Are you wondering if the Zaanse Schans Windmills near Amsterdam are worth visiting?
Then you’ve found the right website. I’m a Dutch local, and I dive deep into everything to do at the Zaanse Schans in this article.
I’ve lived in this country all my life. I’ve visited the Zaanse Schans countless times in every season of the year. Sometimes with customers, sometimes with friends from overseas, and sometimes just on my wandering around or visiting the museums. I’ve done it all.
My most recent visit to the Zaanse Schans was in August 2023.
But let’s answer the question: Is the Zaanse Schans worth it?
Absolutely. It’s a cute Dutch village, an open-air museum where people also live. And it has working windmills and museums worth your time. The Zaanse Schans is a popular tourist destination for a reason, despite it being extremely touristy.
The Zaanse Schans is an easy day trip from Amsterdam because it is close to Amsterdam. Just 10 miles away (about 15 kilometers.) You can get there by car, public transportation bus (bus 391), or by train (station Zaandijk Zaanse Schans) Or with an organized tour (which I like most).
Here is my comprehensive guide: How to Get from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans.
It’s the closest location to Amsterdam to see windmills. Where else can you see windmills just outside the city? A trip takes about 40 minutes by bus. If you use the train, car, or tour for your trip to the Zaanse Schans, the trip can be as short as 20 minutes.
This is the most prominent tourist attraction outside of Amsterdam for visitors. Nothing beats the convenient location of the Zaanse Schans. It’s a great way to get a small glimpse into the Dutch countryside.
This is why the Zaanse Schans is visited by millions of fellow travelers every year.
You’ll get your fix for cute Dutch country houses, windmills, and local foods.
Is it the best open-air museum in The Netherlands?
No, I like the Enkhuizen open-air museum much more, and the official open-air museum of the country in Arnhem is more comprehensive. But they’re further away.
You can read more about both in my open-air museums in The Netherlands post.
Table of Contents
Why Would You Visit the Zaanse Schans
The main reason people visit the Zaanse Schans is because of the Windmills. It’s often dubbed the “Zaanse Schans Windmills Village.” Some people call it simply the “Amsterdam Windmills,” but that is technically incorrect since this isn’t Amsterdam anymore (but it’s very close).
The Zaanse Schans (Amsterdam) is now a collection of buildings from the area as an open-air museum, but did you know this area has always been a sight of windmills since the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century?
Back then, there were more than 1,000 of them! Used for producing food, but also things like paper.
There are 13 left today, and about six are open to visit.
The Zaanse offers more than windmills, though. It’s a collection of authentic Dutch houses painted with the typical green paint local to this area. It’s called “Zaans Groen” (Zaans Green).
This color makes the Zaanse Schans so distinct and easy to recognize.
The houses are free to visit. Many are now home to tourist shops. You will pay for the privilege, but it’s a quick and easy way to purchase all your Dutch souvenirs in one go.
(The only thing I strongly advise against is buying cheese here since it’s not authentic (AT ALL) and caters specifically to tourists with flavors we have yet to discover in an original Dutch cheese shop. There are much better local cheese shops in Amsterdam).
I recommend trying other Dutch foods here—more about the options below.
Besides the free offerings, there are also museums here to visit. You can enter some windmills and take a boat tour—more about that below.
Zaanse Schans Windmills
Of course, this traditional Dutch village near Amsterdam is known best for its buildings and windmills.
But Zaanse Schans is famous most for its historic windmills more than anything else, right? And all that is less than an hour from Amsterdam.
What’s so great about the wooden windmills at the Zaanse Schans is that each was used for different purposes. When we think of windmills, we think of wheat and bread. Maybe water management. But making paint or using them for sawing?
Here is a list of the most exciting traditional windmills in the Zaanse Schans:
- De Huisman
- De Kat
- De Gekroonde Poelenburg
- De Zoeker
- Het Jonge Schaap
- De Bonte Hen
- De Os
All of them are restored to full-functioning windmills, and some are open to visitors.
This is a spice mill that dates back to 1786. What makes this windmill special is that it’s located on top of a spice warehouse and offers a variety of spices. The mill is open year-round.
Paint Mill De Kat
This is a paint mill built in 1664. It’s so historical. De Kat produces high-quality paints, pigments, and oils. Pretty interesting, right? I never knew before a mill could also be used to create color. It’s also open throughout the year.
