Are you in Amsterdam for a couple of days and looking to go on a day trip to somewhere close and see the scenic windmills of the Netherlands? Then the day trip to Zaanse Schans may be the right one for you.
Never heard of it? Its landscape filled with windmills, rivers flowing between the typical Dutch houses, farms, and traditional shops will truly give you a chance to see the Netherlands that you have always pictured.
It was in January that Alessandro and I visited Amsterdam and during our stay in the city we decided to go on a day trip to Zaanse Schans by train even though the weather that day was not entirely favorable. Yes, cold, gloomy, short days make winter in Amsterdam pretty uncomfortable. But on the other hand, it is the best time of the year to find great deals on airfare and hotels and this is exactly why we found ourselves flying to the Netherlands in January. To tell the truth, it wasn’t so bad after all.
How to Get to Zaanse Schans?
Not only its breath-taking landscapes but also its short distance from Amsterdam make this day trip to Zaanse Schans very popular. It is located in the Zaandam area, only 20 kilometres away from Amsterdam. There are plenty of organized tours for a day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam every day which you should definitely consider, especially if you happen to be in a hurry.
But it is also possible to visit Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam on your own by public transport. Public transportation in the Netherlands is perfectly organized.
By Bus: Take the bus (#391 or #891) departing from Amsterdam Centraal Station, which leaves often for Zaanse Schans. The entire ride takes about an hour and tickets can be purchased for €8 for round trip. The bus leaves you right outside of Zaanse Schans.
By Train: From Amsterdam Centraal Station, there are two train options. You can take a train straight to Koog-Zaandijk which takes only 17 minutes. Or, depending on the time you find yourself at the Centraal Station, it could be travelling by two trains. In both cases the round trip train ticket costs € 7.20 and it can be purchased from the ticket machines inside the Amsterdam Centraal station. This second option takes about 30 minutes.
Once you reach the Koog-Zaandijk simply follow the brown direction board and walk for about 15 minutes to Zaanse Schans. It is just a straight walking path so it is hard to get lost. Moreover I also want to say the entire route is completely wheelchair accessible. Trains to Zaanse Schans leave frequently from Amsterdam.
If you plan to use the train or bus for more days during your trip to Amsterdam, consider buying a Region Travel Ticket for 1-3 Days. It’s very cheap and allows unlimited travel on bus or train in a certain region.
Driving yourself in the Netherlands? Reaching Zaanse Schans by car is pretty easy and straightforward. There are plenty of parking spaces. Parking here costs € 10 and you will get 30% discount with Zaanse Schans card.
So, summing up, these 4 options make the day visit to Zaanse Schans very easy.
What is Zaanse Schans?
Zaanse Schans is a peaceful village on the water, but it wasn’t always there.
It is today an open-air museum where windmills, residential houses, and old buildings were relocated and rearranged in bakeries, barns, museum, farms, workshops, handcraft shops, and restaurants in order to recreate the typical Dutch village of the 19th century. Even though it was arranged artificially, it is a residential area which means that people live here and they make a living from the many activities that you see here.
Zaanse Schans is technically open 24 hours. But specific highlights like the working windmills or clog factory demonstration have limited hours, so they are open to visitors during certain time frame that normally goes from 9:00 to 17:00.
Is Zaanse Schans free?
Besides its beautiful landscape and being easily accessible from Amsterdam, one more reason why going on a day trip to Zaanse Schans is worth a try is that it is free. There is no admission fee to Zaanse Schans.
During its opening hours you can access the village, stroll around it, and take some of the most beautiful photos of your trip to the Netherlands. To do this, there is no admission fee and there is no need to book your trip in advance unless you are interested in joining a day tour to Zaanse Schans.
Things to do in Zaanse Schans
Whether you take a guided day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam or visit independently, there are enough attractions to keep you busy here.
Without counting if you want to stop for lunch or drink something, here is a list of things to do in Zaanse Schans.
- Strolling around Zaanse Schans (2 hours)
- Visit the historical Windmill (1 hour)
- Clog (wooden shoes) making demonstration (30 minutes)
- Cheese tasting (30 minutes). They also have goat cheese for those who are intolerant to cow’s milk.
