Beemster is a municipality in the Waterland and Zaan Region in North-Holland, Netherlands. The Beemster is a large polder, that was drained in 1612. It was one of the major works of engineering undertaken during the Dutch Golden Age, and the rational grid layout of the original polder is mostly preserved. It is one of the most iconic Dutch polders, and for this reason it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999. Visitors need to take some time to explore the area by car or bike in order to fully appreciate its historical value, since it may not look very spectacular at first sight: it is mainly very flat and empty.
Even though the Dutch had experimented with draining lakes and transforming them into agricultural land as early as the beginning of the 16th century, the reclamation of the 72km² Beemster was a historical landmark. The project to drain the lake took 50 windmills and five years of work to complete, and it made the eternal fame of the responsible engineer, Jan Adriaensz Leeghwater. The investors (mainly rich merchants from Amsterdam) were repaid with the reclaimed land, that was divided in a grid of rectangular blocks, with roads and waterways running at angles of 90 degrees. The Beemster was so fertile, that many other reclamation projects were started in the 17th century, but not all were as successful.
Over the centuries, the Beemster has remained a predominantly agricultural area, even though the windmills have long been replaced by pumping stations. Today, the municipality has approx. 9,000 inhabitants, mainly living in the four villages of Middenbeemster, Noordbeemster, Westbeemster and Zuidoostbeemster.
The A7 trunk road, going from Zaandam to Hoorn and further north, passes through the east side of the Beemster, and will get you there very quickly. From the Amsterdam ring road A10, take the A8 to Zaandam, and then the A7 to Purmerend (travel time approx. 30 minutes). Coming from Hoorn, travel time is approx. 20 minutes.
Bus 306, departing from Amsterdam Centraal Station, will get you to Middenbeemster in approx. 45 minutes. However, be aware that in order to explore the area, it is better to have a car or bike at your disposal. Bus 129 runs a regular service from Alkmaar to Purmerend.
The Beemster can be reached by bike from Amsterdam (approx. 25km or 1.5 hours), although getting back the same day may be a bit challenging.
As stated, the best way to get around is by car or by bike. The latter option however may be unattractive in bad weather, especially since the flat polder will not offer much protection against the wind. Otherwise you can use bus 129 and local bus (irregular service) 416 to get around. See the website of 9292 for more information on connections and schedules.
Stelling van Amsterdam
The Beemster is on the northern edge of the Stelling van Amsterdam, the never used 19th century defence line of the city of Amsterdam. Five fortresses are preserved within the Beemster. Three of them (Spijkerboor, Jisperweg and Middenweg) are owned by Natuurmonumenten (a nature conservation organisation). Of these, only Fort Spijkerboor is accessible to visitors. The other two forts (Nekkerweg and Benoorden Purmerend) are in use as a wellness resort and a wine shop (see the Do and Drink section respectively).
Several cycling routes can be followed to explore the area, all starting from the visitor centre.
The Beemster is home to the locally produced Beemster cheese. It is not as well known as Edam and Gouda cheese, and in taste is very close to Gouda. However, since it is produced in the traditional way, it has a lot more charm - and according to most, it tastes better as well. Beemster cheese is sold in most supermarkets in the Netherlands, so you don't actually need to go to the Beemster to buy it.