Cheese markets

In his description of The Netherlands, published in 1567, the Italian Guiccardini commented that Dutch Cheese and butter were worth as much as all spices imported from Portugal, which were worth some million guilders per annum. Cheese has been exported from The Netherlands since the midddle ages. Cheese buyers are mentioned in the traditional statistics of the fifteenth century.

The Englishman Clifton Padiman rightly said that 'cheese is one step from milk to eternity'. Milk deterionates very quickly, but if made into cheese it can be taken great distances and sold. This trade centered around the cheese markets. Towns with a Weigh House enjoyed special status. Haarlem was the first town to have 'wheighing rights', granted by Floris V in 1266. Leiden followed suit in 1303, then Oudewater in 1326 and Alkmaar in 1365. Although it is not the oldest cheese market, Alkmaar is the most famous.

For centuries Alkmaar has been the most important market for Edam cheeses. The Weigh House is more than 400 years old. In 1492 Alkmaar lost weighing rights because of a rebellion among its inhabitants, but in 1573, after the 'victory of Alkmaar' the town got its title back from Willem of Orange.

Cheese Bearers steal the show at Alkmaar >

The cheese Bearers still wear their own colours and carry the cheese on barrows to and from the weigh-house scales. Alkmaar's cheese market is open from April to September, every Friday from 10.00- 12.00. For further information contact the VVV (Tourist Office) in Alkmaar, +31 72-5114284.

< The Weight House at Gouda, with the Town Hall in the background.

Gouda is not only the name of the most famous cheese in the world, it is also the name of the commercial centre of the most important cheese region in The Netherlands. The Weigh House dates back to 1669. A cheese market and craft fair is held in the square, in which you can see the equally famous Town Hall, every Thursday from early June to early September. Special horse-drawn cheese carts carry nature's 'golden product'.

For further information contact the VVV (Tourist Office) in Gouda +31 182-513666.

Bodegraven and Woerden

The Weight House at Gouda, with the Town Hall in the background. >

Cheese farmers sell their wares at the markets held at Bodegraven and Woerden, both situated in the 'green heart' of The Netherlands. The cheese market at Bodegraven dates back from 1882 and takes place every Tuesday morning. A special autumn fair takes place on the second Tuesday of Septemer.

Cattle Markets
< A view of the cattle market at Schagen.

It is essential to the cattle farmer to be able to maintain good stock. By breeding calves from his cuws (cows must calf before they can be milked), he can be replenisch his herd. Bull calves are sold for fattening. As well as selling his young stock the farmer also buys cattle. Buying and selling usualy takes place at the various cattle markets which are held in The Netherlands. Despite the advent of computers and high-tech communication, cattle markets remain very traditional. Cattle are sold by a clap of hands. You can visit Dutch cattle markets in Doetinchem, Groningen, 's-Hertogenbosch, Hoogeveen, Leeuwarden, Leiden, Schagen, Purmerend, Sneek, Utrecht and Zwolle.

For further information contact the management of the local markets: Dutch Cattle Market Group +31 58-2941500