The old town centre of Velsen
IJmuiden  is a harbour town located in the Kennemerland region in North-Holland. It is the port of entry for ships to Amsterdam, with large sealocks providing access to the Noordzeekanaal (North Sea Canal). IJmuiden is part of the municipality of Velsen, which also includes the villages of Santpoort and Driehuis. The municipality has some 60,000 inhabitants, 30,000 of which live in IJmuiden.
IJmuiden itself is not very attractive, but it is a good place to watch the large ships come in from the sea, and it has a large friendly beach that is not so crowded as the ones in Zandvoort and Bloemendaal-aan-Zee. To the south and north of IJmuiden and Velsen, you will find large expanses of nature in the coastal dunes. On the east side of the municipality, there are some beautiful stately mansions to be seen, as well as the romantic Brederode castle.
The Velsen townhall in IJmuiden, designed by Willem Dudok
In prehistory, the area around Velsen was already densely occupied. Archaeologists have found many traces of habitation, dating from the Late Neolithic onwards. The Oer-IJ river, which flowed into the North Sea near Castricum also attracted the attention of the Romans who tried to conquer the area around 15AD. They built a fort at Velsen called Flevum. They were however beaten off by the Frisians in 28AD, and despite an attempt to reconquer the area, the border of the Roman empire was eventually pushed back to the course of the Rhine.
During the Middle Ages, the area was part of the shire of Kinheim, and the town of Velsen was already known in the 8th century AD. In the Late Middle Ages, the mouth of the Oer-IJ river was blocked by the formation of sand dunes on the coast, so when Amsterdam started to become an important harbour in the 15th century, ships could not reach the North Sea directly but had to go via Texel.
Eventually, after a long period of decline of the Amsterdam harbour, the Noordzeekanaal was dug in 1876 to provide a better connection to the North Sea. IJmuiden was then founded to provide facilities for the incoming ships. Velsen, however, was cut in two by the canal, which is why there are now two parts of town, Velsen-Zuid and Velsen-Noord.
In 1918, the Royal Dutch Steel Works were established to the north of the Noordzeekanaal. They were and still are better known as the Hoogovens (high furnaces) in Dutch. Currently, this is the largest single industrial facility in the Netherlands, covering much of Velsen-Noord, as well as parts of the neighbouring municipalities of Beverwijk and Heemskerk. The current owners are Tata Steel Europe.
In order to reach Amsterdam, all ships coming from the North Sea now have to go through the sea locks, but the IJmuiden harbour also attracts a sizable number of cargo ships itself. IJmuiden is also the largest fishing harbour in the Netherlands.
- VVV Informatiepunt IJmuiden, Marktplein 33, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 255 567 200, . Mo 11AM-6PM Tu,We,Fr 9AM-6PM Th 9AM-9PM Sa 9AM-5PM Su closed. edit
Aerial view of the Noordzeekanaal sea locks, with IJmuiden to the left
From Amsterdam, the easiest is to follow the A9 in the direction Alkmaar, and then take the exit Velsen-Zuid (travel time approx. 35 min, 35 kms). From Haarlem, take the N208 city ring to the north (travel time approx. 20 min, 12 kms).
By public transport]
The closest train station is in Driehuis, which has a sprinter connection to Haarlem and Alkmaar. Bus 385 directly connects Haarlem to IJmuiden, but it is not a very fast connection (approx. 55 min). Amsterdam Sloterdijk station is connected to IJmuiden by bus 382 (approx. 1 hr).
From IJmuiden, there are regular ferries to Newcastle in the UK.
- Marina Seaport IJmuiden, Kennemerboulevard 540, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 255 560 300, . IJmuiden also has a marina with 650 berths, so there is always plenty of space to moor your boat. From €16 per day, depending on the size of the berth, including electricity and sanitary services. edit
The ruins of Brederode castle
Since the various sites worth visiting are all a bit spread out, it is recommended to use a bike or car to explore the town and surrounding area.
Paid parking applies in some zones in Velsen, especially for the beach parkings, but the parking fees are not extremely high.
- The Bike Guru, Planetenweg 40, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 255 515 290 ([email protected]), . Mo-Fr 9AM-6PM Sa 9AM-5PM Su closed. From €10.50 per day. edit
The Marina Seaport also rents bikes for €16 a day.
