Every day we move towards the future, but this doesn’t mean the past doesn’t interest us. Zaanse Schans, located in the Dutch province of North Holland, is the perfect place to learn about how the Dutch lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.
During this time, the Zaan region was thriving. It was a successful industrial area that had about 600 (!) windmills producing various spices, linseed oil, chalk, paint, paper, and other items. However, with the advent of modern technology, the need for the windmills became less and less and so the area became less of an economic zone. Today, it’s a popular tourist spot, welcoming about a million visitors each year.
Here’s all you can see and do in Zaanse Schans, how to get around, tickets, opening hours and much more.
What to See and Do in Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood in Zaandam, which is about 20 kilometers north of Amsterdam, making it an ideal day trip if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Dutch capital city.
The best thing about Zaanse Schans are of course the windmills! As of this writing, there are 13 historic windmills in Zaanse Schans. The windmills themselves are original but these are not their original locations. They’ve been moved there in the 1960s to form a nice outline along the Zaan River. The first windmill you’ll see was constructed in 1597.
Eight windmills in Zaanse Schans are classified as industrial. They are the following:
- De Huisman (The Homeowner), a mustard seed windmill.
- De Gekroonde Poelenburg (The Crowned Poelen Castle), saw wood windmill.
- De Kat (The Cat), a paints windmill.
- De Zoeker (The Seeker), an oil-pressing windmill.
- De Bonte Hen (The Speckled Hen), an oil-pressing windmill.
- Het Jonge Schaap (The Young Sheep), another wood-sawing windmill.
Note: Visiting Zaanse Schans and walking through its quaint village is free. Admission tickets, however, are required to enter and climb the windmills, as well as to participate in any of the workshops held inside. Ticket prices are around €4.50 per person, per windmill. See more on tickets below.
For a small village, the place is dotted with interesting museums! They’re all close to each other so just go in one, explore, and move on to the next!
The Mill Museum is an interactive museum. As you go from floor to floor, virtual and audio guides inform you about three centuries’ worth of windmill history.
Our Tip: Get the World of Windmills ticket to get access to the Mill Museum and free entrance to seven windmills owned by De Zaansche Molen (Society of Zaan Windmills).
The Zaan Museum, as the name suggests, is all about the history of the Zaan region. Inside, you’ll see paintings by Monet and other artists, utensils, and even clothing from Zaan’s economic heyday. And if you’ve been in Holland for a while, then you probably have heard of the Verkade brand of chocolates and biscuits. Right inside the Zaan Museum is the Verkade Experience, where visitors can learn about the company’s history – and buy some chocolates.
The Albert Heijn Museum
Did you know that the very first Albert Heijn was in Zaandam? The original store was erected in 1887, and in the 1930s Albert Heijn’s management thought it would be a great idea to preserve the original store by recreating it in Zaanse Schans. As you can imagine, the ‘museum’ is not big at all but it’s still great to step inside and imagine how young Albert Heijn started. (Note: There is no fee required to enter. )
Other notable ‘museums’ to visit while in Zaanse Schans are the Bakery Museum de Gecroonde Duyvekater (17th century bakery), the Zaanse Time Museum (Dutch timepiece museum), and Honig Breethuis (19th century home of a paper businessman).
Most of the shopping in the Zaanse Schans is souvenir shopping.
If you’re interested in local, handcrafted soap, go to Zeepziederij Zaanse Schans (Zaanse Schans Soap Factory) where soap is infused with Zaanse cocoa butter. If you want something typically Dutch to bring home, go to Orse ket aan ‘t Glop. But if you’re after Dutch clogs, go to the De Vreede clog warehouse. For anything cheese-related, you cannot go wrong with a visit to the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm.
How to Get Around Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is best explored by foot. This way, you can go in and out of any windmill or any of the historic buildings along its streets. There’s an app that will take you on a guided tour of the village’s most interesting spots.
If you want to cover more ground faster, there are two biking routes you can take: the Hotspot Wormerveer route (8 kilometers) and the Around de Noord route (30 kilometers). You can download a map of these routes.
Since the Zaanse Schans windmills are on edge of the Zaan River, one excellent way to tour this village is by boat. There are various guided tours you can avail of in the village but for a different experience, why not try the Cow Boat tour? It’s a 45-minute sail along the Zaanse Schans via a former cattle boat.
Zaanse Schans Travel Tips
How to Get There
By Public Transport
If you’re coming from Amsterdam, you can take the Bus 391 which runs from Amsterdam Central Station to Zaandam every 15 minutes. During summer months (July and August), you can easily extend your trips from Zaanse Schans to Volendam (bus 817 runs between Zaanse Schans and Volendam).
If you don’t mind a little walking, you can also take the train. The nearest station is Zaandijk Zaanse Schans which is about 15 minutes walk from the windmils.
Traveling by car is undoubly the most convienent way of traveling. There are plenty of parking spaces available at site. You can simply type Zaanse Schans into Google Maps to find your way there, or use Schansend 7 in Zaandam for your GPS. Parking is €12.00 for a full day.
Since it’s very touristic at Zaanse Schans, we suggest you get the Zaanse Schans Card, which gives you access to most of the windmills and museums in the area. Do you already have an I amsterdam City Card? If so, some Zaanse Schans windmills and museums are already included in that card, so find out which ones to avoid paying extra!
Most attractions at Zaanse Schans open daily from 9 a.m to 5 p.m., some of them open a little later (at 10 a.m.). The parking lot remains open until 7 p.m., which means that you have plenty of time to walk around the site even when the museums are closed. If you’d like to visit a specific museum at Zaanse Schans, we recommend that you check the current availability on the official website.
How much time do you need at Zaanse Schans?
As previously mentioned, a day trip would suffice. If you’re just after the windmills and some of the attractions, then about 3-4 hours is enough. However, if you’re after the scenery as well, then there’s enough to see and do for a full day’s worth of adventure.