If you’d like to see the Netherlands’ iconic windmills, why not take an easy day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam? It’s just a short train or bus ride from the city.
After our 12-day British Isles cruise on Royal Caribbean, I enjoyed a few solo days in Amsterdam before flying back home.
Pondering an escape from the bustling Dutch city just for the day, I fell in love with the gorgeous photos I saw online of nearby Zaanse Schans. I knew it would make the perfect day trip from Amsterdam!
Here’s everything you need to know for your own unforgettable day at Zaanse Schans.
A quick history of Zaanse Schans
This Zaandaam neighborhood on the Zaan River (in the gorgeous Dutch countryside) features a collection of windmills and wooden houses, most of which were moved here for preservation.
The Dutch started building windmills as early as the 12th century to grind grain. In the 17th and 18th centuries—the heyday of Dutch windmills—there were about 600 working mills in the Zaan region.
But the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century saw production move into factories, and fewer windmills were used and maintained.
Starting in 1961 and until 1974, a collection of windmills and other antique buildings from around the region were moved on trailers or by boat to Zaanse Schans to create an open air living history museum.
Today, many of these restored windmills still produce goods, including timber, seed oils, mustard, and dyes. Visitors can go inside several of the mills to see up-close how these things were traditionally made, using just the power of the wind!
How to pronounce Zaanse Schans
If (like me!) you never studied Dutch, you’re probably wondering how to pronounce Zaanse Schans.
I asked several native Dutch speakers when I was in Amsterdam, and the consensus seems to be something like “ZAHN-suh-skhontz” (or ˈzaːnsə ˈsxɑns if you know the International Phonetic Alphabet).
Want to hear it spoken aloud? Here’s the closest pronunciation of Zaanse Schans to what my Dutch friends told me. (If you’re Dutch, please let me know in the comments if I’ve got it right!)
Note: I apologize if you’re using the “listen to this article” feature I provide on my posts for accessibility. The AI narrator absolutely butchers all words in the Dutch language (and I can’t make her change how she says things)!
What can you see at Zaanse Schans?
Holland’s famous windmills are the number-one attraction for visitors to Zaanse Schans. But windmills aren’t all there is to see!
With its river and pretty canals snaking through acres of rolling green pastureland, Zaanse Schans is a feast for the eyes.
History and culture lovers will enjoy visiting the site’s fascinating museums, including the Zaans Museum, Verkade Chocolate and Biscuit Factory, World of Windmills, and the Zaan Time Museum.
Visiting the windmills at Zaanse Schans
There are nine industrial windmills at Zaanse Schans, plus two working mini-windmills. Even today, each mill still serves a practical purpose—producing specific goods like flour, seed oil, or timber planks.
Most of the windmills are open to the public with a €5 ticket fee (many are included with your Zaanse Schans card purchase).
Every windmill also has an inventive name. Most are based either on a whimsical interpretation of the mill’s appearance, history, or to convey its sheer strength. But one of the Zaanse Schans windmills has a very morbid moniker! Read on to find out why.
Here’s a brief rundown of each of the windmills you’ll see on your day trip to Zaanse Schans (I’ve included the English translation of each name, too):
De Kat (The Cat)
De Kat is the last working windmill in the world that makes paint. The original 1646 De Kat mill was used to make oil until it was destroyed by a fire in 1782. It was quickly rebuilt and used until 1904 when it was partially demolished.
In 1960, the paint mill De Duinjager (The Dune Hunter) was moved and placed on top of De Kat’s storehouse, and today grinds raw materials to make pigments for paint.
De Gekroonde Poelenburg (The Crowned Poelenburg)
The sawmill De Gekroonde Poelenburg is a paltrok mill, characterized by a workfloor which is open on three sides. When turning to the wind, the entire mill is wheeled over a rolling ring (most windmills only can turn on the top section).
De Gekroonde Poelenburg was built in 1869 in Koog aan de Zaan, but was moved in 1904 to De Gouw in Zaandam-Oost. In 1963, it was taken apart again and rebuilt at Zaanse Schans.
De Zoeker (The Seeker)
Estimated to have been built around 1610, De Zoeker has milled lots of different goods over its long history—oil, paint, timber, and even cocoa!
Although it started as a polder mill to pump water, records from 1672 show it standing in Zaandijk as an oil mill. After many conversions, it looked like De Zoeker had reached the end of its useful life by around 1940. But the town took over the mill in the ’50s, and it once again began producing seed oil.
