18km (11 miles) NE of Amsterdam; 2km (1 mile) N of Volendam
A little way inland from the IJsselmeer, Edam (pronounced ay-dam) gives its name to one of Holland's most famous cheeses. Don't expect to find it in the familiar red skin, though -- that's for export. In Holland, the skin is yellow. This pretty little town (pop. 7,000), a whaling port during Holland's 17th-century Golden Age, is centered around canals you cross by way of drawbridges that offer views of canal houses, gardens, and teahouses.
Getting There -- Edam can be reached on R-Net (www.rnet.nl) and EBS (www.ebs-ov.nl) buses departing every 15 to 30 minutes from the upper bus terminal behind Amsterdam Centraal Station. Nos. 314 and 316 go to Edam. By car, go north on N247 via Volendam.
Visitor Information -- VVV Edam, Stadhuis (Town Hall), Damplein 1, 1135 BK Edam (tel. 0299/315-125; www.vvv-edam.nl), is in the town center. Should you wish to tour a local Edammer cheese factory, this is where you get the details.
What to See & Do
Edam was once a port of some prominence, and a visit to the modest Edams Museum, Damplein 8 (tel. 0299/372-644; www.edamsmuseum.nl), opposite the former Town Hall, gives you a peek not only at its history but also at some of its most illustrious citizens over the centuries. Look for the portrait of Pieter Dirckz, a one-time mayor and proud possessor of what is probably the longest beard on record anywhere: It was 2.5m (8 ft.) long! An intriguing feature of this merchant's house (ca. 1530) is the cellar, which is actually a box floating on water, constructed that way so changing water levels wouldn't upset the house's foundations. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm. Admission is 5€ for adults, 4€ for seniors, 3€ for children ages 13 to 17, and free for children 12 and under.
Take a look at the lovely wedding room in the Stadhuis (Town Hall). The Speeltoren (Carillon Tower) from 1561 tilts a bit and was very nearly lost when the church to which it belonged was destroyed.
If you’re there in summer, time your visit to coincide with the historic kaasmarkt (cheese market; www.kaasmarktedam.nl) which only takes place on Wednesday in July and August, from 10:30am to 12:30pm on Kaasmarkt. Yes, it’s a tourist attraction, but nevertheless it’s a wonderfully colorful event, taking place with much ringing of church bells, stirring music from local bands, hand clapping, and overly dramatic “bargaining” by the straw-boater-and-clog-clad cheese carriers. Most of the action takes place outside the gaily frescoed Kaaswaag (cheese weigh house), which dates from 1592 and features cheese-making displays over summer. By the way, don’t expect to see the luscious rounds of cheese in its familiar red skin—that’s purely for export. In The Netherlands, the Edammer’s skin is always canary yellow.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.