Windmills and water are what you think of when you think of the Netherlands, right? If that’s the case, then Zaanse Schans should definitely be on your list if you are in the Amsterdam area! You don’t have to go far to feel like you are not in the city. Once you cross the IJ into North Amsterdam (Amsterdam Noord), you are basically in a suburb. And if you are in Amsterdam for more than a couple days, you should definitely spend time in the north, it’s a whole different feel! So, in our effort to make the most of living in Amsterdam, we visited the Zaanse Schans, just northwest of Amsterdam.
What is Zaanse Schans?
Well, it’s a neighborhood…a very popular one with lots of striking old houses and windmills set against the water. The small neighborhood you see was actually brought together around 1961 to create the museum area. So, pretty much everything is a transplant, though they wouldn’t have come from too far, and they are original! Visiting the Zaanse Schans is a look into history! At the height of activity In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were around 600 windmills in the area, making this part of the Netherlands Western Europe’s oldest industrial area.
Catch a Bus
Just a 40 minute bus ride for €5 (each way) will take you from the back of Centraal Station to right outside the entrance to the Zaanse Schans. To get on the bus, go to the back of Centraal (you do not need a pass to get through all those gates) past all the train platforms, and go up the stairs. Look for bus 391 and pay your €5. Then, hop off the bus at the last stop, cross the bike path, and make a left. You can’t miss the entrance and the museum! The stop is the end of the line, so you get back on the bus where you were dropped off. Convenient since we were trying to figure out where on the other side of the road the bus was. And stay off the bike path…please!
Visiting the Neighborhood
To walk around the neighborhood costs nothing (yay!) so you can take all the photos you want and enjoy a peaceful stroll by the water and visit with some farm animals. It is a little touristy, but we went at the end of February, so it wasn’t that bad. If fact, it was really nice aside from the wind. That brings me to an important tip: Prepare for the wind! There is a reason there are windmills here.
We walked down the road with the windmills and noticed that some had shops or museums. Being quite chilled, we were thankful when hot chocolate summoned us from a shop near the sawmill. After some hot chocolate and an interesting film on how the sawmill was refurbished, we were headed back to where we started. If you are interested in visiting the inside of windmills, this is possible during certain days and certain times of the year, but there will be a small charge.
Some shops have a small bakery or chocolate museum in the back which are fun to visit and really give you an idea of how people used to work and live. There’s a whole neighborhood behind the main street of shops, so take some time to wander through, just be respectful to those who live there. But I’m sure you already know how to behave as a tourist!
You can’t help but feel charmed by the whole area. Oh! If you are there in the chilly weather and you smell chocolate, follow it! You can make your own hot cocoa…the real stuff. Not the chocomel that most people have. Enjoy the magic of this little neighborhood from the past, be in awe of what the wind can really do, and take lots of pictures!
It’s easy to love Amsterdam…and you should know by now that we are head over heels in love with the city of canals. But if you are spending a good amount of time in the Netherlands, be sure to visit the many other great towns and cities in this great country. Netherlands Tourism put together a nice list for making sure you hit some hot spots. You are sure to be inspired, enchanted, and maybe a little surprised at what you’ll find around the Netherlands.
Have you seen the inside of a windmill? I think the work they can do is just fascinating. If you’ve been to the Zaanse Schans, let us know what your experience was!