Dutch Language Blog

The Cheese Market of Alkmaar Posted by on Aug 19, 2010 in Dutch Language

Like almost everyone knows, the Dutch culture goes hand in hand with cheese. Especially the city of Alkmaar is famous for its cheese market. This market is still held every Friday from the 2nd of April until the 3rd of September, completely with the old fashion wardrobes, cheese carriers and special customs. Come and see!

Alkmaar got its first scale to weigh cheese in 1365, but this market increased fast. In 1612 the city is the proud owner of four scales. A union could not be left out; in 1622 the cheese carrier’s trade union got established. This union exists out of thirty men and one cheese father. The functions of the men are different. Besides the men, a cheese market wouldn’t be a cheese market without the cheese girls. They are there to promote the market.

The market in Alkmaar has always taken place on the Waagplein. This public square got enlarged eight times in two century’s, until its current size, which shows the importance of this industry for Alkmaar. In the 17th century the market was open two days a week and in the 18th century even four days a week.

Now the market is only open on Friday, but still has its own ritual:

–          09:50h:  tourists are welcomed

–          09:55h:  the bell ringer gets introduced en rings the bell to open the market

–          10:05 – 10.50h: an explanation for visitors in Dutch, German, English and French

–          10:50 – 11:15h: the carillon is played

–          11:20 – 12:05h: another explanation for visitors in Dutch, German, English and French

–          12:15 – 12:45h: the carillon is played

–          12:30h: end of the cheese market

The welcome bells at 10 AM are the official sign the market is beginning. The ringing of the bells is often done by special guests of the market. For example, the government of Alkmaar can invite someone over to perform these tasks. It can also be a celebrity or a foreign ambassador.

If you are ready to buy your piece of cheese, you bargain about the price by hand claps. The buyer and seller call out a price and slap each other’s hands at the same time to confirm their offer. The last hand that is clapped seals the sell of the cheese.


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