Alkmaar is above all Holland's cheese town. During the season from the first Friday of April to the first Friday of September a traditional cheese market is being held here on Friday mornings between 10 and 12.30. The cheeses are sold by dealers on a clap of hands. Thereupon the 400 year old cheese porters' guild goes into action, carrying the cheese off on barrows after the lot has been weighed at the Waag (the official scales). In the Waaggebouw - in which the scales are housed - a cheese museum that tells everything about dairy farming has been established.
Alkmaar is historical with around 400 monuments. The Waag, dating back in its earliest form to the 14th century, the 16th century town-hall, Grote St. Laurens Church and the many courtyards, facades and canals give the town an ambience all of its own. With the past as a setting, the town has a modern stock of shops offering a wide choice. Besides the predominantly small shops in the old centre, the Noorder Arcade with large scale shopping facilities stands by the side of the Noord Holland Canal.
Alkmaar is the biggest town in the region and therefore also its centre for going out. There is a range of restaurants of various kinds, pavement cafés and coffee houses, as well as theatres and museums. Numerous events are also organised including The Relief of Alkmaar, Culinary Plaza and Cheese Town Jazz. Relaxation can also be found in the Geestmerambacht recreational area close by, and the parks and sports facilities.