Visiting this iconic village has been on my mind for a while! We decided to go last Saturday and left home around 11:00 heading Centraal Station from where we took Bus 391 for a 40-minute ride to Zaandam, a city in the province of North Holland, Netherlands. You can also get there by train (train station is like 15 minutes from the site). By bike (13 kms from Amsterdam city center) or with one of the tour companies.
The weather was beautiful this day, clear, sunny skies, however, it was pretty cold (-1C)! The bus drops you just at the entrance of the site, to the right you’ll find the info center, Zaans Museum, gift shop, and cafe. to the left windmills, houses, barns, shops a tiny village with canals and lovely open fields. In this first place stop, we bought a 1€ guide for Zaanse Schans and decided to take the tour through this museum (which is free with the Museumkaart) to discover a lot of interesting info.
The Zaan region (named after the Zaan River) was one of the first industrial areas of Western Europe with around 600 mills fully working 😃 this must have been an awesome thing to witness! They were grinding spices, pressing oil, cutting wood, producing flour, rice, cocoa, soaps, paint, paper, and others with the forces of these windmills! And since they were cutting so much wood they also became a major builder of ships. This took place between the 17th and 19th centuries.
What we know today as Zaanse Schans is a result of the relocation of buildings from all across the Zaan region. These were moved by boat and trailers between 1960’s and 70’s before they were victims of the industrial revolution. Yes! these were actually rescued and brought to this open-air museum where they are well-preserved as part of the Dutch heritage.
Some cool stuff to see around:
Visit a working windmill: Some of the active mills include, sawmill, spice mill, oil mill, and paint mill, the price for entering each is 4.50€. You might find some not operating at the time, but at least get into one to take a look at the interiors.
CacaoLab: You can prepare your own hot chocolate cup and there’s a chocolate workshop.
Liqueur distillery de Tweekoppige Phoenix: They have a bar and a shop offering their own liquor. We bought a sampler which included three drinks of our choice. We decided to try Saense Honey whiskey (30% alc) – which was delicious! Anker Genever, a recipe from 1630 (40.2% alc)! And a Tulip Vodka, made from tulip bulbs (41% alc) a very perfumed and kinda sweet but strong taste. I have to say I was really looking forward to trying Genever! Of course, it was terribly strong and alcoholic, but it’s a traditional liquor in the Netherlands.
Go around the lovely village, its a charming and calm walking tour through their streets, canals, and bridges, enjoying the colors of the wooden houses and shops, you can access to some of them.
Hungry? There are a few stands to grab something to eat, some restaurants and a pancake restaurant.
Toilets available for some coins.
The Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm: The second place 🥈 we enjoyed the most! In the entrance, there is a mini tour of cheese history and process, but let’s be honest, I’m here for the cheese!! We just looked around quickly and went to the real thing! A cheese shop with a tasting aisle offering varieties of cheese along with mustard, mayo, and sauces. We were getting hungry too so we grabbed some grilled cheese sandwich and hot chocolate plus some cheese and spicy mayo to take home. Cute thing: the employees in this shop are all wearing really nice traditional dresses. You will also find honey and chocolates in this shop.
And this was the coolest place 🥇 so dutchie, full of tradition and history. They actually show and explain how are clogs made now and how they used to and there is a great variety of curious clogs in display in the shop!
Looking forward to going back to this lovely place and continue to explore it. Seriously, I recommend this trip to anyone spending a few days in Amsterdam! This is so representative of what the Netherlands is and it’s so easy to access!
Leaving you with this final thought of Claude Monet (French painter) 💕🎨
Claude Monet visited the Zaan region and during his stay, he painted more than 20 pieces of arts. This is how he described the place in one of his letters “There are the most amusing things everywhere. Houses of every color, hundreds of windmills and enchanting boats, extremely friendly Dutchmen who almost all speak French…. I have not had time to visit the museums, I wish to work first of all and I’ll treat myself to that later.”