For a good reason, Zaanse Schans is one of Amsterdam’s most popular day trips. The picturesque village is easily accessible from The Netherlands’ capital city and is home to some of Holland’s most famous and photographed windmills. The Zaanse Schans windmill village is a neighborhood in Zaandam and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in the Netherlands. Aside from admiring the picturesque windmills, there are surprisingly many other things to do in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.
This guide to the best things to do in this unique Dutch village includes the top eight places to visit, how to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam, and how much time you’ll need in the charming town.
About Zaanse Schans Windmill Village
Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Netherlands, Zaanse Schans was once an industrial zone with hundreds of working windmills grinding everything from spices and cooking oil to sawdust. Today, the entire village is essentially an open-air museum with at least eight vintage windmills. While a few have been preserved on their original site, the rest have been relocated to Zaanse Schans from other parts of the region to preserve this unique part of Dutch heritage.
Although a few residents live and work in Zaanse Schans, and a few of the windmills are still operational, tourism is the town’s primary industry. Indeed, millions of people visit the Holland windmill village each year, thanks in part to its proximity to Amsterdam.
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The best day trip activities from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans
Although De Zaanse Schans is a small village on the banks of the Zaan River, there is plenty to keep you busy and entertained for hours. While visiting Zaanse Schans is free, if you want to visit some of the museums or tour the working mills, purchasing the Zaanse Schans Card, which covers admission to all attractions, is a good idea. Here are some of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.
View the stunning Zaanse Schans Windmills.
The number one thing to do in Zaanse Schans is to see the windmills, which most people associate with Holland. The colorful old windmills in the village, surrounded by adorable green wooden houses, are postcard-worthy. One of the best travel tips for visiting Zaanse Schans is to arrive early in order to avoid crowds and take some beautiful photos before others arrive.
Walk around the village, admiring the windmills’ beauty as the blades slowly turn, and feeling the breeze off the water. It has a perfectly serene atmosphere, especially if you get there before the crowds arrive around 9:30 a.m.
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Visit One of the Active Windmills
While there are approximately eight preserved historic windmills, only six of them are operational. If you’ve ever wanted to see how a windmill works, you can go to De Kat paint mill or Het Jonge Schaap sawmill and watch how the wind churns the gears inside the windmill and grinds the material being milled.
Climb a ladder to the top of the sawmill for panoramic views of Zaanse Schans and the Zaan River.
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The Zaanse Museum has a Chocolate and Biscuit Factory.
The Zaanse Museum is a collection of exhibits that includes, among other things, a sail weaver’s house, a barrel maker’s workshop, and a fisherman’s house. However, the early twentieth-century chocolate and biscuit factory is the highlight of a museum visit. The Verkade Experience allows visitors to see the chocolate-making machines churning as they produce molded chocolates. You can even design and print your own Verkade chocolate bar wrapper, wrap it with the packaging machine, and take it home as a souvenir.
Visit a Cheese Farm, Try Dutch Cheese, and Pet Farm Animals
The Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm, another highlight of a trip to this Dutch village, is a great place to learn about the Dutch cheese-making process, sample endless types of cheese, and see cheesemakers dressed in traditional costumes. Dutch cheese is one of the most well-known foods in the Netherlands, with some of the world’s most popular cheeses, such as Gouda, named after Dutch towns.
You can watch a live demonstration of how cheese is made in the Netherlands, sample goat cheese, cow cheese, and sheep cheese, and even meet some of the village’s friendly farm animals. Chickens freely roam near the cheese farm, and goats and sheep freely approach the fence to be petted and adored by tourists.
Observe a Clog Maker Carve a Pair of Wooden Shoes
Another must-see on your Zaanse Schans itinerary is the Clog Workshop. A clog maker chisels a pair of Dutch Clogs, or wooden shoes, from a block of wood here. The clog workshop is housed in a former grain warehouse and contains clogs of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
The workshop, small shoe museum, and souvenir shop, where you can buy a pair of these world-famous Dutch shoes to take home, are all free to visit.
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The Zaanse Time Museum takes you on a journey through time.
The Zaanse Time Museum is a small but charming museum located at the village’s entrance crossing the Zaan River via the pedestrian bridge. The museum is a literal journey through time. It houses an impressive clock collection.
Grandfather clocks date back to the 1600s and more modern clocks. You can even go inside a clockmaker’s workshop to see what goes into the construction and engineering of a clock. Visit just before a new hour to hear all the clocks chime at the top of the hour.
The Bakery Museum will satisfy your sweet tooth.
What charming European village would be complete without a bakery filling the air with the aroma of delectable pastries? The quaint bakery museum in Zaanse Schans is more of a sweets shop than a museum, but it’s a great place to go for a coffee and a Duivekater, a traditional sweet bread made in Zaanse Schans. One of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans is trying Duivekater, but you can also get stroopwafel and cakes.
Shop for groceries like they did in the 1800s at the Albert Heijn Grocery Store Museum.
Albert Heijn is the Netherlands’ largest supermarket chain. The grocer’s original shop is located in Zaanse Schans. The small grocery store is now a museum with original furnishings and displays of how the store was stocked.
Kids will enjoy learning about the evolution of grocery stores and what it was like to shop for food in a humble grocer’s shop in the 1800s.
How long should you stay in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands?
Touring this Dutch windmill village and visiting a few museums takes about 2-4 hours. Most visitors come as part of a day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans. If you prefer to spend your evenings relaxing in a charming village rather than the busy city of Amsterdam, there are a few cute rental apartments near the windmills where you can enjoy the view a night or two.