De Gekroonde Poelenburg
This is a wood sawmill. “De Gekroonde Poelenburg” is a Paltrok mill built in 1869. It’s essential for woodwork. At one point, there were 200 of them in the area. I visited a sawmill recently in Deventer. It’s super interesting to see. This mill is only open on request, usually in groups only.
Initially built in 1610, De Zoeker has been an oil mill and a paint mill, and now it’s back to being an oil mill. It has quite a history. It’s open only on Saturdays in June, July, and August. It’s been at its current location for over 50 years now.
Het Jonge Schaap
Another sawmill. This replica of a six-sided, over-wheeling wood sawmill, Het Jonge Schaap, has been at the Zaanse Schans since 2007. It’s still a baby. It’s open year-round.
De Bonte Hen
An oil mill dating back to 1693, De Bonte Hen has survived multiple lightning strikes. It’s open year-round.
This mill is not open to the public. But it’s interesting to take a look at. It’s like something is missing. The caps have been removed, indeed. It has made another kind of energy transition back in its day. From wind to Diesel! It’s all circular. Now we’re all going back to wind again.
Zaanse Schans Cheese Farm & Factory Catharina Hoeve
If you want to know, my biggest disappointment in visiting the Zaanse Schans is always the Cheese demonstration. And it seems to become worse every time.
There was at least some exciting presentation on how cheese was made when I was a kid. Before you’re hushed into the shop to buy cheese only made for tourists. (that is from all times.)
Today, they hardly hide it. They show you a few cheese-making tools in costume (great for photos), but the rest of the time is used to demonstrate what’s on sale!
The company running it says they’re authentic and Dutch (they’re Dutch, that’s true), but they don’t tell you that you can only find them in tourist shops in Amsterdam and other tourist places. Their cheese comes in the weirdest flavors that Dutch people never eat.
When I see signs with artisan cheese inside, I cringe.
PS: I love my fellow blogging colleagues. I do. But I have to get this off my chest. Sometimes, nothing screams: “I’m a foreign blogger who has only been here once” (most likely on a paid invitation by the destination) to declare to the world that they love cheese, and this is the best place to buy it. It’s not. And locals know it.
Do yourself a favor if you come for real Dutch cheese. Skip this. And buy real Dutch cheese at genuine Dutch cheese sellers. In Amsterdam, some outstanding ones are Kaasland on the Nieuwendijk or Wegewijs on the Rozengracht. Wegewijs also have home made amazing Gevulde Koeken! That is where you buy Dutch cheese (at much lower prices, too).
Or go to any supermarket. All have unique local cheese selections.
Zaanse Schans Clogs Demonstration – Clog Factory & Museum
Another free museum, in a similar style (a funnel to get you into their shop), is the clog workshop. But I like this one. It’s pretty amazing to see how Clogs used to be made. And they give an excellent free demonstration. Plus, their shop is pretty.
If I were in the market buying clogs (which I am not; it’s a myth all Dutch walk on Wooden shoes), I would consider buying them here. The choice is enormous.
Zaanse Schans Card: Is It Worth It?
The Zaanse Schans is known as a free open-air museum in The Netherlands. But some things are paid.
If you want to avoid paying anything, there is enough to do for free.
You can walk around and see Zaanse wooden houses for free. You can visit the many shops. Or go to free demonstrations like clog or cheese factory demonstrations.
You can take many amazing photos of the village and windmills for free, including the famous image from the water facing a row of windmills.
You can even climb a viewing tower for free.
But then there are also paid activities at Zaanse Schans that are worth the money.
Most importantly, the windmills are not free of charge to access. Neither is the windmill museum, the excellent Zaans Museum, and the Verkade Chocolate and Biscuit Factory.
You can pay for each separately or purchase a Zaanse Schans Card. Buying a Zaanse Schans Card can save you money compared to paying at individual venues.
It’s priced at around €30, with discounts for kids.
If you’re short on time and want to enjoy the view, visit some shops, and try Dutch snacks, don’t buy this card.
If you like spending more time at the Zaanse Schans and learning more about the area, this card is worth its money.
This is included:
- Access to the Zaans Museum and the Verkade Experience
- Access to the museum World of Windmills
- Access to the Weaver’s House
- Access to the Cooperage
- Access to 2 windmills of your choice
- Access to the Museum of Zaan Time
- 10% discount at restaurant De Kraai (minimum spend €10)
PS: the card also offers small discounts at some of the shops.
