Quiet streets, lined with green, wood-paneled houses, on a tiny mass of land at the end of a peninsula – this is the quaint fishing village of Marken, just 30 minutes drive from Amsterdam. Marken is one of those idyllic villages that you see pictures of and can’t believe are real. Home to less than 2,000 people, Amsterdam to Marken is the perfect day trip that allows you to get a glimpse of life outside of the city. Marken is a great alternative for visitors looking to visit Volendam, but who want to avoid the crowds and kitsch of Volendam – which is much more touristy than Marken.
The history of Marken
Located only 17km from Amsterdam, Marken got separated from the mainland of the Netherlands when the Zuiderzee formed in the 13th century. Most of Marken’s houses are built on stilts (although they are no longer visible) because the tiny island used to flood so often. The inhabitants of Marken historically made their living fishing for eels before the island was shut off from the sea by the afsluitdijk. The afsluitdijk is a huge causeway in the Netherlands, and one of the Dutch’s best feats of water management. It shut off the Zuiderzee from the North Sea, which turned the water into a fresh water lake, now called the IJsselmeer.
In 1957, the Dutch used their water management genius to build a small causeway to the island. When you are on the way to Marken, you’ll be surrounded by water on both sides, giving the feeling that you’re seemingly at the end of the world, or at least worlds away from Amsterdam. Now that the fishing has essentially stopped, the island is famous for its charm, and it feels like you’ve truly stepped back in time to its glory days when you enter the village.
What to do in Marken
Honestly, my recommendation is just to stroll around Marken and take in the coziness of the village, but there are also several typical Dutch attractions you can visit to get a taste of what small town life used to be like in fishing villages like Marken.
See how clogs are made
Once you arrive in Marken, you’ll be dropped off or will park just a few moments walk from the Clog Factory. Sure, it’s a bit touristy, but even after living in here for 7.5 years, it was still pretty cool to see the machines that wooden clogs are made with. They’ll do a demonstration for you which takes about ten minutes, and you can buy all the souvenir clogs that your heart desires.
Pro tip: buy a wooden clog and bring it home as a planter box.
Marken Harbor and the charming green houses
Stroll around Marken’s historic harbor where the fishermen used to set out for eel fishing before the afsluitdijk was built. Get some fresh herring, or snack on frietjes with mayo for an authentic Dutch experience.
Wander through Kerkbuurt
Believe it or not, this tiny village even has two distinct neighborhoods, the Kerkbuurt and Havenbuurt. You can easily walk through both on a visit to Marken, since its so tiny. My favorite view of the city was in the Kerkbuurt looking at the church from the back, where you can also see the miniature Maxima Bridge – the perfect place for a photo op. It’s hard to imagine that people actually live here, but once in awhile you’ll catch a glimpse of the locals in their homes, going about their day.
Walk around the island to the Paard van Marken, the lighthouse
Marken is so small, you can walk around the entire (ex) island in only about 2 hours. This 9km walk will take you to the Paard van Marken, which is the village’s lighthouse. The day we visited was super windy and cold so unfortunately we didn’t get to make this walk, but it should be lovely on a nice day.
How to get from Amsterdam to Marken
The best way to reach Marken is by car – then it takes about 30 minutes to reach. If you don’t have a car, no worries, you can also reach it by public transport. From Amsterdam Central Station, just head to the bus terminal (behind the station, on the water side), and take Bus 315 which runs to Marken once an hour. The entire trip will take you about 40 minutes, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
If you’re also interested in visiting Volendam, you can visit both in a day by hopping aboard the Volendam-Marken express for a return trip between the two attractions.