If you’re visiting the Netherlands, make sure to stop by the Alkmaar Cheese Market (as known as Kaasmarkt Alkmaar) – it’s a great way to experience Dutch culture and sample some delicious cheese!
What is Dutch cheese?
Dutch-type cheeses are the most common type of semi-hard cheese. Traditionally, they are made from cow’s milk instead of sheep’s or goat’s milk as other similar kinds of cheeses. Gouda and Edam cheese are the primary Dutch cheese.
Why is the Netherlands famous for cheese?
Every year, the Dutch produce 650 million kilos of cheese, and two-thirds of the produced products is for export, making the Netherlands the world’s largest cheese exporter. On average, the Dutch consume 14,3 kilos of cheese per person per year. It’s no surprise that the Netherlands is popular worldwide for its cheese. Learn more about why cheese is so famous in the Netherlands here.
Dutch cheese is so well-known that every year, the Netherlands has a lot of cheese markets all over the country. Alkmaar Cheese Market is the oldest, biggest, and most well-known cheese market in the Netherlands.
Visit the Alkmaar Cheese Market
Kaasmarkt Alkmaar is a historic market in the Netherlands that takes place every Friday in summer, from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM, in Waagplein square, Alkmaar city. By intercity train, Alkmaar is just over half an hour from Amsterdam Central Station. By car, Alkmaar is 37.6 kilometers or 23.5 miles from Amsterdam. The Cheeese Market in Alkmaar dates back to the 14th century when it was first established as a place for cheese merchants to sell their wares. Today, the market is a popular tourist attraction, with over 100,000 visitors each year.
The cheese is transported on a wooden barrow suspended between two cheese carriers, which holds approximately 8 Gouda cheeses weighing 13,5 kilos each. Carrying a heavy barrow (25 kilos) weighing approximately 130 kilos is difficult. To make it easier, the carriers walk with a special “cheese carriers’ dribble,” a specific walking rhythm. They take a step back in time, ensuring the barrow remains as still as possible.
The square is well-prepared on Fridays before the cheese carriers’ guild goes to work. The market inspector supervises the removal of the cheese from the trucks. When the ten o’clock bell rings, the zetters load the barrows and the cheese carriers transport them to the balance to weigh the cheese. Then, the weighing masters will supervise the weighing and complete the weight slips. Meanwhile, traders and inspectors assess the quality of the on offer cheese on the square.
Visitors can purchase cheese, enjoy watching cheese weighing and trading, and listen to the traditional Dutch cheese auction. The market is a great place to sample some of the Netherlands’ famous cheeses, and it’s also a great way to experience a piece of Dutch history.
Alkmaar Cheese Market facts
There are some interesting facts about the Alkmaar cheese market:
- Waagplein literally translates to “Weighing Square.” It has been named since 1593 and is where to weigh the cheese.
- The market starts at 10:00 AM when the bell rings. However, not everyone can ring the bell, usually the guest of honor, who is usually a famous person or a political figure.
- You can bargain cheese price at the market.
Other cheese markets in the Netherlands
Besides Kaasmarkt Alkmaar, there are four more famous cheese markets in the Netherlands:
The name ‘Gouda Cheese’ is derived from the Dutch town of Gouda. Gouda is a lovely historic town close to The Hague. Every Thursday morning from April to August, Gouda hosts its own Gouda cheese market. Besides the cheese, Gouda is also famous for its sweet syrup waffles, pipes, and earthenware.
Every Wednesday morning in July and August, you can witness a historical reenactment of Edam’s century-old cheese market. Edam is a lovely small village 20 kilometers from Amsterdam that produces excellent Edammer cheese.
From May to September, the Woerden Cheese Market is open every Saturday morning in the small town of Woerden, near Utrecht. It has been held for over 100 years and is regarded as the last real commercial farmer’s cheese market in the Netherlands.
Hoorn, which is about 40 minutes by train from Amsterdam and about 20 kilometers north of Edam, has a cheese market every Tuesday from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM from mid-June to the end of August. This is a special event for both domestic and international visitors to enjoy folk dancing in authentic nineteenth-century costumes.
Alkmaar Cheese Museum
The Alkmaar Cheese Museum is located on the upper floors of Cheese Weigh House in Alkmaar. From here, you’ll enjoy the spectacular view of the world – famous Waagplein square – where the Alkmaar Cheese Market happens annually. This Cheese Museum opens for all regional day visitors, tourists, and schoolchildren to learn about the world of cheese through historical artifacts, interactive games, and audio-visual stories.
With the information provided above, hopefully those who are cheese lovers can add this interesting place to their summer travel plans.