If you’re looking for an idyllic Dutch scene, look no further than Zaanse Schans.

An historic heritage village, Zaanse Schans is a must-visit when in Amsterdam for a taste of traditional Dutch architecture, culture and history. Take in stunning views of the sweeping countryside, discover gorgeous windmills, traditional wooden houses, enjoy interactive workshops and pick up unique souvenirs from local shops. There's plenty to explore with our comprehensive guide to visiting Zaanse Schans.

What is Zaanse Schans?

Built in North Holland on the River Zaan, Zaanse Schans is a picturesque neighbourhood housing an amazing collection of historic windmills. Originally built as a defensive fortification against the Spanish in the Eighty Years’ War, Zaanse Schans has become one of the most recognisable scenes even if you’ve never known its name.

Zaanse Schans Windmills

If you’re looking for windmills near Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans has got you covered. Its multicoloured windmills paint a clear historic image of manufacturing life in the Netherlands. Everything from clog making to creating dyes, Zaanse Schans is home to some of the oldest windmills in the world, with the oldest one, De Zoeker, being built in 1672.

The mills in the area have different purposes. Some like De Os (The Ox), De Zoeker (The Seeker) and De Bonte Hen (The Spotted Hen) are oil mills, crushing seed like rapeseed and linseed to create oils.

Others like De Gekroonde Poelenburg (The Crowned Poelenburg), Het Jonge Schaap (The Young Sheep) and Het Klaverblad (The Cloverleaf) are all saw mills. Finally there are De Huisman (The Houseman) and De Kat (The Cat) which are mustard mills and dye mills respectively.

What to do at Zaanse Schans?

The eye-catching windmills are not the only things to see and do in this leafy village outside of Amsterdam. The free park the windmills are situated in also houses a clog-maker’s factory where you can see just how the wooden shoes are made.

Local to the area there is also a cheese farm where you can see the intricate process that goes into creating the famous Dutch Gouda cheese.

There is also the Zaanse Museum which delves into the areas manufacturing prowess, with interactive exhibits allowing you to operate a chocolate wrapping machine or help repair watches.

The area also offers a range of walking and boat tours, giving you every chance to see the quaint village from every possible viewpoint while visiting Zaanse Schans.

Getting yourself an Amsterdam Pass you’ll snag yourself free admission to both the Zaanse Museum and Zaanse Time Museum, as well as a windmill of your choice. If you fancy checking out more than one mill you’ll get a sweet 50% off extra discount. The handy pass will also give you access to the Weaver’s House and Cooperage for free too. On top of that you’ll earn yourself some helpful discounts including a 30% discount at the Honig Breethuis, a perfectly preserved house from the early 18th century that once belonged to a merchant family. You’ll also garner yourself 10% souvenir discount in the local shops and catering venues.

Top Tips for Zaanse Schans

  • The park is open year round but if you want to have the chance to see inside all of the windmills, the best time to visit is between April and October. In the winter only a few of the windmills are open to the public.
  • If you want to stay in the area over night, be sure to book early as the local accommodation options are few.
  • Like Amsterdam, Zaans has a local bike tour operator if you’d like to continue your journey on two wheels. This is closed from October to March though so make other arrangements in the off-season.

Fun Facts about Zaanse Schans

  • The area was historically not home to these windmills with all of them being moved here from 1961 to create the feel of a historic Dutch village. Using lowboy trailers, the windmills were moved from their original building spots and transported on road in their full structures.
  • Many of the structures are not the original structures with a handful being rebuilt or redeveloped over the years.
  • The majority were built during the Dutch Golden Age but some fell into disrepair or were declared surplus to requirements and dismantled. This was only reversed when their national heritage was recognised.
  • Zaanse Schans takes its name from the River Zaans and the historic fortification that was once built here. Originally a sconce (Schans in Dutch), an earthen redoubt built to protect the location from the Spanish occupying soldiers in the Eighty Years’ War, the remains of the defense are now hard to spot.

Opening hours for Zaanse Schans

The majority of sights at Zaanse Schans open to the public from around 9am, some open slightly earlier (8:30am) and some later in the day (1pm) so be sure to check what you want to see before visiting Zaanse Schans. Some windmills that are open in the low winter season only open by appointment, so if you want to visit De Gekroonde Poelneburg or De Zoeker, you will need to contact them prior to visiting.

Most of the facilities, barring the restaurants, lose around 5pm with the cruise shutting at 4pm.

Please note the whole area is closed on December 25th and January 1st.

How to get to Zaanse Schans

If you’re coming from Amsterdam there are viable public transport routes. You can choose to take the train from the Central station to Koog-Zaandijk which take 15 minutes before a ten minute walk sees you arrive. You can also take the 391 bus to Zaanse Schans too if you fancy.