If you’re looking for an authentic glimpse into the Netherlands of yesteryear, a visit to the delightful village of Zaanse Schans is a must. Located just a short trip from Amsterdam, this living history museum offers a more genuine experience than the famous Kinderdijk windmills. Zaanse Schans makes for a perfect day or half-day excursion from the Dutch capital.

Step Back in Time

As you wander through the picturesque streets of Zaanse Schans, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The village showcases the traditional Dutch way of life, complete with charming, colorful houses, working windmills, and museums and shops highlighting the historical trades that made the Netherlands famous.

Witness Traditional Craftsmanship

Zaanse Schans offers visitors the chance to see skilled artisans at work, preserving the heritage of the region. You can observe clog makers crafting the iconic Dutch wooden shoes, watch fascinating cheese-making demonstrations, visit an operational lumber mill, and even try your hand at creating your own chocolate using traditional methods.

The Iconic Windmills of Zaanse Schans

The star attractions of Zaanse Schans are undoubtedly its windmills. These historic structures were carefully relocated from their original locations across the Zaan River region and reassembled in the village to preserve the area’s industrial heritage. During its prime, the region was renowned for producing a variety of goods, including hemp, lumber, seed oil, spices, and dyes. Today, the mills of Zaanse Schans provide visitors with a fascinating insight into the processes involved in these industries.

Paintmill ‘De Kat’

One of the most notable windmills in Zaanse Schans is the Paintmill ‘De Kat.’ This mill, originally built in the mid to late 17th century, is native to the village and is known for producing pigments for paints. Despite being destroyed by fire in the 18th century, the mill was rebuilt and has undergone further reconstruction and renovation over the centuries.

Today, De Kat continues to produce powdered pigments for paint, as well as chalk pastels and marking lines for soccer fields. Visitors can explore the mill for a small admission fee of €4.00.

Sawmill ‘Het Jonge Schaap’

Another impressive windmill in Zaanse Schans is the Sawmill ‘Het Jonge Schaap.’ Although it was built in 2007, this mill is a faithful reconstruction of a 17th-century sawmill that once stood in nearby Zaandam. The original mill was sadly demolished in 1942, but the current structure was built on the same site using traditional building techniques.

Het Jonge Schaap is known for its unique hexagonal shape and rotating cap. Inside, you’ll discover the ramp where logs are pulled in from the river for milling, as well as the various saws used to cut the lumber. If the wind is strong enough, you might even witness the reciprocating saws in action. Below the saws, where the sawdust collects, you can view the drawings used for the mill’s reconstruction. A tour of the mill, which costs €4.00 for adults, includes a video presentation of the reconstruction process.

Explore the Traditional Dutch Architecture

The collection of commercial buildings in Zaanse Schans showcases the distinctive Dutch Baroque architectural style. Like many of the windmills, these buildings were relocated from their original sites in the Zaan River Region to help preserve the area’s history. Most of these structures now house shops that not only sell traditional products but also offer demonstrations of how they are made.

Indië’s Welvaren Spice Mill and Museum

One such building is Indië’s Welvaren, a former independent mill now housed in the old snuff mill, De Huisman. This spice warehouse sells spices that are milled on-site, and visitors can observe the millstones in action. For an interactive experience, test your sense of smell by trying to identify the various spices. Admission to Indië’s Welvaren is free.

Bakery Museum ‘In de Gecroonde Duyvekater’

Another fascinating stop is the Bakery Museum ‘In de Gecroonde Duyvekater,’ a 17th-century bakery named after a traditional sweet regional bread. Here, you’ll find antique baking tools and an authentic bread oven. Take note of the relief above the entrance, which features an image of the ‘crowned devils cake.’ Admission to the bakery museum is free.

Cheese Farm Catharina Hoeve

For cheese lovers, a visit to the Cheese Farm Catharina Hoeve is a must. Operated by the company of cheesemaker Henri Willig, this fully equipped cheese ‘farm’ offers demonstrations of the cheese-making process. Learn about and taste various types of cheese, including the famous Gouda and Edam varieties. Admission is free.

Cocoa Lab

Chocolate enthusiasts will delight in the Cocoa Lab, housed in an authentic barn. This small chocolate shop allows visitors to create their own chocolate using 17th and 18th-century methods. On display, you’ll find different molds used for making various sizes and shapes of chocolates, as well as the tools used in the manual ‘bean to bar’ process. While admission to the museum is free, participating in an individual mini-workshop costs €5.00.

Albert Heijn Museum Shop

Step into the past at the Albert Heijn Museum Shop, a replica of the original 19th-century grocery store that would later become one of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands. The shop features original stock and furnishings, providing a fascinating glimpse into the early days of the company. Admission is free.

Wooden Shoe Workshop

No visit to Zaanse Schans would be complete without stopping by the Wooden Shoe Workshop. Housed in the former 18th-century grain and snuff warehouse, De Vreede, this workshop demonstrates how Dutch wooden shoes, or clogs, are made using hand tools and historic machines. You’ll also have the opportunity to see one of the largest collections of clogs in the Netherlands, featuring antique peat clogs, ice clogs, roller-skate clogs, carved, painted, and even diamond-studded clogs, as well as clogs for horses! Admission is free.

More to Explore

Along With the attractions mentioned above, Zaanse Schans offers even more sights and experiences, such as the Zaans Museum and Verkade (Chocolate Factory) Pavilion, a coopery, a pewter foundry, and a liquor distillery.

Getting There and Ticket Information

Located north of Amsterdam, the village of Zaanse Schans is easily accessible, with the journey taking approximately 30 minutes. While entrance to the village itself is free, some sights and attractions within the community may require admission fees. The I amsterdam City Card may cover some of these attractions, so be sure to check before your visit.

Travel Tip

Consider purchasing the Zaanse Schans Card, which offers free or discounted admission to several of the village’s museums and attractions. Visit the official Zaanse Schans website for more details on this cost-saving option.

A visit to Zaanse Schans is a wonderful way to experience the traditional Dutch way of life and gain a deeper appreciation for the country’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you spend a full day or just a few hours exploring this charming village, you’re sure to leave with unforgettable memories and a newfound love for all things Dutch.

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