Alkmaar is located in a typical Dutch polder scenery, close to a large nature reserve with dunes, beach, forest and water everywhere. The heritage of a rich and illustrious past is still very visible in the cosy city centre. The canals with their characteristic drawbridges, the many monuments, the old house fronts and the narrow corridors give the city centre a special atmosphere. Alkmaar is the second shopping city of Holland for a reason!
Alkmaar is a medium sized city with 94,000 inhabitants. These inhabitants are proud of their Canada square, the brand new culture square where five big cultural institutions provide a varied cultural program. Alkmaar is also an attraction for tourists; in this first place because of the Cheese Market, which attracts thousands of people from around the world on a yearly basis, but also because of the closeness to the dunes and beach.
The settlement Alkmaar dates back to the 10th century. On a high situated piece of land a modest village was built around a wooden chapel. The Big Church is currently situated at this location. The high sandy ground on which Alkmaar was built, was surrounded by water and swamps and there lies the origin of the name Alkmaar.
The fortress which is displayed on the city crest represents a castle which defended Alkmaar in the 11th century: Castle Torenburg. The castle was situated at the same location where nowadays we can find the Friesebrug.
Alkmaar became a city when the board obtained city rights in 1254. In 2004 this fact has been festively remembered. The city had the right to defend itself and built city walls. Outside the city fortified buildings were built (nowadays Oudorp) which eventually became part of the Westfriese Omringdijk. This dike kept the rebellious inhabitants of West Friesland under control. Alkmaar grew not only in size but also financially. It soon became an important trade centre in the region and Alkmaar experienced it’s glory days in the 17th century.