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Visiting Medemblik, a Charming Town on IJsselmeer

Posted on Jan 13, 2022 by

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Medemblik is a charming village in the province of Noord-Holland, on the IJsselmeer. It is the northern point of the golden triangle: HoornEnkhuizen-Medemblik, my favourite towns in this part of the country. You’ve probably never heard of it, but, in the past, Medemblik used to be an important trading town, before the Afsluitdijk was built and the access to the sea was cut. Nowadays, the town’s connection to water is still very important, but more because of water sports than because of trading. There are three harbours in this small town, and that says it all! This is the smallest and the oldest town of West-Friesland region (yes, the small Dutch provinces are separated in yet more regions!), and one of the most beautiful. Old houses, a castle, a beautiful marina – I couldn’t wait to see it! I chose Medemblik to start my challenge of discovering a Dutch province each month, because I think it’s the most beautiful town from the ones I haven’t seen yet in North-Holland. But maybe I am mistaken, and we will see about that at the end of January.

I waited to do my trip on a sunny day, because no one wants to travel on a cold, rainy winter day (as most of them are at this time of the year). It’s annoying enough that we are in lockdown at the moment and everything is closed, so any day-trip can be enjoyed only partially. I took the train to Hoorn, then the 139 bus to Medemblik. Entering the town, I was seeing nothing of the old architecture I was expecting; only modern, beautiful houses with well-maintained gardens. Wondering if maybe the town is not what I was hoping for, I told myself that at least the marina must be nice and that will save the trip. But after a while I realised that Medemblik is bigger than I thought and the old city centre was yet to be reached. It’s a lovely town (the new part as well), with interesting bridges and houses. I bet it’s a great place to live in! But if you go there to see the old city, this is (roughly) the part you should focus on:

Medemblik map

It was a bit cloudy when I arrived, but soon the sky cleared and the sun came out. The streets were quiet, except for the main shopping street, where there was an outdoor market with a few stalls. Residents were gathered here for shopping and for a tasty fish sandwich, and it was the liveliest part of the town (OK, except the school yard where there was such an incredible noise coming from the kids, happy on their first day back to school after a prolonged holiday). I’ve spotted a few other “tourists” — like me, doing local travel. I can only wonder how busy this place is in normal travel times, and, hopefully, I will also find out one day.

What can you see and do in Medemblik?

  • Walk around the old town center. This is the only thing I could do, given the situation. You can walk around and admire the old buildings, the cute little bridges, make a stop for a coffee (take-away only, when in lockdown), then go to the marina, cross the Emmapark to get to the castle and visit the harbour area.
  • The Radboud Castle (Kasteel Radboud). This beautiful castle was built around 1280 by count Floris V and it was used as a safe place for the inhabitants whenever there was an attack on the city. One of the most famous attacks was the one in 1517, when Medemblik was stormed by about 4000 pirates from Frisia (The Arumer Zwarte Hoop – the Black Army of Arun), and many citizens fled to the castle, which the pirates unsuccessfully besieged. Since they couldn’t get into the castle, they burned the city to the ground. It’s hard to imagine these awful events when you walk around the Radboud Castle nowadays: it’s a very peaceful area, overlooking the IJsselmeer.
Radboud Castle
  • Stoomtram Museum (Steam Tram museum). There is a steam tram taking you on the route: Hoorn-Enkhuizen-Medemblik, to get a taste of the past transportation. After this, you can return to Enkhuizen by ferry (and you take the modern train to Hoorn).
  • The Dutch Steam Engine Museum. It keeps alive the history of the steam pumping station “Vier Noorder Koggen” as well as the development and significance of steam engines. Here you can find out what amazing things steam can do.
  • The Bakery Museum De Oude Bakerij. Advertising themselves as the tastiest museum of the Netherlands, this place takes you back in time (but the cakes are all fresh!). It has demonstration areas and also offers workshops, so you can learn how to prepare your own tasty sweets. It reminded me of the little bakery museum I visited at Zaanse Schans.
De Oude Bakerij
  • De Herder windmill and the Poorthuis, on Westerdijk. You can have a tour of the windmill and make a stop to buy some flour (or for an apple pie) at the little shop inside. Next to the windmill, you can see the old Poorthuis (the harbour house). This is where the gatekeeper was living, locking the gates to the city every night. It is mentioned in the archives all the way back to 1500, although the current building is not the original, but an accurate reconstruction of what used to be the Poorthuis.
  • The Stadhuis (Town Hall). It’s an interesting building from 1939 and you can’t miss it if you go there by bus, as the bus stop is next to it.
Stadhuis Medemblik
  • The marina and the harbours. Give me a town with a marina and I will be happy. I love walking around the beautiful boats and imagine I would sail around the world and never be seasick. One can dream! The view over the IJsselmeer is beautiful and there’s a great walking area along the water. The sky was blue on the day I visited and striped with pink colours from the approaching sunset. It was so peaceful there, I almost lost my bus because I wanted to stay on the pier for hours.

I will have to come back to Medemblik to see the museums, when they open again. It is weird visiting places when everything is closed, but I got used to it in the past years. It is still some form of travelling and you get to change the everyday scenery, which is good for your mental health. To be honest, a day wouldn’t have been enough to see at one or two museums and the castle, to make a stop for a nice lunch and to walk around as well, so it’s good that I only could walk around in the few hours I spent there.

I loved Medemblik for its calmness and for the maritime vibe (please notice in the picture below how the boat masts can be seen rising behind the houses – so beautiful!) and I can’t wait to go back!

Medemblik

And now, the photo tour:

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