The top cheese markets in the Netherlands are in Alkmaar and Gouda. Edam is very close to Amsterdam and Woerden the least touristy.
Colorful cheese markets of huge yellow or red cheeses and Dutch traditional dress are amongst the top sights to see when visiting Holland. Open-air cheese markets mostly disappeared from the Netherlands during the mid-twentieth century but in a few towns such as Alkmaar, Gouda, Edam, and Woerden, the kaasmarkt tradition is continued, even if mostly for the benefit of tourists. These Dutch cheese markets are fun to visit and the historic towns are beautiful with picturesque and interesting old town centers.
Top Cheese Markets in the Netherlands
Several towns in the Netherlands stage cheese markets for the benefit of tourists and for marketing purposes. The best-known cheese markets are in Alkmaar, Gouda, Edam and Woerden – all within easy reach from Amsterdam.
Cheese markets are mostly held during the summer season on the following days:
- Alkmaar: Friday mornings and some Tuesday evenings
- Gouda: Thursday mornings
- Edam: Wednesday morning
- Woerden: Saturday morning
Always double-check specific dates, as markets may be canceled, or additional markets scheduled, during holiday periods or for special events.
The choice of the best cheese market to visit in Holland depends on various factors. The market in Alkmaar is arguably the most famous and the best spectacle. Gouda is the most interesting town. Edam is closest to Amsterdam and in a pretty small town. Woerden is the least touristy and more farmers market than tourist attraction.
Alkmaar Show Cheese Market
The cheese market (kaasmarkt) on the Waagplein in Alkmaar, North-Holland, is one of the top sights to see in Holland and arguably the most photogenic of all the cheese markets in the Netherlands.
The Alkmaar cheese market follows the old traditions with strict cheese carrier guild rules applied to dress and behavior. During market day, up to a thousand yellow cheeses are laid out, sold, weighed, and importantly carried to the trucks.
It is the carrying of cheese on big wooden barrows hung between two cheese carriers that really makes the Alkmaar kaasmarkt special. The dragers (carriers) use a comical, offbeat fast march known as the cheese makers’ dribble to maintain balance while carrying the heavy loads.
The Alkmaar cheese market is held on Friday mornings from April (Easter weekend at the latest) to end September. On some Tuesdays – mostly in July and August – an evening market is also held.
Alkmaar is an interesting town in the province North Holland to the north of Amsterdam. It has over 400 listed buildings and many pleasant cafés, bars, and restaurants.
See Alkmaar: the Best Cheese Market in Holland for details.
Visit the Gouda Cheese Market
The cheese market in Gouda, South Holland, is one of the largest in the Netherlands and held on the huge square between De Waag and the rear of the spectacular Gothic town hall – the best views of the market is from the balcony of this stadhuis, which is well worth exploring too.
The large Gouda cheese wheels are traded with agreed prices confirmed by handshake. Many stalls sell cheese, traditional Dutch food, and of course souvenirs.
The Gouda cheese market is held Thursday mornings 10:00 to 13:00 from early April to end August. A few dates are missed, and sometimes an extra market is held due to holidays.
Cheese Market in Edam
The Edam cheese market is as colorful and traditional as Alkmaar but smaller and less frequently held. The market day is often less crowded than especially Alkmaar.
Market participants follow the old traditions of regional dress and trading with clapping and handshakes to confirm the deals with cheeses also carried by wooden barrows hanging between two people. Edam cheeses are made in a variety of styles but are generally much smaller than the large Gouda rings traded in Gouda and Alkmaar.
The cheese market in Edam is held most Wednesday morning 10:30 to 12:30 in July and August with an occasional night market also popular and accompanied by a larger festival.
Edam is easily reached from Amsterdam by bus (lines 110, 118, 312, 314, or 316). There are no train services to Edam. Edam is also often combined in day-trip excursions with other nearby sights such as Vollendam, Marken, and Zaanse Schans.
Farmers Cheese Market in Woerden
The Woerdense kaasmarkt is the least touristy of the famous Dutch cheese markets. Participants mostly wear traditional dress and use antique tractors to bring the cheese to the market.
Cheeses are traded here between farmers and cheese buyers and include a large variety of cheeses generally not traded in supermarkets. More than a hundred kinds of cheeses may be tasted at the various cheese stalls.
The Woerden cheese market takes place most Saturdays between 11:00 and 13:00 from end April to end August. The best day to visit Woerden is on the historic cheese market (historische kaasmarkt) held in August when many visitors will also wear regional dress and traditional events are held.
The Dutch famously love cheese and colorful cheese shops are very popular in Amsterdam and other tourist areas – sampling is often allowed of minuscule pieces.