A day trip to Marken: 4 tips to make the most of it

If you are staying in Amsterdam you will see many offers for organized day trips to Marken and Volendam. These are presented as “typical Dutch fishing villages”. This is usually marketing lingo for “a tourist trap”. So as an independent traveler you might want to avoid these places altogether. However, I have a weakness for Marken and I think that you could make a nice day trip out of this as long as you don’t do what the masses do. So here’s some advice for an independent day trip to Marken.

Travel advice during the COVID-19 or corona virus outbreak
At this moment the Netherlands is in an almost  complete lock down. Museums, restaurants, bars, everything is closed. Postpone your visit to a later date. I will keep you posted!

Impression of the harbor in Marken

4 tips to make the most of your trip to Marken

  1. Skip Volendam. Don’t go there. It’s a tourist trap.
  2. Don’t join an organized tour. Travel independently. It’s easy.
  3. Go for a hike around Marken. You will see so much more this way.
  4. OR, rent a bike and cycle to Marken. It’s an awesome bike ride.

I’ll expand on these 4 tips a bit more underneath.

1. Avoid Volendam

As they are pretty close to each other, tour organizers often combine Volendam and Marken in one day trip. I can keep this brief: don’t go to Volendam. It’s a tourist trap.

Yes, originally it was a fishing village and there are traditional wooden houses out there. But you can see those elsewhere too. Even in Amsterdam! For example at Nieuwendammerdijk or Buiksloterdijk in Amsterdam Noord. Volendam is jammed with tour groups, cheesy souvenir shops and tourist restaurants.

This place is what marketeers want you to think is the “real Holland”, but it’s got nothing to do with how Dutch people live. If you are interested in visiting a less touristy old fishing town, try Monnickendam or Elburg instead.

2. Don’t book an organized day trip to Marken

The leaflets of the tour operators look nice and shiny. That’s because you have paid for those, when you book an organized tour. It’s as simple as that. Prices for a day trip range from 50 to 60 euro. And for this price you are pretty much rushed from one place to another. You don’t get much time at any of the places, just enough to take a few pictures.

Now I have traveled quite a bit myself, and I admit that sometimes I have booked day tours. Because they were the only possibility to get to places (or at least, that’s what I thought). In Holland, this is not necessary. Public transport is good and safe. Read my post on public transport in Holland.

How to get to Marken from Amsterdam by public transport

To organize your own day trip to Marken, grab Amsterdam metro nr 52 to its final destination up north, Station Noord. This is only 2 stops from Amsterdam Central Station. From station Noord you catch regional bus 315 to Marken. This bus runs every 30 minutes, every day. Note that some of the 315 buses run only as far as Monnickendam. From Amsterdam Central it will take you about 40 minutes to get to Marken. Check out your schedule and the price (around 10 euro’s for a return ticket) at the ov9292 travel planner.

Now you will have all the time you want to look around in Marken, go for a hike, take photo’s, have some drinks or whatever you fancy doing. The last bus back to Amsterdam will depart just before midnight. In the evenings tour groups will have left, so this might also be an interesting time to visit.

Note that you may find (outdated) descriptions online of a bus departing from Central Station straight to Marken. Ever since metro 52 was put into operation, in July 2018, most buses heading north don’t depart from Central Station anymore: Amsterdam Noord is now the transport hub for buses in northerly direction.

3. Hiking on Marken

Marken is an island. Or better: a former island connected to the mainland by a dike. When arriving by public transport, you’ll be close to the harbor. That’s the area that the tour groups visit. This is a touristic area, yet in my opinion it’s not as cheesy as Volendam. It’s nice to see the wooden houses built on poles. Please respect the privacy of the inhabitants. If you want to have a look inside visit Kijkhuisje Sijtje Boes in the harbor. Here you can see how such a house was typically decorated in the 1940’s.

It’s also nice to grab lunch at one of the fish stalls in the harbor. This is your chance to try raw herring, a typical Dutch delicacy, which by the way a lot of Dutch people don’t like at all! Or try the kibbeling, fried pieces of cod. With sauce. Greasy stuff…

Now you are all set for hiking! It will be an easy hike, as there are no height differences here. As with all islands, you can walk around its edges and you’ll never get lost! The full circle is about 9 km. Follow the dike. You can walk on top of that. If you want to stretch your walk to about 12 km, do a little detour on the Bukdijk, the dike that stretches straight into the water at the north of the island. Easy to spot on the map.

