Who doesn’t want that iconic windmill selfie from your holiday to the Netherlands? It’s an essential ingredient in the classic Holland bucket list: stay in a houseboat, wear over-sized clogs, stroll along the canals and take a photo with a windmill (frilly dress completely optional).
While I won't deny Zaanse Schans is shamelessly touristy, it's still a fun day out, plus you can check off several Dutch bucket list photos in one spot.
How To Get There
We were invited to check out Zaanse Schans by iAmsterdam. We caught bus 391 from Amsterdam Central Station which left every 15 minutes and only took about 40 minutes to reach the destination. It’s easy to know when you arrive; it’s the last stop before the bus turns around and returns to Amsterdam.
We disembarked behind the Visitors Centre, which could be seen from the road. This is the gateway to a Wonka-like whimsical town, filled with cuteness, quaintness and of course, windmills. Oh, and don't forget to grab a map here to plan your journey.
What Is It?
Zaanse Schans is a small village on the banks of the Zaan River in the province of North Holland, home to tidy green houses, real working windmills and topical museums. It holds a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses dating back to 18th and 19th century.
The village attracts over 1 million visitors every year so watch out, it can get busy. The town is a tourist magnet with high prices, over-confident vendors and picture-perfect landscapes. But, of course that’s where you will find those pictures to effortlessly epitomise your holiday.
But Also Not Touristy
While the crowds might be thick and the attractions cheesy, the windmills are actually beautifully working mills that perform various functions including a sawmill, paint mill, oil mill and mustard mill.
You're allowed to climb several of the mills to take in the gorgeous surroundings and grab that picturesque photo from the top. It was a tricky climb up smallish ladders, but we passed by huge creaking wooden cogs, that transformed the wind energy down to the grindstone below. From the top floor small doors lead to an outside platform. Wow! What a view!
The sails of the windmill turned languidly in circles while I breathed in the fresh country air and felt the powerful whoosh on my face.
Be aware that there isn’t much between you and a sizable drop to the ground below so hold onto those kids.
There are several other mini-museums around the village that offer insights into traditional Dutch culture.
Whether it’s delicious cheese tasting, watching a clog being made, searching through fine, handcrafted antique clocks, feeding farm animals, or buying lollies from the tempting and delicious Albert Hejin shop.
And if that’s not enough Dutch goodness then head to the pancake restaurant for lunch.
Connected to the Visitors Centre at the entrance of the village is the Verkade Pavillion. This former biscuit and chocolate factory has a sweet and fascinating history. The exhibits and authentic moving machinery provide an insight into one of the Netherland's historical food icons. And we even enjoyed a free sample or two.
Interactive touch-screen games gave our kids a chance to make their own chocolate biscuits, and well-presented exhibits and photos brought the history of Verkade to life.
Also part of the complex is the Zaans Museum, which is better suited to adults who are interested in the region's history.
How Much Is It?
It is free to enter Zaanse Schans and walk about, however each museum or windmill has it’s own pricing.
You can purchase a Zaanse Schans Card from the Visitors Centre, which will save you money on visiting several museums. It costs €11.50 for adults, €7 for a child (4-17 years), and under 4's are free.
The card includes free access to the Zaans Museum/Verkade Pavilion (normally €10), the Coopery (normally €2) and one of the great industrial windmills (normally €4). You also receive a discount at the Windmill Museum and the Honig Breethuis.
Yes it’s touristy and yes it's cheesy, but it does have all those wonderful experiences you are looking for during your quick visit to Amsterdam. We all loved taking in the sights, soaking up the fresh air (as long as you're not standing too close to the farm animals!) and learning a bit about Dutch history. Oh, and of course the chance to stand proudly in (or on) oversized wooden clogs. If you can get in them...