After exploring the gorgeous scenery of Giethoorn on our previous trip to Holland, we were keen and excited to take another exciting day trip during our stay in Amsterdam. After exploring local neighborhoods like De Pijp and Jordaan in Amsterdam, we were hoping to get away from the urban chatters to do something crazy and touristy, making Zaanse Schans the perfect plan for our little Dutch adventure.
In the 18th and 19th century Holland, 600 windmills were constructed on the banks of the river Zaan. These windmills powered the industrial revolution in the area, empowering the region and its people who began to thrive on the booming industries and commodities produced. Over time, the industries spread out across various regions of Holland and the windmills began to wear out.
Eight of the surviving windmills of the region were moved from 1961 to 1974. To aid tourism in the region, a special collective was created dedicated to the industrial boom. For the same, various buildings were moved to this cluster which is now referred to as Zaanse Schans.
Zaanse Schans is a heritage collective of Holland, an open-air museum dedicated to the industrial history of the country. This area has historic buildings and workshops dedicated to prominent industries such as cheese making, bakeries, clog making, weaver’s workshop, windmills, and farms.
Today, when you visit Zaanse Schans, you can visit each of these buildings and even visit some of the functional windmills giving you a better understanding of the industrial boom of the region.
How to get there?
Getting to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam is a cakewalk given the number of transport options available.
Firstly, if you’re opting for public transport, I’d recommend buying the Amsterdam & Regions Transport Ticket which gives you access to public transport to and within the nearby towns from Amsterdam.
- To get to Zaanse Schans, you can take the Intercity Sprinter from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Koog-Zaandijk station, the duration of this journey is about 15 minutes. From Zaandijk station, Zaanse Schans is at a 10 minutes walking distance.
- Bus No. 391 departs every 15 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal bus Station. This bus journey takes about 35-40 minutes and drops you right outside Zaanse Schans.
- You can also take a 2-hour long Zaan ferry from the pier behind Amsterdam Centraal Station. There are only 2-5 departures from both sides each day (depending on the season), so you can time your trip accordingly.
- Alternatively, you can consider a road trip to this gorgeous Dutch village.
- There are continuous transport options available and you can refer to the updated timetables before planning your day trip.
Once you reach Zaanse Schans, there’s plenty to see, soak in and enjoy.
We started by checking out the map and the layout of the village to understand our route to explore.
Day Trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam
On the day of our trip, the weather was not too kind to us as the day turned out to be all gloomy rainy. But we decided to go ahead with our plans irrespective of the weather.
Here’s a list of things we did/ hoped to do in Zaanse Schans:
The sight of windmills is synonymous with Holland. It is this sight that a lot of tourists come looking for when they visit the country or even the city of Amsterdam. You can find these windmills here, in Zaanse Schans.
I remember when we first saw a glimpse of the windmills here, it immediately reminded of all the popular visuals of Holland that I had previously seen in guide books, blogs, and even movies. Now I know where this was coming from!
In Zaanse Schans, there are a total of 10 windmills, mostly functional and many are still open to visitors who can see how the windmills function from the inside.
Each of these windmills has a schedule of operations and you can only visit inside on the days that they are open.
Either way, they make for the perfect postcard pictures on the outside with the Zaan river in the background.
A small green colored house, in the further corner, was the Weaver’s Museum in Zaanse Schans. For a meager entrance fee, you can check out the authentic tools and machines used to produce cloth. This was primarily used for making ropes for ships, clothes for sailors, embroidered bags and more. You can also buy some of this produce from the gift shop.
Entrance Fee: 2 Eur
Catherine Hoeve Cheese Museum
We quite enjoyed the Dutch cheese variants that we tried during our Amsterdam food tour. Now, we found a cheese factory cum museum and there was no way we were going to skip it! We walked straight in, the museum entrance was free. Upon entering the first room, we saw cheese being made in machines. Like the literal process of churning cheese. In the next room, there were chunks of cheese, stored and used for decoration.
We even tasted some cheese and found the old favorites. Now if we weren’t taking a flight with limited luggage the next day, we would’ve definitely purchased some cheese here. After all, it was fresh, delicious and inexpensive.
