What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Netherlands? 8 out of 10 people would say windmills. Oh well, a trip to the Netherlands isn’t really complete without seeing a windmill!
One of the easiest windmill to get to from Amsterdam is Zaanse Schans. This place has been recreated for an authentic Dutch experience dating back to the 17th and 18th century and is a popular tourist destination. For those visiting Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans works out as the perfect day trip if you want to discover the picturesque Dutch countryside including the iconic windmills. The best part is that visit to this town is free – you will only be paying a nominal entry fee if you choose to tour a windmill.
There are several tour companies available which can arrange a day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans – all you need to do is “show up” at the designated time and everything else is taken care for you. However, you can easily do this trip yourself at a fraction of a cost! Plus, you can leisurely visit the neighboring towns of Zaandaam, Edam and Volendam and make it a perfect day trip from Amsterdam. While trains and buses are available as well to take you from one town to another; a car provides the most flexibility.
Read below to plan the perfect day trip from Amsterdam to the northern towns of the Netherlands.
We visited these towns as part of our two week European road trip to Germany, Belgium and Netherlands – you can read more about our itinerary here.
How to get to Zaanse Schans ?
Getting to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam is pretty easy and straightforward. The easiest is by car, followed by the train and the last option would be bus.
If you are planning to drive, note that there is a fixed parking fee of €10 irrespective of the number of parking hours.
Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans is the nearest railway station to get to Zaanse Schans. Trains run regularly from the Amsterdam Central Station. The train journey takes about 18 minutes and costs Euros 3.20 one way. Thereafter, walk from to station to Zaanse Schans for another 15 minutes. Click on the below website for the exact schedules and fare.
If you prefer taking the bus, then take Rnet-bus 391 from Amsterdam’s Central Station, which departs every 15 minutes and takes approximately 40 minutes to reach the Zaanse Schans.
Things to do/ see
The best thing about Zaanse Schans is that it can be easily explored on foot. Zaanse Schans is like an open air museum – you can pay to go in and tour some of the windmills, or you can just check out the windmills from outside for free!
Of the over 1000 windmills that once dotted the riverbank, there are just 13 remaining. Out of these, only six are working windmills – a mustard mill, two sawmills, two oil mills and the world’s last working dye mill. Entry to each windmill is approximately €3. If you plan to visit all the windmills then it would be advisable to purchase a Zaanse Schans Card, since it will be cheaper. You can find an information desk right at the start of this village to know more about the card.
Once you get to Zaanse Schans, you can easily spend couple hours – walk along the river admiring the windmills from outside, check out the functioning mills, visit the museums, witness wooden clog making demonstration, cheese making workshop, eat dutch mini pancakes, snack on stroopwafels, buy souvenirs and so on.
Boat tours, bicycle rental and walking trails are available too depending on seasons. You can find plenty of small cafes along the way. If you fancy pancakes then do not forget to try them from De Kraai. Indulge yourself with the traditional Dutch pancake and some coffee/tea. Or try the yummy hot chocolate at CacaoLab.
If you want scenic panoramic vistas of Zaanse Schans and the mills, sign up for a boat ride.
Since this place is open, advisable to keep a small jacket/ cardigan handy even if you are visiting in summer. The wind can get a little strong (that’s the reason there are windmills here).
Given how easily accessible this place is from Amsterdam, it tends to get crowded and is touristy. Nonetheless, since this place is spaced out, it never felt too crowded to us.
On your way back from Zaanse Saans, you can stop by the quirky town of Zaandam. It is actually just a 12 minute train ride from Amsterdam, so easily doable even if you don’t intend to go all the way to Zaanse Schans.
The most striking building here is Inntelhotels Amsterdam Zaandam. This single building is built out of almost seventy individual little houses. They are all painted in four shades of the traditional Zaan region green, except one blue one. The blue house on the corner is a reference to a painting by Claude Monet, who lived in Zaandam for half a year in 1871 during which he created 25 paintings.
You can spend as little as 45 minutes to an hour and see all that this town has to offer. Admire the famous Inntel Hotel, indulge in some shopping or sip on coffee and snacks in a cafe.
Edam is a lovely Dutch town, located about a 30 minute bus/ train ride from Amsterdam’s Central station. This cute little town is very laid back and has a rural charm – there are barely 7,400 residents here.
Today, Edam is known worldwide for its cheese and the annual cheese market festival. The Edam cheese market was, in the Middle Ages, the hub of the city. It was where farmers brought their cheeses to be weighed, sold, and exported all over the world. Today, a farmer’s cheese market is held every Wednesdays during summer.
Since we weren’t visiting on a Wednesday, we didn’t get to witness the epic cheese market, but there were several shops which were selling the world famous Edam cheese. There were so many different kinds of Cheese – truffle cheese, cheese with chillies, pesto, herbs and so on. It was fun sampling all the different kinds of cheese.
Once you are done sampling different cheese, simply wander around this cute little town. Edam is pretty small and walking around the town center is where you will find most of the scenic views. It is the perfect place to just wander and weave through the small streets and waterways. There are several shops in the town center with lots of goodies to eat, drink, or take home as souvenirs.
Volendam is another lovely harbour town, well known for its old fishing boats. It is literally 10 minutes from Edam and 25 minutes from Amsterdam.
If you have additional time on hand, then you can take a quick ferry or drive down to the island of Marken. It is yet another quintessential Dutch town which is a mix of Volendam and Zaandam. When in Marken, don’t forget to visit the lovely “het Paard van Marken” or the Horse of Marken, the lighthouse. We were running short of time so skipped this one.
* All prices mentioned are as of June 2019