The cheese market of Alkmaar is the oldest and biggest of the Netherlands. Since 1365 Alkmaar owned one cheese scale only, but this increased to four in 1612. The cheese market, which has always taken place on the Waagplein, has been extended several times. This proves the importance of cheese trade for the city. Would you like to know more about the history of the cheese market of Alkmaar? Check this page.
This year, you can visit the cheese market from the 31th of March until the 29th of September, every Friday from 10.00 a.m. until 13.00 p.m. on the Waagplein. Besides the Friday morning cheese markets, you can visit an evening cheese market on each Tuesday in July and August from 19.00 p.m. until 21.00 p.m. Here you can find an overview of all the dates and opening hours.
The Cheese Market at 07.00 – Placing the cheeses
Trucks full of cheese drive onto the Waagplein. Under the watchful eye of the market master, the 'setters' unload up to 30,000 kilos of Gouda and Edam cheese in long rows at the, as yet, still quiet Waagplein. Around 2.400 cheeses are placed on Waagplein. This all has to be done before 9.30 am.
The Cheese Market at 09.30 – Cheese carriers
The cheese carriers arrive at the Waaggebouw. Those who are late must pay a fine. Part of fines go to a school in the town of Alkmaar in Suriname.
Find out more about the Cheese Carrier's Guild
The Cheese Market at 09.45 - Appeal Cheese father
The head of the cheese carriers, the 'cheese father', assembles everyone in the Waaggebouw. Are all cheese carriers present? Are there any specials at the market today? Which cheese carriers will work at which part of the Cheese Market?
The Cheese Market at 10.00 – The Cheese bell
At 10 o'clock the cheese bell will ring. The honour of ringing the bell is usually reserved for Dutch celebrities or people with a particular relationship to the town of Alkmaar. After ringing the bell, the market starts.
The Cheese Market from 10.00 – The Cheese selection
After ringing the bell, judges will assess the quality of the cheeses by clogging, peeling and tasting them. They also look at the amount of holes in the cheese: these should be perfectly divided throughout the cheese. With a special cheese drill, the judges can drill a piece out of the cheese.
After a positive judgement, the bargaining on the price of the cheese can begin.
The Cheese Market from 10.00 – Cheese weighing
Once a batch of cheese has been sold, the cheese carriers carry the cheese on a barrow to the Waag. There the cheese is weighed by the so-called 'tasman' or ‘bagman’. Where the tasman gets his name from? From the bag around his waist, where he keeps his money. The guardian ensures that the correct weight is passed on to the buyer. After the weighing, the tasman marks the wooden berrie by putting a stamp on it.
The Cheese Market from 10.00 – Carrying the cheese
Has a batch of cheese been weighed and sold? Then the cheese carriers carry the cheese across the market to the buyers' trucks. They carry the cheese in pairs on a barrow. This is, after all, more than 100 kilos of cheese! It is quite an act to keep the cheese barrow in balance while walking. The cheese carriers must run in a certain rhythm called the "cheese carrier dribble". By doing this dribble, the berry is most quiet between the cheese carriers.
The Cheese Market at 12.30 - Cheese throwing
The throwers load the last cheeses into carts and bring them to the trucks on the Marktstraat. The cheese disappears from sight, and we are left with the bustling terraces of Waagplein. Perfect time to treat yourself to a cheese sandwich...