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Hidden Gems in the Netherlands: the Charming Town of Monnickendam

Posted on Apr 7, 2021 by

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Monnickendam is a beautiful town in the Noord Holland province, one of the best hidden gems in the Netherlands, on the coast of Markermeer (the Marker lake). It’s one of the old fishing villages of the Waterland region, very picturesque and inviting, and has the big advantage that, unlike the sister villages of Volendam and Marken, is not included in the tourist circuit, therefore it’s quiet all year round. Only 15 kilometres distance from Amsterdam, makes it for an easy day-trip, by bus, car or bike, whatever you choose. I love going to Monnickendam by bike, because the route from Amsterdam will take you through green fields, canals and the lovely Broek in Waterland village.

Monnickendam was founded by monks, and that’s where the name comes from, meaning Monk’s Dam. In the past, Monnickendam was an important port, having access to the former Zuiderzee before the Afsluitdijk was built and the connection to the sea was cut. There was a lot of trade going on here, and the seventeenth century weigh house (the Waag) used by merchants to weigh the goods is a reminder of those times.

The important port is nowadays a beautiful marina, which attracts people for sailing and water sports. Monnickendam marina comes to life in the summer, when everyone is there, tending to their boats and taking them for a ride — or renting boats, if they don’t own one. There’s also a little beach where locals go for a swim to cool down in the hot summer days (however many they can be in the Netherlands).

In the summer, the canals are covered in water lilies, the street gardens are coloured with flowers and the ice cream shops are some of the best I’ve tried. The city is so still that you can listen to the bumblebees buzzing and it resembles a holiday resort where everyone went to the beach. The silence is broken from time to time by the carillon tower announcing the hour (one of the oldest carillon towers in the world).


Monnickendam has one museum that can be visited if you want to learn more about the history of this place: Waterlandsmuseum de Speeltoren (the museum is closed now, during the lockdown). For the rest, the entire historical centre is like an open-air museum, with old houses, cobbled streets and beautiful architectural details. Another important landmark is the Grote Kerk, St. Nicholas church, which you cannot miss as it’s on the way to the city centre.

Monnickendam could be a great destination for a long weekend: you can stay in a cosy B&B and explore the area at your own pace. You can rent a boat or a bike and go to the nearby villages, or simply enjoy the peaceful life in a charming Dutch town.

In the times before Corona, this quiet place was transforming into a buzzing town for a weekend every year: the Jan Haring weekend – when an amazing boat race is taking place. The entire weekend the town is celebrating, there’s music and smoked fish competition as well (if you like smoked fish, you can have your fill there). If you go this year, however, you’ll only have the quiet city to experience, as any other events are cancelled during the lockdown. But, hopefully, next year we can roam the streets again and have festivals and events. Until then, if you live in the Netherlands, you can consider visiting Monnickendam while taking all the precautions (we can at least have a staycation, right?).

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