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11 Best Things to Do in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

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One of the most well-known symbols of the Netherlands is the windmill, and nowhere in the country is it more fun to see windmills than in Zaanse Schans. The village is quirky outside Amsterdam, with restored windmills, a venerated cheese shop, and a cobbler’s house full of famous wooden shoes.

Usually undertaken as a day trip from Amsterdam, visiting the Zaanse Schans village is certainly something you’ll want to fit into your Netherlands itinerary. Technically, you can enjoy the entire experience in just a few hours, but allowing at least half the day for exploration is usually best.

Traditional Dutch Windmills at Zaanse Schans, Netherlands - Iconic heritage scene with windmills, canal, and traditional architecture.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The village has opening hours almost every day of the year, so you can make your trip no matter what month you visit the Netherlands. Let’s learn more about Dutch culture and this curious windmill village, which is an easy day trip from Amsterdam.

Zaanse Schans village isn’t a huge place that takes days to explore, and it’s pretty easy to wander along its paths and see everything in a few hours, but that doesn’t mean you should go without a plan and some basic knowledge about what you’ll see during your tour. Consider getting a Zaanse Schans Card to save on entry fees and parking.

TL;DR

  • Most Significant Landmark – The Paint Mill (De Kat)
  • Free activity – Visiting Zaanse Schans
  • Activity for kids – Zaanse Schans Clog Workshop
  • Activity for Adults – Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm
  • Place to eat – In de Gecroonde Duyvekater Bakery Museum
  • Place to Stay – Boutique Hotel Zaan

Things to Do in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

1. Take a Boat Ride to Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans boat tour showcasing traditional Dutch architecture and serene waterway.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Prins Hendrikkade 59-72, 1012 AD Amsterdam, Netherlands

I mentioned this place is often a tourist day trip destination from Amsterdam, so why not arrive in the most Dutch way possible?

The Dutch once dominated the oceans with a naval force that circumnavigated the planet, but you don’t need to join the Royal Netherlands Navy to enjoy some time out on the water. One of the best options for visiting Zaanse Schans is by boat, where you can cruise around the canals that pass the village on a trip from Amsterdam.

The all-day Zaanse Schans boat tour experience along the River Zaan means avoiding the roads and taking a more idyllic path through the Zaan region. Not only does the tour allow you to visit the clog museum, the cheese farm, and the bakery museum (all of which I’ll cover), but you’ll also get to visit Giethoorn.

Giethoorn is an awesome little village with thatched-roof cottages. It was built centuries ago, and to this day there are almost no cars on its little roads.

Since visiting Zaanse Schans is an activity you can complete in less than a day, it makes sense to create an entire day trip out of it and visit Giethoorn, too. You can also stay near Zaanse Schans in a hotel like the Boutique Hotel Zaan, should you want some early morning photographs of the windmills.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in the Netherlands

2. Explore an Actual Working Windmill

Traditional Dutch windmills at Zaanse Schans, North Holland
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Schansend 7 in Zaandam, Netherlands

Less than ten windmills are left in Zaanse Schans, and just six are working windmills. This might seem a lot by your standards, but it’s paltry compared to the historic Dutch landscape.

Fortunately, you can tour all of them as long as you have the entry fee for each, which is just a few Euros. One of the best reasons to actually explore the windmills and pay the entry fee (rather than just snapping a photo from the outside) is the view you get from the top deck of the Zaan River and the rest of Zaanse Schans.

The crowds can get a little crazy in the middle of the day, especially a few hours after the Zaanse Schans attractions open at 9 a.m. If you can, the best time to tour this open-air museum and the windmill village is right when it opens, so leave Amsterdam early enough to arrive before the crowds. A late afternoon trip can work, too.

Zaanse Schans isn’t particularly big, so you should visit as many of the windmills as possible since each offers an up-close view of early manufacturing in the region. The windmills don’t feature free entrance, so ensure you have at least three Euros on hand for every windmill you want to enter. The Dutch countryside is pretty amazing when viewed from the upper deck of a windmill.

3. Act like a Farmer and Wear Some Wooden Clogs

Assorted Dutch wooden clogs, or klompen, with iconic yellow folk patterns on cobblestone street
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Kraaienest 4, 1509 AZ Zaandam, Netherlands

The Zaanse Schans Clog Workshop is a legitimate shoemaking enterprise that uses antique machines to make shoes the same way cobblers made them in the 1800s. If you’re traveling with children, you’ll definitely want to stop by this Zaans museum

One of the interesting things about these traditional shoes is that they were used as firewood once they wore out, which means very few historical examples of wooden shoes remain today. Nonetheless, you can still witness the traditional way shoes were created when you visit the clog maker.

You can even buy shoes for yourself during your visit. Just make sure you have enough room in your backpack or suitcase to travel with them back home when you leave the Netherlands. Wooden shoes do take up a little space when you pack them!

