LivingTravelExploring Marken, North Holland

Exploring Marken, North Holland

Despite a population of just 2,000 residents, Marken attracts about 500 times that number of tourists each year. The history of the city has allowed it to form a unique identity throughout the Netherlands and that makes it an object of fascination for visitors. Until 1957, Marken was an island in IJsselmeer; Isolated from the rest of the Netherlands, it developed an independent culture, its own architecture, dialect, dress and more, which it still maintains, despite the closure of the dike that once separated it from the mainland Netherlands.

While popular culture has become less distinctive since the 1950s, it is still clearly visible on the former island, now a peninsula, of Marken.

How to get to Marken

There is a direct bus connection from Amsterdam Central Station to Marken throughout the year: bus 311 departs from the north side of the station (from the IJ river side, not from the center of Amsterdam!). It takes about 45 minutes to get to Marken.

From March to November, Marken can be reached by boat from Volendam, another attractive day trip city that can be reached in half an hour by bus 312 (which also departs from the north side of Amsterdam Central Station) . The Marken Express runs every 30 to 45 minutes and lasts about half an hour. The ferry company offers the option of renting a bike for use on the peninsula, but Marken’s small size also lends itself well to explorations on foot.

What to do and see

Marken is not about a series of “must see” attractions; Instead, much of its appeal comes from walks around the old island to imbue its distinctive character: the traditional wooden architecture, often built on mounds to protect it from frequent flooding, the ‘island’ vibe, and more. Even so, there are a number of famous landmarks for visitors to search for their walks.

  • The most emblematic structure in all of Marken is undoubtedly the so-called Paard van Marken (Marken’s Horse), a monumental lighthouse that rises from the easternmost point of the peninsula; the current structure dates from 1839. The peculiar name comes from its shape, which consists of a 54 foot. (16m) tower attached to two houses with a pyramidal roof. As the Paard van Marken is now a private residence, it is closed to the public.
  • Most visitors to Marken find that their curiosity will soon be fueled by the local culture, and the Marker Museum (Museo Marken) exists to satisfy this curiosity. Spread over six old fishermen’s houses, the museum is dedicated to the fine decorative arts, crafts and typical costumes of Marken. Traditional Marken clothing is a symbol of the ‘Marker’ culture, but now it rarely appears, except on special occasions, and of course in the museum. Visitors can also explore the preserved 1930s interior of one of the houses, which preserves the furniture and decorations installed by its inhabitants. (Note that the Marker Museum is only open from April to November.)
  • The Kijkhuisje Sijtje Boes (Sijtje Boes Lookout House; Havenbuurt 21 ) is, as the name implies, a small house to look into to see the period furnishings and decor provided by its owner, Sijtje Boes. It functions as a souvenir shop, the oldest in Marken, which the enterprising Ms. Boes founded in the early 20th century; even back then, Marken’s distinctive popular culture drew visitors to the then island.

Additionally, Marken also has a wooden shoe workshop (Dutch: klompenmakerij) located at Kets 50, where visitors can observe the manual and machine-assisted production of traditional wooden shoes, and perhaps pick up a pair of their own.

Where to eat

Marken has only a handful of restaurants, and visitors often choose to eat in nearby towns; Still, the number and variety of local restaurants have increased over the years. A popular option remains the Hof van Marken, a hotel restaurant whose cultivated French / Dutch menu and warm hospitality attract rave reviews from diners.

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