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Volendam fishing village at the Markermeer

Volendam, like many other fishing villages, used to lie on the Zuiderzee. In fact, it was directly connected to the North Sea via the Zuiderzee. A fishing village par excellence . Yet Volendam distinguishes itself from the many other villages in the area. Not only were they Catholic here [instead of Protestant like the rest], they also speak a rather idiosyncratic dialect here.

A large part of the population is still fishing, even though it is a little further from home. Today the village on the Markermeer is known all over the world for its traditional costumes, smoked eel, typical houses and of course world famous in its own country for its unique ‘Eel sound’.

The history of Volendam

Volendam owes its existence to Edam. In 1357, after being granted city rights, this village decided to build a new port. As a result, they were easier to reach for ships from home and abroad and cities such as Amsterdam could be reached in no time at all.

They filled up their old harbour and put a dam in front of it. Fishermen and farmers soon built houses there, and even workers who had helped to build the dam all this time continued to live there. That was the begnning of Volendam

Traditional costume of Volendam

Even today, the Volendam traditional costume is extremely popular. Frau Antje, who promoted Dutch cheese at our Eastern neighbours, had a Volendam ‘Hul’ on. The white lace cap that made her so iconic.

Of course, the clogs cannot be missing. Apart from the typical skirts for women and the men’s typical trousers, the jewellery was very important.

Famous traditional costume of Volendam
Traditional costumes in Volendam

A blood coral necklace with a golden lock usually depicting a sailing ship was the must have for every self-respecting woman in the Volendam of yesteryear. The bigger the beads and the more you had around your neck, the higher the appearance.

During a city walk through Volendam you will come across ‘Ootje’ [oma], a real Volendam in traditional costume. This bronze statue stands in the harbour and shows what the Volendam woman used to look like.

What’s to do in Volendam

In Volendam you can have fun every day of the year, but there are special celebrations for which the Volendammers stay at home and people travel from far and wide.

The Volendam Fun Fair

Volendam’s most famous party is the annual fair. Every year in September, this 4-day festival starts on Friday. There is partying on the Dike and in the centre are the classic fairground attractions.

Many Volendammers save money in their pub all year round so that they have a well-filled jar at the fair. On the last day, Monday, the party starts early in the morning. Most of the partygoers are dressed up and a large market is organised.

volendammer day

Every year on one of the last Sundays in June, Volendammer Day is organised. Many Volendammers wear traditional costumes that day and old crafts such as eel smoking and making fishing nets are on display everywhere. There are also performances by local bands in the many pubs in Volendam.

The art trail

In the weekend of Volendammer Day you can follow the Volendammer art route for two days. Volendam and Edam have always had quite a bit of talent in the field of visual art. That is why the Art Route came into being around 2010.

During the art route, predominantly Edam and Volendam artists will be exhibiting. Both by professional and amateur artists. In addition, every edition one or two well-known artists from outside the municipality are invited to come and exhibit.

Volendam famous artists village

Many famous paintings with a view of the harbour and sea, in which traditional Dutch flat-bottomed ships such as Botters, Tjalken and Klippers were central, were made in villages around the Zuiderzee. Volendam was no exception.

This was mainly due to Leendert Spaander. He started a hotel in 1881 which became the artistic centre of the artists’ village.

Leendert Spaander

After a career as a skipper, Leendert Spaander (1855-1955) took over a café in Volendam in 1881. He soon expanded the café to include a hotel and restaurant.

In the development of his hotel, Spaander made use of the knowledge he had acquired during his life as a skipper. In English coastal towns he had seen fishermen’s families earning extra money by accommodating artists who came to capture their catch, the waves and the beach.

Hotel Spaander in the heart of Volendam

Spaander set up a studio in the hotel and then invited well-known artists to come and paint. With his seven daughters, the businessman also had a wide range of models on offer.

Spaander turned out to have made a smart choice. The paintings he received from the artists gave the interior of his hotel international allure. On the other hand, the canvases that the artists sold elsewhere worked as a kind of business card for Volendam in general and its hotel in particular.

The hotel was well known and over the years famous artists like Renoir came to town. But Emperor Wilhelm II, Mohammed Ali and Elizabeth Taylor also stayed here.

What to see in Volendam

On a walk through Volendam you imagine yourself in an old Dutch painting. De typische huizen met hun pittoreske gevels, de dijk met zijn gezellige kroegjes. Of course, a smoked eel cannot be missing from your Volendam experience! But there is more, of course.

