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We are in Volendam on a day when the sky is mottled with dollops of cloud. Sunlight, like the water along the seaside promenade, comes in waves.
Dozens of shops line Zeestraat, the street leading down from the Volendams Museum to the waterfront. The woody scent of almonds lures us into the 2 in 1 Bakery, where the staff are placing sheets of gevulde koeken (dome-shaped cookies with hand-pinched edges, brushed with egg glaze and topped with a single sliver of nut) on the countertops to cool.
Another block, another lively bakery. We stop again and again, a bite here, a bite there, joining the locals who order bread and pastries and coffees in rapid, musical Dutch. As we head for the seawall, we pass through a tidy neighborhood of skinny brick homes: narrow courtyards, dazzling flowers, doors and windows open to catch the goose-pimpling breeze.
Other travel writers trash Volendam’s promenade, calling it touristy and shallow. Volendam does cater to tourists, just as Gatlinburg and Panama City do. That said, Volendam caters primarily to Dutch tourists. Since we’re Americans, the kitschy shops and attractions — “Your Family Photo in Traditional Volendam Costumes!” and “Hot Stroopwaffles with Creme and Berries for Just Two Euro!” — engage us in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.
We browse the souvenir shops: aluminum cookie tins in the blue and white tones of Delft, an army of costumed dolls in traditional dresses, machine-made wooden shoes. We walk the entire length of the promenade, watching young couples drinking beer on the broad patios, the aloof waitstaff ignoring patrons as only the Dutch can, and rugged workmen scrambling to set up booths for a festival. We visit side streets, glimpsing life in progress: a family laying tile in their living room, an elderly woman penning a letter at her dining room table, school children tapping at iPads. We walk the seawall, watching weathered boats bob in the harbor.
Late in the day, we take a Segway tour up to Edam, sweeping past windmills, grazing sheep, and private gardens, pausing only for a flat white coffee just before sunset. Our young guide — just eighteen years old — is blonde and lanky and frequently on the phone with someone we assume is a girlfriend. He is apologetic; he speaks little English, and we don’t speak Dutch. But at the cafe, rather than stare at each other in silence, I whip out the Google Translate app to bridge the language gap. He tells us he loves American pop music and Justin Bieber’s songs in particular.
We tell him he’s lucky to live in a beautiful town. My iPhone listens to me, thinks a moment, then prints on the screen: “Je heat het geluk om in ten moon drop the leven.” The young man nods and replies in English: “Yes.”
At the end of the day, Bus 312 speeds us home in just 35 minutes, and we are back in Amsterdam, dodging bicycles and backpackers. Thick gray clouds billow up in the distance; the evening air smells of marijuana and the coming rain. We love the bustle of Amsterdam, but find ourselves missing the orderly polish, the lush hues, and the clear, briny air of Volendam.
Volendam is an easy 40-minute bus ride from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. Take bus 312 directly to the Julianaweg Centrum stop. You’ll be directly across from the Volendams Museum — a great place to start your day in Volendam. Tickets (which can be purchased from the driver, with exact change) cost about 7 euro per person. If you buy an I Amsterdam City Card and take the trip during the days your ticket is active, your ride is included for free. Nap or relax and enjoy the countryside on the way home; Centraal Station is the last stop, so you can’t miss it!
- Get a quaint, quirky overview of the city’s history at the Volendams Museum. Entry is inexpensive, but if you have an I Amsterdam City Card, you can get in for free.
- Poke around in the bakeries and shops on Zeestraat, between the Volendams Museum and the seaside promenade.
- Stroll the seaside promenade, shopping for souveirs and snacks.
- See more of the city on a tour with Segway Tours Volendam.
- Travel back in time with Experience Volendam.
- Try the gevulde koeken, or traditional Dutch almond paste cookie, at 2 in 1 Bakery.
- Sample baklava and the incredible brownie at Suffren Patisserie.
- Have lunch at Harbour Restaurant de Lunch or Café De Dijk, both located on the seaside promenade.
Please don’t have lunch at Restaurant Le Pompadour, despite their beautiful seaside patio.
A Volendam Gallery