Travel tips you can trust
of Holland are special
Visitors see Holland's traditional cheese trading process that dates back at least six centuries.
Many towns once operated them. Today, only five still do.
Alkmaar, Edam, Gouda, and Hoorn stage colorful reenactments of the cheese trading process. However, the actual trading negotiations are conducted elsewhere.
Woerden is for real, but lacks the spectacle appeal because it's geared for commercial trading, not tourism. If you want authenticity, come here. If you want a showy performance, go to the other four.
Alkmaar is the most popular
It wins this title by a long shot because it stages the most interesting pageantry.
Tourists line up around the perimeter of the trading square to view the cheese-hauling porters bedecked in traditional white uniforms and colorful straw hats with trailing ribbons (see photo above). Each barrow is loaded with eight wheels of cheese, which collectively weigh 104 kilograms (230 pounds).
Unfortunately, because of the destination's popularity, tourists usually must stand several rows deep. You and your camera will likely not see much of the action if you are not standing in the front row and at the clock-tower half of the square.
Many half-day tours to Alkmaar operate from Amsterdam, which is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. They usually include a walking tour of picturesque Alkmaar town as well as windmill sightseeing.
Cheese market photo ©NBTC