If it’s the picture-postcard Holland of women in traditional floral dresses, striped pinafores and pointed white lace caps and men in baggy, woolen breeches that you’re after then it’s to Volendam that you need to travel. This is a small fishing village on the shores of the IJsselmeer (the IJ), just near that famous cheese town Edam.
Once the harbor of Edam, when that town dug a closer canal for sea access, fishermen reclaimed some land and established Volendam. Unfortunately as The Netherlands continue to fortify themselves against the North Sea by building dykes, the fishing industry of Volendam shrinks and many people have to find another way to make a living. With their traditional way of life – many of the older citizens still wear the traditional Dutch folk costumes every day of the week and live in the traditional wooden houses – the town has become a hub for tourism.
There is an old wooden church dating from 1685, plus an area where the houses are still on stilts, and the Volendam Museum where you can learn the history of the fishing industry. A slightly more unusual museum is De Gouden Kamer where the walls are lined with cigar bands arranged to make pictures such as the Statue of Liberty. There is a ferry service out to Marken, once an island now linked to the mainland by a causeway, with its wooden houses and lovely lighthouse. In June, Volendam hosts Volandammer Weekend where traditional costumes, crafts and music comes to the fore and all the boats compete for the title of best sailor. The town’s famous dish is smoked eel. Volendam is a short bus ride from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station.