Transporting De Zoeker to Zaanse Schans was quite an ordeal, since the 18-ton top of the mill needed to be moved in one piece.
Het Jonge Schaap (The Young Sheep)
Although it’s the only replica mill at Zaanse Schans, don’t miss a visit to Het Jonge Schaap!
The original Jonge Schaap was built in 1680 in Zaandam’s Westzijderveld, and that sawmill was active until its demolition in 1942.
But in 2007, the mill was faithfully rebuilt at Zaanse Schans using traditional 17th-century methods. Today, this six-sided over-wheeling mill is a busy place (especially on a windy day), and visitors can watch logs turn into usable boards in real time. Wear closed-toed shoes if you want to see the action up close!
Being a recently-built windmill, Het Jonge Schaap is far more accessible for people with disabilities than the antique mills. This mill features a small elevator that stops at all three levels.
Tip: The 10-minute film showing how Het Jonge Schaap was built is so worth watching! It plays on a loop at the ground floor of the mill, right after you pass the ticket counter. But I’ve included the exact same video below if you’d like to save time and watch it before your visit.
De Bonte Hen (The Spotted Hen)
Fires from lightning strikes claimed many of the Zaan’s windmills, but this lucky 1693 mill survived, even after being struck multiple times.
De Bonte Hen was completely restored between 1973 and 1978, and many of its parts (like the edging stones, fisters, and hammers) were replaced.
Today the octagonal over-wheeling mill is back at work producing oil from seeds.
De Os (The Ox)
One of the oldest industrial mills built in the Zaan region, De Os dates to c. 1663. The oil mill ran on wind power until 1916, when its cap, sails, and stand were removed. De Os was then powered by a diesel engine until 1931!
Today the mill is back on wind power, extracting oil from seeds.
Het Klaverblad (The Cloverleaf)
Het Klaverblad isn’t an antique windmill, but it’s the only hollow post mill at Zaanse Schans. This type of smaller sawmill used to be popular in the region, as farmers would use them as an extra source of income.
In 1973, local miller Ru Pos purchased a small piece of land in Zaanse Schans on the Kalverringdijk. After constructing a barn and annex, he hand-built Het Klaverbad to fulfill a lifelong dream.
The four-leaf clover logo of the mill is a nod to Pos’ four daughters, one of whom works at the mill.
De Bleeke Dood (The Pale Death)
I mentioned earlier that one of the Zaanse Schans windmills has a morbid name—it’s De Bleeke Dood (or The Pale Death in English). Curious why the mill would carry such an odd name, I jumped down a research rabbit hole to find out!
Most sources simply state that the flour mill (originally located on the south side of Zaandijk) and polder mill Het Leven (Life) in the north of town made the residents literally live “between life and death”. Poetic, but is it true?
De Bleeke Dood likely was named before Het Leven, and its strange name is probably due to the controversy surrounding its construction in 1656. Neighbors feared the fire risk of living close to the windmill, and rightfully so! The mill caught fire twice, but both blazes occurred centuries later.
Unfortunately, visitors can’t go inside De Bleeke Dood. But if you stop by on a Friday, the mill’s shop sells the fruits of its labor—wheat flour and bread mix.
De Ooievaar (The Stork)
The only windmill at Zaanse Schans not technically from the Zaan, oil mill De Ooievaar still fits in just fine. Transported from nearby Assendelft, the mill (along with De Bonte Hen) is an excellent example of the type of seed oil mill once popular in the area.
At one time, hundreds of these mills were used in the Zaan region for the production of various oils including linseed oil, rapeseed oil, and colza oil.
After a full restoration by Vereniging De Zaansche Molen (The Zaan Mill Association), De Ooievaar is up and running again. This windmill isn’t accessible to visitors.
Mini-mills on the Schans
You’ll also see two small antique windmills on the site. The meadow mill De Hadel dates to the late 19th century and was originally used to pump water. De Hadel was built in the small village of Midwoud, and was moved to Zaanse Schans in 1968.
The other miniature windmill is De Windhond (The Greyhound), the last surviving crushed stone mill from the Zaan region. The mill was built to crush broken millstones from other mills into a fine sand used as an abrasive.
