So, you’re in Amsterdam but you didn’t see any iconic Dutch windmills yet? Take a trip to the Zaanse Schans, the perfect day trip from Amsterdam where you can take a step back in time to see picturesque windmill after windmill in the Disneyland like charming Zaanse Schans.
Located only 30-40 minutes outside of Amsterdam, the Zaanse Schans is an open air museum of preserved historic windmills on the River Zaan, in the city of Zaandam. Sure it is a bit touristy, but its an unmissable part of Holland which is the perfect addition to your time in Amsterdam. Visiting is free, your only charge will be if you choose to tour a windmill.
Explore the windmills
You can explore about 10 of the windmills along the River Zaan, six of which are still in operation, each one creaking in the wind with ever turn of the sails. Windmills served an important role in Holland, with most of them used for pumping water behind dikes so the land could be used for farming. Didn’t you know, the west of the Netherlands is almost entirely land reclaimed from the sea? The mills at the Zaanse Schans were used from everything from paint production to grinding spices.
Visit an original Albert Heijn
Any super market historians out there? No? K, I don’t think such a thing exists, but if you visit the Zaanse Schans you’ve got to see the original Albert Heijn. If you’ve spent any time in the Netherlands, chances are you’ve walked past one of the thousands of Albert Heijn grocery store chains, owned by the corporate Ahold. During your visit to the Zaanse Schans you can step inside the original Albert Heijn – and no, they won’t ask for your bonus kaart. Its cute, and it’ll make you appreciate Albert Heijn just a little bit more.
Do a little shopping
If you’re looking for the best place to pick up your touristy souvenirs, this is the place to do it. But, if I can make one humble recommendation.. BUY MUSTARD. Yes, it may sound extreme. But this will be the best mustard you will ever eat. I promise. And it is made in De Huisman windmill at the Zaanse Schans. You’ll thank me later 😉
How to get to the Zaanse Schans
You could do an organized day trip with a tour operator, but if you’re anything like me, you probably want to take public transport so you have as much flexibility as possible to stroll around, tour windmills and snap pictures of the area.
From Amsterdam Central you have two options:
Take the Rnet-bus 391 from Central Station which departs every 15 minutes and takes approximately 40 minutes to reach the Zaanse Schans.
Alternatively, take the train from Amsterdam Central Station to Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans (17 minutes), then walk an additional 15 minutes to reach the Zaanse Schans. Check www.ns.nl for times and prices.
During the summer months, the Zaanse Schans can be flooded with tourists, so set out early in the day to miss the rush.
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