The peninsula of North Holland jutting north from Amsterdam is packed with picturesque countryside and charming seaside towns. We visited Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Edam and Marken, small towns, all with their own unique appeal, on a one-hours’-drive-long strip along the east coast. Any visitor to Amsterdam would be doing themselves a disservice if they missed the opportunity to get out of the city and see some of these towns—it’s only a 30-minute drive or bus ride from the capital to either Edam or Marken!
With its sailboat-filled harbor and laid back pace, Enkhuizen reminded us quite a bit of some of the lazy port towns back home in New England. From outside the distinctive 16th century Drommedaris, we watched the adjacent bridge raise to let a series of boats out into the harbor and open sea, each one larger than the next. We set off to make a loop through the town, starting at the east end of Westerstraat (the main drag) and slowly making our way west. Echte Bakker 't Broodhuys served as a perfect stopping point where we perused the selection of baked goods and snacks. We settled on the almond sugar cookies and fruit slices (to be enjoyed later!) and continued on our way. We made our way around Oude Gracht and back toward the harbor, but not before walking through Snouck van Loosenpark. The park was beautiful, but most surprising to us was that people lived in houses right on the park grounds! Maybe we should stop being surprised by things like this… Before jumping back in the car we took a seat on a bench overlooking the harbor to enjoy our snack and let the warm early summer sun beat down on us.
Hoorn was a similar, but busier seaside town. We spotted some absolutely beautiful boats in the harbor and even caught a wedding photo shoot in action, which speaks to the splendor of the setting. From the harbor we headed toward Oosterpoort, a bridge guarded by a an attractive stone building which was also beautiful enough to be included in the photo shoot’s itinerary! We walked west to Oosterkerk which is noteworthy in its architecture; one marked difference between Enkhuizen and Hoorn was that Hoorn seemed to have a wealth of traditional Dutch architecture. Further down was the old town’s main square—Roode Steen is flanked by interesting buildings on all sides and is watched over at its center by a statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, an important figure of the 17th century’s Dutch East India Company who was born there.
Our original plan included visiting Edam, but on our drive from Hoorn to Edam we made the decision to skip it and go straight to Marken instead. Regret immediately came over us as we got a glimpse of the town while we passed it on the highway. After a couple of miles of driving in silence, Rico, who was at the wheel, used one of the motorways’ many roundabouts as an opportunity to make an executive decision and turn around to see what Edam had to offer! We were not disappointed. The town, famous for its cheese, is laced with canals and crowned in its center by a steeply-constructed bridge on the Damplein. We spent quite a bit of time wandering through the canals and appreciating the architecture and small-town feel—there’s not too much to do otherwise. We grabbed gelato at Banketbakkerij Mastenbroek and enjoyed it while lounging on a bench on the Damplein. It’s easy to get caught up in packed agendas and busy cities when traveling and that lazy gelato was just what we needed at the time to recharge our batteries!
Marken is on an island connected to the mainland by a short bridge. Though only 30 minutes from Amsterdam, this place feels worlds away and even the architecture is notably different. Covered in deep green houses and charming little white pedestrian bridges (each with a name proudly displayed on its tower), Marken can’t be missed. Given its small size and popularity, it is quite crowded, especially at the harbor, but it doesn’t take much to find some peace and quiet. We spent our time strolling the side streets and walking along the canals that snake their way through the town. We were surprised when, around a corner, a group of young boys playfully sprayed us with squirt guns—we didn’t mind given the midday heat!
While the Netherlands is certainly noteworthy for its countryside and small towns, what really draws people is its cities. And Amsterdam is not the only one! In the next two posts we’ll cover the cities we visited on our trip, which other than Amsterdam includes Utrecht, Haarlem, Leiden and Delft.