Known locally as "little Amsterdam," Alkmaar is about forty kilometers north-west of the Netherlands' most famous city. Considered a mid-sized municipality by Dutch standards, it comes alive in the summer months thanks to its famous cheese market which has been taking place since 1593. Held each Friday morning, it sees not only men dressed in medieval garb weighing cheese as they literally have done for centuries but also stands selling traditional souvenirs and other nick-knacks.
There's more to the city than cheese of course. One of the main shopping areas of North Holland, the quaint city center is full of shops and restaurants that cater to every need, while the chimes from the surrounding bell towers have a certain melody that make me walk with a pep in my step. It's also where the national beer museum is located and a great place to visit for a day or a weekend.