Seeing an iconic windmill is on the bucket list for many visitors to Amsterdam. The good news is that there are several windmills in and around Amsterdam, and the best place to see them in action is the windmill village of Zaanse Schans. Here you can tour actual working windmills that date back to as early as the 16th century, as well as whimsical wooden houses, a cheese factory, a coopery and other handicrafts which hearken back to a bye-gone era.
While many tour companies would like to sell you a guided tour, the truth is that you don’t need to book a tour to visit Zaanse Schans. The village is easily accessible from Amsterdam via public transportation or Uber. Daniel and I took the train from the Amsterdam Central Station on our visit and it was super easy.
This article will provide details on how we planned our Amsterdam windmill village tour and what we did during our trip so you can plan your own visit.
The Windmills of Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans houses a collection of eight historic windmills, producing everything from mustard and oil to pigment used in paints. Many of the windmills are also museums which are open to visitors who can tour the facilities.
Although the buildings were constructed in as early as the 16th century, most were not originally located here. Rather, they were moved to Zaanse Schans from other parts of Holland in an effort to preserve them. Architect Jaap Schipper first conceived of the idea of a working windmill village in 1941 and the windmills were relocated to the area over the 1960s and 1970s.
More information about the history of Zaanse Schans is available on the Zaanse Schans web site: History of Zaanse Schans.
My Amsterdam Windmill Tour Experience
Daniel and I took the train from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans one cloudy afternoon in January to check out the windmills. The train station in Zaandam is about a 17-minute walk away from the village. We actually quite enjoyed the walk, as we got to cross over the Zaan River Bridge which has spectacular views of the windmill village and the fields behind it. Or rather, the views would have been pretty nice if the weather was a little nicer.
We spent a few pleasant hours wandering around the windmills that afternoon, as well as touring the cheese factory and taking photos of sheep and farm animals. We’re not big on museums so we didn’t actually visit any museums that day. Eventually, we crossed back over the bridge to Zaandam for a nice dinner at a local restaurant before taking the train back to Amsterdam. While there are restaurants and cafes in the historic center of Zaanse Schanse, we found them to be a bit expensive and overrun with tourists for our liking.
It was a completely different experience on my second visit. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I had a skip in my step as I strolled through the windmills. I had hoped to avoid the crowds by visiting in the morning … which didn’t exactly end up being the case as Zaanse Schans is a very popular tourist attraction. But I didn’t mind. It was too beautiful of a day for me to care.
Activities Available in Zaanse Schans
Touring an operating windmill is one of the more popular activities available in Zaanse Schans. During my second visit to the village, I toured the De Kat (The Cat) dyemill to see the inner workings of the mill. As the wind pushes the sails, various gears spin which then turn the 3000 kg (3 metric ton) millstones. This grinds the chalk and pigment for the dyes. I also had access to the roof of the windmill which provided a great view of the surrounding farmlands as well as the industrial areas on Zaandam across the Zaan River.
There are also several other windmills available in Zaanse Schans offering tours. Other activities include touring the Zaans Museum, cruising the river on a Windmill Cruise, and vising the various artisan’s shops such the cheese shop, chocolate shop, and coopery. If you plan to visit a lot of museums you may want to consider investing in the Zaanse Schans Card.
I’m not typically big on museums so I only visited the dyemill. I also didn’t buy the museum pass. If you’ve visited the these other attractions I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Planning Your Amsterdam Windmill Tour
You don’t need to book a tour to visit Zaanse Schans. The village is easily accessible by bus or train (or by Uber). I recommend planning your route by using Google Maps or a travel app like moovit. It will give you the latest train times and maps on how to navigate from one point to the next.
Travel to Zaanse Schans by Train
It is only a 17-minute sprinter train ride from Amsterdam to Zaandam, and then from there a 1.4 kilometer (.8 mile) walk to Zaanse Schans over the Zaan River. The train typically runs every 10-20 minutes – each one with a different route number. We bought our tickets from the counter inside the Amsterdam Centraal Railway Station and then hopped on the next train going to Zaanse Schans, which was only 4 railway stops away. The cost for 2 round-trip tickets was €16 ($17.20 USD) when we traveled in January 2020.
Travel to Zaanse Schans by Bus
Another option is to take the bus. Bus #391 runs to Zaanse Schans every 15 minutes from the Amsterdam Centraal Station and takes a total of 43 minutes. An advantage of taking the bus is that it drops you off directly in Zaanse Schans, so less walking is required. Daniel and I are sort of obsessed with trains so we opted for the train over the bus.
Travel to Zaanse Schans by Uber
I took an Uber to Zaanse Schans on my second visit to save time (although I took the train on my return trip). It was a surprisingly fast and easy option, albeit slightly more expensive. The 1-way Uber trip cost €26.44 ($28.55 USD) and took roughly 20 minutes.
Where are we now?
Location: Zaanse Schans, a neighborhood in Zaandam, Netherlands
Dates: January 25 & 26, 2020
Vagabonding Journey Status: Days 117 & 118
For more details on our vagabonding journey, see my previous posts:
- Day 107: Amsterdam Blog in Photos: Impressions from Amsterdam
- Day 106: Cappadocia Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Cappadocia
- Day 106: The Pigeon Valley Trail: A Cappadocia Hiking Adventure
- Day 103: Cappadocia Balloon Ride: Sunrise over Göreme
- Day 101: Bosphorus Sunset: A Ferry Ride to Remember
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