Zaanse Schans

Dutch heritage with wooden windmills, water and museums

Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands is world famous. The area gives a good example of the Dutch history. According to scholars, the Zaan region was the first industrial area in Western Europe. This region played an important role in the Golden Age.

You must have seen the windmills of Zaanse Schans. These mills are the last remaining of the hundreds that once stood in this area. Like the canals of Amsterdam, this is a relic of the Golden Age.

These tips and sights help you plan your visit to Zaanse Schans. So you get the most out of your visit. With this information you can outsmart the large crowds in this living open-air museum just outside Zaandam. That is easily accessible from Amsterdam. And perfect for a holiday in the province of North Holland.

Free Entry to Zaanse Schans

Not everyone knows that there is no entry fee to visit Zaanse Schans. An entry fee is payable for the museums and various mills. This helps  to limit the number of people entering. As well as to generate an income for the museums. So that they can maintain the mills.

Incidentally, there are plans to ask everyone for entrance fees to Zaanse Schans. This is to limit the increasing number of tourists, but also for management, maintenance and the like. As soon as the rules change I will mention it here.

How Many Mills does Zaanse Schans have?

There are 12 windmills at Zaanse Schans. And four more in the vicinity. It seems like a lot, but it's not. In fact, it is only a fraction of what was seen here centuries ago. Imagine if you only saw water with mills as far as you could see.

The Largest Industrial Estate in Western Europe

According to calculations, 639 (!) mills were once housed here. Trade goods came via Amsterdam to the Zaan region from all kinds of countries. A remarkable number of raw materials were processed in Zaanse Schans.

About 160 of them were oil mills, 245 sawmills, but also peeling mills, paint mills and paper mills were found here. For example, wood for shipbuilding was prepared here, oil was extracted from seeds, paper made from hemp and a lot of cocoa was produced.

Most of it is gone. Only a small part of the former industrial estate remains. Although wood, nuts and cocoa are still processed today. But that's to a large extent for the tourists. Who would like to see a touch of the Dutch past?

Paint Mill De Kat

Windmill De Kat.

De Kat is the only working paint mill in the world. Once upon a time there were about 50 paint mills here. The original oil mill was built in 1645, but the paint mills date back to 1781. And was later partially rebuilt.

Paint is still sold here. In all colours. There are also one-day painting workshops. De Kat is one of the most beautiful mills in Zaanse Schans. It is located at 29 Kalverringdijk.

Spice Mill De Huisman

Spice Mill De Huisman (The Houseman) is still used to make mustard. The date this mill was built is unknown. Papers show that in 1802 a mill called De Huisman was sold. At the time, it was a snuff mill, where tobacco was processed.

But when tobacco became increasingly difficult to obtain, the mill was converted to make mustard. This is where the famous Zaanse Mustard is made. The mill used to be located elsewhere in Zaandam. It was completely restored in 2011 to the traditional set-up. This famous mill is located at 23 Kalverringdijk.

Sawmill De Gekroonde Poelenburg

Sawmill De Gekroonde Poelenburg (The Crowned Poelenburg) is also a striking appearance in the landscape. Research shows that this mill dates back to 1867. The sawmill was at a different location, but when the new residential area with the name Poelenburg was built, it had to be relocated. In 1963 the mill was moved to its current location.

This mill is special, because in the entire Zaan region there are only two of these types of sawmills. The other is De Held Jozua in Zaandam. The Gekroonde Poelenbrug is located at 27 Kalverringdijk.

Het Jonge Schaap

A view at Windmill Het Jonge Schaap.

Het Jonge Schaap (The Young Sheep) was built in 2007 as a traditional sawmill. Despite fierce protests from the locals this mill was demolished in 1942. But an expert in mill construction Anton Sipman had measured the mill in every detail. As a result, the new construction went quickly. And an exact copy of the mill was built on the same spot. The mill still deserves a place in Zaanse Schans. You will find mill Het Jonge Schaap at 31a Kalverringdijk.

Sawmill Het Klaverblad

Sawmill Het Klaverblad (The Cloverleaf) is an old type of polder mill. The uniqueness is that the entire upper house with a tail is rotatable. Most of these types of mills were used to dry polders and keep them dry. The mill was built between 2000 and 2005, so that a disappeared mill type came back into the landscape. It can be visited by appointment. You can find it at 37 Kalverringdijk.

Oil Mill De Zoeker

Oliemolen De Zoeker (The Seeker) is a mill with a unique history. The mill was built in 1672 by the millwright Claas Pietersz Baas who lived in Zaandijk. It was first an oil mill, but in 1891 it became a paint mill.

