Latest update: 29 April 2021
A stone’s throw (depending on how far you can throw) from Amsterdam are the beautiful Dutch villages of Volendam and Marken. They have been tourist hotspots for years because they are so very Dutch. There is plenty to do for a day of fun: from the traditional tourist photo to badass cruising on a fat bike. Let’s go explore Volendam!
What to do in Volendam?
While just about every foreign tourist has been there, I have never seen Volendam with my own eyes. And that while it is in the backyard of Amsterdam! What has always kept me away is the image of a crowded dike, full of tourists and full of souvenir shops – it simply didn’t excite me. But guess what, it’s very easy to avoid! Another advantage: you can easily combine a day in Volendam with a visit to Marken.
Step 1: Go early, really early. Most terraces and cafes open at 10 am, and from about 10:30 am, it starts to get busier in Volendam. Before that, you share Volendam with the people of Volendam, suppliers who supply the restaurants, and a few other early risers (literally and figuratively: check out those sparrows on my cake!). You have plenty of time to stroll through Volendam and take pictures of the photogenic fishing village on the Markermeer.
Step 2: enjoy all the sights and activities you can handle in Volendam! Allow a total of three or four hours for a visit. It allows you plenty of time to discover the village on foot and do some fun things. If you have more time, you can also visit the surroundings and Marken. Of course, I have some tips for you to have an ultimate day in Volendam. Here we go!
Tip 1 – De Dijk of Volendam
With the harbor on one side and the souvenir shops, restaurants, and photographers on the other, this road is the typical image of Volendam. It is the tourist epicenter, but you can walk around freely and relatively lonely if you come early enough.
The buildings along the Dijk are all beautiful to see. One has a beautiful facade, the other beautiful wooden details, and the next is decorated with colorful flowers. The many flashy signs fighting for the attention of tourists do ruin the image a bit.
You can find traditional Volendam fishing boats in the harbor: they are called Vollendammer kwaks. You are not allowed to enter them, but you can admire them from very close by. On a clear day, you can even see Marken, the peninsula, from the Dijk.
Tip 2 – Take a photo in a traditional Volendam costume
In addition to many souvenir shops, you will also find a handful of photographers on the Dijk. Here, people like to have themselves immortalized in typical Volendam costumes. Whitecap, clogs, accordion, cheese: the whole shebang.
My best friend Patrick is EVERYTHING except convinced that this is a good idea. To be perfectly honest, I also have my doubts. Do I really want this? Uh yes! The picture taking is quick and efficient at Fotograaf Volendam (Haven 70). Before we know it, we are dressed in traditional costumes by the friendly employees, we step into our clogs, and we laugh at the camera in an old-fashioned living room.
Taking such a photo from Volendam is really easy, and we have no time to feel uncomfortable. At Fotograaf Volendam, we can choose whether we sit in the make-belief living room or rather take our picture in a fake boat, which attributes we hold (of course, I choose cheese), and which photo we want to print. We can download the rest online. Perfect!
Tip 3 – Het Doolhof – the oldest part of the city center
Directly behind the famous Dijk, you can walk into the oldest part of the center of Volendam – it is full of characteristic Volendam houses. This part is called the Doolhof (maze), and it’s not called that for no reason. It is wonderful to get lost in a maze of streets and canals with drawbridges. It doesn’t get more Dutch than this: cozy and gezellig.
Tip 4 – Walking through Volendam with a free audio tour
The tourist office Laag Hollandhas put together a nice walk through Volendam. It’s a free audio tour available on your phone. In about an hour, you can walk past all the highlights of Volendam. You will hear a large portion of Volendam history supplemented with images of paintings to illustrate the life of the past.
The audio tour starts at Hotel Spaander. Once you are there, turn on the audio tour (you can find it here), and start the walk.
Tip! Up for a beer? Order a Volendam beer, available at most cafes and also on the Marken Express. Beer brewery Volendam brews six different beers.
Tip 5 – Museums and attractions in Volendam
Actually, there is a lot more to do in the small fishing village. Do not expect giant museums or attractions that will take you hours, but small-scale initiatives. What about:
- Woltjes Stroopwafels & Museum: at Woltjes, you can buy stroopwafels in all shapes and sizes. You can participate in a demonstration of stroopwafel baking for a few euros, including tasting stroopwafels, of course. Sounds good? Reserve a spot.
There is a small museum on the first floor of the store, apparently sponsored by Droste. Here, a house from the past has been reconstructed.
- Cheese Factory Volendam: the cheese museum in Volendam is, in my opinion, more intended for foreign tourists than for the Dutch. You can see how cheese is made and do a tasting. But actually, I think it’s more of a cheese shop disguised as a cheese museum. Judge for yourself!
- Volendam Museum: curious about the history of Volendam and the unique traditional costume? Then pay a visit to the Volendams Museum. In the museum, you will find a collection of traditional costumes and jewelry, paintings, and even a full-size Volendam ship (botter).
