Meet the Windmills – at Zaanse Schans
One of the iconic images of the Netherlands is the windmill. There is something infinitely romantic about the image of a windmill, sails spinning in the wind, in the middle of the vast Dutch plain. There are still quite a few of them scattered throughout the country, in villages and cities — there are even a few in Amsterdam. But if you want to experience a variety of windmills, to see how they look like inside and what they are producing, you have to go to the Zaanse Schans Museum.
I have to warn you from the very beginning, this place is very touristy! Everything is organized in such a way to satisfy every tourist’s expectation on what the Netherlands should be: mustard soup and apple pie, clogs factories and workshops, leaflets translated in a multitude of languages with info about the windmills and so on. And it might be crowded, but that doesn’t mean it’s less picturesque or less interesting! I absolutely loved the experience!
You can easily spend a day there. Apart from the windmills, there are a few shops (cheese, soap and vintage items, sweets etc.) a couple of museums, handicrafts demonstrations, and you can cross over the water and visit the Zaandijk village. I recommend to start by making acquaintance with the windmills, because they are definitely the stars of the show. Each windmill has a name and a different purpose:
- De Kat (The Cat) — my favourite, produces paint and pigments and it’s still functional
- De Huisman (The Houseman), my second favourite, producing spices and famous for its mustard – the flavours inside this mill are amazing!
- Het Jonge Schaap (The Young Sheep), a sawmill
- De Gekroonde Poelenburg (The Crowned Poelenburg), a sawmill
- De Os (The Ox), an oil mill
- De Zoeker (The Seeker), an old oil mill that used to produce also paint and cocoa at some point in time
- De Bonte Hen (The Spotted Hen), another oil mill
- Het Klaverblad (The Cloverleaf), a sawmill.
After that, you can enjoy the rest of the attractions, eat tasty things like freshly made gevulde koek, pretend to shop in the Albert Heijn museum shop, watch the sheep and goats milling around on the fields, board on a cruise boat, or taste and buy some cheese, mustard and other typical Dutch treats.
Practical info: you can get there by bus form Amsterdam Central Station (bus 391, direct) or by train to Koog-Zaandijk (and then walk about 15 minutes). Also good to know that you’ll need to buy an entrance ticket for each windmill that you want to visit on the inside.
Until you get there, enjoy a few of the photos I made during my visit: