Considering visiting Hoorn, the Netherlands? Hoorn is a beautiful Dutch city that is an easy day trip from Amsterdam that is widely considered one of the cutest cities in Holland. The train between Amsterdam and Hoorn takes only thirty minutes. This guide to Hoorn will focus on historical aspects of Hoorn and things to do in Hoorn.
Contents of this post about Hoorn
- Why visit Hoorn?
- Things to do in Hoorn
- Where to eat and drink in Hoorn
- Where to stay in Hoorn
- How to get to Hoorn from Amsterdam
Before visiting Hoorn, I really had no idea about it besides reading somewhere that it was a cute Dutch town. On a whim, I ended up visiting the Nederlands Kremlin and Hoorn on a day trip from Amsterdam with my friend M. I hope to enlighten you to some of the incredible history behind Hoorn as well as the best things to do in Hoorn with the hope that it will inspire you to visit this beautiful Dutch city.
Why visit Hoorn?
Hoorn used to be the capital of West Friesland and it was one of the main harbors of the VOC (The Dutch East India Company). The riches from abroad brought prosperity to this seaside town although Hoorn declined in significance over time. After the Afsluitdijk closed off the Zuiderzee, Hoorn ceased to be a seaside port. Luckily, dairy has proven to be a large industry in Hoorn, which is located in Noord Holland now.
One of the best reasons to visit Hoorn is to enjoy the stunning Dutch Renaissance revival architecture that dots the historical city center of Hoorn. Although Hoorn isn’t a vast city like Amsterdam, it’s certainty a lovely city to spend a day getting lost in. I especially loved the scenic harbor area and the laid-back pace in Hoorn.
It’s worth noting that there’s not a lot of information in English about Hoorn at this time. That said, most people in Hoorn understand English well and you can always ask if something is only in Dutch. I have a weird accent in Dutch, so people were super welcoming to me when they found out that I was American after asking about my accent.
Notably, the lack of crowds make Hoorn so attractive as it’s only thirty minutes from Amsterdam. Living in Amsterdam has made me truly appreciate places that remain unspoiled by mass tourism. I loved getting lost in Hoorn’s scenic streets with my friend as well as sitting at its many cute cafes. (It’s a favorite of day-trippers from all around Holland and Friesland.) Hoorn still feels like a hushed secret among foreigners (not Dutchies) and it’s surprising to me that all the tourists in Alkmaar haven’t discovered this gem. (I’m not sure I want them to!)
Things to do in Hoorn
Stadswandeling (literally means walking around a city in Dutch) is the best thing to do without question in Hoorn. In this guide to Hoorn, I’ve included some of the architectural highlights of the city with a bit of history. I’d recommend just saving these on a map, so you can simply walk around the city although I’ve grouped these by proximity to each other, so you can follow this route to see the best things to see in Hoorn.
The Waag is a stunning building in the historic center of Hoorn that was built in 1609. It was used historically as a weigh-house where goods bought and sold could be assessed for its value. It’s now a cozy cafe and it’s worth taking a peek inside! It’s located in the most ‘famous’ square of Hoorn, de Roode Steen.
de Roode Steen
It’s impossible to miss the Roode Steen, which was named for the red stone in the ground. It was the main square used for capital punishments in the past, however now it’s just a lovely market square.
Even if you don’t go into this regional museum that holds artifacts about West Friesland’s history and the VOC, it’s worth admiring this stunning building from a distance. The building itself is a Rijksmonument building dating back to 1632. (This was my favorite building to admire in Hoorn!)
Explore the beautiful Grote Oost
The Grote Oost (literally the Great East) is one of the most beautiful streets in Hoorn. Many of the houses date back to the 1600s and 1700s and were owned by the merchant class. You’ll find many cute shops along the Groot Oost.
Explore the Marina area of Hoorn
One of my favorite streets in Hoorn to wander down was the Veermanskade. This street along the water has many beautiful ships as well as beautiful Dutch houses dating back to the 17th century. It’s easy to transport yourself back in time instantly to Hoorn’s peak. (I also enjoyed Bierkade, but these streets are virtually connected)
Admire the Hoofdtoren
The Hoofdtoren is a tower used for defense purposes dating back to 1532. The clock is fairly recent compared to the rest of the tower, dating back to only 1651. When you’re visiting the Harbor of Hoorn, it’s impossible to miss this iconic symbol of Hoorn.
Admire the Oosterpoort
The Oosterpoort is the last remaining city gate in Hoorn dating back to 1578. It’s a bit outside of the main part of Hoorn, but worth a short wander if you’re already in Hoorn.
Visit the Markets in Hoorn
If you’re visiting Hoorn, be sure to check the market schedule. Unfortunately, much of the information is in Dutch, so I’ve tried to include the main reoccurring markets with information in English. This information is subject to change, so please check on the official website (Hoorn tourist information) for up-to-date information.
There’s a weekly cheese market in Hoorn on Thursdays between June and August for those seeking a cozier cheese market. You can find the show during the afternoon starting after 1pm in the Roodesteenplein. The market is more similar to the cheese market in Alkmaar.
There’s a few other weekly markets, including a long line of market stalls on Saturdays along Breed and Nieuwstraat (among other streets). Similarly, you’ll find smaller markets on Wednesdays and Tuesdays. On the last Sunday of the month, you’ll find an organic market.
Once a year, there’s a special annual market, called Lappendag, in August. This is one of the largest markets in the Netherlands with a rich history dating back to the middle ages. You can find all kinds of clothing here!
Where to eat and drink in Hoorn
You’ll find numerous food options in Hoorn along Grote Noord, the main commercial stretch of the city. I prefer to stop at independent restaurants whenever possible. For those seeking a historic atmosphere, stop off at Café ‘t Schippershuis, a historic brown bar close to the Hoorn Harbor with incredible views of the Hoofttoren. You might also want to check out Charlies, which I stepped into for a beer. (They had a nice local beer selection.)
I especially loved Loft der Zotheid, a cafe/restaurant with a modern feeling in this historic city. They have events, a good beer selection, and a nice cocktail selection.
Where to stay in Hoorn
Hoorn is not the biggest tourist destination, so if you intend to visit Hoorn, be sure to book ahead to get your pick of accommodation. Luckily, the city is small and easy to visit from Amsterdam. Instead of staying at an expensive hotel in Amsterdam, consider staying at a cozy bed and breakfast in a historic building in Hoorn for half of what you’d pay in Amsterdam. For something truly different, you can stay in a former cell of the historic naval prison in Hoorn.
How to get to Hoorn from Amsterdam
From Amsterdam Centraal, you can catch a train towards Enkhuizen, another beautiful city in Holland, that will stop in Hoorn. The journey from Amsterdam to Hoorn will take about thirty minutes and should cost about ten euros each way. Hoorn Centraal is a short twenty minute walk from Hoorn Haven.