Traditional clothing, wooden houses, smoked eel, boats and clumps…nowhere in the Netherlands do this many typically Dutch traditions come together as in the Waterland region. Every day dozens of people from all over the world visit to taste the atmosphere of the Dutch countryside and enjoy the friendliness of its inhabitants.
Volendam – on of three towns I visited during my visit in Waterland – is a town in North Holland, 20 kilometres north of Amsterdam.
Sometimes known as “the pearl of the south sea”, this place is a highly popular tourist destination. This is where a lot of Dutch clichés can be found. Most of these clichés, however, have a lot of history to them.
Originally, Volendam was the location of the harbour of the nearby Edam, which was situated at the mouth of the IJ bay. In 1357, the inhabitants of Edam dug a shorter canal to the Zuiderzee with its own separate harbour. This removed the need for the original harbour, which was then dammed and used for land reclamation. Farmers and local fishermen settled there, forming the new community of Vollendam, which literally meant something like “Filled dam”. In the early part of the 20th century it became something of an artists’ retreat, with both Picasso and Renoir spending time here. The majority of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, which is deeply connected to the village culture. Historically, many missionaries and bishops grew up in Volendam. Today there is the chapel of Our Lady of the Water, which is located in a village park.
Church of St. Vincent
Volendam is at the same time a fishing village well known for its characteristic, authentic houses.
A visit to Volendam typically begins with a stroll down De Dijk, the main harbour strip, which remains a lively shopping and residential street. On one side you have the working trawlers and fishing boats, which remain the lifeblood for so many in the area. On the other you can see the traditional wooden buildings and homes.
However, one of the best ways to truly discover Volendam is to wander through its ancient streets of Doolhof and Oude Kom and discover the old neighbourhoods, beautiful streets and exquisitely classic houses that characterise the fishing villages around the Ijsselmeer lake. This is the oldest part of Volendam city centre. Doolhof and Oude Kom owe its name to the fact that the buildings were not created according to a clearly defined street pattern. It is precisely these narrow streets and authentic houses that exerted such a strong influence on the imagination of painters and artists who visited Volendam from 1880 onwards. It seemed to them that time did not seem to get a hold on this fishing village.
A visit to a museum is also something that any visit to Volendam should include.
1. Volendams Museum
Volendams Museum teaches its visitors about the rich history and folklore of this famous fishing village.
Take a trip back in time with a visit to Volendams Museum. It houses a quirky assortment of artefacts, traditional clothing and life-sized dioramas, which give you an idea of life in the 19th century. It also exhibits paintings and drawings by the many artists that visited the town in that era.
Or you can avail yourself of the opportunity to visit the cigar band house, where a local monk, long passed, painstakingly created amazing mosaics using 11 million cigar bands.
2. Palingsound Museum and eel smokehouse
This museum is all about the famous so-called palingsound: a genre of music characteristic of Volendam (hence the name: palingsound means “eel sound”), and from which many Dutch talents emerged. It also demonstrates traditional eel-smoking, which means that you can also try some smoked eel – true heaven!
Photos from early musicians are on display. In addition, it shows all sorts of memorabilia, such as musical instruments, record covers, platinum and gold records, other music prizes, figurines, photographs and video recordings. The collection was created with the help of donations from local artists.
3. Cheese Factory Volendam
Visitors in search of dairy-based delicacies will enjoy a trip to the Cheese Factory, one of the latest attractions in the city with interactive installations, activities and of course, tastings.
Or for instance: a wooden shoe factory! That’s like some sort of a must-have in a Dutch town, right?
Make the most of your time in the fishing village by sampling the freshly caught seafood. A variety of cosy cafés and restaurants, along with outdoor seafood vendors, will tempt your tastebuds with the catch of the day.
Volendam is full of small restaurants and cafes along De Dijk. Good food and good drinks are the standard, so try visiting restaurant Lotje by the harbour or Grand Café Restaurant De Dijk. And of course, no visit to Volendam is complete without trying some fish.
1. Lotje Wine & Dine
Lotje lies at the edge of Volendam’s harbour, and offers excellent fish dishes in a beautiful venue. It’s also a great place for lunch, dinner or a “high wine” arrangement.
2. Grand Café Restaurant De Dijk
Grand Café Restaurant De Dijk is also located on the harbour’s edge. It’s open all day for all who wish to enjoy freshly caught fish and a view of the harbour and Markermeer lake.
3. Vishandel Lekkers
Are you in the mood for some fresh herring, kibbeling or eel? Yes? Then you should definitely stop by the Lekkers fish stand, which can be found by the harbour nearly all year (absent only in winter).
4. Fishmonger and deli De Haven
De Haven in Volendam is a fishmonger and deli combined. For getting the tastiest of fish, cooked or uncooked, from sandwiches and salads to complete ready-made fish courses, you should certainly stop by here.
5. Harbour restaurant De Lunch
In an authentic harbour-side building serving great fish dishes in a convivial atmosphere, is situated another restaurant, this one particularly perfect for larger groups of friends.
This is by far not everything you can do in the beautiful Volendam, this is only a fraction of it: you can discover so much by bike! Cycling around to another Waterland villages like Monnickendam or Edam is a unique experience since these other locations are equally beautiful and charming. I definitely recommend you to bring or hire a bike here and wander around the entire region on a bike! The only thing that matters when you’re cycling throughout such an heavenly landspace is not time, nor weather: it’s loose dogs. They’re actually not loose, they’ve just run away from their farms and eventually they return home. So either you climb the highest hill around (uh) and wait, or cycle as fast as you can to the nearest residence. Be careful!
How to get there and where to stay?
- public bus number 316 direction Edam-Volendam run by bus company EBS. Bus platform is located at the back of the Amsterdam Centraal Station overlooking the water. Please exit the building and proceed one level up. Bus 316 departs every 15 minutes. It is a half hour ride to Volendam. Alight at JULIANAWEG/CENTRUM followed by 5 minutes walk to destination.
- car parking is absolutely free here, so getting here by a car is not a problem neither. I recommend these 2 places: Roompot Marina Park (holiday homes) and at an industrial area called Slobbeland. You can’t miss them on the map.
You can find countless means of acommodation here, both digs and hotels. I stayed in a Marina Park appartment park and I can’t complain! Our stay there was wonderful, it’s one of the best places I’ve been acommodated in. 10/10!
If we forget about the amounts of tourists heading there in the last couple of years, Volendam is a really lovely town very worth of visiting. People are kind, architecture is glorious, and food…….ah, food! What can I tell, it’s amazing!
from left: my fav pub, my fav drink (soft) & 14yo me (time flies, right? maybe you remember me writing about this place about three years ago) in a typical Dutch weather
Have a great day!