There’s no question clogs, windmills and tulips are what many people think of when they picture the Netherlands. If you’re visiting Amsterdam, fortunately, there’s a place near the city where you can experience all of these things.
Zaanse-Schans, on the banks of the river Zaan, is an idyllic town with green wooden houses, cute gardens, historic windmills and small shops, where you can sample local cheese or chocolate. Better yet, it’s the perfect half-day or day trip from Amsterdam.
The Zaan region of Holland used to be an important industrial area, which once had hundreds of windmills. Surviving windmills in the area are now a mix of museums, gift shops and private residences. Visiting Zaanse-Shans gave me an appreciation for the role windmills used to hold for the Dutch- draining excess water from the land, grinding corn, sawing timber, etc.
A trip to Zaanse-Schans is like stepping back in time. I went there for a few hours during one of my days in Amsterdam to see the spinning windmills, but it’s easy to spend an entire day there. There’s a lot to see and experience:
- A cheese shop, where you can sample Dutch gouda
- Fresh stroopwafels- seriously, these are insanely good and not to be missed
- A chocolate shop with regularly scheduled presentations about the chocolate-making process
- Trails that wind through the windmills (rent a bike if you’re in the mood to explore)
- A clog museum, detailing the history of the famed wooden shoe
Entrance is free to get into Zaanse-Schans, but some of the windmills charge a small admission fee if you want to walk inside- one of them lets you climb to the top and offerings a platform with picture-perfect views of the area.
When I visited, I took a bus from Centraal Station in Amsterdam, it’s about ~30-40 minutes each way. If you’re traveling by bus, just ask an attendee at the station which bus you need to take. When I visited, it was 5€ each way- tickets are purchased from your bus driver.
Is Zaanse-Schans a bit touristy? Sure, but it’s also a charming little place that is a convenient trip from Amsterdam, and one of the best places to see working windmills.