The Dutch know their cheese: they make delicious cheeses in quite a few varieties and I love them for that! This is a rich tradition in the Netherlands and there are a few traditional cheese markets where the product is presented, weighted and traded. I recently visited the one from Alkmaar, a lovely city situated North of Amsterdam.
The market, on the Waagplein (Weighing Square), is a big show. People are dressed in traditional clothes, a host with a microphone describes the activities (in several languages), men run around carrying the wooden racks filled with wheels of cheese on their shoulders, and there are even cheese gondolas on the canals. It is crowded and tourist-oriented, yes, but it is a great sight, nonetheless. I liked the jovial atmosphere, seeing people having fun while doing what they’re good at, the cheese inspectors walking around in their white robes, carefully examining the cheese quality. And I loved the cheese gondolas! Beside the market there’s an artisan fair, where you can find clogs and cheese mostly, but also other interesting items.
It definitely worth the visit. It’s easy to reach from Amsterdam by car or by train (around 40 minutes train ride). After you have had enough of the market (you can’t watch the cheese wheels swinging around for two hours), you can visit the city. The old centre is very pretty, with typically Dutch architecture and has a great shopping area.
- The market is not open all year round, but from April to September, every Friday from 10.00 am to 12.30pm – check the schedule on their website
- Try to be in the square before 10, for the opening bell song
- Eat a cheese raclette made at one of the stands near the market – it’s delicious!
- Have fun!