Things to see near Amsterdam – The Village of Zaanse Schans
For a look at a quintessential Dutch village of the 18th – 19th centuries, visit Zaanse Schans. Though Kinderdijk may have more windmills, Zaanse Schans offers a more authentic experience, and makes for a nice day (or half-day) side trip from Amsterdam.
The picturesque village of Zaanse Schans, in essence a living history museum, features several windmills (a number of which are still operational),
quaint and colorful houses, and museums and shops showcasing the historical trades that put ‘Holland’ on the map. You’ll see clog makers, cheese making demonstrations, an operable lumber mill, and if you like, you can try your hand at making chocolate.
The main attraction of Zaanse Schans may be the windmills. Moved (along with several of the buildings you’ll see) from their original locations across the Zaan River region and reassembled here, they help to preserve the history of ‘Western Europe’s oldest industrial area’. In its heyday, the region was known for producing such commodities as hemp, lumber, seed oil, spices, and dyes. Today, the mills of Zaanse Schans give visitors a glimpse of the processes involved. These include:
Paintmill ’De Kat’ – this mill known for producing pigments for paints is original to Zaanse Schans.
Built in the mid to late 17th century, the original mill was destroyed by fire in the 18th century and subsequently rebuilt. Two centuries later the mill underwent further reconstruction and renovation.
De Kat continues to produce powdered pigments for paint, though some is used to make chalk pastels or to mark lines on soccer fields. Adult Admission = 4.00€
Sawmill ‘Het Jonge Schaap’ – built in 2007, this mill is a reconstruction of a 17th century sawmill once located in nearby Zaandam. The original mill was demolished in 1942. The current mill was built on this site using the original building techniques. Known for its unique hexagonal shape with a rotating cap, the current mill is an operating sawmill.
Inside you’ll see the ramp where the logs for milling are pulled in from the river, the various saws used to cut the lumber and,
if it’s windy enough, you’ll witness the reciprocating saws in motion. Down below the saws, where the sawdust is collected, you can view the drawings used for the reconstruction of the mill. A tour of the mill includes a video presentation of the reconstruction process. Adult Admission = 4.00€
The collection of commercial buildings in Zaanse Schans reflects the traditional Dutch Baroque architecture. These buildings, like many of the windmills, were relocated from their original sites in the Zaan River Region and help to preserve the history of the area. Most of these buildings house shops that not only sell traditional products, but also offer demonstrations of the making of these products. Some of what you’ll see includes:
Indië’s Welvaren – this spice warehouse, previously an independent mill, is now housed in the former snuff mill De Huisman.
Spices available for purchase in the warehouse are milled on site and visitors can see the millstones in action. If you’re interested, you can test your sense of smell and try to identify the various spices. Admission = FREE.
features the antique tools of the trade and an authentic bread oven. The relief above the entrance features an image of the ‘crowned devils cake’. Admission = FREE
Cheese Farm Catharina Hoeve– operated by the company of cheesemaker Henri Willig, this fully equipped cheese ‘farm’ gives demonstrations on the cheese making process.
Here’s where you learn about and taste various types of cheese including Gouda and Edam. Admission = FREE
Cocoa Lab– housed in an authentic barn, this tiny chocolate shop offers visitors an opportunity to make their own chocolate using 17th and 18th century methods.
On display in the shop, in addition to the finished product, are the different molds used for making various sizes and shapes of chocolates, and the tools used in the manual ‘bean to bar’ process. Admission: Museum = FREE; individual mini workshop = 5.00€
Albert Heijn Museum Shop – with original stock and furnishings,
this tiny grocery store is a replica of the original 19th century shop of what is now one of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands. Admission = FREE
Wooden Shoe Workshop –housed in the former 18th century grain and snuff warehouse, De Vreede, this workshop gives visitors a chance to see how Dutch wooden shoes, or clogs, are made using hand tools and historic machines.
You’ll also see what is billed as one of the biggest collections of clogs in the Netherlands. There are antique peat clogs, ice clogs, roller-skate clogs, carved, painted, and diamond-studded clogs, and even clogs for horses! Admission = FREE
For information on how to get to Zaanse Schans, see our Getting to Zaanse Schans page.
Entrance to the village of Zaanse Schans is free, however, admission applies for access to some sights/attractions in the community. Some attractions at Zaanse Schans may be covered by the I amsterdam City Card.
The Zaanse Schans Card offers free or discounted admission to several of the village’s museums and attractions. Visit the Zaanse Schans website for details.