- Volendam Experience: this is a virtual reality experience where you go back to 1916 and get to know Volendam from the past. How people lived back then, how Volendam was created, and what it looked like back in the day. And all of that through the VR glasses of the Volendam Experience.
- Palingsoundmuseum: the attic of eel smokehouse Smit-Bokkum has been transformed into a small museum with 100 years of Volendam music history. In Dutch, we call the music from Volendam palingsound, eel sound. That’s due to the fishery industry, of course. Whether the music sounds fishy is up to you. For only € 1.75, you can visit the Palingsoundmuseumand admire photos, gold records, and more of the Volendam singing talents. Jan Smit, Piet Veerman (from whom I once again asked for an autograph together with my grandmother), BZN, Nick & Simon… they are all here.
Tip 6 – Eat eel in Volendam
When you are in Volendam, you more or less owe it to yourself to eat an eel sandwich. Or any other fish. You will find more than enough fish stalls on the Dijk. Or go to the sunny terrace of eel smokehouse Smit-Bokkum, just outside the center. Then you can quickly visit the Palingsoundmuseum too.
Tip 7 – Cruise through the surroundings of Volendam
When you have finished up in Volendam, it is time to go out into the wide world. You’ll have the most fun with a fat bike or an e-scooter from Rent & Event. It isn’t easy to choose which one is more fun, the fat bike or the e-scooter. They both go pretty fast; we loved testing their speed!
De vriendelijke medewerkers van Rent & Event laten me zien hoe alles werkt en geven tips voor een leuke route. Het is eerst even wennen, maar al snel wil ik de e-scooter mee terugnemen naar huis. Wat een onwijs tof ding! En ik voel me er heel stoer op. 😉
We drive to Marken via Katwoude and Monnickendam. It’s a lovely ride. I enjoy cruising along the meadows and am eager to make a short stop at cheese farm Henri Willig to see the cows. A visitor center teaches you interesting facts about cows, and you can learn more about keeping cows.
We use the fat bike and e-scooter for four hours, and that gives us just enough time to reach Marken, have a look around and take the Marken Express back to Volendam. Don’t worry – you can take your bike or e-scooter on the boat. If you plan to make more stops (for example, have a drink in Monnickendam), then four hours is a bit too tight – consider renting your ride for the entire day.
Tip 8 – What to do on Marken
Just like you are on Urk, you are also ON Marken. Marken used to be an island, but thanks to the dam, it has been a peninsula since 1959. If you come from Volendam with a fat bike or e-scooter, you drive over this dam. We first go to the lighthouse of Marken. It is called the Paard van Marken (Horse of Marken). It is an inhabited lighthouse, and I have heard that it is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. It is also at a beautiful spot – very scenic. Because people live here, you cannot visit the lighthouse. But even from a distance, it’s still pretty.
Back to the center of Marken. The whole of Marken is an attraction. No fewer than 140 buildings in Marken are monuments. The village is like a fairytale village with picturesque, mostly green-colored wooden houses, narrow alleys, and waving laundry on the line. Only residents’ cars are welcome in Marken – if all us visitors brought our cars, I don’t think it would fit.
On the outskirts of the village is an authentic clog factory where you can see how clogs are made out of a block of wood, and of course, you can buy as many souvenirs as you want. If you have time, visit the Sijtje Boes house: you can enter the Markense house for one euro, it’s decorated in the 1940s style. Also lovely: visit the Marker Museum to learn everything about the history of the former island and admire the clothing.
You will find all the terraces in the harbor, where the Marken Express also arrives and departs. On a busy day, it is crowded here.
Tip 9 – Volendam – Marken with the Marken Express
The Marken Express takes you from Volendam to Marken in about half an hour, or vice versa. Boat rides always give me holiday vibes. I even like the ferry from Amsterdam Central to Amsterdam Noord, so I definitely enjoy the crossing from Marken to Volendam.
You can take your bicycle, fat bike, or e-scooter with you on the Marken Express. Buy a drink on board, or choose a package deal with snacks when buying your ticket. If you go for a drink: try a Volendam beer!
How to get to Volendam?
The easiest way to travel by public transports is to take the bus from Amsterdam Central Station to Volendam: line 316. It leaves every 15 minutes and takes about half an hour.
If you come to Volendam by car, you want to park for free, right? You can do that at the Slobbeland car park. The later in the day you come, the less chance of a free spot, of course.
Spending the night in Volendam – great hotels
As there is more than enough to do in Volendam, maybe an overnight stay isn’t such a bad idea. Are you looking for a nice hotel in Volendam? Then check out the Boutique Hotel The Old Bridge (so beautiful!) And nowadays Hotel Spaander is open again! Or try one of the other options on Booking.com.
More travel inspiration for the Netherlands
Want more travel advice? Do check all my blogs about beautiful places and fun activities in my home country. Also nice: buy the Lonely Planet of the Netherlands as it has lots of practical information. Available at Amazon and Book Depository. The latter is usually the cheapest but often has a slightly longer shipping time.
Tourist office Laag Holland invited me to visit Volendam and Marken.