Zaanse Schans consists of a row of old but still functioning windmills and green painted houses and barns along a river in the Dutch countryside. The historic village is free to visit and easy to reach. A day trip to Zaanse Schans might be a little touristy perhaps, but, for half a day trip, Zaanse Schans is a charming and interesting place to visit from Amsterdam, also with children.
Day trips to Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is located just North of Amsterdam, along the river the Zaan, an area known as Zaanstreek. At Zaanse schans you can see 7 active wind mills. In the typical Dutch barns you can watch Dutch crafts like wooden shoesmakingt, cheese making and bread baking. You also can taste many different cheeses and chocolate from Holland.
From Amsterdam to Zaanse schans from Amsterdam it takes about 40 minutes by train or bus. A visit to Zaanse Schans can best be combined with a visit to an other historical village such as Volendam, Marken and Monnickendam. The most part of Zaanse Schans is free to visit.
Below there are some good tours that take you to the wind mills of Zaanse Schans and to see of the other villages on a day trip.
History of Zaanse Schans
The name Schans refers to a defense works. It was constructed by the Dutch people to fight off the Spanish during the 80-year war. The battle and the Zaanse victory of 1574 is memorized every year with a reenactment.
In the 17th century some 1000 wind mills stood along the river to make flour (for bread) and cacoa (for chocolate). There were also wind mills that sawed wood, crushed seeds to make oil, to grind spices and to grind colored wood to fabricate paint. The Zaanstreek is often named as the world’s first industrialized area.
Towards 1850, steam engines took over wind mills’ job. Around 1920 only some 20 wind mills remained along the river, unused. To save the last Dutch wind mills in this area, 13 mills were moved and saved. Together with the wind mills, houses and barns were placed at the new Zaanse Schans area. The open air museum of Zaanse Schans with its many windmills and barns is now a popular tourist attraction in Holland.
Last paint mill in the world
Nowadays you can take a look inside the fully functioning wind mills of Zaanse Schans, like De Kat (The Cat). This wind mill at Zaanse Schans is, probably the last paint wind mill in the world. It’s quite impressive to walk around inside and outside the wind mill and see the wooden parts and millstones grind. The millstones grind colored wood to obtain powders that can be used to make paint by adding oil of egg. The paint is for sale at the mill.
Dutch crafts, chocolate and cheese
Apart from wind mills, there are also many craft shops at Zaanse Schans. Several Dutch crafts are demonstrated: from wood working to cheese making and bread baking. At the Dutch cheese shop you can taste the many cheeses with a large variety of excellent mustards. The cheeses are all young cheeses. If you want to buy a cheese with a strong taste, it’s best to go to a real cheese shop in the city or supermarket and get a boerenkaas or oude kaas, which have stronger taste than these young cheeses.
Chocolate shop and wooden shoes workshop
At the small but charmingly decorated chocolate shop you can grind your own chocolate and prepare your own chocolate drink. There is also a liqueur distillery, a barrel maker and a wooden shoes workshop where you can make your own Dutch clogs.
Dutch Albert Heijn and Verkade
The strong smell of chocolate in the air sends out a signal: that the Zaanstreek still is a highly industrialized area and chocolate is still in the making every day. The well known supermarket Dutch Albert Heijn originated rom this area, as well as the famous Dutch chocolate brand Verkade.
How to get to Zaanse Schans
A day trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam can be made by bus, train, car or bicycle.
To Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam by bus
Bus 391 is called the Industrial Heritage Line. It leaves from Amsterdam Central Station (platform E), passes the NDSM wharf and ends at Zaanse Schans. Check http://www.bus391.nl/
To Zaanse Schans by train from Amsterdam
From Amsterdam you can also take a train to Koog-Zaandijk. The train takes you there in 17 minutes. From there it’s another 15 minute walk.
To Zaanse Schans by car from Amsterdam
It’s really easy to get to Zaanse Schans by car from Amsterdam. Just take the ring A10, direction North. Continue on A8 and follow signs for Leeuwarden/Purmerend/Zaanstad. Take exit 2 (direction Zaandijk). From there you can follow the sigs to Zaanse Schans. Depending where you are in Amsterdam, it should take you about 30 minutes. Parking costs in 2015 € 9 for a day ticket.
To Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam by bike
Sporty types can also bike to Zaanse Schans. It’s about 17 kilometres, so it should take you a little over an hour to get there.