Locals tip: instead of buying the card, you can also get a GoCity Pass Amsterdam. You can read my full review here, but I don’t hide it: I love this card. When I tried it, I had two fantastic days.
In this city pass, the Zaanse Schans Card is included. (Ps also a free Zaanse Schans half-day tour, which I took myself).
The Go City pass Amsterdam is a real bargain.
Don’t confuse the Go City Pass with the “I Amsterdam Card.” That is another city pass with excellent value but a different offer. They focus more on museums. I recommend getting both cards for two days each if you have the time. Here is my full review of the I Amsterdam Card (it has some Zaanse Schans activities (museums) included but not as many as the Go City Pass (like the windmills).
You can buy the Zaanse Schans card here.
Visit Zaanse Schans Museums
The museums that charge admission:
- Windmill Museum Zaanse Schans
- Zaans Museum and the Verkade Chocolate and Biscuit Factory
- Weaver’s House
- Tiemstra Cooperage
- Zaanse Time Museum
Step back in time at the Windmill Museum at the Zaanse Schans. It’s a tribute to the windmill-rich history of the Netherlands. The World of Windmills, which opened only recently in 2020, lets you experience the mill culture of this area.
The museum is interactive and has a unique panoramic painting of windmills that transports you back to Zaandam in the 1800s!
The Zaans Museum is the largest and most modern museum here. It celebrates the region’s industrial heritage. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited, but I must also mention that maybe that’s because I’m Dutch.
Many nostalgic brands that I grew up with are all from this area. The Zaanse Schans area along the river Zaan is where the modern steam-powered food industry developed.
Major local brands like Duyvis, Verkade Chocolate, and more all came from the Zaan region. So it’s going back down memory lane.
But there is more, the exhibition on industry and trade, and the rapid development after the introduction of steam are all super interesting.
The Verkade Chocolate Experience is just fun! I liked the exhibition on nostalgic collector cards from eras long past. It’s super cool to see.
Weaver’s House (Zeilenmakerspad 8) is a great place to learn how sails were made and maintained back in the day. Visiting the Weavers House is not free, but entering costs just a few euros. And the upside is there is not the same sales pitch as at the free “museums.”
Tiemstra Cooperage (De Kuiperij)
Tiemstra Cooperage (De Kwakels 2) is another interesting little museum at Zaanse Schans. It tells the story of how to make artisan wooden barrels. Something essential to the Dutch success in the Golden Age. They figured out how to transport goods worldwide and keep them whole and “fresh.”
Did you know because the Dutch learned how to preserve raw herring longer (and why it’s still a delicacy for Dutch locals (yes, that includes me), they were more successful than other nations in traveling long distances? They kept diseases due to malnutrition at bay during these long trips.
The Tiemstra Cooperage also charges a small admission fee, like the Weaver’s house.
Zaanse Time Museum
Another curious museum is the “Zaanse Time Museum” (Kalverringdijk 3), right next to the Albert Heijn store (see below). It is a great little place to learn more about time. Try if you can be here on the hour when all clocks chime simultaneously. The Zaanse Schans Card is valid here. As is the I Amsterdam Card.
This is a 19th-century merchant family house on the west side of the Zaan. It’s very well kept and the interior very pretty. Unfortunately, since it’s just outside the Zaanse Schans, the Zaanse Schans Card is NOT valid here. The Honig Breethouse is open every weekend and costs €7.50 to enter.
Windmill Cruises Zaanse Schans
You can easily spot boats that take tourists past the windmills. Different operators advertise their services at the boat landing, where you can take the best windmill photos (even without boarding a boat).
Do I recommend going on one? Hard call. When the weather is nice, being on the water for 30-45 minutes is excellent, and you certainly get the views.
But it’s not much different than staying on dry land. So it’s really up to you. If you like a boat tour, by all means, go! But if you’re afraid of missing out by not going, don’t worry about it.
Prices are pretty affordable and vary between operators.
Other Things To Do at the Zaanse Schans
The Wooden Viewing Tower
You’ll see a wooden viewing tower behind the parking lot (and next to the Zaanse Museum). Did you know you can climb it free of charge?
You’ll be disappointed if you expect a great view over the village, but it gives a fantastic view over the open green fields. On a nice day, nothing can look more Dutch than that.
Albert Heijn Museum Shop (Kalverringdijk 5)
If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you will have seen an Albert Heijn store with its distinct blue color. It’s the largest supermarket chain in the country. It’s also the largest supermarket in Amsterdam.