We’ll list the nicest things for you:

Visiting the Port of Volendam

There’s a lot to see in the harbour of Volendam On one side are the coloured houses and the many typical fish shops. On the other hand, you can see the fishing boats sailing off and on with fresh fish and shrimps.

The fishing port of Volendam
Fishing boats in the port of Volendam

There are also often a few classic sailing ships that drop their guests off in the harbour during a sailing trip on the IJsselmeer.

In the harbour you can taste a delicious freshly caught eel sandwich or watch the bustle from behind a beer on one of the many terraces.

2. The statue Route

Walking through the harbour you will come across 4 statues; a Volendammer fisherman, Klaassie & Klaassie [two children] ‘t Ootje [an elderly lady] and a typical Volendammer man. What they all have in common is that they all wear traditional Volendam clothing. What they also have in common is that they all invite to a nice selfie.

3. Taking photos in traditional costume

One of the most popular attractions of Volendam are the photo studios at the harbor.

Here you can have photos taken alone, together or with a whole group, in traditional Volendam costumes. Of course in a typical Volendam decor. Not only is the photo hilarious, so is the experience. On top of that, you will learn a lot about the history of the clothing and attributes of the Volendam fishing family, whether you like it or not.

4. Experience Volendam

In the harbor you’ll find ‘Experience Volendam’ by the latest technique such as a hologram, you will be brought back to the Volendam from the beginning of last century.

You also go on a fishing boat in a big storm. An experience for young and old.

5. Volendam museum

The Volendam museum is not just any museum. It shows in a playful way how people used to live. Completely special is the cigar band house is a separate room in the museum.

The space was created between 1947 and 1996 by crafting more than 11 million cigar bands in mosaics. In this way, images of the Dutch provincial coats of arms were created and can be viewed in the house.

6. The Stolp farmhouse church

Whether you like churches or not, the Stolphoeve church is worth a visit. The church dates from 1658 and was built by a miller. It had three functions: church, school and house.

The famous Stolp farmhouse church in Volendam

It looks like a farm, hence the name stolphoeve. The vaulted ceiling is hand painted and decorated with the coats of arms of the province and municipality of Edam-Volendam.

7. Fish Auction Saint Vincent

The largely wooden Fish Auction is a rare and well-preserved monument, built in 1934. The Fish Auction is a well-known landmark for visitors centrally located at the port of Volendam. Since the 90’s the Fish Auction has lost its function, but at school projects or folk festivals the working method of the Fish Auction is still imitated.

Fish Auction Saint Vincent Volendam

Since 2017 a learn & work company for people with disabilities is housed and handmade products are made and sold here. The Fish Auction is open from April to November on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

8. Palingsound museum [Eel sound museum]

The Palingsound museum is located in the attic of the restaurant and the eel smokehouse of Jan Smit, the owner. [niet de zanger]

This unique museum tells the history of the remarkably many successful musical artists from Volendam.

Many of these artists have donated memorabilia to the museum, such as Golden Plates, instruments, photographs and videos, thus creating the collection.

There’s a lot to be seen and discover here and you can probably sing one or two tunes from the extensive Palingsound oeuvre.

Where to eat in Volendam

On every street corner you will find a fish stall or eel smokehouse, a smoked eel sandwich can not be missed during a walk through the harbour of Volendam.

But if you want to have lunch or dinner you will find below some of the best places in Volendam.

9. Lotje wine & dine

Whether you want breakfast, lunch, dinner, high tea or high wine. Everything is possible at Lotje. Not only do they have a beautiful interior, you look out over the harbour from behind your dish.

10. Smit-Bokkum

The bearer of the Volendam food culture is surelySmit-Bokkum. In a casual cozy atmosphere of yesteryear, you can eat delicious dishes smoked in their own oven. Of course everything caught from the sea but also duck breast fillet and creative vega dishes.

11. ‘t gat van Nederland [The hole of Holland]

No culinary highlights here but it is the cosiest cafe in the Netherlands according to their own words! Whoever is going to have a bite and drink here, will get an idea of the cosiness of Volendam. A real Dutch pub type of breed. During the Pieperrace, the annual sailing race that opens the sailing season here, ‘t gat van Nederland is the epicenter of skippers, sailors and strong stories. Something you must have experienced once.

How to get to Volendam

Volendam is located north of Amsterdam and is easily accessible by car. The public transport consists of a bus connection which makes Volendam easily accessible from the Zaanse Schans and Amsterdam Central Station.

If you want to make your experience complete, consider taking an authentic sailing ship for a day or more sailing trip on the IJsselmeer. Combine a visit to Volendam, for example, with a look at the Marken peninsula and the Markerwadden.

This post is also available in: Dutch German