- Bakkerijmuseum (30 minutes) this small bakery museum contains a collection of antique baking equipment and sells old-fashioned Dutch baked goods.
- Museumwinkel Albert Heijn: (30 minutes) this small grocery shop shows how the original shop would have looked a hundred years ago.
- Cycling (2 hours)
- Sailing (1 hour)
Now, if you visit Zaanse Schans during the summer season you will probably will be able to enjoy it at its fullest, but we went in winter.
That day it was cold and windy and it was already getting dark so we weren’t able to try some activities like cycling or sailing. And also we had to return to Amsterdam before 6 pm because of the light festival canal cruise in Amsterdam for which we already had tickets.
[Check-out Amsterdam Canal Cruise here]
We still consider ourselves lucky enough because despite being off-season, everything was open and the windmills were operating.
However, even when visiting Zaanse Schans in summer, know that not every portion of the village is open every day. Some activities can be closed for demonstrations and private tours. Check the schedule of events during your visit at Zaanse Schans official website.
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How much time do you need in Zaanse Schans?
If you go to Zaanse Schans, set aside a whole day to see it well. Personally, I would suggest going on a day trip to Zaanse Schans. Well, this if you want to relax and enjoy it at its fullest. You can take the train in the morning, stroll around Zaanse Schans, taking plenty of photos here and there, enjoy a meal and then do all the outdoor and indoor activities.
But if you are interested only on taking a quick look, then 4 hours are pretty much enough to explore the area.
Remember that the tulip flowering season in Zaanse Schans normally goes from March 29th until May 8th and during this time your trip could take even more time.
Let’s talk about the windmills in Zaanse Schans
The incredible landscape of Zaanse Schans attracts more and more tourists year after year. To be honest, what makes this place so scenic are the windmills located here and there among the wooden houses. If it wastn’t for that, there wouldn’t be any tourists there. Don’t you think? Because that is what the Netherlands is for all of us. They are a symbol of Dutch cultural heritage.
History states that during the 17th century, more than 600 windmills were constructed in the area around Zaanse Schans, thus creating the first industrial zone. They were mainly located along the riversides. The windmills were used to grind spices, produce paint, saw wood, and press oil.
Starting in the 1960’s, some of these historical mills and other threatened and antique buildings were moved to Zaanse Schans to create a collection and to preserve them. Now only 13 windmills are scattered all across the complex and of these 13 existing only 6 are functional. Some have turned into shops, and others have decks that can be climbed up to different levels to see the town from above.
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And let’s say that nowadays they are used more to make products for tourists than for real production itself. Even though that’s the case, I think it’s ok because they can be visited and therefore, they provide a good insight into what life must have been like back in the 17-18th century.
It goes without saying that a visit to at least one of the windmills is not to be missed when visiting Zaanse Schans. Each windmill is individually operated and all windmills of Zaanse Schans have separate admission tickets and each costs €5. If you are interested in visiting all of them, I highly recommend you purchase a Zaanse Schans card which gives access to the windmills and to all the other attractions. Actually, we only visited 2 of them and it was enough to see how they work.
The 6 Windmills of Zaanse Schans are as following:
· De Huisman (1756) is a mustard mill and now makes other spices too.
· De Gekroonde Poelenburg (1869) is a sawmill.
· De Kat (1664) is a paint mill, grinding wood and pigment and other ingredients for artists and restorers to this day.
· De Zoeker (1672) is an oil mill producing peanut oil.
· Het Jonge Schaap is a recent reconstruction of a much older sawmill.
· De Bonte Hen (1693) is also an oil mill, making oil from flaxseed. The seeds are first crushed to remove the husks, then pressed.
Is Zaanse Schans worth visiting?
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At the Zaanse Schans, there is so much to discover. Going on a day trip to Zaanse Schans is fun and educational. Here you can have a real Dutch experience.
More importantly, do you really want to leave the Netherlands without a glimpse of its windmills? You will truly fall in love with its atmosphere. At least go on a half day trip! Here is a half-day tour to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam that you can check out.