The Catherine Hoeve Cheese Museum is a family run business, functional even today and open to tourists as well.
Entrance Fee: Free
Gecroonde Duyvekater Bakery Museum
The Bakery Museum is an extension of a cute little bakery store in the settlement. We had originally stopped you to cover ourselves from the rain and grab a cup of coffee and some bread to eat in the meanwhile. We got lucky with some delicious bakery food, but what we truly enjoyed was the artistic bakery, the decorations, cakes, buns that were kept there. The Gecroonde Duyvekater Bakery Museum was right behind, not too big to wander but a treat to the eyes. The museum has an authentic bread oven and a beautifully marbled floor. It is named after the traditional sweet bread produced in the Zaanse region, Duivetaker which can also be tasted at the bakery here. Yes, it’s delicious!
The original building stood on the Hazepad in Zaandik and was moved to be a part of the collective in Zaanse Schans in 1970.
Entry Fee: Free
Wooden Clog Museum
Clogs are wooden shoes, a common form of footwear since the 12th century. Clogs have been worn across eras and geographies by people of all classes- simple and durable ones for the working class and more decorative ones by the noblemen. You’ve definitely seen them in pictures before!
The local clog company, Kooijman Souvenirs & Clogs collected clogs from around the world and put them together in a museum. After all, like they say, ‘What’s more Dutch than a wooden clog!’ The range of clogs in this museum is insanely amazing and it includes a very special ‘Diamond Clog’ made by British artist Damien Hirth. It’s out there on display, all shiny and attracting attention.
There’s also a Wooden Clog Making Workshop which happens at the museum and is open for all to attend. In this workshop, you can see how a wooden clog is made from scratch.
Eventually, you could grab yourself some souvenirs before you head out.
DIY Hot Chocolate
The Cacao Lab in Zaanse Schans was undoubtedly one of our favorite spots on this trip. When we first got here, we watched a whole lot of people walking out with a broad smile and a hot cup in their hands. On a rainy day like this, of course, it seemed like a bright idea.
In a gorgeous little space by the windmill, a chocolate lab had been set up. We walked in and looked around. There wasn’t much in this room, except for a counter on the left with chocolates on display for sale, some additional display items by the remaining walls. And in the center stood the highlight- the DIY Chocolate Milk ingredients- paper cup, sugar, cocoa powder, milk and instructions on how to go about it. You only had to head to the counter to pay up.
Parichay, who absolutely swears by Chocolate milk, especially while traveling was more than pleased at this opportunity as he got to decide just the right amount of cocoa powder and sugar for his Hot Chocolate Milk.
Cost per cup: 5 Eur
Albert Heijn Museum
Albert Heijn is the first Dutch chain of departmental stores in the country. To celebrate the industrial boom and production of commodities, a special museum dedicated to this chain was installed here at Zaanse Schans.
We were also hoping to explore the Albert Heijn museum which was right in the beginning. But with lack of time, we had to rush back.
Access To Museums:
If you already have a valid IAmsterdam card, it includes access to most attractions/museums at Zaanse Schans.
Alternatively, you can consider buying the Zaanse Schans card for 15 eur for free access to all museums and attractions here (only if you plan on visiting most museums).
You can always pay the entrance fee, wherever applicable, at the museum itself.
Walking around Zaanse Schans
Above everything else, just walking around Zaanse Schans was an exciting experience. We absolutely loved the concept of this open-air museum by putting together iconic establishments in a settlement to educate and welcome tourists. First and foremost, Zaanse Schans is postcard-perfect with numerous spots for the best pictures. It’s like the scenery you draw as a child, with cute little houses, bridges and a river flowing by, benches and trees, flowers and windmills.
But we couldn’t stop imagining how pretty this place would look with the sun shining bright, some good weather and a lot more leisure time.
Holding on to that thought, we hope to come back to Zaanse Schans with so much still left to explore including the Zaans Museum, visit inside a windmill, enjoy the pancakes at De Kraai and understand the Dutch coffee history, take pictures on a sunny day and so much more!
Until next time, we only have this rainy-day story share!
Disclaimer: Big thanks to IAmsterdam, who partially aided this trip. As always, all opinions and experiences mentioned here are personal and true.