Must-see museums at Zaanse Schans
You might initially be drawn to Zaanse Schans by its fanciful windmills and Instagram-worthy views, but the museums on the sprawling property are absolutely worth visiting, too.
Adults, teens, and kids alike will enjoy the museum exhibits, featuring a mix of antique art pieces, vintage machinery, historical dioramas, and interactive games.
To get a feel for the extensive industrial history of the Zaan region, a stop at the Zaans Museum is a must-see experience.
Grab one of the included headsets for a guided tour at your own pace, or just wander through the exhibits to learn all about the history of the Zaan.
The Verkade Experience museum, located next to the Zaans Museum, tells the story of the Verkade Chocolate and Biscuit Factory. With a large collection of vintage candy and cookie-making equipment, you’ll feel like you stepped into Willy Wonka’s workshop!
Find out about the mystique of the Verkade Girls (Verkade was one of the first Dutch companies to employ women) and try your hand at one of the interactive chocolate-making games (it’s harder than it looks!)
World of Windmills
I’m guessing you like windmills if you’re planning to visit this open-air museum. You’ll want to step inside the World of Windmills building to learn more about the history of mills in the region.
The breathtaking vista of seven windmills from the museum’s top floor windows can’t be beat! It’s such a scenic view that they provide a telescope, benches, and floor pillows to relax and enjoy the landscape.
Zaan Time Museum
This tiny museum deserves at least 15 minutes of your time (sorry, pun intended), especially if you’re fascinated by clocks!
Inside you’ll find antique clockmaking tools and Dutch timepieces spanning centuries, including elaborately decorated wall clocks, Amsterdam longcase timepieces, and Dutch tower clocks.
Other exhibits at Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans offers a variety of exhibits inside their antique wooden buildings. Some, like the clog-making demonstration and the cheese factory are free to enter—they’re supported by large gift shops where you can purchase wooden shoes or cheese.
But others are purely historic, and may come with a small entry fee. Both The Cooperage and The Weaver’s House showcase fascinating artifacts housed in period-accurate settings.
The volunteer-staffed Albert Heijn Museum, a copy of the first grocery store in Oostzaan, is free to enter.
Buying tickets for Zaanse Schans
If you’d just like to walk around, Zaanse Schans is always free to enter. But to visit any of the museums on-site or to enter the windmills and many other historic buildings, you’ll need tickets.
You can purchase tickets at the door of each attraction, but if you want to see everything, your best value is to buy the Zaanse Schans Card. At €23.50 per adult and €16 for kids 4-17, the card will save you a bit of money compared to buying individual tickets.
Tip: If you buy a ticket for the Zaans Museum (either on its own or as part of the Zaanse Schans Card) save your receipt! You can use it all day for access to the museum’s toilets, which otherwise cost €1 per person per visit.
Dining options at Zaanse Schans
You’ll definitely work up an appetite walking in the fresh air at Zaanse Schans, and thankfully they have several options for lunch or a quick snack. You can even enjoy a romantic riverside dinner after your visit!
Restaurant De Kraai
The pancake house De Kraai is housed in a rustic 18th-century Zaan granary, originally located in Wormerveer. This casual restaurant features both indoor and outdoor seating.
Check out their large menu of traditional Dutch-style pancakes with a variety of toppings. Or pick up ready-made sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts in the cafeteria-style entrance to eat on the premises.
Tip: If you buy the Zaanse Schans Card I mentioned above, show it to the cashier when you check out to get 10% off your meal at Restaurant De Kraai.
Zaans Museum Café
Located at the entrance to the Zaans Museum, the counter-service Café offers a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, salad, sweets, and coffee drinks.
Restaurant De Hoop op d’Swarte Walvis
For a more elegant lunch or dinner, the riverfront D’Swarte Walvis features fresh seafood, meats, and vegetarian dishes. Or try the three- four- or five-course tasting menu to sample the chef’s specialties.
Tip: Make reservations in advance if you want an outside table with views of the river. This place can fill up fast!
How to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam Centraal
The easiest way to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam’s Centraal station is via public transportation, either bus or train.
The train from Centraal is much faster than the bus, getting you there in just under 20 minutes. However, it’s then a 15-minute walk from the train station at Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans.
Instead, I chose to take the 391 bus, which is about a 35- to 40-minute ride each way. The bus runs every 15 minutes, and drops you off right by the parking lot for the Zaans Museum.
