Even if the Dutch provinces are unfamiliar to you, you will definitely have heard of North Holland (Noord Holland in Dutch). This Dutch province is home to Amsterdam and Haarlem, and other lesser-known gems like Alkmaar and the Kennemerland National park. The area is rich in museums, art galleries and striking architecture. It is also an area of scenic beauty and rural tranquility. In fact, at times you might feel as if you’ve stepped into an old Dutch Masters’ painting. Traditional houses with little bridges over streams separate them from the road. And windmills and spotted cows are set against the backdrop of green pastures and rolling clouds. Whether you choose for the hustle and bustle of the city, spectacularly wide beaches or rural pastures, there’s something for everyone in North Holland.
Discover North Holland’s Century-old Cities
Amsterdam needs little introduction and is of course on most tourist’s itineraries when they visit the Netherlands. The Dutch capital city is as vibrant and diverse as you would expect, but being geographically compact, it has a friendly village-like feel. Of course, Amsterdam is crammed with world-class museums and attractions. And there’s enough to see and do to satisfy the most jaded of travelers.
Just 20 minutes from Amsterdam, Haarlem is still a relatively undiscovered Dutch destination. But as the capital of the province of North Holland and gateway to the flower region, Haarlem is a delight. The medieval city centre is charming and the cobbled streets are lined with boutiques, quirky shops and lovely restaurants and bars. Whilst the famous Dutch dunes and gorgeously wide beaches are minutes from the city.
Although you may have never heard of Alkmaar, it certainly should be on your list if you want to discover a Dutch gem. Alkmaar was one of Holland’s major cities in the Golden Age and boasts many lovely medieval buildings that are still intact. Most notable is the tall tower of the Saint-Laurens Church. Alkmaar’s other main tourist attraction is the famous Alkmaar cheese market (Alkmaar Kaasmarkt).
Held on the Waagplein, the cheese market traditionally takes place every Friday morning (10.00 -12.30) from the first week of April to the first Friday in September. Look out for the old-fashioned hand clap tradition, and watch the traders and carriers weigh and sell their cheeses.