Velsen is located on both sides of the North Sea Canal. In the 19th century, the original village of Velsen was split in two by the construction of the North Sea Canal. The towns of Velsen-Zuid and Velsen-Noord were created. A part of the old village was demolished by the construction of the canal. Velsen has an old city centre with the Engelmunduskerk. This church was founded around 700 and is one of the oldest churches in the Netherlands. In the 13th century, the church was extended with a chapel and a tower of brick by the Lords of Brederode.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Velsen area was very popular among affluent Amsterdammers. They built several outside houses there, including Landgoed Beeckestein and Velserbeek. A small part of the old village still exists, including the church and several monuments.