Soon you will leave the tourist crowds behind you, and encounter:

  • beautiful views of IJsselmeer (these particular parts are called Gouwzee and Markermeer);
  • loads of birds, such as the godwit, lapwing, goose and seagulls;
  • the lighthouse of Marken (“Het Paard van Marken”, literally “Marken’s Horse);
  • a second village (or neighborhood) called Minnebuurt, that tour groups usually don’t visit.

For more hiking trails in the Amsterdam area check my blog “10 hikes in and around Amsterdam

4. Rent a bike and cycle to Marken

If you like cycling, and the weather is fine, why not rent a bike for the day and go on a bike trip to Marken? Google maps will give you the shortest route, via Broek in Waterland and Zuiderwoude (about 23 km). Make sure that you put the route description on “bike” instead of “car”. This is a nice route too, and Broek in Waterland is a pretty village where you may want to stop for a little break.

However I would suggest that this is how you cycle back to Amsterdam at the end of the day. Take the slightly longer route along the shore of IJsselmeer on your way to Marken, as you will probably be more energetic when you start out. This route is about 25 km, so not that much longer. Follow the description below.

My favorite cycling route to Marken (from Amsterdam)

  1. Behind Amsterdam Central Station grab the (free) ferry to Buiksloterweg
  2. Now cycle towards Nieuwendammerdijk (look at Google maps on how to get there, you will need to take a couple of turns). This is a lovely street, with beautiful houses, an old fashioned café and a lock. Follow Nieuwendammerdijk until the end.
  3. From here, turn right to Monnikendammerweg, and then the first left onto the Schellingwouderdijk. Soon you will pass the big locks that protect the city of Amsterdam from the water of the IJsselmeer. From here on you will cycle along the water at your right hand side. Follow Schellingwouderdijk to the end.
  4. Here the name of the dike will change into Durgerdammerdijk. Keep on going! You will pass the quaint village of Durgerdam. You could pause here to have a cup of coffee. This will be the last place to do so before you arrive in Marken. This is a popular spot to drink coffee for locals.
  5. Durgerdammerdijk will change into Uitdammerdijk, you keep on going! At some point you will see water on your right AND on your left. This is where you pas the Kinselmeer, a beautiful stretch!
  6. Uitdammerdijk will change into Zeedijk, and still you cycle on & on, passing a campsite and some more lakes!
  7. Pay attention when you reach a T-junction with a bigger road. You need to turn right to get to Marken, follow the signposts. Soon that road will take a left turn on to the dike that connects Marken to the mainland.
  8. You have made it! Yeah! You deserve a drink now in the harbor of Marken.

Note that as of July 2019 you are not allowed to hold a mobile phone in your hand while cycling in Holland. You risk a fine if you do.

Alternatives for a day trip to Marken

If you’re interested in visiting a village or town along IJsselmeer that is not teeming with tour groups, you could try Monnickendam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Medemblik, Harderwijk or Elburg. I will write more about these towns later on.

A tiny tiny bit of history of the Zuiderzee area

Both Volendam and Marken are historical fishing villages of the Zuiderzee. The Zuiderzee used to be a sea directly connected to the present North Sea. This was the main gateway for big ships leaving from the cities of Amsterdam and Hoorn to the East & West Indies. Fishery was an important source of income for the villages along the Zuiderzee.

However, there were many floods, destroying villages and killing people. The last serious flood happened in 1916 when dikes broke and the water had free reign. After that, the government decided that a huge dike was to be built up north, between the northern part of the province Noord Holland and the province of Friesland at the opposite side. This is the 32 kilometer long Afsluitdijk, completed in the early 1930’s.

Map of IJsselmeer, as planned
Map of planned construction in the Zuiderzee (plans from late 19th century)

After the dike was built, the salt sea slowly turned into a sweet water lake and great parts of it have been turned in to land (polders). You can imagine that had a huge impact on the traditional fishing communities, as they lost their main source of income. Salt water fish disappeared. If you are interested in learning more about this history, visit the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen.