8 Charming Things to Do in Zaanse Schans Windmill Village

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Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular day trips from Amsterdam, and for good reason. The scenic village is easy to get to from The Netherlands’ capital city, and it’s home to some of the most famous and most photographed windmills in Holland. The Zaanse Schans windmill village is a neighborhood in the town of Zaandam and notably one of the most beautiful villages in The Netherlands.  Aside from its picturesque appeal, there are surprisingly a lot of things to do in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands besides gaze at the old-fashioned windmills.

This guide to the best things to do in Zaanse Schans Netherlands includes the top 8 places to visit in Zaanse Schans, how to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam, and how much time you’ll need in the quaint village.  

Green wooden buildings in Zaanse Schans village
The green, wooden houses in Zaanse Schans are just as picturesque as the windmills.

About Zaanse Schans Windmill Village

Although Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular tourist attractions in The Netherlands, the region was once an industrial zone with hundreds of working windmills grinding everything from spices and cooking oil to saw dust. Today, the entire village is basically an open-air museum with at least eight old-fashioned windmills. While a couple of them have been preserved on their original site, the others were relocated to Zaanse Schans from other parts of the region to preserve this unique part of Dutch heritage.

Four windmills along the waterfront of the Zaan River
The scenic views of windmills along the Zaan River is the primary reason for a day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam.

Although there are a few residents who live and work in Zaanse Schans and a few of the windmills are still in operation, tourism is the primary industry in the town. In fact, millions of people visit the Holland windmill village every year, thanks in part to its convenient proximity to Amsterdam. 

Looking for other scenic Dutch villages? Check out Giethoorn, Netherlands, the village with “no roads”.

How to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam

Getting to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam is quick and easy, which makes it a great addition to any Amsterdam itinerary. There are several ways to go to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam. The least expensive way to get there is by public transportation. 

Getting to Zaanse Schans by train 

Trains leave roughly every 15 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal, the Amsterdam Central Train Station to Zaandijik-Zaanse Schans, the closest train station to the windmill village. It is only a 17 minute train ride from Amsterdam. From the train station, the windmill village is about a 10-15 minute walk across the Zaan River. 

Getting to Zaanse Schans by bus

You can also reach Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam by bus, as well, although it takes longer to get there than the train. The R-Net bus 391 runs between Amsterdam Centraal and Zaanse Schans every 15 minutes and takes 40 minutes to get between the two stops.

Getting to Zaanse Schans by day tour

Another popular way to visit Zaanse Schans windmill village is on a guided day tour. Most of them leave from Centraal Station and go directly to Zaanse Schans, making it quick and simple. 

There are half day tours to Zaanse Schans and highly recommended full day tours that also take you to the seaside villages of Volendam and Edam and the island of Marken. While more expensive than visiting Zaanse Schans on a self-guided adventure by bus or train, a guided day tour is the most convenient and ensures you don’t miss any of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans.                

Getting to Zaanse Schans by boat

For a memorable experience you can also travel by ship directly from Amsterdam to the windmill village. The luxury cruise ride takes 2 hours each way, and you’re given 2 hours to explore Zaanse Schans once you arrive.                      

The best things to do in Zaanse Schans on a day trip

Although it is a tiny village situated on the banks of the Zaan River, you’ll find lots of things to do in Zaanse Schans to keep you busy and entertained for hours. While visiting Zaanse Schans is free, if you want to visit some of the museums or tour the working mills, it’s a good idea to purchase the Zaanse Schans Card which will cover admission to all the attractions. Here are a few of the top attractions in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.

See the Beautiful Zaanse Schans Windmills

Seeing the windmills, which most people associate with Holland, is the number one thing to do in Zaanse Schans. The colorful old windmills surrounded by the adorable, green wooden houses in the village are postcard-worthy. One of the best travel tips for visiting Zaanse Schans is to get there early to avoid the crowds and get some pretty photos before others arrive. 

Looking up at a windmill in Zaanse Schans Netherlands
One of the working windmills in Zaanse Schans.

Walk around the village, take in the beauty of the windmills as the blades slowly turn, and feel the breeze coming off the water. It is a perfectly serene atmosphere, especially if you manage to get there before the crowds descend on the village around 9:30 a.m.

Tour One of the Working Windmills

While there are roughly 8 preserved historic windmills in Zaanse Schans, only six of them are working mills. If you’ve ever wanted to see the inner works of a windmill, you can visit De Kat paint mill or Het Jonge Schaap saw mill, and see how the wind churns the gears inside the windmill and grinds the material being milled. 

You can also climb a ladder to the top of the saw mill for beautiful views of Zaanse Schans and the Zaan River from above. 

View of the Zaan River after climbing to the top of a working windmill, one of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans Windmill Village
Touring an active windmill and climbing to the top of it for views of the Zaan River is without question one of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans.

Visit a Cheese Farm, Sample Dutch Cheese, and Pet the Farm Animals

Another highlight of a trip to Zaanse Schans, the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm, is a great place to learn about the Dutch cheese-making process, sample endless types of cheese, and see cheesemakers in traditional costumes. Dutch cheese is one of the most famous foods in The Netherlands, with some of the most popular cheese in the world, like Gouda, named after Dutch towns.

You can catch a live demonstration on how cheese is made in the Netherlands, taste the difference between goat cheese, cow cheese, and sheep cheese, and even meet some of the friendly farm animals in the village. Near the cheese farm, chickens openly roam, and the goats and sheep freely come to the fence to be petted and adored by tourists.  

the demonstration room at Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm in Zaanse Schans
Inside the demonstration room at the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm, you can learn how Dutch cheese is made.

For those who find a cheese sample they love, you can buy it in the shop to take home with you. The cheese can store up to one month without refrigeration, as long as the packaging is not opened. 

Explore a Chocolate and Biscuit Factory at the Zaanse Museum

The Zaanse Museum is a collection of exhibits that include a sail weaver’s house, a barrel maker’s workshop, and a fisherman’s home, to name a few. However, the highlight of a museum visit is the early 20th century chocolate and biscuit factory. Known as the Verkade Experience, guests can see the chocolate-making machines churning, as they produce molded chocolates. You can even design and print your own Verkade chocolate bar wrapper and use the packaging machine to wrap your chocolate and take home your creation as a souvenir. 

Watch a Clog Maker Chisel a Pair of Wooden Shoes

The Zaanse Schans Clog Workshop is another must-visit on your Zaanse Schans itinerary. Here you can watch a clog maker chisel a pair of Dutch Clogs, or wooden shoes, from a block of wood. Located in a former warehouse once used for storing grain, the clog workshop contains clogs of all shapes, sizes, and colors. 

Wooden clogs hanging on a wall at the Zaanse Schans Clog Workshop, a unique place to visit on a Zaanse Schans day trip from Amsterdam
You can see one of the most impressive collections of wooden shoes in the Netherlands and also watch a clogmaker chisel a pair in Zaanse Schans. | Photo by Wieger Waardenburg from Pixabay

Admission is free to visit the workshop, small shoe museum, and of course the souvenir shop where you can purchase a pair of these world famous Dutch shoes to take home. 

Journey through Time at The Zaanse Time Museum

The Zaanse Time Museum is a small yet cute museum at the entrance to the village when you cross over the Zaan River along the pedestrian bridge. The museum is a journey through time, literally. It houses an impressive collection of clocks. 

You’ll see old grandfather clocks that date back to the 1600s to more modern clocks. You can even take a peek into the workshop of a clockmaker so you’ll see what goes into the building and engineering of a clock. Try to visit shortly before a new hour so you can hear all the clocks chime at the top of the hour.

Indulge your Sweet Tooth at the Bakery Museum

What charming village in Europe would be complete without a bakery filling the air with the scent of delicious pastries? The quaint bakery museum in Zaanse Schans is more of a sweets shop than it is a museum, but it is a great place to duck inside, grab a coffee and a Duivekater, a traditional sweet bread made in Zaanse Schans. Trying Duivekater is one of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans, however you can also get other goodies like stroopwafel and cakes. 

Outside the Bakery Museum, one of the best places to visit in Zaanse Schans Windmill Village
The Bakery Museum is a great place to grab a sweet treat while in Zaanse Schans.

Go grocery shopping like they did in the 1800s at Albert Heijn Grocery Store Museum

Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in The Netherlands. And Zaanse Schans is home to the grocer’s original shop. The small grocery store is now a museum where you can see the original furnishings and how the store was stocked. 

Kids will enjoy seeing how grocery stores evolved over time and what it was like in the 1800s to go shopping for food in a humble grocer’s shop. 

How long to spend in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

It takes about 2-4 hours to tour the Zaanse Schans windmill village and visit a few of the museums. Most people who visit do so as a Zaanse Schans day trip from Amsterdam. However, if you love the idea of slow travel, want to spend more time in Zaanse Schans, or simply prefer to spend your evenings relaxing in a charming village rather than the busy city of Amsterdam, there are a few cute rental apartments near the windmills where you can spend a night or two enjoying the view.

Planning a day trip from Amsterdam? Also read our 3-day Amsterdam itinerary.

Is a Zaanse Schans day trip from Amsterdam worth it?

Zaanse Schans is definitely worth a day trip from Amsterdam because it gives you the opportunity to see and learn about the history of windmills in Holland and Dutch culture. The well-preserved village is a great place to experience many Dutch customs and traditions, as well, like clog making and cheese making. But of course, the biggest draw and reason to visit Zaanse Schans is to gaze upon its iconic windmills that have made the small village famous.

Want to check out more beautiful places in the region? A Bruges day trip is another great option from Amsterdam.

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1 comment on “8 Charming Things to Do in Zaanse Schans Windmill Village”

The windmills and summer flowers are beautiful and the cheese factory offers so many varieties to sample. Truly a trip worth the day.

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