The ultimate guide to Zaanse Schans: visiting the windmills of Holland

In Zaanse Schans, you can experience what life was like back in the 18th and 19th centuries — full of life, windmills, and shops. We all know you’ve come for the windmills, though. 😉

Thinking of a day trip to Zaanse Schans? Good, because there’s plenty to do here!

When you go to Zaanse Schans, you’ll be greeted by 11 different windmills and people’s beautiful little Dutch houses (yup, people still live there).

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Traditional dutch windmills in the quaint village of Zaanse Schans, the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

Not only that, but also lots of little shops, a bakery, cafes, a cheese factory, souvenir shops, and a clog warehouse. As a result, tourists flock to the area (so, be aware — it gets busy). It’s like a mini traditional Dutch village, a short train ride from Amsterdam.

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What to do in Zaanse Schans

There’s enough to do in Zaanse Schans that you can easily spend a whole day there. You can also combine this top spot with a trip to another iconic Dutch destination, like exploring the canal town of Giethoorn.

However, while you’re in Zaanse Schans, here are the things you won’t want to miss:

The windmills at Zaanse Schans

There are 11 different windmills that you can explore in Zaanse Schans. Here’s a brief outline of what they all are:

  • De Huisman: A spice warehouse where you can taste different spices
  • De Gekroonde Poelenburg: A centuries-old wood sawmill
  • De Kat: A paint mill where you can watch demonstrations
  • De Zoeker: An oil, paint, and cocoa mill
  • Het Jonge Schaap: A unique wood sawmill replica
  • De Bonte Hen: An oil mill which has been running since 1693!
  • De Os: A windmill that was later transformed into a diesel-powered mill
  • Het Klaverblad: A small wood workshop mill
  • De Bleeke Dood: The oldest smock mill in the Netherlands, used to mill flour
  • De Ooievaar: An old oil mill that was moved to the Zaan area
  • Mini-mills on the Schans: Miniature windmills that were used to pump water from the polder

Your Instagram feed is going to love you! 📸

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Take a walk around the windmills in Zaanse Schans village. Image: Depositphotos

The museums at Zaanse Schans

An iconic historical destination like Zaanse Schans is naturally jam-packed with incredible, one-of-a-kind museums.

TIP: Want to get the most out of your trip? The Zaanse Schans Card gives you access to nine different attractions in Zaanse Schans, making it the best way to see it all. Find out more.

Zaans Museum and the Verkade Experience

When you first arrive in Zaanse Schans, you’ll notice a large museum. This is the Zaans Museum, which teaches the history of the area, the windmills, and trade.

One of the trades of the area that you can learn all about (and taste) is biscuits and chocolate (yum!) since it’s the spot where famous Verkade girls made their treats.

READ MORE | 16 Haarlem museums that are well worth a visit

It’s a very interactive and modern museum, helping you to truly enjoy learning about the area — and then you can go out and see it for yourself.

You can even operate the chocolate machine in the museum. (Now we’re talking!)

The Zaanse Time Museum 

The museum houses many different Dutch timepieces that tell the story of the Zaanse Schans through beautiful old clocks that’ll chime on the hour, every hour.

Here you’ll learn about Dutch clockwork history from the 16th century. There are plenty of different things to see, as well as learn about their scientific and design history.

 

The Albert Heijn Museum Shop

It’s hard to believe (we know), but Dutch grocery behemoth Albert Heijn started out as a single, small shop.

Old-scale-and-stock-in-first-Dutch-Albert-Heijn-supermarket-in-Zaanse-Schans-Netherlands
Tell a Dutchie that you know all about the first Albert Heijn ever, they’re sure to be left impressed! Image: Depositphotos

Albert Heijn took over the shop from his parents in 1887, when he was just 21 years old. It was nothing like it is today.

In this museum, you can see for yourself the original shop and stock that was around at the time. Discover the roots of the Dutchies’ favourite store, unknown by many today.

Jisper House

This old fisherman’s cottage in the village of Jisp is as it would have been back in the 1850s.

Here you can explore the cute little cottage and even dress up in traditional local costumes and have your photo taken — selfies at the ready!

Learn about how herring came straight out of the fresh Zaan water and onto your plate with onion and pickles.

Bakery Museum de Gecroonde Duyvekater

As you walk through the Zaans Schans, the smell of Dutch treats will tempt you right into the bakery museum. This original bakery has been around since 1658 (yep, wow!).

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Learn all about traditional Dutch culture on a day trip to the Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam. Image: Depositphotos

It’s still in use today, meaning that… you can try out and buy some delicious traditional Dutch baked goods. 🤤

You can taste Duivekater, a famous sweet bread from Zaanse and other originals, as well as more modern baked goods.

If you want an excuse to chow down on some even more delicious Dutch snacks, then here’s your chance. 😉

Windmill museum

If you just can’t get enough of those adorable Dutch windmills, here’s your chance!

At the windmill museum, you’ll be able to interact with the exhibitions and learn all about what life working in a windmill was actually like.

READ MORE | Best windmill site in the Netherlands: Kinderdijk or Zaanse Schans?

From rotating exhibitions, films, and an interactive model with 1,100 windmills — you’ll be sucked into the charming world of the Zaanse Schans for hours.

All this, with a beautiful view over the older. ✨

Honig Breethuis

Jump into the lives of a Dutch merchant family in the 1830s at the Honig Breethuis.

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Admire the Dutch landscape by boat. Image: Depositphotos

Beautifully painted wallpapers and old-fashioned furniture will tell you all about the lives of the former inhabitants of the impressive traditional Dutch home.

Besides the wood detailing of the furniture and the gold accents on the walls, keep an eye out for special gems — like the old ornate fireplace.

Here are a few ways you can see Zaanse Schans

Cycling at Zaanse Schans

Cycling at Zaanse Schans is possible (we’re in the Netherlands after all), so it’s good news if you’re wanting to take your omafiets for a spin.

No bike? No worries! You can rent bicycles at Zaanse Schans if you’re bike-less.

READ MORE | From omafiets, to mamafiets, and bakfiets — Dutch bikes, explained

There are bike tours and different cycling routes you can take throughout the area, so it’s the perfect place to go on a sunny day.

In the height of summer, it gets really busy along these routes, though, so beware of grandmas zooming down the paths on their e-bikes.

Going for a walk at Zaanse Schans

Just looking for somewhere nice to go for a walk in Holland? Well, Zaansche Schans is the perfect place!

Strolling around and exploring most of the windmill area is completely free — ideal for getting those all-important Insta-worthy shots.

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Walk between the small Dutch houses and on the cute bridges in the traditional village. Image: Depositphotos

There are also theatrical walks if you’re looking for something a bit different. A guide in Zaan costume will show you around the area, where you will learn all about the history, food, and culture.

They may even let you in on some of the 1850s gossip. And thankfully, these tours are also available in English if your Dutch isn’t up to scratch.

Hop on a boat through the Zaanse Schans

Really want to get the most out of your visit to the Zaanse Schans? Hop in on one of the many boats that sail on the River Zaan or take a boat tour!

Feel the wind in your hair and smell the freshness of the water, all while learning from a guide about the beautiful sights around you.

Other things to do at Zaanse Schans

There are more things to do!? Yup.

There are plenty of typical Dutch shops and handicrafts, gift shops, and Dutch delicacies.

Have you ever been to Zaanse Schans? Tell us in the comments below! 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in February 2019, and was fully updated in July 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for sharing! Zaanse Schans sounds so lovely. I was wondering which windmills you would recommend for someone who is looking to visit only one or two? I’m eyeing De Bleeke Dood and De Huisman.

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