Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans is a historic neighborhood located in the city of Zaandam, approximately 15 miles north of the heart of Amsterdam. Zaanse Schans has been designed to resemble a Dutch community of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and is most famous for the collection of windmills that dot its picturesque countryside. This charming historic village is also home to several museums and shops, and is a terrific place to explore on foot, bicycle, or via a boat tour.

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History of Zaanse Schans

The seeds of Zaanse Schans were planted in 1961, when various historic windmills, wooden houses, and other properties of note from across the region were moved from their original locations to a neighborhood along the River Zaan in the city of Zaandam for the sake of preserving the endangered structures. This process took the better part of two decades, but when it was complete, one of the Netherlands’s most popular tourist attractions was born.

The attraction’s distinctive name refers to a sconce built along the River Zaan in the time of the Eighty Years’ War (roughly 1568 to 1648, when the Dutch revolted against Spanish rule) near where the reconstructed village stands today. This important fortification is now long gone, but when it came time to select a name for the new attraction, Zaanse Schans was chosen as an homage to the history of the area.

Zaanse Schans Highlights

Ask someone to name the first thing they think of when they imagine the Dutch countryside and it’s quite likely they’ll answer “windmills.” That’s how much the Netherlands is associated with windmills, and there’s no better place today to experience a real-life Dutch windmill in person than Zaanse Schans. Zaanse Schans is home to an assortment of authentic windmills. Once upon a time, these wooden windmills were where goods as diverse as spices, paint, cocoa, lumber, and more were made, prepared, or processed. Today they house a mixture of quaint shops and delightful exhibits.

You’ll encounter an array of shops while visiting Zaanse Schans, and they’re typically one of the real highlights of the tourist experience here. Zaanse Schans is especially known for its “experience stores”—interactive shops where you can get your hands dirty and then take home the spoils of your labors. Popular experience stores at Zaanse Schans include shops where you can make your own chocolate milk, watch a cheesemaking demonstration then buy some gouda to go, and a clog maker’s workshop. Depending on what you’re most interested in buying as a gift or souvenir, there are more conventional stores here, too, that sell everything from pewter jewelry to home décor products to windmill-themed knickknacks.

Zaanse Schans is home to several small museums devoted to topics like windmills, clocks, baked goods, and more. There are also living museum attractions here located within a fisherman’s cottage and a weaver’s building. However, the centerpiece museum facility found at Zaanse Schans is the Zaans Museum. The Zaans Museum contains a fascinating lineup of eclectic exhibits. These include permanent displays highlighting paintings by local artists, spotlighting the work Claude Monet created when he briefly lived in the area, and demonstrating what it would have been like to work in a chocolate factory during the early decades of the twentieth century.

More to See and Do at Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans is a favorite destination of many visitors to Amsterdam. Here are a few more things to see and do during your visit.

•The scenic landscape surrounding Zaanse Schans may be explored quite enjoyably on foot, as the area is lined with pleasant walking routes. Visitors interested in strolling or hiking here should download the official Zaanse Schans app straight to their smartphone. This complimentary app highlights popular local walking routes while acting as a digital tour guide to the sights and sounds of this beautiful attraction. 

•Amsterdam is renowned for its cycling scene, and the rustic environs of Zaanse Schans are no different. There are two primary routes for those wishing to experience Zaanse Schans on bike (a small and long route), and visitors may download a bike map of the area straight to their phones. For what it’s worth, a bike ride through the Zaanse Schans countryside is one of the best ways to view the famous “Kissing Couple” statue.

•Those Zaanse Schans visitors in the market for an unforgettable experience will want to consider taking a guided boat tour of the attraction. These aquatic excursions depart every half-hour, last only 25 minutes, and offer spectacular views of the site’s colorful windmills from a unique perspective.

•No visit to Zaanse Schans is complete without partaking in the attraction’s fantastic food and drink scene. Zaanse Schans is home to a wide variety of bars and restaurants, many of which specialize in classic Dutch fare. Some of Zaanse Schans’s most popular culinary destinations include Pancake Restaurant De Kraai, which serves up massive 12-inch pancakes alongside salads, soups, and sandwiches in an eighteenth-century granary; Restaurant De Hoop op d’Swarte Walvis, an acclaimed establishment situated right on the banks of the River Zaan; and the Zaans Museum Café, a pleasant spot for a snack or coffee break.

Why Zaanse Schans Should Be on Your Must-See List

Zaanse Schans makes a lovely destination for those visitors willing to venture outside of Amsterdam in search of an idyllic Dutch countryside experience. There’s perhaps no better place in the Netherlands to see a historic windmill than Zaanse Schans, and the attraction’s diverse lineup of museums, shops, restaurants, and opportunities for outdoor recreation are perfect for families seeking a lively daytrip.