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This article lists the best things to do in Zaanse Schans, apart from seeing the famous Zaanse Schans windmills.
What pops into your head when you think of Holland? Let me guess.. You thought of windmills, right? Holland or the Netherlands may be famous for many things such as cheese, wooden shoes, canals and fries but the one thing that everyone thinks of when they imagine Holland is windmills. Not only are the Zaanse Schans windmills absolutely picture perfect and representative of the country but they are also a short distance from Amsterdam, making them an extremely popular and easy day trip. In this travel guide, we will explore the best things to do in Zaanse Schans apart from visiting the absolutely gorgeous Zaanse Schans windmills.
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Where is Zaanse Schans Located?
Zaanse Schans is situated only 20 km north of Amsterdam which is why it is the perfect day trip. There are many ways to go from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, which I have described in detail in one of the sections below. Given the incredible train and bus connectivity in the Amsterdam region, not only can you visit and explore the things to do in Zaanse Schans in one day but you will also have time to visit one of the many other charming towns on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
Why is Zaanse Schans Famous?
If the Zaanse Schans windmills are not enough to make you realize why this idyllic town near Amsterdam is so famous then perhaps the many museums, including one that lets you pet the animals, and a wooden shoe workshop among other things might capture your attention. All things aside, Zaanse Schans is a place where you can get away from the city, enjoy the landscape, walk around, sit at idyllic spots with views of the windmills while still being super close to Amsterdam city.
All these reasons combined is what makes it worthwhile to take a day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans.
Can You Visit Zaanse Schans for Free?
A lot of people seem to wonder if it is free to visit Zaanse Schans. In fact, while I was doing some research before writing this travel guide, I saw that a lot of people search the web for a Zaanse Schans ticket. The good news is that there is no ticket needed to visit Zaanse Schans, since it is a town that anyone can enter freely. Quite naturally, you will need to buy a ticket if you want to see a windmill from the inside but the town is absolutely free for anyone to visit at any time of the day or year.
How Much Time Do You Need in Zaanse Schans? How Long to Spend Seeing the Zaanse Schans Windmills?
Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans is a 15 minute train ride which means that getting to Zaanse Schans will not take up much of your time. So how much time do you need in Zaanse Schans? Ideally, you should spend about 3-4 hours in Zaanse Schans but in all honesty, you’ll want to spend a lot more time here. Walking around the town and seeing the Zaanse Schans windmills will take about two hours but if you want to see the museums and other places to see in Zaanse Schans then spare at least 3-4 hours.
Zaanse Schans Windmills
The windmills in Zante schans bring millions of visitors to this small neighborhood every year. These windows were originally relocated from northern Holland to this location in order to preserve them. However, two of the Windmills here were actually constructed in Zaanse Schans rather than relocated from another place. Set along the Zaan river and painted in hues of green, these Dutch windmills are a sight to behold. Some of them are even open to visitors. You just need to be at the counter if you want to visit the inside of the windmill.
How to go from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans
Since a day trip to Zaanse Schans is a popular thing to do for people visiting Amsterdam and its close proximity to the city, getting here from Amsterdam is super easy and there are many ways to get here.
Amsterdam to the Zaanse Schans Windmills By Car
The most convenient way to reach Zaanse Schans is to drive there from Amsterdam. There are many options to rent a car in Amsterdam and then drive to your destination. This way you’ll have a lot of flexibility in terms of time and you are not bound by the train timings.
Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans by Train
To travel from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, you can buy a one way ticket directly from the train station at Amsterdam central or Sloterdijk station. Alternatively, you could even buy the Amsterdam and region ticket for a day or more and then take any train in this region. We found that dreams in the Amsterdam region are frequent and mostly punctual so it was actually quite convenient to travel around Amsterdam by train, without having to worry about driving or parking.
See the Zaanse Schans Windmills from Amsterdam on a Tour
When I visited Zaanse Schans, I saw many tour groups who were also visiting Zaanse Schans, taking a tour inside one of the windmills and dining at one of the restaurants in Zaanse. This is probably the easiest way for you to see this charming town, without worrying about planning the whole trip yourself. If you’re worried about the tour groups being too big and not getting enough value from it, then consider booking a Zaanse Schans tour with a small group.
Parking in Zaanse Schans
There is a parking facility available at Zaanse Schans which is located towards the east side of the town near the wooden shoe workshop Museum. At the moment, parking a car here costs €12 for the entire day.
Day Trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam
A Zaanse Schans day trip from Amsterdam is super easy and you can plan the whole thing within minutes by yourself. My husband and I took a day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans and Zaandam. We were staying near the Amsterdam Sloterdijk train station so we first bought the Amsterdam and region one day tickets for each of us. Next we took the train going that dropped us at Zaanse Schans in about 15 minutes. We spent about 3 or 4 hours exploring the Zaanse Schans windmills and the cute little town. Next, we took a train going back towards Amsterdam central but stopped at Zaandam and took a stroll in the beautiful city center and then finally caught a train back to Amsterdam.