And you may not realize it, but they own supermarkets worldwide under different names like Stop and Shop and Food Lion in the USA.
But it all began here, in this little humble local general store. You can visit it for free. It’s part museum, part shop. And you get their own well-known branded coffee to go.
What to Eat at the Zaanse Schans
As I said earlier, I would make a long beeline past the cheese on sale here, but many other foods are fantastic to try here. Here are a few suggestions.
- Enjoy a warm stroopwafel (syrup waffle). They sell them outside of the Clogs store “The Saense Lelie.” For tourists (only), they will offer them with chocolate or other decorations. Please, a Dutch person would never eat a stroopwafel with that. Plain is the best. Plain is also cheaper and so delicious on its own. A topping is just a crime.
- Try an actual Dutch pancake at the Pancake restaurant “De Kraai” (my favorite is the one with bacon and cheese). But there will be plenty of toppings, both savory and sweet. All are delicious. It’s just whatever fancies you at the moment. Now, I said Syrup waffles are best eaten plain. A Pancake needs toppings! And you get a discount with the Zaanse Schans card.
- Or try something from the nostalgic bakery part of the Bakery Museum ((Zeilenmakerspad 4). It has a complicated name: “In de Gecroonde Duyvekater.” But get past that. If they have them, a “Gevulde Koek” will be delicious. Avoid visiting during lunchtime because the shop is tiny, and lines quickly form.
Stay at the Zaanse Schans
Wouldn’t it be a dream to stay overnight in this magical village? That is a possibility for a happy few. The former richly decorated merchant’s house is available as a bed and breakfast. They have a few rooms available every night.
You can book this accommodation here.
PS: they require a two-night stay in summer—no arrivals on Saturdays. If you are one of the lucky ones to secure a room here, let me know in the comments below).
If you’re looking for something different, feeling Zaanse Schans but more flexible and affordable, you must check out the Inntel Hotel Zaandam right next to the Zaandam railway station.
It’s an enormous oversized building with Zaanse Schans houses stacked on each other. It’s quite the design.
And it’s super conveniently located halfway between Amsterdam and the Zaanse Schans. Both are just minutes away.
Zaanse Schans Tour
It’s easy to get to the Zaanse Schans on your own. But if you don’t want to deal with public transportation or you enjoy the addition of a tour guide, a half-day tour to the Zaanse Schans is an excellent choice.
I have taken this tour in the summer of 2023. I was expecting the worst of touristy, but it was pretty nice, I have to admit.
It was also so easy. You just had to show up, and everything was taken care of. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive, but it also offers multiple benefits:
- A tour guide that gives fun-to-know information
- You’re able to ask questions.
- You can’t take the wrong train or get off at the wrong bus stop.
- Tours have private demonstrations at the Clog and Cheese factories (for factory read shop). When it’s busy, it’s lovely the room will be cleared.
The downside of a tour is you’re on a fixed schedule.
I thought it was a good balance between group activities and free time. But the time will be too short if you want to visit everything at the Zaanse Schans, including the museums and windmills. Then you can better travel there on your own.
This is the half-day Zaanse Schans tour I took myself.
This tour is also included in the unique Go City City Pass. I have used the unlimited two-pass, and there were many (expensive) Amsterdam attractions and tours included for one much lower price. You can get your Go City Pass here. Or read my full Go City Pass Amsterdam review.
PS: Are you looking for a full-day trip instead? Here is my favorite Full-Day tour that visits the Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken. It includes lunch and is a beautiful day out.
Guided tours leave from Amsterdam Central Station.
Aerial Video of the Zaanse Schans
Are you looking to be inspired? Here is a beautiful aerial video I found on YouTube. Don’t you instantly want to go after watching this?
Are you looking for more? Head to YouTube. There are plenty on there.
And here is a link to a webcam you can look at year-round live:
Zaanse Schans Pronunciation
The Zaanse Schans is tough to pronounce correctly. It’s the problematic Z sound in Dutch and the infamous SCH sound. Here is the correct pronunciation:
But don’t worry, tourists always say the same alternative pronunciation, so every Dutch person knows precisely what you mean when you’re saying it your way.
Zaanse Schans Address
If you want to see where the Zaanse Schans is located (or navigate there yourself), here is the address:
1509 AW Zaandam
The Zaanse Schans is located in the Zaanstreek & Waterland area. It’s just north of Amsterdam. Another famous destination in this area not that far away is the former fishing village of Volemdam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Zaanse Schans touristy?
