Working windmills at Zaanse Schans tell part of the Dutch history. The small Dutch village is about 20 minutes of driving from Amsterdam. The village showcases a range of historic windmills at Zaanse Schans, such as a paint mill and an oil mill. Many of them are not just heritages, but still fully-operating wooden machines. Visitors can enter windmills at Zaanse Schans and see how they produce spices, sawing wood, grinding oil, and much more.
The Dutch craft village is small enough. What we did there are the first three things since we arrived at Zaanse Schans after we had explored Giethoorn. If you stay in Amsterdam, you might have time to join a popular budget tour in Amsterdam.
- Explore the mill that used to grind colour
- Live workshop about how a timber mill process wood
- Window shopping, buying Dutch souvenirs, and visit the Albert Heijn museum
- Join a popular tour such as a canal cruise tour or hop-on hop-off bus tour
Explore the mill that used to grind colour
It is free to stroll around. But one needs to pay a small entrance fee to enter a mill to examine how those windmills work. The first one we entered is the mill to grind color. All moving parts on the lower floor of the buildings make up an imposing scene in which pigments are produced. Climbing up to the deck of the mill via the narrow stairs, we enjoyed a beautiful panorama view of the home industry in the area. It’s quite impressive!
Live workshop about how a timber mill process wood
The next mill we visited is Het Jonge Schaap. The giant machine is a very special timber mill at Zaanse Schans, a six-sided wood sawmill. This shape was unique among the hundreds of sawmills that stood in the area. The mill was built and active in 1680 in the Westzijderveld in Zaandam. In 1942 it was demolished. In 2007 the rebuilding process took place at Zaanse Schans. From then on, Het Jonge Schaap was back in use as a sawmill. The sale of wood is the main source of income for the mill. It could be very busy in the mill if the wind allows. The windmill can be adjusted to catch the most wind depending on the direction it is blowing.
We had a look during the miller’s workday and experienced how a wood sawmill operates. Some French wood mill fans were busy filming the process. According to the conversation, they would like to build a similar one in their home town.
Next to the entrance on the ground floor, we watched a movie about the rebuilding of the mill. The whole visit took us more than an hour, but it is interesting to learn that the traditional industry used to be so powerful during the pre-industrial world.
Window shopping, buying Dutch souvenirs, and visit the Albert Heijn museum
These windmills and some buildings are also museums. Visitors can enter them to watch how locals make dutch cheese, and then buy some cheese products in the shop. Other things people can watch are, for example, how the Dutch make clogs. Besides, museums such as the Albert Heijn museum and a bakery museum are worth visiting.
Today’s Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn only started as a small shop. Albert Heijn took over the shop from his parents when he was just 21. In the Albert Heijn museum, visitors can see the original shop and stock that was around at the early time. It’s really interesting to see how supermarket shops have evolved from that time.
The entrance tickets prices of museums are available here.
Join a popular tour such as a canal cruise tour or hop-on hop-off bus tour
The locals are very much into their craftsmanship and heritage. Join a tour visitors can learn more about Dutch culture and history. The hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a journey through the picturesque countryside of Holland. It has several stops, including Zaanse Schans, where you can get insights into the history and traditions of the Netherlands. Visitors benefit from an audio guide walking tour at various stops.
Another popular tour, Volendam, Marken & Windmills with Free 1-Hour Canal Cruise, is to explore Dutch countryside, including a half-day tour with free canal cruise included. Visitors can see the famous Zaanse Schans windmills, explore the quaint fishing villages of Volendam, and Marken and stop at a traditional Dutch cheese farm. Both tours start in Amsterdam.
There are many small and pretty villages in the Netherlands, for example, Giethoorn, a place without roads but water canals. If one looks for day trip destinations from Amsterdam, there are plenty of such places.
Where to stay
Best Western Zaan Inn is just a 3-minute walk from train station. Zaandam’s Water tower, which is a state monument, is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. The spacious rooms are fitted with a seating area, a work desk, and a flat-screen TV. They also feature a large window and wooden floors. The bathrooms feature a shower.
How to get there
From Amsterdam, take the A8 motorway towards Zaanstad/Purmerend to the Purmerend A7 exit. Follow the signs to Zaanse Schans.
Get off the train at Zaandijk-Zaanse Schans station. Follow the signs to Zaanse Schans. Cross the bridge, then follow the footpath along the Zaanse Schans until you see the Zaans Museum on your left. It is an approximately fifteen-minute walk. Further information about traveling by train, please check here.
From Amsterdam Centraal station, take bus 391 (Industrial Heritage Line). Get off the bus at the Zaans Museum-Zaanse Schans bus stop.