|‘Victory began in Alkmaar’. This saying refers to one of the most famous episodes in the history of Alkmaar: its defeat of the besieging Spaniards in 1573. The legacy of this rich and illustrious past is still in evidence in the cosy city centre. The canals with their characteristic drawbridges, the numerous historic buildings, the peaceful courtyards, the old facades and the narrow shopping streets give the centre of the city its very special atmosphere. It’s no accident that Alkmaar is the second shopping city of the Netherlands!
Over the course of the centuries Alkmaar has developed into an attractive medium-sized city with numerous residential, employment and recreational facilities. Its strengths are the appealing residential locations in neighbourhoods with their own character, and the versatile economic environment with clusters of all types of services. The people of Alkmaar are proud of ‘their’ Canada Square, the sparkling new cultural location where five major cultural institutions present a broad palette of exhibitions, theatre, art, music, books and new media. For tourists, too, Alkmaar is a well-loved destination. There is of course the cheese market, that attracts thousands of people from all over the world, but the beach and the capital are both nearby. Alkmaar: cheese, coast, and culture!
Located as it was at a meeting of waterways, Alkmaar charged tolls and levied duties on the transhipment of goods. Because of its markets and commerce, Alkmaar acquired a position as a centre, and the town grew. The street pattern was determined by land reclamation over the course of the centuries. From 1525 onward, large sums were spent on building walls around the city, with canals and city walls as protection against attacks and plundering from outside.
In 1573, the Spaniards attacked Alkmaar. The city used boiling tar and burning branches thrown from its new city walls to fight the Spaniards, who had set up their camp in Oudorp. The moment when Don Frederik, the son of Alva, withdrew in defeat was the turning point in the fight against the Spaniards. Victory began in Alkmaar.
From 1600 onwards, Alkmaar developed from a commercial town with its own fleet into a market and supply centre for the wider area. Salt extraction and barley were of great importance for the town. Salt extraction plants and breweries rose on the banks of the Voormeer and the Zeglis. Lime kilns produced shell lime that was used as mortar. Dozens of roperies made flax into rope.