Zaanse Schans Day Trip – Discover the Windmills of Time
This post is my endeavor to recreate my day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam back in the spring of 2018. Just 20 km away from Amsterdam, a modern city bustling with tourists and men of business, there’s a place where time stopped in the 17th century. Zaanse Schans is a small town in Zaandam, the Netherlands which is famous for its historic windmills and old-world charm. When we were making our 3-day Amsterdam itinerary, we just wanted to see the Zaanse Schans windmills in our half-day trip. But the beauty and history of the place were so captivating that we ended up spending more time than we had initially planned for. So join us as we time-travel to the 17th-century European countryside with historic windmills, vast green fields, and colorful greenhouses.
How to reach Zaanse Schans?
The easiest way to reach Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam is via bus. no. 391. It leaves from Amsterdam Central Station every fifteen minutes, and it takes approximately 40 minutes to reach Zaanse Schans. The faster route is via local train from Amsterdam station to Zaandijik, which takes only 17 minutes. From Zaandijik train station it’s a 15-minute walk to Zaanse Schans.
Up for some offbeat experiences? You can also take the public ferry from the Amsterdam station to Zaanse Schans, which takes you through the famous waterways of the Netherlands in roughly 110 minutes. You can also cycle your way to Zaanse Schans on a sunny day if you are up to it. Remember that you have to come back to Amsterdam too on the same day.
Once in Zaanse Schans, you can explore the whole place on foot or a bike. If you don’t have your bicycle you can rent them too. Organized guided tours are a great way to explore without the hassle of long queues. Here are some pocket-friendly guided tours to the Dutch countryside.
Things to do in Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans located in Zaandam neighborhood derives its name from the Zaan river. During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was the world leader in production owing to its windmill technology. The Windmills near the Zaan river are an important part of its landscape and the history of the industrial revolution in Europe. With the advent of more advanced production technology around the world, the golden era of the city was gone. It slowly retreated into the modern countryside. Some of the old windmills are preserved and even operated regularly here. To the Dutch and the tourists alike, Zaanse Schans is an object of nostalgia.
Zaanse Schans is not a city where you can hop from one monument to the other. Zaanse Schans is an experience in itself, so take it slow and immerse yourself in 16th century Europe.
Visit the Zaans Museum
Zaanse Schans is an anchor-point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage, a theme route connecting the most historically significant places in Europe that contributed to the industrial revolution. The Zaans Museum would take you on a virtual tour of life in the countryside over centuries, how the windmills came into being and became an integral part of the “Zaans identity”. The state-of-art museum has models demonstrating the process of production and the history of famous business families like Heineken.
With an entry ticket, you will get a free audio guide to help you around. We discovered the kid within ourselves as we went from one part to another learning about the history of an unknown place in the most fun and interactive way. We found ourselves in a room full of old machines that were used to produce dyes, oil, biscuits and chocolates, and starch. All of a sudden the machines started operating on themselves recreating a scene in the 16th-century factory. We spent an unexpected amount of time going through every exhibit on display, enough to come home as a Zaanse Schans expert.
The museum is not just about science and technology you will find the original portraits of some of the greatest entrepreneurs and important families of the time in the gallery. The gallery also houses some original artifacts and possessions of these families which give us an insight into the things people wore, bought and used in 16th century Europe. It’s important to note what an interesting time it was for the people of this region. This is where the industrial revolution began. You can also indulge in chocolate tasting as you learn more about its production in the chocolate museum inside.
The entry fee to Zaan Museum is 10 Euros, but it is free with iAmsterdam Card.
Enter a functioning windmill
The windmills of Zaanse Schans are fascinating, but most of them are not as functional as of today. However, there are a few fully functioning windmills that you can enter to see how it works. Be ready to climb up a nearly vertical ladder to reach the top of the windmills. There are five functioning windmills in Zaanse Schans, among which only two of them are in their original location just as they were back the time. These are the De Gekroonde Poelenburg, a saw-mill and De Kat, a paint-mill. The entry-fee to these windmills is 3 Euros, but good news for iAmsterdam cardholders. It’s free for you!
Take a boat trip in Zaan river
The Zaan river with windmills and green fields on both sides has inspired many artists of the time. While we spent our time sitting at the river-side, watching the tourists as well as locals cruising through the bountiful river. You can book a 1-hour Zaan river cruise online.
Enjoy the Panoramic views of Zaanse Schans
From the top of the windmills, you can enjoy the most spectacular panoramic views of Zaanse Schans – the village, the farms, the houses and the lifeline of Zaanse Schans, the Zaan river.
Watch the birds and cattle
Something that most blogs don’t mention is that Zaanse Schans is what a great place Zaanse Schans is for bird-watching. These may not be exotic migratory birds, but this is where you can see the domestic birds and cattle grazing on raising their families peacefully, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Indulge in Photography
Wherever you look around there’s a frame to capture. The wooden houses, the beautiful lawns, the windmills, the cattle and even the tourists cycling their way around – everything is photo-worthy.
Other things to do in Zaanse Schans
There are many other amazing places to visit in Zaanse Schans. It has been carefully curated into an open-air museum with many small museums inside. We didn’t check them all out as we were lost in the banks of the Zaan river. Here are a few more things to do for you.
- Time Museum that houses a large collection of Dutch clocks and watches
- Grocery Shopping at Albert Heijn
- Cheese Farm where you can taste and buy the famous Dutch cheese
- Bakery Museum In De Gecroonde Duijvekater
- Distillery Museum De Tweekoppige Phoenix
Travel tips for Zaanse Schans
If you are in Amsterdam for a few days it’s a great idea to get an iAmsterdam card. It will not include the bus tickets to Zaanse Schans and other places outside Amsterdam, but it will save you the ticket costs for the amazing museums.
You can and I think you should combine the day trip to Zaanse Schans with a trip to Volendam as well. It is a picturesque village located just half-an-hour away from Zaanse Schans. From Volendam, you can take the Volendam-Marken Express to reach the island village of Marken. A trip to Zaanse Schans, Volendam and Marken will take one full day, that is 12-14 hours. I highly recommend pre-booking this tour online as it will save you a lot of time.
If you stay overnight at Zaanse Schans you can take incredible pictures during the sunset and sunrise at Zaanse Schans.
How did you like this photo tour of Zaanse Schans? Tell me in the comments section and don’t forget to save and share the post.