- IJmuiden sea locks, ☎ +31 255 51 62 54, . SHIP exposition centre daily 10AM-5PM; guided tours at 11AM and 2PM (online registration required). The sea locks are a spectacular sight in all seasons, especially when you are lucky enough to see a large cruiseship entering. Free entrance, guided tours €5. edit
- Bunker museum IJmuiden, Badweg 38, IJmuiden, . May-Sep every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month 11AM-4PM; see website for guided tours. Small museum dedicated to the bunkers of the Atlantik Wall, the fortifications built on the Dutch coast by the Germans in de Second World War. Adults €6, age 4-12 €3, veterans and age under 4 free entrance. edit
- Buitenplaats Velserbeek, Velserbeek 3, Velsen-Zuid, ☎ +31 255 514 244. Gardens opened daily. The tea house is only opened on Sunday. Free entrance. edit
- Buitenplaats Beeckestijn, Rijksweg 134, Velsen-Zuid, ☎ +31 255 522 877, . Gardens opened daily. Exhibitions Th-Su 11AM-4PM, January closed. In the estate you can visit temporary art exhibitions. The grounds and gardens are open for walking all year round. In the coach house you will find a restaurant, Brasserie Beeckestijn Free entrance. edit
- Ruïne van Brederode, Velserenderlaan 2, Santpoort, . 1 Mar - 1 Oct, We-Su 10AM-5PM. The ruins of this romantic 13th-century castle have been partly restored. Adults €3, ages under 12 €1.50. edit
Forteiland, the fortress built in the mouth of the Noordzeekanaal
- Forteiland, (only accessible by boat), ☎ +31 20 62 63 600 ([email protected]), . Check the website for open days. In the middle of the entrance to the Noordzeekanaal sea locks, an island fortress was built as part of the Stelling van Amsterdam (Amsterdam Defence Line). The island with its remaining bunker complexes is currently in use as meeting location, but it is open the general public 15 days a year for 1.5 hr guided tours. Includes a seagull colony. Very impressive. Adults €12.50, age under 6 free; includes boat trip. edit
- Pier van IJmuiden, . By far the most popular pastime in IJmuiden is to walk up one of the two piers on the entrance to the Noordzeekanaal. The one on the south is 3 km long and easy to reach. The north pier is a bit more remote, since you will first have to cross the Noordzeekanaal via the sealocks. From the piers you have a great view of the ships coming in, and it is a perfect spot for fishing and birdwatching, or to watch the high waves. However, don't enter the piers when the red flags are raised, the winds will be too dangerous then (and it will cost you a €140 fine). edit
The IJmuiden beach is one of the broadest in the Netherlands. There is always plenty of space for visitors and it is well suited for all possible beach activities, including wind- and kitesurfing. Unlike Zandvoort and Bloemendaal, it only has a limited number of beach pavillions. Strand Noordpier is the best spot in the Netherlands for wavesurfing, attracting surfers from all over the country.
Walking and cycling
The Zuid-Kennemerland National Park can be reached very easily from IJmuiden and Velsen and offers many opportunities for walking and cycling.
- IJmondpad, . A three day 77 km circuit walk that will take you through the most interesting parts of Velsen, Beverwijk and Heemskerk. edit
- Recreatiegebied Spaarnwoude, ☎ +31 23 520 28 20 ([email protected]), . In between Velsen and Amsterdam, this is a huge recreational area directly south of the Noordzeekanaal, with large expanses of parkland, woods and lakes. It is a great place to explore walking or cycling, and also features a golf course. It is also the place where the largest outdoor dance festival of the Netherlands, Dance Valley, is held. edit
Tata Steel Chess Tournament
This international chess tournament has been held since 1938, sponsored by the steel works. It is one of largest and strongest tournaments in the world. It is however not held in Velsen itself, but in the beach resort of Wijk aan Zee, part of the municipality of Beverwijk.
Being the largest fishing harbour in the Netherlands, it is not surprising that IJmuiden offers a good choice in fish shops and restaurants. Most of these are concentrated around the Vissershaven and Haringhaven.
- Nettovismarkt IJmuiden, Halkade 62, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 255 519 713 ([email protected]), . Mo-Sa 8AM-6:30PM Su closed. Fish straight from the auction, at reasonable prices. edit
- Waasdorp Fish & Seafood, Halkade 27, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 255 512 796, . Mo-Sa 7AM-7PM Su 8AM-7PM. One of the best known fish sellers in IJmuiden, with an ample selection of fresh fish straight from the IJmuiden fish auction, but also from other sources. Popular dishes to try are kibbeling (fried cod pieces with ravigotte sauce) and lekkerbekje (fried whiting) €9.50 for a plate. edit
- Hokkai Kitchen, Egmondstraat 2, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 613 14 62 46. We-Sa 12AM-7PM Su-Tu closed. Not in the most attractive of settings, this sushi place, but it is more than compensated by the quality of the food. Just a pity that they close very early. €1.80 to €5.40 a piece, chef's menu €41 (order a day in advance). edit
- Het Roode Hert, Zuiderdorpstraat 15, Velsen-Zuid, ☎ +31 255 515 797 ([email protected]), . Tu-Fr 12AM-2PM 6-9:30PM Sa 6-9:30PM Su-Mo closed. One of the most picturesque eating places in Kennemerland, in the old town centre of Velsen. Not one of the cheapest restaurants, but generally worth the expense. 3-course 'surprise' menu €42.50. edit
- Aloha Beach, Reyndersweg 2, Velsen-Noord (drive up to the parking lot at the Noordpier, and follow the signs), ☎ +31 251 374 130, . 10AM-11PM. Friendly beach pavillion, popular with the surfers. They do meals as well. edit
- Landgoed Duin en Kruidberg, Duin en Kruidbergerweg 60, Santpoort, ☎ +31 23 512 18 00 ([email protected]), . Located in one of the most beautiful spots of Kennemerland, on the entrance to the national park and within walking distance of the Brederode castle ruins, this country estate is definitely a great place to stay - if you can afford it. From €125 for a double. edit
- Camping De Duindoorn, Badweg 40, IJmuiden, ☎ +31 255 510 773, . . This camping is as close to the beach as it gets. From €6.60 per tent per night (plus €1.05 tourist tax). edit
- Haarlem, capital of North-Holland with its attractive historic city centre and several good museums
- Alkmaar, with its famous cheese market
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