Just a short drive to the north of Amsterdam brings you to the some of the most authentic places of Holland. Here you can visit the first industrial site in the world, Zaanse Schans, but also feel the authentic vibe of many remarkable villages along the IJsselmeer.
The Zaanse Schans
Here at the Zaanse Schans you can leave the 21st century behind. The traditional 17th and 18th century wooden houses are mostly all painted green and white, the streets are tree-lined and cobbled, windmills flank the river and picturesque hump-backed bridges cross tiny drainage canals. The atmosphere is one of peace and tranquility. It is more than just an open air museum however, it is a real community; a living and working village.
The Zaanse Schans boasts many activities and cultural highlights, such as the pewter foundry set in a charming 18th century tea house, clock museum, grocer’s shop, wealthy merchant’s house with an overview of traditional costumes, cheese farm, wooden shoe shop and some windmills. All together the Zaanse Schans represents an authentic piece of Holland.
Villages of Noord-Holland
The province Noord-Holland has numerous, characteristic villages along the enormous freshwater lake Ijsselmeer. Besides water sports and fishing you can cycle along the coastline, which is one of the most stunning cycling routes of the Netherlands. You will pass picturesque trading towns that date back to 1602, the year the Dutch East India Shipping Company was formed.
The isolated island community of Marken was only joined to the mainland in 1957, when the dyke was built. Most people still wear traditional dress and many of the old houses have been built on raised parts of land to protect them against floods.
For a relaxing day soaking up typical Dutch scenery, visit Monnickendam. The neighboring Broek in Waterland is a charming 17th-century town surrounded by stunning landscapes.
The folklore of Volendam is as alive as ever! Some of the main attractions here are the town's displays of traditional costumes and the fresh fish, which can be eaten near the picturesque harbor. The town's unusual houses are built in any which way. Make sure you don't lose your way in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways.
Neighboring Edam also has a rich nautical history, but of course is most famous for its Edam cheese. Just like in the Alkmaar and Gouda you can visit the cheese market here during the summer.
The history of Enkhuizen can be relived in the Zuiderzeemuseum, which can only be reached by water or by foot. Houses, shops and workplaces typical of the Zuiderzee town have been recreated.
The Beemster is the first so-called polder in the Netherlands and added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Beautiful villages in this area are Graft and De Rijp.