See Related: My Amsterdam Day Trip to Zaanse Schans, Volendam and Marken

4. Make Your Own Chocolate Bar Wrapper at the Chocolate Factory

Exterior of Zaans Museum with WELKOM sign, traditional windmills, under sunny blue sky.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam, Netherlands

Museums are entertaining and a valuable part of any trip. Still, one of the real draws of the Zaanse Museum is the chocolate and biscuit factory, where you can design a chocolate bar wrapper and get your bar of chocolate wrapped up as a souvenir.

The chocolate and biscuit factory started operations in the early 1900s and remains one of the most delicious experiences in Zaanse Schans today.

Note that getting into the museum requires an entrance fee, but it’s well worth the cost to enjoy the Verkade Experience, as the chocolate-making is called. Although you won’t get to actually make the Verkade chocolate, you will get to make your personalized chocolate bar wrapper.

Don’t expect to have the chocolate bar sitting around for that long, though. You’ll probably just return an empty wrapper when you leave the Netherlands.

5. Find the Time for the Time Museum

Traditional Dutch architecture at Zaanse Schans, Netherlands - Historic charm, green and white facades, gable roofs, cultural travel.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Kalverringdijk 3, 1509 BT Zaandam, Netherlands

It doesn’t take that much time to visit Zaanse Schans, but you should visit the Time Museum during your Zaanse Schans tour. Clocks these days are usually pretty dull and are nothing more than a few digital numbers on a screen or your smartwatch. However, clocks were once literal works of art featuring intricate scenes and incredible decorative elements.

The Dutch have a rich history of clock making, and the little Museum Zaanse Tijd delivers an appreciable amount of information about clocks and clock making, in addition to the overall history of the region. The museum routinely welcomes traveling exhibits, so the experience does change over time, and it certainly merits a stopover at least once, if only to see the old timepieces at work.

See Related: Best Museums in Amsterdam to Visit

6. Shop for Food like it’s 1880

Signpost of the Albert Heijn Museum, the first grocery store, amidst greenery in Zaanse Schans, with details about the grocery and coffee exposition.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Kalverringdijk 5, 1509 BT Zaandam, Netherlands

Grocery stores (i.e., where you can find most household goods in one place) weren’t always a thing in everyday life. They were only brought into existence in the second half of the 19th century, with supermarkets only really becoming a thing in the latter half of the 20th century!

Grocery stores are ubiquitous these days but were once a true novelty. The Museumwinkel Albert Heijn (Albert Heijn Museum Shop) in Zaanse Schans is a reconstruction of one of the first grocery stores in Holland, built in the community of Oostzaan in the 1880s.

The museum first opened its doors to visitors in the 1960s, and it doesn’t cost anything to enter the store and pretend like you’re a resident from the 1800s, searching for a can of flour or a bag of sugar. Volunteers run the museum and feature some original furniture from old grocery stores.

Authentic Vintage Interior of the First Albert Heijn Store in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands - Antique Dutch grocery store with vintage decor and traditional products
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Just be aware that you can’t buy the food off the shelves. Most of what you’ll see on the store shelves are just props meant to look like boxes and cans of food from the 1800s.

7. Eat Glorious Cheese at Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm

Catharina Hoeve, Traditional Dutch cheese farm with lush greenery, grazing goats, and visitors enjoying the sunny weather.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Zeilenmakerspad 5, 1509 BZ Zaandam, Netherlands

The Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any visit to Zaanse Schans, even if you’re lactose intolerant. If you’re inclined to eat the cheese, the only problem you may encounter is figuring out which sample at the cheese factory to try.

The cheese shop doesn’t have just one or two kinds of cheese. They have all the cheese! And it’s not just cow cheese, either. You’ll also find varieties of sheep and goats from these cheese makers.

One of the coolest things about buying cheese here is that you can actually store it for up to a month before needing to refrigerate it, so you don’t need to worry about transporting your cheese home after your travels. Not only can you eat the cheese during the rest of your itinerary, but you can also bring some back for your friends to try.

The kids will love this place too (your kids, not the wee goats, although they seem pretty happy too), as this place doubles up as a petting zoo!

See Related: Best Food Tours in Amsterdam to Book

8. Visit the Gecroonde Duyvekater (Bakery Museum)

Traditional Dutch Bakery Museum and Candy Shop in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands - Historical bakery and confectionery with Dutch flag and traditional architecture.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Zeilenmakerspad 4, 1509 BZ Zaandam, Netherlands

What’s better than eating cheese? Getting some bread to eat with your cheese. When you visit the Bakery Museum in Zaanse Schans, you’ll see an authentic antique oven where a baker would have made the iconic sweet bread that is long-famous in the Zaans region. The bakery building was built in the 1600s but moved to Zaanse Schans in the 1970s.

When you enter the bakery, you’ll probably notice that the overall size of the establishment is pretty small. But that doesn’t mean its offerings are limited.

Close-up of hand-carved wooden windmill souvenirs at Zaanse Schans Bakery Museum.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The bakery sells a fair amount of sweets in addition to the bread, so you might find yourself snagging a stroopwafel or cake alongside your bread. Don’t forget to get a coffee, too.

