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The Netherlands has so many fascinating cities that it’s tempting to ignore the verdant countryside. However, this isn’t just any countryside: this is The Netherlands, where two-thirds of the land is below sea level and the vast green fields are framed and dissected by canals.
The three villages of Volendam, Edam, and Marken are less than 45 minutes from Amsterdam by bus, and visitors will find bicycling, cheese, coastal architecture, fishing, and many other quintessential aspects of Dutch country life here in abundance. This day trip from Amsterdam can be done by bus, rental car, or even bicycle (but you have to be quite adventurous!). To help you plan this day trip, practical details are provided in-depth at the end of the article.
Volendam is a small fishing village straight out of a postcard, with a harbor full of classic sailing vessels and rows of brick houses featuring great examples of 17th century Dutch architectural detail. The main street in Volendam is quite touristy, selling traditional syrup waffles, clogs, and plenty of Heineken and Amstel, and there are many things worth seeing. Check out the Hotel Spaander, where many famous artists have stayed. Inside, the walls are adorned with paintings that were exchanged for room and board. If you’re a fan of cheese, I recommend visiting De Smikkelaar cheese shop, located just off the main street on Zeestraat 2/B. The store has fare prices and myriad cheeses, from seasonal farmers cheeses made from unpasteurized milk to several versions of the famous Dutch Edammer (or Edam). The St. Vincent Church is also nice to tour, with detailed woodwork and paintings.
The Netherlands is a flat country, and ideal for cycling. Bicycle paths have been built along every road, and space has been left between the paths and the roads making them very safe, even for novices. The village of Edam is a mile and a half from Volendam and makes for an enjoyable ride. There are numerous bike rentals in Volendam, but if you can’t manage to find one, ask at the tourist office. Buses also run from Volendam to Edam.
Edam is much quieter than Volendam, and its tiny streets are complimented by tiny canals with lots of waterfowl. Here you’ll find truly unique stores selling artisanal souvenirs, clothing, and artworks. Edam is most famous for its cheese, and a cheese market (Kaasmarkt) is held once a week during July and August. Men and women wear the traditional dress and plenty of delicious cheese is available for sampling. If you don’t make it on market day, visit the cheese museum, Kaaswaag, which is actually more or less a cheese shop inside of a historical building. Beyond the dairy products, Edam provides visitors with a taste for small-town life in The Netherlands.
From Edam, there are two prominent ways to get to Marken: Either return your bicycle to Volendam then take the ferry to Marken, or bicycle the 10 miles to Marken then take the ferry back to Volendam. The village of Marken was once an island, but today it is connected to the mainland by a road. If you thought Edam was isolated, Marken is even more so. Now is a good time to gaze across the waves in awe at Dutch water management: this entire body of water before you is actually a lake, not a sea, and the water is fresh, not salt. The Afsluitdijk dam, which is part of the Zuiderzee Works, was built in the 1930s to protect The Netherlands from flooding. The dam runs between the North Sea and massive Zuiderzee inlet. As a result, the Zuiderzee inlet, Amsterdam Harbor, and all of the canals in Amsterdam are freshwater.
Marken has a population of less than 2,000, and traditional architecture abounds. Tiny paths run through the village and over canals on drawbridges. The Marken Lighthouse is a 35-minute walk from town (or a short bike ride). A small number of cafes have outdoor seating overlooking the small harbor, and after a stroll through town, they’re the perfect place for a restorative drink while you wait for the ferry to take you back to Volendam.
How to Get To and From Volendam By Bus
You can plan your trip using the user-friendly website of Amsterdam public transportation (Insert: http://en.gvb.nl/reisinformatie/Pages/Reisinfo-overzicht.aspx). Several buses leave for Volendam daily and cost around $6 each way. Buses run back to Amsterdam until late at night.
Biking to Volendam from Amsterdam
Volendam is around 16 miles from Amsterdam, and there are bike paths the entire way.
Taking a Ferry Between Volendam and Marken
The Marken/Volendam Express Ferry typically runs from 11am to 6pm. Price info is listed on the website.
Written by and photos by Mattie Bamman for Europeupclose.com