Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam
Just 9 miles from Amsterdam is a lovely Open Air Village called Zaanse Schans.
When visiting here, I was transported back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries when there were thousands of sawmills, dye mills, oil mills along the dykes. Not all the windmills and buildings started out in Zaanse Schans, many of them were moved here from other regions.
The highlight of the area, is the eight historic Windmills remaining out of about 200 that used to line the bank of the River Zaan
There are homes and a farmlet that is privately occupied, and others that are open to the public, such as a Museum, Clog Maker and Cheesemaker. You can go into a Windmill (3euro) or watch Delftware painting, and Pewter casting. There are shops selling Cheese, Mustard, Pottery, Clogs, Souvenirs, Textiles and more.
You can stop for a rest and a meal at one of the lovely Restaurants.
It is a very pretty area, and easy to reach.
I caught Bus 91 from Central Station. These leave half hourly from 9-4pm.
Open 9 - 5 daily FREE ADMISSION
May be a small charge to some areas.
This is a little bit of Holland countryside if you haven't time to visit further afield.
More information on my Zaanse Schans page
We all know that the most common landscape scenery in the Netherlands should be the water and the windmills. Nowadays it is not quite true, windmills no longer visit you, you should visit them, in order to see at least a single one from outside.
The easiest way to see real windmills near Amsterdam is to take a trip to Zaanse Schans in Zaandam located just on the other side of the river IJ.
Here you can see six large working mills on the bank of the Zaan River. They are used for wood sawing, hulling, threshing grains, and the production of amongst other things; seed and nut oil, paint, snuff and mustard. The windmill village is rather touristy in the summer.
There are here some other sightseeings too - museums, cheese makers, wooden shoemakers, a couple of restaurants and even the house of Russian Tsar Peter the Great, but because of lack of time we came just to see a real windmill.
Admission fee €2.50 each.
Direction: Train (not the Intercity) from Amsterdam Central Station in the direction of Alkmaar/Den Helder (every quarter of an hour), get off at the 4th stop Koog Zaandijk.
From the station about 15 min. walk there, down Stationstraat, Hoogstraat, pass the chocolate factory, the little Chocolate Museum, and an old windmill, cross over the River Zaan on the N515 road bridge with spectacular views of the Zaanse Schans windmills and the old houses on the Lagedijk to your left.
If you've got windmills on your mind, Zaanse Schans just outside Amsterdam is the place for you. It's a tiny village with half a dozen windmills picturesquely lined up along a canal. It's totally dedicated to tourism these days, with windmills kept working solely to please the camera-touting visitors. Although it's open all year round, old Cliffie wouldn't recommend a visit in the depth of winter: cracked ice along the canals, sleeting rain stinging the face. Mind you, you'll probably get a nice shot of the windmills with no grinning tourists to spoil the picture.
An easy day trip from Amsterdam is Zaanse Schans. This village is about a 20 minutes drive from Amsterdam. You can see windmills and wooden houses here. You can also go inside a windmill. There are shops and museums in many of the wooden houses. You can buy typical Dutch things like stroopwafels, Haagse Hopjes and Boterbabbelaars, but also wooden toys and old 'antique' stuff. A great experience!!
Also visit my Zaanse Schans page.
It was very easy and cheap to travel by public transport to Zaanse Schans. We caught bus #391 from the stop close to Centraal Station, in fact approx 100 metres from the station.
Departure was delayed 10 minutes as most of the tourists asked the driver the same questions, did not have correct money, argued over the fare etc etc. The driver showed great patience!
Under way the bus wound its way through suburbia which we both enjpyed, (you are in farmland within 6km). The journey took approx 25 minutes with the bus dropping us off at Zaanse Schans park.
The return fare was inexpensive, from memory only a few dollars per adult.
We visited the Cheese Factory soon after we arrived. It is located just past the Museum and several hundred metres before you come to the first major windmill.
The Cheese Factory besides demonstrating the traditional manufacture of cheese, also has a vast varity of cheeses on display and for sale. Mid morning it was very busy. Also available at a reasonable price are prepared cheese rolls.
The souvineer section was very busy with visitors buying the attractive merchandise, priced reasonably.
At the famous windmill park Zaanse Schans, you can visit several windmills, cheese farm and clog factory etc. There also is a museum about the region, see:
Behind the museum, there is an information panel that describes two hikes (see the legend "foot paths" at the link above):
Yellow route: 4 km
Blue route: 8.5 km (Molenroute, or Mill route)
Both routes are marked with yellow or blue stickers on signposts and streetlights. We only walked the blue route, which takes you along the windmills and through the polder. Most of the route is along local roads, and not extremely scenic. However, in March we saw many birds. There are also nice houses along the route.
Part of the unpaved route (called Schanszichtpad) is closed between March 15 and June 15 (breeding season for birds), but this part is optional so it's always possible to do this walk. Have a look at the map between the pictures, the light-blue part is the Schanszichtpad.
If you want to visit traditional working windmills then you should visit Zaanse Schans where there are 6 working windmills to view. On the day we visited some of thw windmills were open to the public.
We went inside the "Oil Windmill" and walked around the ground floor looking at the various pieces of machinery actually working.We were able to climb the ladder to the first floor and observe operations, then we walked outside onto the viewing platform and could nearly touch the blades of the windmill.
The view was outstanding.
Other attractions we visited were the museum, the Cheese Shop and cheese making demonstration.We bought some cheese rool for lunch.
There are many other attractions on site, however we had only budgeted 4 hours for the visit (includes public transport) and had scheduled a visit to the Van Gough Museum later that afternoon.
The Zaanse Schans attractions are spread out over a large area as indicate on the map. There are good walking paths which are safe for prams, strollers and wheelchairs.
There are plenty of places to rest, obtain refreshments, or enjoy your own picnic.
All up there are 29 highlights identified on the Map. Entry to the park is free, most attractions are free and the only entry fee we paid was our visit to the Oil Windmill, minimal entry fee.
This was the highlight of my visit, actually getting inside a historic windmill and actually seeing the working movements of the mill.
These windmills are hundreds of years old and were moved to Zaanse Schans to be part of the museum park.
Inside the windmill you can see the working parts are made of wood, no metal.
A small charge is made to enter the mill.
Zaanse Schans is a great place for tourists in a hurry to see many of the things typical of the Dutch - windmills along the river, cheese factories, and souvenier stores with Dutch chocolate, cheeses and blue pottery. The good thing is that all these are in one small area and close together, which saves valuable travelling time.
How to get there : A 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam toward Alkmaar (Koog-Zaandijk station).
We loved the Zaanse Schans. We're in Europe now with to married couples and no kids an we looked for a place for a nice walk. At www.dutcmills.eu we read that you better avoid Zaanse Schans on Mondaybecause most 'attractions' are closed and the mills close at five every dat.....but you are free to walk around 24/7. ;) So we did. Only cost we had were the train tickets Amsterdam-Zaandam. (and 4 coffee). It was a beautifull evening, better don't go there on a rainy day. Just walking around is the best part.
A good idea for a morning off is visiting the windmills at Zaanse Schans. You can go by train from Amsterdam Central Station. It takes about 20 minutes. I loved the place. It's like going back in time. There's a romantic atmosphere and the views are fantastic.
The Clog Factory at Zaanse Schans have all patterns and all sizes of clogs for you to choose from as well as souvenirs - even down to a little pair of clogs fridge magnet , which I happily collected. They also have demonstrations on how the clogs are made.
A day trip to Zaanse Schans is a must for the following reasons -
View the windmills,
Relax in the country,
Inexpensive way to spend the day.
Check out my travelogues and also the site below on how to get there and things to do there.