Are you looking for the perfect day trip from Amsterdam? Or a place where you can walk off the extra calories gained from binging on all those Dutch pancakes, croquettes and fries? Maybe you just want a quiet getaway break from the craziness of Amsterdam in general?
Zaanse Schans is the place you want to go! It’s a picturesque village located just north of Amsterdam, along the river Zaan in Zaandam. It’s a reconstructed village which means that all the windmills, shops and houses that are there now were either relocated from elsewhere or rebuilt. So although not strictly authentic, it’s still a beautiful village which is well landscaped and preserved.
Moreover, because it has been specifically landscaped, it has all the things you would think of when you think of Holland, all together in one place… namely windmills, cheese, pancakes, museums and clogs. The ‘best of’ Holland if you will!
From Amsterdam Central, take the train 15 minutes north to Koog-Zaandijk station. The village of Zaanse Schans is just a short walk through the residential area of Stationsstraat and across Juliana bridge. This bridge is also one of the better vantage points for a panoramic view of the windmills, which you won’t get to take in if you follow a coach tour. By walking from the train station, you will also get to experience the smell of cocoa/chocolate that fills the Zaanse Schans air!
Part of the charm of Zaanse Schans is that the windmills are still fully functioning and some are even open for you to go inside (for a small fee) and have a look at how it all works. There’s a saw mill, paint mill and oil mill amongst others. It’s quite fascinating to see how it all once was and a great insight into the old Dutch way of life.
In the village, you’ll be able to visit several shops making and selling traditional crafts such as clogs, cheese and even barrels. It really is a showcase of all things Dutch. Check out the clog museum, a replica of the very first Albert Heijn store, the pancake restaurant, the clock museum or the old distillery. There’s plenty to see, do and taste and you can easily spend the whole day here absorbing Dutch culture.
It’s hard to believe that just 20mins away from the hustle of Amsterdam is this serene village set amongst a backdrop of windmills. Walking through this tidy network of walkways, canals, bridges and landscaped gardens is incredibly relaxing and soothing. If you’ve had a crazy one in Amsterdam, a day trip to Zaanse Schans is the perfect way to unwind, recover and reflect.
How about a nice bike ride through the fields of the Dutch countryside and along the river Zaan? Amsterdam is less than 20km away so is potentially bike-able in around an hour.
These traditional green wooden houses are indicative of the Zaanse Schans area. Look at the quaint little house and the garden which is rearing chickens. It’s amazing to think that in such a tourist-centric area, there are actually residents casually living their everyday lives here.
Inside the Zaans Museum , you can learn more about one of the oldest industrial areas in Europe dating back to the 18th century. It’s not the biggest or best museum, but gives a good insight into what Zaanse Schans is famous for. Usually free entry if you have an Iamsterdam card.
You kind of get a feeling that Zaanse Schans is a village geared towards giving tourists what they want and you can expect coach loads of tourists, especially when the weather is good. At times, it can feel a bit ‘touristy’, but at the same time, there’s lots to see and take photos of. So whether it’s windmills, clogs, cheese or canals, there are definitely lots of opportunities to get that perfect tourist shot in order for you to send the perfect, ‘typically Holland’ postcard!
Before you leave, make sure you visit the cheese factory, learn about the science of cheese-making and sample some of their cheese farming delights. If you’re still hungry and heading back to the city, be sure to check out our foodies tour of Amsterdam.