The waterlogged area north of Alkmaar was once home to 15,000 tiny, yet productive, farms, each one an island, whose farmers tended their crops by rowboat. You can tour the auction house where farmers arrived with boatloads of produce then waited – afloat – inside, until they could paddle through an auction room where wholesale grocery buyers would bid on the produce. Built in 1877, it sits on 1900 piles. Prices include auction-house and museum entry as well as a boat ride.
On its exterior, the museum shows some of the 15,000 islands. Inside, the exhibits on how the farms worked are a combination of high-tech wizardry and old-fashioned mechanised gadgets. It runs 45-minute tours around some of the 200 surviving island plots nearby. On the grounds you can see some of the traditional crops in situ. There's a fine little cafe.
Museum BroekerVeiling is 8.5km northeast of Alkmaar. From Monday to Friday, bus 10 (30 minutes, hourly) runs to the Museumweg stop; on weekends, take bus 9 (30 minutes, hourly) to the Laansloot stop and walk 750m east. A 9km bike route from Alkmaar follows canals and passes through the tiny old village of Sint Pancras.