Or, consider taking a guided tour from Amsterdam! All of these top-rated (and surprisingly inexpensive) group tours include a trip to Zaanse Schans, and several also visit nearby historic towns.
- Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken Day Trip
- Volendam, Edam, & Zaanse Schans Day Trip
- Zaanse Schans with Cheese Tasting & Clog Factory
- Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam & Marken Bus Tour
- Countryside Bike Tour and Zaanse Schans Windmills
Tip: If you’re visiting Zaanse Schans after a cruise and you need to store your luggage in Amsterdam before your flight leaves, Amsterdam Centraal Station offers daily luggage storage for €11 per locker.
Dutch souvenirs from Zaanse Schans
You’ll find lots of gift shops here, selling everything you could want to remember your trip to the Netherlands.
There’s a wide variety of the usual souvenirs, like wooden shoes, Gouda cheese, and pretty blue and white Delftware. But you’ll also find a range of gifts from Dutch artisans, like traditionally made soaps, fine jewelry, and even artisanal wheat flour ground by windmill!
Tip: For a more unusual Dutch souvenir, check out the lovely antique shop Trash & Treasures, located in the oldest house on the property, the 1623 Het Jagershuis (The Hunter’s House).
How much time should you plan for visiting Zaanse Schans?
If time is tight, you can absolutely see the highlights of Zaanse Schans in just three hours. That means skipping the larger museums (or choosing just one) and only going inside a few windmills and rustic buildings. Enjoying the charming scenery on a stroll of the grounds should be your goal on a quick visit.
But if you can take a more leisurely pace and want to see absolutely everything, you can still do it all in eight hours, including stopping for lunch and shopping in a few souvenir stores.
9 helpful tips for your day trip to Zaanse Schans
1. Buy the day pass
The Zaanse Schans Card is a must if you’re spending more than a couple of hours there. You’ll save time and money compared to purchasing individual tickets at each stop!
2. Download the Zaanse Schans app before you go
It’s a good idea to download the helpful Zaanse Schans app before your day trip. It features a virtual tour as well as free interactive walking tours you can use on-site.
3. Get there early to avoid crowds
Zaanse Schans is open daily from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM, though many of the attractions don’t open until 10. To avoid the crowds and large tour groups, plan to arrive early. You can walk through the area and take photos (minus throngs of people) and check out the exhibits when they open.
4. Pack a picnic lunch
Although the prices at on-site restaurants are fairly reasonable, packing a picnic lunch will save you some money! There are picnic tables dotted throughout the area, many with lovely views of the canals, fields, and windmills.
Consider stopping at one of the express-style markets before you leave Amsterdam (like Albert Heijn or SPAR). Most offer ready-made sandwiches for about €3, along with snacks and drinks perfect for tossing in your backpack.
If you’re taking the train from Amsterdam, you’ll pass a SPAR on your walk from the Zaanse Schans train station.
5. Take your refillable water bottle
Instead of buying bottled water, if you pack a reusable bottle you can refill it at the free water station located near the Vrede souvenir shop.
6. Wear comfortable shoes
The attractions at Zaanse Schans are fairly spread out, so expect to do a lot of walking! A comfy, rubber-soled shoe is your best bet.
7. Don’t feed the animals
You’ll see wildlife and farm animals all around Zaanse Schans, but please refrain from giving them snacks! The cows, goats, and chickens are well-fed by their caretakers.
8. Avoid private property
You might be surprised (I sure was) that just off the main walking paths are several private homes. Watch for private property signs to avoid accidentally venturing into someone’s backyard!
9. Take a canal tour for the best windmill photos
Unless you have a professional-grade camera with a telephoto lens, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to capture those gorgeous, unobstructed views of most Zaanse Schans windmills. You just can’t stand in the right spot!
But from a canal boat (the boat landing is right on the property), you’ll have the luxury of taking beautiful windmill pics from the perfect distance, without crowds, tall fences, and other buildings in your way.
FAQ about Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is 17.9 km (11.1 mi) from Amsterdam Centraal station.
Zaanse Schans is accessible from Amsterdam Centraal station via Rnet-bus 391 as well as by local train to Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans station.
Visiting Zaanse Schans is free, but many of the indoor exhibits require paying an admission fee.
Many of the windmills at Zaanse Schans are open to the public for a small admission fee.
Have you taken a day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam? Or are you thinking about visiting? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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