While I have been told that the Zaanse Schans is touristy and many travelers do indeed flock there, I am absolutely smitten with this charming neighborhood of Zaandam! In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were once approximately 600 active windmills in the Zaan district. Zaanse Schans was chosen to recreate that Golden Age in Dutch history, reflecting the historic windmills and green wooden houses of that time. The architect Jaap Schipper came up with the plan for the Zaanse Schans in 1946, and starting in 1961, many buildings and windmills were brought to the area to recreate the industrial history of the Netherlands. Travel back in time to view a clog workshop, climb up a historic windmill, or visit a cheese farm.
CJ and I started our journey at the clog-making workshop to see how these world famous shoes are created! Admission to the workshop is free, and the clog maker takes you through the process from start to finish, showing both by hand and by machine. While CJ and I both watched in awe, we were surprised to find at the end of the workshop, the man propped his feet up to reveal he himself was wearing a pair of clogs the entire time! After the workshop, you are invited to enter the large shop full of ready to wear clogs in all sizes (the man suggested grabbing a pair a size up, as you want to wear very thick socks with these shoes!)
Next, we moseyed over to the beautiful windmills. While they are a sight to see, they are actually still functioning windmills! Each windmill is dedicated to things like paint, chalk, oil, and sawdust. Just a few euros per windmill will allow you to climb a narrow ladder to the deck of each one, and the view is unreal!
For lunch, we walked over to the Pancake Restaurant De Kraai. The pancake restaurant is located in an 18th century Zaan granary, originally located in Wormerveer (one of the many examples of buildings that were transported to the Zaanse Schans to bring you back to the past.) You can sit inside or outside on the patio and take in the view (if you can see it beyond your pancake, which will be the size of your plate!)
After lunch, visit the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm. Cheese makers will explain all different types of cheese and provide demonstrations (including a taste test, of course!) If just a taste is not enough, stock up at the farm shop. In addition to this store, there are many little shops clustered together filled with all things windmills, clogs, tulips, and more.
End the day with a boat tour on the River Zaan. There are a number of routes and types of boats to choose from, it all depends on how you want to experience the Zaanse Schans on the water! To find which one is right for you, refer to the website linked below.
How to get there:
From Amsterdam Central Station to the Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans station is a short 17-minute ride. Then it will be an additional 15-minute walk.