The oil mill was hit by a gust of wind in 1925. It looked like yet another mill seemed to disappear from the typical Dutch landscape. Which was dear to the hearts of many locals. Mill lover Frans Mars called on the locals to unite. And soon the Association De Zaansche Molen was founded and they rebuilt it. The volunteer organization is still fully engaged in protecting and maintaining the mills.

In the fifties of the last century, the municipality bought the mill. In 1968 the mill moved by unique transport, right through the village, over the railway line to the other side of Zaan. The Seeker is located at 31 Kalverringdijk.

Mill De Windhond

The Windhond is different. It was a birthday present from Jan Zwart for his son Tijmen. Jan built the mill in 1890, so that his son could learn how a mill works. Back then, children could make some money by making gravel out of stones. In this mill, broken millstones of sandstone were ground into smaller parts. The result was fine sand, which was a fine and abrasive.

Oil Mill De Bonte Hen

The beauty of De Bonte Hen.

The Oil Mill De Bonte Hen (The Spotted Hen) was built in 1693. It was originally a sawmill, which later became an oil mill. But they were the only remnants, which reminded us of the golden age. In 1973 the Association De Zaansche Molen bought the mill remnant from De Bonte Hen. With money from volunteers and government support, the mill was reopened in 1975. You can find it at 39 Kalverringdijk.

Windmill De Bleeke Dood

The flour mill De Bleeke Dood (The Pale Dead) dates back to 1656. It is the oldest still existing wooden scaffolding mill in the Netherlands. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, bakers were obliged to have their wheat milled into flour in this mill. But when the obligation expired, the mill fell into disrepair.

Windmill De Hadel

De Hadel is a seesaw mill, or rather meadow mill. You will soon see this mill when you visit the Zaanse Schans. It is popular for photos, because it is easily accessible. And relatively small; it is called a mini-mill. The mill originally milled the water from Broerdijk. It was later rebuilt in the Zaanse Schans to grind the water around in the ditches. So that it stays fresh.

Meadow Mill Het Zwarte Kalf

Weidemolen Het Zwarte Kalf (The Black Calf) is a meadow mill. And also a mini-mill. It was used to remove the water for agriculture. This mill rotates with the wind through the huge wind vane. The name Black Calf is derived from an older meadow mill, the Calf. And hence the current mill is black. This meadow mill has recently been restored. You will find the Black Calf behind mill de Kat.

Meadow Mill de Kaatmolen

Weidemolen de Kaatmolen originally comes from the Westzijderveld. The name comes from the previous owner: Piet Kaat. It's still in operation.

Oil Mill De Ooijevaar

Oil mill De Ooijevaar is a little bit different. It is therefore not a Zaanse mill, but it comes from Assendelft. And once stood at the Jan Baningerslot in Delft. Saendijk is where the windmills are made. The barn is still used and you can usually see and hear people at work.

Meadow Mill De Kroosduiker

Meadow Mill De Kroosduiker was originally located at the Blauwselfabriek in Westzaan. It is quite new: it was built in 1933. It was completely restored in 2012 and still grinds. You can find it in the Kalverpolder in Zaanse Schans.

Oil Mill De Os

De Os is one of the oldest industrial mills in the Zaan region. It dates from 1649, but in 1916 the hood, the rods and the upper wheel were removed. Today, only the hull and barn ar still visible. The mill barn has been turned into two houses. The address is Kalverringdijk 35.

Cheese factory De Catharinahoeve

Cheese factory De Catharinahoeve has been a household name for years. Here you can see how cheese is made by Henri Willig. De Haal is a former hay barn where you can now experience how cheese has been made for centuries. In the store you can taste and buy the cheeses including herb cheese and goat cheese. Catharina Hoeve is located at 5 Zeilenmakerspad.

A lovely view of Zaanse Schans.

Zaans Museum

The Zaans Museum is a cultural-historical museum. Here you can get all kinds of information about the mills, the people and the rich history. The majority of the collection comes from the local Jacob Honig Jansz Jr.

In the museum you will find, among other things, the 18th century Weaver's House. Here you can see how the tarpaulin for mills are woven. De Kuiperij is the place where the tubs, or barrels, were made. Wine and beer were stored here. But also fresh drinking water and fish. The fish were stacked in layers with salt in a barrel.

The Jisperhuisje is a replica of a fisherman's house from the town of Jisp. Experience what the life of a fisherman's wife was like. You will also witness the heyday of the Zaan industry.

The museum is located right next to Zaanse Schans. Two other branches of the Zaans Museum are the Czar Peter House and the Hembrug Museum. These are not located on the Zaanse Schans, but in the center of Zaandam and definitely worth a visit.