9. Tour Zaanse Schans on a Bicycle

Couple biking in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
GagliardiPhotography / Shutterstock.com

Address: Suikerbakkerssteeg, 1012 GE Amsterdam, Netherlands

If you’re considering biking your way here or around Zaanse Schans, know that it’s a cinch to reach all of the attractions of Zaanse Schans by bicycle. As you probably already know, the Netherlands is obsessed with riding bicycles, and many of its citizens commute to work on bicycles even when the weather isn’t friendly to riding (riding in the rain, anyone?).

Bicycles parked under sunny skies near Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

You, too, can adopt this Dutch mode of transportation when you take an e-Bike ride and tour Zaanse Schans. Although Amsterdam offers loads of paved roads for riding throughout the city, you’ll actually get to ride “off the beaten path” for this journey to see the countryside’s traditional windmills.

Technically, you can take public transportation to Zaanse Schans or rent a car to reach the village, but riding a bicycle is an enjoyable way to experience this tourist attraction. Just remember always to bring clothing for weather changes.

It might not rain now, but you never know what’ll happen halfway through the ride when the sky opens up and you get drenched. The weather in the Netherlands is like that.

See Related: Tips for Riding a Bike in Amsterdam

10. Eat a Pancake at Restaurant de Kraai

Front of Restaurant de Kraai
Restaurant de Kraai / Facebook

Address: Kraaienpad 1, 1509 AX Zaandam, Netherlands

The windmills and the wooden houses aren’t the only experiences at Zaanse Schans worth getting up for. At a certain point, you’ll find it necessary to indulge in a pancake restaurant visit at an establishment called Restaurant De Kraai.

Your ticket gets you a traditional Dutch pancake and a hot drink. You can also score a piece of apple pie and choose a topping that suits you. Pair your pancake with cheese, syrup, or Nutella.

You may want to schedule a visit to the pancake house during your tour of Zaanse Schans. Although the village isn’t huge, you may work up an appetite as you tour the historic windmills and visit the Zaanse Schans museums. The top highlight is that you get to enjoy a lovely view of the countryside while you eat on the restaurant’s terrace.

11. Go on a Guided Tour of Rural Holland and Zaanse Schans

Exterior of Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam
Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam / Booking.com

Address: From Your Zaanse Schans address or Zaandam Hotel of choice

If you aim to squeeze every ounce of detail and wonder from exploring the Netherlands, you might consider a local tour, especially if you’re staying at a nearby hotel like the Café Brasserie Het Heerenhuisnd. While Zaanse Schans isn’t a huge metropolis, you’ll still find it valuable to book a tour that will show you all the best views of the windmill village and all the other fun sights in rural Holland.

These guides always know where to find the best vantage points for photos and the best times to avoid the tourist crowds. This particular Zaanse Schans guided tour takes you on a journey through Zaanse Schans and also includes a boat ride to Marken and a visit to Volendam and Edam’s fishing and cheese villages.

Although most tours in Zaanse Schans are offered in English, it’s not difficult to find tours where you’ll have a Spanish, Italian, or German-speaking tour guide. You must quickly search Zaanse Schans tours to find an option with a guide in your preferred language. The Dutch are nothing if not welcoming to speakers of other languages.

What to Know When Visiting Zaanse Schans

Idyllic Spring Day at Zaanse Schans with Traditional Dutch Architecture - Vibrant snapshot of historic Dutch village and serene spring day.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Zaanse Schans isn’t its town or village; it’s a sort of living museum in the town of Zaandam. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction, and its easy proximity to Amsterdam means that many tourists visit the town each day, heading out from the Amsterdam Central Station.

Despite the potential for crowds, Zaanse Schans’ tours are definitely worth the time. If you’re on a particularly small budget, you can visit the Zaanse Schans museums on the tiniest of budgets because there aren’t any entrance fees required to walk through the town.

Entering the museums sometimes requires a fee, and you’ll also need to pay a few Euros to ascend to the top of the windmills, too, so it’s important to have some money in your pocket for a Zaans museum ticket should you want the full experience.

That said, you can save tons on entry fees if you get yourself a Zaanse Schans Card, which you can find here.

FAQ

What is Zaanse Schans best known for?

The wooden windmills and traditional houses throughout Zaanse Schans are the most famous part of this Dutch tourist attraction. The area was once vital to the manufacturing industry of the Netherlands, with more than 1,000 active windmills. There aren’t as many windmills these days, but you can tour the remaining ones.

What’s the best time to visit Zaanse Schans?

Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular attractions outside of Amsterdam, and you’ll almost always find copious tourists. The best time to visit is as early as possible when it opens at 9 a.m. Alternatively, you can visit after 3 p.m. when the crowds start to thin out as people return to Amsterdam.

How can I learn more about the history of Zaanse Schans?

The best way to learn about Zaanse Schans is by visiting. You can read all you want about the history of the place and how all the windmills were relocated, but seeing everything in person will make the best impression. Did you know there are seven museums to explore?

Are guided tours available for Zaanse Schans?

There are multiple guided tours of Zaanse Schans, and you might choose a day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, which helps you explore the Dutch countryside. Most tours are conducted in English, German, or Spanish, but you may have access to an audio guide in another language like Chinese or Russian.

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