The Top 5 Things to Do in Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam

November 21, 2017

What comes first into your mind when you think of the Netherlands? For most of the tourists it must be: Tulips, Cheese, Windmills, and Wooden clogs. And this small village - “Zaanse Schans”, located just 20 minutes away from the Amsterdam central, gives you the possibility to experience and explore all the above in one place!

Here in Zaanse Schans, you’ll get to experience the age-old windmills, delicious cheese & chocolate factories, wooden clog making workshop, authentic houses dated from the Dutch golden age period (17th – 18th century), museums explaining the operation of Dutch East India Company, their world-wide trade, all of them on the beautiful backdrop of river “Zaan”. In general, you’ll feel this village more like an open-air museum full of traditional Dutch industries, trade, and culture.

1. WINDMILLS
Initially, these windmills were formed to take-out the water from the village, more like a fortification to the entering sea water. Later, during the Dutch Industrial revolution in 17th century, more and more windmills were created which grinned spices, barley, paper, cooking oil, and even they’re used to produce paints. Out of those 1000+ windmills, now only 17 survives and still busy grinding.

If you’re on tight budget, you can see De Huisman (The Houseman) which allows you completely “ free” to visit the wheels and see how it grids the spicy mustard. For other mills, you have to pay a bit (or a donation); for climbing to the top of the windmills, you may need to pay €3 - 4 extra.

2. WOODEN CLOG MAKING WORKSHOP & MUSEUM 
Visit to Zaanse Schans may not be complete if you’re not visiting this wooded clog shop / workshop / Museum. This wooden shoe shop was once used as a mere warehouse, but now an awesome museum with all colourful wooden shoes.

Here, we can also witness clog making demonstrations; there are a few guys in the shop, who’re very fluent in Dutch, English, German and Italian show us a live demo of how they make those lovely shoes. You can even try your hands in making as well wearing them. The entrance and demo are completely free; but you might get tempted to buy a pair of shoes for yourself as a souvenir – which is not free 😈

➤ Address: Kraaienest 4, 1509 AZ Zaandam
➤ Opening Hours: Everyday, 8AM–5PM
➤ More details: http://www.woodenshoes.nl/en

3. THE CATHARINA HOEVE CHEESE FARM 

This place is just right next to the windmills, a mini-palace of cheese; you’ll get to see, taste and buy a large variety with most delicious flavours. There are live demonstrations of making tasty cheese. They are also very liberal with the cheese samples, you can taste every variety well before you buy. There’s a small café area also inside. But that’s it!.

➤ Address: Zeilenmakerspad 5, 1509 BZ Zaandam
➤ Opening Hours: Mon-Sunday 9 AM - 5PM

4. ZAANS MUSEUM & VERKADE PAVILLION
The Zaans Museum shall take you back over centuries, you can explore the day-to-day life and business operations of Zaan people in the olden days. Zaan region (Zaandam - Northern Holland area) was once the biggest industrial areas of the whole Europe; this museum has tons of evidence to educate us on how Zaan achieved the feat using their worst enemies- water and wind! It’s a real talent to change your hurdles into a stepping stone. Isn't it?

Verkade Experience: The Zaan food industry is brought to life in the heart of the museum in the Verkade Experience. Imagine yourself in a chocolate and biscuit factory from the early 20th century, the machines are still running making delicious chocolates and cookies. You can test your hands in making as well tasting.

➤ Address: Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam
➤ Opening hours : Open daily from 10:00 - 17:00
➤ Price : Children up to and including 3 years free - Children 4 to 17 years € 6 - Adults € 10

5. OTHER PLACES TO VISIT :
Museumwinkel Albert Heijn – This small museum tells you the story of supermarket giant Albert Heijn; it tells you a brief of how the 21-year-old Albert Heijn took over the store from his parents in 1887 and grew it into one of the top supermarket chains of Europe.
 Address: Zaandam, Kalverringdijk 5
➤ Opening hours: Tue-Fri: 10:30 am to 4:00 pm, Sat & Sun: 10:30 am to 4:00 pm, closed between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm.
➤ Entrance fee: free

De Kruiperij or the Weavershouse: Here you will discover everything about the old-Dutch craft of sail and mill weaving.
➤ Address: De Kwakels 2, 1509 BX Zaandam
➤ Entrance fee: free

De Gecroonde Duyvekater : This friendly museum dates from 1658. This is actually a bakery shop, with an authentic bread oven making delectable goodies. You can, of course, taste all of them for free.
➤ Address: Zeilenmakerspad 4 , 1509 BZ Zaandam
➤ Opening Hours: All days in the week, 09: 00 am – 5:00 pm


HOW TO REACH?
➤ Train: You can board trains from Amsterdam Central; get-down at Zaandijk station (20 minutes from Amsterdam Central); Zaanse Schans is about 10 minutes’ walk from there. Just follow the signs and enjoy the loveliness of authentic Dutch houses (dating from 17th century) with the aroma of chocolate factories all along. You’ll love the walk.
➤ Bus: Take route number: 391 from Amsterdam Central, you’ll find yourself at Zaanse Schans in approx.: 40 minutes.
➤ Car: Set your GPS to “Zaans Museum” where you have a big parking area for the visitors. Address: Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam
➤ Bike: Many enthusiastic tourists rent a bike from Amsterdam and cycle all through the Zaanse. It’s about 22 kilo-meters from Amsterdam (approximately 1:30 hours as per google). It’ll be an awesome experience to bike; but mind the weather – wind can be challenging at times.
➤ I heard that, some private tour operators also provide boat service from Amsterdam central to Zaanse. But, personally I have not tried nor heard any first-hand experience.

HOTELS / WHERE TO STAY:
If you really want to stay in the same village, on the banks of river Zaan with typical Zaan style buildings, then you can choose a B&B (Bed & Breakfast) in the area; www.bedandbreakfast.nl is your friend; but your options are very limited.

If you’re okay with 15-30 minutes travel then there’re so many good options. Search google, booking.com, Airbnb…everyone is your friend:).

TIPS / NOTES:
➤ Many private tour companies arrange day tours from Amsterdam, but Zaanse Schans is quite easy to reach and explore by yourselves. Just follow the directions and recommendations I mentioned above, you’ll save a lot on your budget!
➤ Most of the windmills & attractions are free to enter; however, you’ll have to pay € 3-4 to if you wish to climb on the windmills. Depends on your interest /plans / times, you may buy “Zaanse Schans Card”, or the combi-tickets at Zaanse Schans Museum. It’ll be economical if you visit all/more places; otherwise not!
➤ When you visit the Zaanse Schans Museum, you get a very good discount on your parking. If you go by car, make use of it.

OVERALL: Zaanse Schans did not disappoint and was even more beautiful than the first time I saw it! If you have a little bit of extra time after your Amsterdam trip,  I would highly recommend taking a day trip here! You cannot miss this little slice of the Old Holland!

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