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Edam, Marken & Volendam

Edam, Marken & Volendam, The Netherlands

Spend the day exploring some of the Netherlands’ smaller towns, see 17th-century architecture and get a sense of life in the Dutch countryside. Accompanied by a local guide, you’ll visit three villages that exist far outside city life, each with its own style.

You’ll start with a drive to Edam, a small, canal-threaded town that’s best known for its eponymous cheese. Walk through its well-preserved old town, visit its cathedral-scale church and see old wooden lift-bridges over the canals.

Next, you’ll take a boat across to Marken, a tiny village that used to house a community of monks. Here, many small wooden houses are built on posts to avoid flooding, and the waterfront offers fresh fish.

Finally, you’ll drive to Volendam, a larger town with a labyrinthine housing quarter in an old fishery district, and a thriving port where you can shop, enjoy local treats and see the wooden fishing boats out in the Markermeer Lake.

Spend the day in Waterland, at three traditional fishing villages. Not quite a wetland, this wide area of flat green plains is threaded with canals, and was once part of a shallow inlet linked to the North Sea. In the 20th century, a massive dike was built, cutting the inlet off from the sea and reclaiming a province-worth of land.

On the shore of the now-freshwater Lake Markermeer is Edam, known mainly for its eponymous cheese, which has been wrapped in red or yellow wax and sent on trading ships for centuries. The old cheese market is one of the town’s highlights, with traditional-dress performances of deliveries by boat and human-drawn handbarrows. But Edam has other charms among its cobbled streets and quiet canals.

A clock tower, dating from 1561, marks the remains of a vanished medieval church. The nearby brick Saint Nicolas Church dates from the 15th century. Its vaulted ceiling is a wooden replica of a typical stone ceiling, to keep the weight down and prevent it from sinking in the low-lying land. The Edam Museum is a 400-year-old canal house, which includes a so-called floating cellar — a brick room designed to accommodate changes in water level.

You’ll then take a ferry across to Marken, an even smaller fishing village that was an island before the dike was built. Unlike Edam’s brick structures, Marken is known for its wooden houses, mostly in green and grey, with bright-white sills and rooflines. The houses are built on small, artificial hills called werven, which protected them from flooding in centuries past.

At the tiny waterfront promenade, there’s a shop called Sijtje Boes Souvenirs, the first gift shop in the Netherlands founded by a woman. The store’s owner and namesake Sijtje Boes began by giving tours of her home and selling souvenirs from a basket, but it evolved into a shop stuffed with seaside collections and other indications of Marken’s old way of life.

The last stop of the day, and the largest town, is Volendam. Best known for its touristy waterfront along the dike, Volendam also has its own hidden life. At the port, you can see old Dutch wooden ships, and of course, enjoy fresh seafood like herring and smoked eel. In the old part of town, you can walk a maze of small houses with narrow, brick-cobbled paths connecting them, known as Doolhof, or the labyrinth. The homes have brick lower floors, green wood upper floors and steep, red-tile roofs, but while they’re clustered together closely, the small district is not too difficult to escape.

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These activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences around where you're staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident's eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can suggest tours and activities, such as cooking classes, that will introduce you to the local ways of life.

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