It’s not just all about Kinderdijk or Zaanse Schans, but these are the places that everyone flocks to when they come to the Netherlands. So the question may be keeping you awake at night — which one of these two is the best windmill site in the Netherlands?
Well, we’ve been to both. In case you’re stuck trying to choose which one to visit, here’s a little windmill review.
Best windmill site in the Netherlands: Kinderdijk
Up first, we have the beautiful Kinderdijk in South Holland!
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 the train there, so the best way to go is by bus from the Rotterdam region.
What’s the windmill situation like?
Kinderdijk houses a unique collection of 19th to 18th-century windmills that are neatly aligned along the Dijk. It has three pumping stations and reservoirs that control all of the floodings in the area.
What makes these windmills unique is that people still live in them! There is no privacy for these poor residents, as their laundry airs out for the world (read: boats full of tourists) to see. Luckily, the windmills are separated by water, so you can’t just go knocking on people’s doors.
Ability to walk, cycle, or drive
There are footpaths, cycle paths, and waterways lead 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 per car (and all proceeds go to the upkeep of the area).
Our 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 GPS), 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 that will drive you past 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 our 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 difficult to cycle there if it gets really busy
- 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.
- It’s not big enough to fill an entire day, unless you’re looking to visit every single museum and attraction
Best windmill site in the Netherlands: Zaanse Schans
And another contender for the best windmill site: 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.
What’s the windmill situation looking like?
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 to get to from Amsterdam Centraal. It takes just 17 mins from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaandijk — Zaanse Schans station by train.
READ MORE | 19 best day trips from Amsterdam: the ultimate travel guide
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’s so popular.
You can also drive easily to the 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, then it’s just €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 and you can check out a lot of the buildings for free.
You can watch a traditional cheesemaker prepare cheese and also watch how clogs are made. In this part, there is also a small museum showing you about clogs and showing a variety of clogs over the years. Both locally made products are also on sale!
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, cafés, and of course, windmills.
- You can park for free if you arrive early and find a spot 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 review of the best windmill sites in the Netherlands.
Which one of these two is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature image: Emma Brown/Supplied
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in May 2018 and was fully updated in May 2022 for your reading pleasure.
Thanks for this interesting review of both windmill sites.
I would like to mention that it is possible to travel from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk in 30 minutes, using the Waterbus. With several stops in Rotterdam, the line 202 offers an easy access from May 1 to October 31, and during week-ends in April.
I would add a CON to Zaanse Schans. Someone using public transportation, who would like to visit other picturesque villages in the area, such as Edam, Volendam and Marken, on a same day, will find himself pressed for time as there is no direct connection between Zaanse Schans and any of those villages. One must go back through Amsterdam Centraal first to travel to those villages.
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