese museum. After all this is THE cheese town!

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The Cheese Market sounds awesome! When can I visit?

The Cheese Market takes place from 10 am until 1 pm – every Friday (from March 31st until September 29th). This year there is also an evening market on certain Tuesdays (visit Kaasmarkt.nl for more information)

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I don’t know Alkmaar…How do I get there?

If you’re taking your car, I advise you to park it a bit outside of the main center, or in a parking garage. Street parking can be a bit tricky on busy days like these!

If you’re traveling from Amsterdam by train, there’s a direct connection to Alkmaar from the Amsterdam Central Station (trains depart four times pr hour).

If you’re traveling from Den Helder, Hoorn or Haarlem, there’s also a direct connection to Alkmaar and trains depart twice pr hour.

Shopping for souvenirs?

Pick up a Dutch handmade household item from “the old-fashioned shop”!

BOOM (since 1835) is a family-run traditional shop in the old historic quarter of Alkmaar. For nearly 200 years, this family business has been selling handmade Dutch items including traditional wooden clogs, brushes and ropes in Alkmaar – the cheese capital of the world!

The shop is museum-like and presents timeless Dutch products and good old-fashioned personal service. Loved by locals and tourists alike, this little gem is easy to recognize by its big yellow clog/wooden shoe next to the entrance!

For more information, check out Ouderwetsewinkel.com

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just me being cheesy (oh no, I didn’t just pull that joke, did I?)

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