Museum Zaanse Tijd

The Museum Zaanse Tijd was originally called Zaans Uurwerkmuseum. Due to the arrival of the sawmills that could cut wood, clockmaker Cornelis Michielszoon Volger was able to make wooden clocks on a large scale. This was in the 17th century. You will find the museum in a beautiful 17th century entrepreneurial building.

Bakery Museum In de Gecroonde Duyvekater

The Bakery Museum in de Gecroonde Duyvekater is a museum. But also a working bakery and bakery shop. The name comes from the famous Duivekater, a Zaan sweetbread. But you can also buy freshly made speculaas (spiced biscuits) at the shop. As well as chocolate, chewy Dutch gingerbread and confectionery.

You should give Duivekater a try, it is a typical delicacy from Zaanse Schans. It is a typical round, sweet white bread, which used to be a traditional party bread. You can taste it in the bakery museum In the Gecroonde Duyvekater. There are several varieties, with different tastes.

The Two-Headed Phoenix

The Two-Headed Phoenix is a museum, tasting room and liquor store. Here you can taste traditionally made Saense Whisky. Or try an authentic local jenever (kind of gin). It is a good place to be after a visit to Zaanse Schans. Where you can also learn how these drinks are prepared. And possibly buy it for home.

Guided Tour by Boat

The Zaanse Schans is located on the Zaan river. This was once the lifeline and it meanders through the landscape. Even now most of the mills are located on this river. This makes the area perfect to explore by boat. You can take remarkably beautiful photos. And also photos that are different from most that you see.

There are a variety of guided boat tours. Including classic boats, but also, the traditional cow boat. This boat used to be used a lot to transport cows over the water. Along the way, the guide gives a wealth of information about the area, the mills and all the work that happened here. And still happens.

Zaanferry from Amsterdam

The Zaanferry is perfect for when you want to go from Amsterdam Central Station to the Zaanse Schans. You will also sail past monumental warehouses from the past. It's a Hop on hop off concept, so you have a lot of freedom.

Foot Ferry Zaanse Schans

One of the best trips is by foot ferry between the characteristic village Zaandijk and Zaanse Schans. This ferry for people on foot has existed since 2007. Local volunteers maintain this mobile riverbank connection.

The ferry sails in the summer months. You can board daily from 1 May to 30 September from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. There can be 12 persons at a time on the foot ferry. The trip takes five minutes and is perfect for photos.

My tip: A Round Trip of Zaanse Schans

The foot ferry is perfect for a round trip of Zaanse Schans. Which allows you to cross over and therefore walk on both sides. This prevents you from having to go back on the same path. It is best to go out early in the morning, so that you can do the whole round trip at your leisure.

Zaanse Schans with a Rental Boat

You can also visit this area by renting a boat. There are several jetties, so ask around for prices, availability and so on. But keep in mind, it can get very busy here with boats.

How Do I Avoid The Crowds?

Anyone who has ever been to the Zaanse Schans will notice that there are many foreign tourists. They arrive in large buses, walk around a bit and take a lot of photos. After which they move on to the next attraction. But you can avoid most of them by going early in the morning. The end of the day, with a lovely sunset, is also a good option.

Hiking De Molenroute (8,5 km)

Wooden shoes at Zaanse Schans.

You can hike the Molenroute from the Zaanse Schans, but also from Koog-Zaandijk station. Hiking is also possible before and after opening hours. It is best to go early in the morning before the Zaanse Schans opens or in the evening. Then you can see how the last sunlight illuminates the mills and the surroundings. With the golden hour as an encore. This is perfect for a beautiful summer evening.

Accessibility and parking Zaanse Schans

By car

From Amsterdam you drive down the A8 in the direction of Zaanstad/Purmerend. Take exit Purmerend A7. Then follow the signs Zaanse Schans. From Alkmaar it is in the direction of Wormerveer / Zaandam. Then follow the Zaanse Schans signs.


Zaanse Schans has its own parking lot. It can get busy on weekends and in high season. The parking fee is used for the maintenance of the historical buildings on Zaanse Schans.

By Train

By train you can easily go from Amsterdam Central Station to Uitgeest or Alkmaar. You can get off at Koog-Zaandijk station. You then walk to the Zaanse Schans in a short time.

By Bus

From Amsterdam Central Station, a bus (line 391) leaves every half hour to Zaanse Schans. You can also get on and off at Zaandam Kogerveld railway station.

From Zaandam station, a bus (line 89) leaves every half hour to Zaanse Schans. You can get off at the bus stop at the mill De Bleeke Dood. After which you can easily walk around Zaanse Schans.

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