Alkmaar

Cheese and old roots

Alkmaar is just over half an hour from Amsterdam Centraal Station by intercity train. For more information, see the Netherland Railways domestic journey planner, which gives slower "Stoptrein" connections as well as Intercity trains. The trains run at about 4 per hour until around 23.00.

By car, Alkmaar is 37.6 km or 23.5 miles from Amsterdam. For road directions, pick up a good map.

Where To Stay

Golden Tulip Alkmaar
Arcadialaan 6, 1813 KN Alkmaar
Tel/Fax: +31 - (0)72 - 540 1414 / 547 0141
E-mail: info@hotelalkmaar.nl
Alkmaar is ideal for a daytrip, but if you get too involved there are places to stay. The Golden Tulips are a good chain in Holland, not too chic but with all the amenities. Rates start at around 75. More choices can be found locally, try the V V V to book smaller hotels and inns. Or try our own hotel bookings service, here.

Red Light District

The website Red Light District-Alkmaar covers the Red Light District of Alkmaar and offer information to the visitor and even potential sex-workers.
They also have a reference to AXXXTW so they must be good people, if crappy web designers. Cheese is big business in Alkmaar, and this website does justice to that fact by being really cheesy. Achterdam is an English-language version, with even crappier design, but very interesting details and some pictures.

The Red Light District of Alkmaar consists of one street, the 300 metre long Achterdam. It's quiet, peaceful, safe and constantly monitored by videocameras (SMILE!) and just behind the main square of the Waagplein. Windows on both sides of the streets, and sometimes inner courtyards, open or closed to the rough Dutch weather, host an impressive number of girls for such a small place. Approximately 50 girls can be seen working during evenings, and if many are of the plain type, some very hot ones can be found from time to time. Peak activity seems to be after dinner, remaining quite busy until 3 am on weekend nights and until 1 am on week nights, roughly one hour after the surrounding bars close and the drunken customers find their way home.

Prices are on display on a prominent sticker at nearly every window, 35 for a "service". Tipping or rounding up to 50 is appreciated and gets you extra time, on top of the extra time and more relaxed attitudes you find here, when compared to Amsterdam and Den Haag. Blessing of blessings, there are no aggressive women knocking on doors, no pan-handlers, no junkies, and just a small number of loiterers hanging out at the end of the street next to the main "office" and call centre. The downside is that there is no open coffeeshop in the wee hours close-by, as Zero-Zero, on Laat 32, closes rather early at 22:30.

Refreshments

Two places of interest near by the Achterdam:

Cafe Brug
Herenstraat 1, tel:072-515 5465
Coffeeshop, you can read a brief description in Paniked's Coffeeshop Tour right here.

De Muizenvreugd
Herenstraat Tel:072-515 7518
Sister shop to the cafe Brug is De Muizenvreugd, approximately translated it means "mouse joy". If you look up at the large paintings which decorate the exterior walls, you'll discover why this small and friendly cafe is our headquarters while visiting Alkmaar---it brings us joy.

Sights and Attractions

What is there to do in Alkmaar? Not much besides wandering around its beautiful centre, having a drink or three in the main square, and possibly a visit to the Kaasmuseum (Cheese Museum). The official tourism information site has a lot more to tell, but just relaxing outdoors beneath the bell-tower of the Kaasmuseum is a pleasant enough past time.

Cheese Museum
Waagplein 2
Opening hours: 10 am - 4 pm, Monday - Saturday
Entrance: 5 NLG
This is what's it all about. Cheese and beer. And let's not forget some mustard. A visit to the Cheese Museum is a wonderful appetizer for a beer-tasting session, easily conducted in an outdoor cafe' afterwards. You will also benefit from an introduction to Dutch and local history, plus much more than you'll ever need to know about cheese production. And you get to see those funny hats, like the ones the in-bred population of Vollendam still wear to milk the tourists. Seriously, the Cheese Museum is a landmark of Alkmaar and dominates the city centre, the Waagplein. Originally built as a chapel in 1390, it became the Weighing House for the cheese market in 1576, and nowadays still serves an accessory role in the traditional cheese market, held for the tourist masses during the summer. You can skip a lot of crap in Holland, but cheese is not one of them.

Cheese Market

The Alkmaar Cheese Market takes place in Alkmaar's main square every Friday at 10 a.m., from the second Friday in April to the second Friday in September. Try to arrive early, so be there between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. Cheese is mass produced these days, so the spectacle of the "cheese-porters" has everything to do with tradition, and little to do with reality.

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