Until its road connection to the mainland in 1957, Marken was an island in the Zuider Zee, and pretty much a closed community, supported by a small fishing industry. Today, it mainly lives off its tourist industry, and can get pretty busy on summer weekends, though it’s of the day-tripping, coach-driven variety, and when the crowds have left, or out of season, it’s a rather special place, very peaceful and remote, despite being within just a few miles of Amsterdam’s urban sprawl.
Marken is a small island village in the IJsselmeer. It´s easy to get there from Amsterdam (or via Volendam) and it´s a nice daytrip if you want to see a traditional Dutch fishing village. If you visit Marken as a daytrip from Amsterdam you will feel you are in a different world and century.
Marken is most interesting for its green painted houses on the Dyke, its traditional religious isolationisme, its strong football team and its expensive tourist shops.
For some time during the later 19th and early 20th centuries, Marken and its inhabitants were the focus of considerable attention by folklorists, ethnographers and physical anthropologists, who regarded the small fishing town as a relic of the traditional native culture that was destined to disappear as the modernization of the Netherlands gained pace. Among them was Johann Friedrich Blumenbach who examined a skull from the island of humans which he called Batavus genuinus; and was the Belgian painter Xavier Mellery who stayed in Marken at the request of Charles De Coster. Mellery was asked to perform illustrative work and delivered several intimist works.
The projects of Cornelis Lely was to incorporate the island into the markerwaard. The dike, built in 1941 in the north, is the first phase of that project which was stopped by the war.
In 1983, the Marker Museum about the history of the island was opened.
Marken was a separate municipality until 1991, when it was merged into Waterland.
Floods in this little village were regular and often disastrous. To protect their belongings and themselves from the water, the inhabitants created artificial dwelling hills on which they build their houses. As fishery became the main economic activity, the population grew rapidly. When the Afsluitdijk was finished in 1932, and the Zuiderzee became the fresh water IJsselmeer with no access to the sea, fishery activities came to an end. When the dike between Marken and the mainland was closed in 1957, Marken wasn’t even a real island anymore. Nevertheless, the village still has the looks and feel of a fishermen’s town and an island. For over a century, it has drawn in visitors who wanted a glance at its traditional costumes and picturesque houses.
How to get there?
The N518 connects Marken to nearby Monnickendam. There, it connects to the N247. If you’re coming from Amsterdam, take the A10 and then follow the N247 and N518 to Marken.
- Bus 311 runs from Amsterdam to Marken and back, and passes through Broek in Waterland and Monnickendam.
- Bus 610 connects Marken to Volendam.
In the main tourist season, 24 March – 6 November, there’s also a ferry connection to Volendam, which leaves about once in 30 to 45 minutes.
A great way to get to Marken is by bike. There are many cycle routes that will take you there.
- From Amsterdam Central Station – Marken Cycle Route (51km)
- From Purmerend train station – Volendam Cycle Route (45km)
What to see there?
Marken’s main attraction lies in its lovely old wooden houses, traditional atmosphere and folklorist elements.Traditional costumes are now rarely worn, and usually for tourist purposes, but are still fun to see. Many of the wooden houses are listed as National Heritage Sites and some are placed on wooden poles, to protect them from the water. The main sights include:
- Paard van Marken (Horse of Marken), Vuurtoren 1. This lighthouse on the eastern end of the peninsula is one of the best known ones in the country. This 1839 structure is 16 meters high and it’s a National Heritage Sight. It’s not open for visitors but is a lovely sight from a distance.
- Marker Museum, Kerkbuurt 44 47. In this small museum you can see a traditional Marken house as it would have been decorated in the old days. There’s traditional clothing on display and a lot of information on the peninsula’s history. Not all information is in English, though. 2,50 EUR.
- Kijkhuisje Sijtje Boes, Havenbuurt 19. In the early 1900’s, a woman called Sijtje Boes started the first souvenir shop here. Now, it’s a tiny museum with the original interior as an exhibition.
Marken has been a popular tourist destination for decades and souvenirs are all around. You’ll find a good range at the Sijtje Boes house. Marker Folklorestoffen (Buurt II 5) sells the typical fabrics that you the traditional Marker costumes were made of. On Rietland 4 there’s a shop that sells the actual costumes.
Where to eat there?
There are few restaurants. As Marken is originally a fishermen’s town, there’s a lot of sea food around. Hotel Hof van Marken also has a restaurant.
- Restaurant Land en Zeezicht, Havenbuurt 6. Nice location and a lovely outdoor terrace. The food gets mixed reviews.
- De Visscher, Havenbuurt 22. This pub serves descent food and has a great view.
- Snackbar de Verkeerde Wereld, Buurterstraat 20. This cafeteria sells fries and snacks, but also has a range of simple dishes for lunch and dinner. Baguettes and omelets but also fried fish, steaks, spareribs etc. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Where to sleep there?
Accommodation is limited on the peninsula, and most people stay in Amsterdam, Volendam or Monnickendam. There is a hotel though, and it gets good reviews.
- Hotel Restaurant Hof van Marken, Buurt II 15. This nice hotel is in a great location and it’s a monument itself. Rooms are decorated with antiques and old pictures of the village and they’re clean. Bathrooms are small and the stairs narrow, breakfast is not included in the price. The downstairs restaurant serves French cuisine and is one of the best dining options in town. €95 for a double room per night.
So if you haven´t decided about your holiday destination already, you can just choose Amsterdam and while your visitation visit not only this wonderful town of Marken, but also other attractions nearby like Volendam, Edam or Zaanse Schans. And also, don´t forget to take a bike with you, because surface in Netherlands is just made for cycling!