Oh my gosh, yes, it is. I can not stretch that enough. Millions visit this place every year. It’s not a hidden gem. But having that said, its location can not be beaten. It’s fun. And people spread out. The crowds are manageable. To avoid the worst crowds, arrive before 11 a.m. before the tour buses arrive. When possible, visit on a weekday because weekends are extra busy with local visitors.
How to get to the Zaanse Schans
It’s super easy to get there. There are many tours (see the article for my recommendations), and you can quickly get there by bus, train, or car. Trains from Amsterdam Central Station take only 20 minutes (but the train station is a 15-minute walk away), 40 minutes by bus, and 30 minutes by car (depending on traffic). Here is my full how to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam post.
What are the opening hours of the Zaanse Schans?
The Zaanse Schans is an open-air location without a gate. You can always take a stroll and take photos. But the shops and museums are usually open to visitors between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some might stay open longer, while some attractions have shorter hours.
Everything should at least be open between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Also, note that some sights are only open on the weekends. But those are just a few, and there is so much to do anyway I would not let that be a factor. The relative quiet of a weekday visit would always trump a weekend visit for me. But that’s personal.
Do you need a ticket for the Zaanse Schans?
You do not need a ticket. But there are tickets available. If that sounds confusing, read the beginning of this article. Lots of things are for free. But the real museums and the windmills charge admission. There is a Zaanse Schans Ticket that includes most activities. The Go City Amsterdam Pass also offers a very inclusive experience to the Zaanse Schans. More information can be found above.
Can you see tulips at the Zaanse Schans?
This is not the Tulip area. The tourist fields are more south around Lisse (Home to the Keukenhof), where the soil is different and perfect for harvesting tulips.
The actual production fields are more north again, with a different soil.
At the Zaanse Schans, you will see some growing in the wild and wooden versions at the shops. But this is not the place to go if you’re primarily after seeing the tulips.
Can you operate a private drone at the Zaanse Schans?
No, you can not. It’s forbidden to fly your drone here. So head over to YouTube and enjoy the professional offerings available there.
Do you want to try to get permission? Here are the rules: you must obtain advance permission from the Zaanse Schans Foundation.
To apply for permission, you must have an ROC (RPAS Operator Certificate) and agree to follow all legal regulations for flying drones. You can then send your permit application to email@example.com and expect a response during business days.
How many windmills are there in Zaanse Schans?
In the village of the Zaanse Schans, there are 13 windmills, each with very different functions, which makes it extra interesting. Some of these can visited (entrance fees apply).
The Zaanse Schans Card included a visit to two windmills of your choice. Inside, you will learn how the Dutch used these incredible machines for everything from water management and paint production to oil and food processing.
How long does a visit to the Zaanse Schans take?
If you’re just after strolling through the Zaanse Schans Village, visiting some shops, taking in the views, and taking classic photos, you’ll spend about 2 hours. That is enough time not to rush.
You’ll need extra time to visit the museums and the windmills (when you want to go in).
Four hours is enough for most people, but if you want to see it all, you might wish to have even more time, up to 6 hours.
The longest I’ve ever spent at the Zaanse Schans is four hours, but I never did every attraction in one day.
Can you visit Volendam and Zaanse Schans on the same day?
Yes, visiting Volendam and Zaanse Schans on the same day is possible. The easiest way to do this is by booking an organized full-day tour.
I recommend the “Charm of Holland Tour.” It includes visiting Zaanse Schans, Volendam, Marken, and Edam. Each is a famous town on its own.
This tour is the most inclusive I know, including lunch and a boat ride between Volendam and Marken.
Do you prefer to travel by yourself?
It’s a quick, direct bus ride from Amsterdam to Volendam. More information can be found in my post on how to get to Volendam.
There is no direct connection between Volendam and Zaanse Schans. But it takes less than an hour to take the bus back to Amsterdam and then transfer on a train to Zaanse Schans. From Zaanse Schans, you can get back to Amsterdam by train or bus.
I recommend buying the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket. It covers all transportation within Amsterdam, but also in the area.
Zaanse Schans, Volendam, Marken and Edam are all included in the card. Even traveling to and from the airport is included. This ticket is an absolute bargain that only a few people know about.
I hope this Zaanse Schans Post was inspiring. If you want to learn more about open-air museums in the Netherlands, check out my post here. And if you want to read to get to the Zaanse Schans then make sure to go to my guide next.
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