The scenic Dutch village of Zaanse Schans is most famous for its windmills, once used to power everything from paint-making to paper production. Today, the Zaanse Schans is set up like an open-air museum, with five working windmills open to visitors. Wander the village, view the preserved architecture, and watch the locals at work—in their traditional wooden shoes and Dutch garb, naturally. Green wooden houses, a historic shipyard, and a pewter factory are among the village’s top attractions.
The Zaanse Schans is a popular day trip destination from Amsterdam; the scenic drive through the Dutch countryside—past lovely fields, green pastures, and winding canals—is a tour highlight in and of itself. Visit on a half- or full-day tour to explore the five Dutch Golden Age windmills, including some that serve as a sawmill and an oil mill, and visit the workshops of local craftspeople. Cheese-making and clog-making demonstrations are other key experiences, in addition to pewter-casting and mustard-making demos. For a fun photo souvenir, stop by a shoemaker’s shop and try on traditional Dutch clogs and costumes. When you get hungry, pop into a bakery for a taste of the sweet white duivekater bread, head to the cheese factory for some famous Edam cheese, or step inside Albert Heijn—the village’s oldest shop—for a bag of sweets. A boat trip or a canal cruise is another excellent way to see the Zaanse Schans and the surrounding villages.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Zaanse Schans is a must-see for visitors interested in learning about traditional Dutch culture.
- Wear comfortable shoes for exploring the outdoor area.
- The Zaanse Schans is free to visit, but some individual attractions may require fees.
- Not all areas are wheelchair accessible due to the historic nature of the area, but accessible bridges and parking are available. Jonge Schaap is the only wheelchair-accessible windmill.
- Most shops and restaurants in the neighborhood accept credit and debit cards; ATMs are located at the Zaanse Schans parking office.
How to Get There
The Zaanse Schans neighborhood is set in Zaandam, near Zaandijk, about 13 miles (21 kilometers) northwest of Amsterdam. The village, located on the eastern bank of the Zaan river, is easily accessible from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station by transit—it takes less than an hour to get there by bus, train, or car. Fee-based parking is available.
When to Get There
Though there is plenty to do year-round in the Zaanse Schans, much of the village’s charm lies in its outdoor attractions, making late spring and summer the best times to visit. Winters in the Netherlands are known to be rainy and windy, so if you’re visiting then, wear warm layers under a waterproof jacket.
The Dutch and Their Bicycles
It’s said that there are 1.5 bicycles for every inhabitant of the Netherlands. The Dutch love their bikes and can be found pedaling them to work, school, the grocery store, and everywhere else in between. Renting a bicycle is a great way to see Holland like a local. In summer, a bike tour from Amsterdam to the Zaanse Schans is a popular way to experience the quaint village and the bucolic countryside.