Okay, so I know it’s not just all about Kinderdijk or Zaanse Schans, but these are the places everyone flocks to when they come to the Netherlands. But the question that may be keeping you all awake at night (because who doesn’t dream of the best windmill spot), is which is the best windmill site in Holland?
Well, I’ve been to both (admittedly Kinderdijk a lot more, as I live close), so here’s a windmill review. Just in case you’re stuck trying to choose which one to visit.
Best windmill site in Holland: Kinderdijk
Where is it?
Kinderdijk is a village that sits in the south of Holland. It’s located in between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. Due to its location, it’s not possible to take a train there. The best way to go is by bus from the Rotterdam region.
Windmills (well, duh):
Kinderdijk houses 19 18th-century windmills, all in a row along the dikes. It has three pumping stations and reservoirs that control all of the floodings in that area. What makes these windmills unique is that people still live in them! In fact, last time I went, people were having a party outside their windmill and setting off fireworks (naughty, naughty). There are no secrets for these poor residents, as their laundry and giant pants are aired out for the world to see when tourists take a walkthrough. Luckily, the windmills are separated by water, so you can’t go knocking on people’s windmills.
Ability to walk, cycle or drive:
There are footpaths, cycle paths and waterways that go all along the windmills. It’s a beautiful walk and if you take it at a steady pace, it will take you a while to get to the end and back. Your bike? It’s not ideal in busy periods as you’re still dodging pedestrians who don’t know the difference between a footpath and a cycle path.
When you first arrive at Kinderdijk, you are met with a car park, toilets (so no worries on that front), a visitors centre and a museum. The price to park in the car park is only €5 for a car (and all proceeds go to the upkeep of the area). My top tip: If you’re feeling particularly stingy, there is a car park a 10-minute walk away in an industrial estate (IHC Holland B.V – on your sat nav), where it is completely free to park all weekend.
The museum at the entrance is also free. It’s small but tells you all you need to know about the windmill site. There is an option to pay a bit extra and see a special Kinderdijk film in the museum. It’s also possible to pay to go inside two of the windmills at Kinderdijk to see how the windmills work. You can also buy a boat trip ticket alongside the windmills — so you can get up close and personal and shoot some amazing pictures.
Pros of visiting Kinderdijk
- Although it can get busy, it’s not as busy as other tourist attractions and if you go early or late in the day, it’s actually pretty peaceful;
- You can park free and easily (if you follow my tip);
- Attractions aren’t expensive and if you don’t want to pay anything, it’s possible to still have a good time;
- It’s very natural (not overly commercialised) and people still live there which is cool.
Cons of visiting Kinderdijk
- It’s not easy to cycle there if it’s really busy (it’s not impossible, but it’s a pain in the ass — people don’t know what’s a cycle path and what isn’t for some reason);
- You can’t get there by train — not ideal if that is what you’re after;
- If you’re not wanting to stray too far from Amsterdam, then it’s not particularly close;
- Unless you pay and do everything, you can’t really spend all day there.
Best windmill site in Holland: Zaanse Schans
Where is it?
Zaanse Schans in a Dutch neighbourhood in Zaandam. It’s located just north of Amsterdam and is only 30 minutes away by car. It’s easy to get to via almost all forms of transport.
Windmills (well, duh):
Zaanse Schans is the most popular windmill site, but is it the best windmill site in Holland? Well, there is lots to do and see there. It showcases a range of historic windmills. These were transported here by lowboy trailers and were used to preserve the old buildings from Zaanstreek. A museum was also placed there in 1994.
There are now seven museums in the area, meaning that not only are there windmills to see, but museums too! This means that you can actually go inside some of the windmills — some of which are still currently in use.
Ability to walk, cycle, train or drive:
Zaanse Schans is great for tourists, as it is quick and easy to get to from Amsterdam Centraal. It takes just 17 mins from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaandijk — Zaanse Schans station by train. There are also frequent buses to the area. You can easily cycle to and around (some parts) Zaanse Schans. You can even take a ferry! This is one of the main reasons why it is so popular.
You can also drive easily to Zaanse Schans. The parking in the main car park is pretty expensive though — it’s €7.50 for the day, unless you stay for 30 mins or less, where it’s €1. If you’re somewhere in the middle, then you might find it pricey. Not to worry — if you arrive early you can park along the road opposite for free.
It’s free to walk around the area, but watch out for the cameraman on the way in! You can also check out a lot of the buildings for free. Including watching how cheese is made, and then having the opportunity to buy some in the shop. You can watch how clogs were made, and then also buy some. In this part, there is also a small museum showing you about clogs and showing a variety of clogs over the years. Some of the museums include the Albert Heijn museum, a bakery museum and there is also the main museum at the entrance.
You can also buy boat trips around the area for under €10 and for some windmills you pay a small fee.
Pros of visiting Zaanse Schans
- You can spend most of the day there — so it’s great if you want to kill time or do something at your own pace;
- There is plenty to do and see, such as museums, little gift shops, cafes and of course, windmills;
- You can park for free if you arrive early and park in the bays opposite the main car park;
- It’s so easy to get to and great if you’re near Amsterdam;
- You can walk around the windmills and other places and not have to pay a single penny (if you don’t want to).
Cons of visiting Zaanse Schans
- It gets incredibly busy, to the point where you can’t move;
- It’s a bit of a tourist trap and so it’s easy to part with your money as it’s quite commercialised;
- The landscape is a little less natural than other windmill sites — this is to make it more of a tourist attraction for visitors.
So there you have it, our extensive guide to two of the best windmill sites in Holland. Which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to join our DutchReview Facebook group for more Dutch stuff!
Feature image: Emma Brown/Supplied.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in May 2018 and was fully updated in October 2020 for your reading pleasure.