Best Time to Visit Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands
Given that Zaanse Schans is simply a Dutch neighborhood, you can visit it at any time of the year to see the windmills, the museums and to walk around the town. That being said, the most popular time of the year to visit Zaanse Schans is summer due to the great weather. However it can get quite crowded because everyone who visits Amsterdam in the summer is very likely to take a day trip to Zaanse Schans as well. Furthermore, spring is also a popular time to visit Holland because of the tulip fields so it can get busy during this time of the year as well.So what’s the ideal time or season to visit Zaanse Schans? The autumn months of September and October are not as busy as summer but the weather is still pleasant enough to walk around and explore the town. When we took a trip to Amsterdam and the nearby places in October 2022, it was sunny. The fields around the windmills were still green but there weren’t as many people as there would be in summer.
Things to do in Zaanse Schans on a Day Trip
Here’s a list of the 9 best things to do in Zaanse Schans within a day. You can skip some of the museums if you’re trying to save time but it is highly recommended that you try to visit as many spots as you can.
1. Zaanse Schans Windmills
As mentioned earlier, the Zaanse Schans windmills are the main reason that so many tourists visit here each year. In 2017 alone, around 2.2 million people visited this neighborhood – just for the windmills. There are many creative angles to photograph these windmills, even when there are many visitors around. There are 8 windmills in Zaanse Schans, all of which were constructed after 1574.
2. Tour of a Working Zaanse Schans Windmill
You can take a tour inside one of the windmills simply by paying a small admission fee at the counter at the entrance. When we were at Zaanse Schans, some of the windmills were not functioning and were closed. But you can look out for the ones that have their entrance doors open and then enquire at the person sitting there. In autumn there weren’t any long queues to go inside but in summer you might have to wait a few minutes to be admitted in the windmills.
3. Cheese Farm
The cheese farm at Zaanse Schans is open all around the year and is a typical Dutch experience that you just cannot skip! This experience is especially great if you’re here with kids since they actually let you pet the animals at the farm. I legit saw a toddler petting a goat and it was the cutest thing ever!! You can look around and learn about different types of cheese and even take some goodies back home for yourself or as gifts for your loved ones.
4. Chocolate Factory – Blik op de Zaan
This Zaanse Schans chocolate factory, called Blik op de Zaan is actually an experience museum. Here you will get to learn about the history of the cocoa bean in Holland. You can even grind your own beans, taste the peanut butter at the museum and make chocolate milk for yourself. This interactive museum is perfect for families with kids and for those who can’t resist cocoa.
5. Zaanse Schans Wooden Shoe Museum
The wooden shoe workshop and museum is one of the top things to do in Zaanse Schans. Wooden shoes or clogs are an integral part of Dutch culture – the Dutch or Nederlanders have clogs for every occasion – be it Sundays, gatherings or weddings. This wooden shoe museum showcases the history of the clogs beautifully and completely free of cost. In fact, they even have demonstrations and workshops that you need to book and pay for separately.
6. Zaanse Time Museum
If you’re interested in or fascinated by ancient clocks, how they work, their design and functionality then you can skip a visit to the Zaanse Time Museum. Whether it’s bell towers or pendulum clocks, this museum showcases and explains all sorts of clocks that date back many centuries. The museum is open on all days throughout the year and has an entrance fee.
7. Bakery Museum
Yet another museum that’s always open to visitors, the Bakery museum at Zaanse Schans dates back to 1658. Here you can try baked goodies and breads, taste all sorts of products and take back some delicious treats. It is suggested to try the Duivekater here which is a traditional Dutch sweet bread.
8. Albert Heijn Museum Shop
Albert Heijn is actually a chain of stores that can be seen all across the Netherlands. In fact, this large chain of grocery stores originated as a small grocer’s store. In this museum shop in Zaanse Schans, you can actually see what the old grocer’s store used to look like. Even the construction of the building where this museum shop is located dates back to the 19th century.
9. Jisper House
If you want to do a photoshoot in a Dutch town wearing a traditional Dutch dress with windmills in the backdrop, then head over to Jisper house. Originally a fisherman’s cottage, today you can step inside the house, try on a local costume that is an example of the clothing that was worn in the 1800s and take pictures while wearing a traditional dress from the Zaan region!
Places to Eat in Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is a very small neighborhood and despite its popularity, it hasn’t been commercialized yet, thankfully. And so you won’t find a whole lot of options of restaurants or cafes in Zaanse Schans. However, there is a small store selling fresh stroopwafels near the wooden shoe museum and I spotted a restaurant here as well. These places are all on the east part of the neighborhood, near the parking lot.
Where to Stay in Zaanse Schans
The Zaanse Schans neighborhood falls under Zaandam – which is an equally beautiful place. The Zaandam city center looks like it’s completely out of this world! You will find a few hotels in Zaandam, which is only 5 minutes by train from Zaanse Schans.
Heading to the Netherlands?
Checkout these travel blog posts, all of which open in a new tab, if you’re heading to the Netherlands and other parts of western Europe.
- How to Spend 48 Hours in Amsterdam
- Things to do in Giethoorn – A fairytale village in the Netherlands
- 15 Things to do in a Weekend in Copenhagen
- Best things to do during Spring in Paris
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