Marken has changed a lot in a century.
Once an island is now a peninsula, connected to North Holland by a dike in 1957. Before that, when the Afsluitdijk dam was completed in 1932, the surrounding Zuiderzee was turned into a freshwater lake, ending the Marken fishing trade.
It’s a mixed blessing, as flooding has been a danger here until now.
None of this makes Marken any less lovable.
Through all these transformations, Marken has retained its heritage and lovely stilt log cabins, which were once inhabited by fishermen and used for ancient trades such as smoked eel.
If you want to know what’s going on locally, you can join a guided tour led by a guide dressed in brightly embroidered traditional clothing from Marken.
1. Walking tour
Once you arrive in Marken, you’ll be ready to explore as many attractions as you can on foot, from the pristine harbour to the lush hinterland, full of waterways.
If you want to walk the entire coast, you can complete a 9-kilometer hike along the dyke.
Rondmarken offers one-hour tours for groups of up to 25 people. To make them even more special, guides wear typical local attire such as an embroidered corset (kraplap), striped sleeves and lace caps.
You’ll find many details that you wouldn’t otherwise hear, and you can make the whole experience more authentic by combining it with koffietafel (coffee with sweet and savory delicacies) or the classic Dutch fisherman korenwijn (grain wine).
2. Mark Museum
In picturesque Kerkbuurt, the island’s museum is housed in a row of six old weatherboard smokehouses.
Until the Zuiderzee was dammed in the 1930s, these were used to smoke eel, an important part of Marken’s economy.
Inside you can savor traditional interiors decorated with authentic furniture and appliances.
There are regional art exhibitions, while rotating exhibitions reveal different aspects of Marken’s history.
What has long attracted visitors to the island is its striking traditional clothing, carefully housed in glass cases.
For men, clothing for life at sea is relatively simple and practical, while women wear colorful embroidery and wear different clothes for mourning (light or heavy!) and pregnancy.
3. Wooden shoe factory
Marken’s most popular is an authentic geta-making workshop and souvenir shop.
You can participate in the Geta Experience and learn how to turn a simple piece of aspen wood into a comfortable geta in minutes.
The machines that make the clogs are still powered by steam engines dating back to 1913, which all adds to the old-time experience.
The multilingual guide here has a great sense of humour and talks to you every step of the way, from hollowing out to sanding and painting.
In Marken, traditional clogs are painted brown with pink or red roses and large dark green leaves.
The wearer’s name is also painted on.
You can try a pair on and see your size – see how you have to curl your toes to keep them.
4. Pad Van Marken
One of Marken’s attractions is this lighthouse on the east coast, which dates back to 1839. At the end of a small grass embankment, Paard van Marken (Marken Horse) is still used as a signal light and has had Fog Point since 1919. It’s not the first lighthouse to be located here, it was built as a network of lights to mark the route from the Wadden Sea to Amsterdam, following earlier structures built in 1700.
The lighthouse itself is closed, but there are benches for you to enjoy the view of the Markermeer.
A trip to Paard van Marken is not to be missed during the cold winter, as the lighthouse is located in drift ice and isolated from the world.
5. Flood Memorial
It’s hard to imagine today, but before the construction of the Afsluitdijk dam in the early 1930s, Marken was captive to the North Sea, which caused continued damage.
The last major disaster to hit the island was flooding in 1916 by a storm that coincided with high tide. Sixteen islanders were killed and many were left homeless.
The flooding accelerated plans to build the Avsrut levee, which left Marken unscathed, but naturally ended the local fishing industry overnight.
At the entrance to the harbour there is a flood monument, unveiled in 1916 to commemorate the centenary, known as “The Waves”. It is designed with a bench so you can scan what was once the open North Sea and is now a calm freshwater lake (Gouwzee).
6. Watersnood Wandeling Marken 1916
Beginning and ending at the Macon Museum, there is a walking trail around Macon that is reminiscent of the devastation of the flood on the night of January 13-14, 1916. The walk takes you to some very photogenic parts of the former island, which also happens to be the worst affected by flooding.
There are new information plaques with instructions for destruction, but you can also pick up a flyer or download a PDF with all the information you need.
One of the most striking sights is a row of icebreakers off Rozewerf on the island’s south coast.
7. Kijkhuisje Sijtje Boes
One of the joys of a quaint destination like Marken is the mini attractions like this one, and the stories associated with them.
In a sweet weatherboard house on the harbour, Kijkhuisje Sijtje Boes is a small museum named after its founder, Sijtje Boes (1895-1983). Recognizing the potential of Marken as a destination, she had to work hard to open a souvenir shop in the early 1920s.
In doing so, she helped put Marken on the tourist map.
Under two doors is her Kijkhuisje, the tiny house she shares with her fisherman husband, decorated in a traditional yellow and blue colour scheme and filled with cute trinkets.
8. Grote Kirk
The island’s Neo-Renaissance churches are well-constructed, but not particularly old, dating back to the early 20th century.
But it’s what’s inside that makes a visit so compelling.
Many of the fixtures predate the present church by centuries and are themselves listed as monuments.
Take the six-sided pulpit, pulpit and church chandelier, all made in the 1600s.
The bronze baptismal font is from the 18th century, while several models of traditional ships hang from the ceiling.
There’s a 1959 punt, a 1957 bot (sailing barge), a WWII-era steam sailboat, and most interestingly, two herring buses, from 1600 to 1890.
9. Welf Trail
Marken joins the North Holland Hiking Network, a trail system with interconnected junctions or nodes.
With some planning, you can use these nodes for custom hikes, or follow the advice of other walkers or tour organizations.
One is the Werf Trail, a 7km circular route starting at node 9 and going through 35, 36, 34, 33 and 37. In particular, get to know one specific aspect of the Marken landscape.
Due to the constant flood risk posed by Zuiderzee, people have built their own small villages on mounds called werfs, using manure, turf and even compressed household waste.
The mounds are still intact, and you can enjoy views of Moeniswerf, Rozenwerf, Grote werf and Witte werf from this trail.
10. Volendam Marken Express
Marken is connected to the mainland by a dyke (opened in 1957) that takes the N18 past Markermeer, a few kilometers from Monnickendam.
But the most romantic way is to enter the port by ferry from Volendam, which operates year-round (30 minutes). During high season, from March to November, every 30-45 minutes, from 09:00 to 19:00. The only exception is if there is any noticeable ice on the Markermeer, which last happened in March 2018. All Volendam Marken Express ferries have a bar serving drinks and snacks, and the open deck is a bliss on warm summer days.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Marken, Netherlands
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