Located in the Netherlands province of North Holland, the city of Edam is best known as the original source of its eponymous cheese and offers a variety of historic and cultural attractions, including a weekly cheese market reenactment. Edam’s name is derived from the name of the nearby dam on the Ije River’s Zuiderzee channel, which was the site of the area’s first settlement in the early 12th century, known as Ijedam.
After the 1230 construction of the dam, the city began to grow as a trade center, with economic activity focused on the shipbuilding and fishing sectors. In 1357, borough rights were conferred on the area by Holland’s Count Willem V, which allowed for the construction of a harbor to connect the city to other major sites within the Netherlands. Throughout the 16th century, the town’s economy shifted away from shipbuilding and fishing after significant flooding caused the closure of the town harbor in 1544. In 1526, the city’s cheese market was established, which became its primary economic industry throughout the next several centuries and led to the popularization of the Edam style of cheese. From the 14th through the 18th century, Edam cheese was the most popular variety of cheese throughout Europe.
Today, Edam is a city within the Netherlands’ North Holland province and is best known for its production of its eponymous cheese, a semi-hard yellow cow or goat cheese produced in rounded cylinders. The city is part of the municipality of Edam-Volendam, which is home to more than 28,000 residents. It is accessible via bus or train from Amsterdam, located approximately half an hour from the city’s railway station.
A variety of historic and cultural attractions are offered throughout the city, including a weekly cheese market reenactment, which allows tourists to purchase cheese through traditional auction and vendor methods during the summer months. Cheese is brought to the market by local farmers and weighed by market reenactors dressed in period clothing. The city’s historic Cheese Weighing House is also open to the public as a living history museum facility, showcasing a permanent exhibit on the production of Edam cheese.
The city’s Dam Square is its central town square area and was originally constructed in 1624 at the site of the town’s 1544 dam and lock gates. A number of historic buildings within the square and the city center have been preserved, including the 1737 Edam City Hall building, which showcases Louis XIV-style architecture and is still used for public proceedings such as marriage ceremonies. Across from the City Hall building, the Edam Museum is housed within the city’s oldest extant brick house, which was constructed sometime around 1530. The house, which serves as a prime example of period-typical Dutch architecture, showcases a deep kitchen leading to a unique floating cellar designed to adapt to water level changes, which is said to have been constructed by a marine captain with nostalgia for his former life on the water. Since 1895, the house has been operated as a living history museum showcasing the city’s residential history.
Other historic structures within the city center include the St. Nicholaaskerk church, which was constructed in the early 15th century and is one of the largest three-ridged churches anywhere in Europe. The church features an 18th-century reconstructed tower, vaulted wooden ceiling, and stained glass windows donated by local trade guilds following two fires in the 17th century. A historic Carillon formerly belonging to the 14th-century Church of Our Dear Lady is also preserved, which features bells crafted by Pieter van den Ghein and plays a selection of short melodies every 15 minutes.
Two other villages are located within the Edam municipal region, including Marken, a traditional Dutch fishing community that preserves historic fishermen’s houses constructed on werven hills or on top of pilings. Within the village, the Marker Museum showcases 16th-century attire and household items, and a historic island lighthouse is open for self-guided tours. The village of Volendam offers a variety of tourist shops and restaurants, along with unique attractions such as the Cigarband House, an artistic mural constructed from 11 million cigar bands, which is displayed at the Volendam Museum.
Overnight accommodations are available at the L’Auberge Damhotel Edam, which offers deluxe rooms and suites in a renovated historic atmosphere. The De Harmonie Edam hotel, which is located along a moat within the city center, offers five hotel rooms above a cafe that hosts weekly dance nights, card game tournaments, and live music performances. A daily breakfast buffet is offered at the Hotel de Fortuna Edam, which offers accommodations within five historic mansion facilities.