Have you ever heard of Zaanse Schans? Me neither, until I started planning my trip to Amsterdam. Usually, people tend to go to Amsterdam for one reason–their awesome canals of course! 😉
Amsterdam actually has a lot to offer, not the least of which is an open-air museum just 40 minutes outside the city where guests can enter working windmills and experience life as it was lived by the Dutch people in the 18th and 19th centuries.
I’m talking about Zanse Schaans. If you want to experience the Netherlands you’ve always pictured, filled with sprawling green fields and fanciful windmills, here’s everything you need to know to start planning your trip.
1) How to Get There
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–public transportation in Europe is easy. Just head to Amsterdam Centraal Station (you can’t miss it, it’s in the city center and very easy to walk or conenct to) and take bus 391 to Zandaam/Zaanse Schans. It’s the last stop, and the entire ride takes less than an hour.
You need a special ticket to board this bus separate from whatever transport pass you may already have for the city, and it’ll run you about 10 euro, but it’s still a bargain deal.
2) Things to Do
Zanse Schaans contains several different areas. Guests are initially greeted by shops and restaurants before walking further to the clog store and workshop. Be aware that the only public restrooms here are in the entrance and require cash payment to use. Otherwise, the stores accept credit cards generally.
The clog making workshop takes place periodically throughout the day and lasts no more than 5 minutes. You get to see the making of a clog from start to finish, presented by a dapper young Dutch lad.
The only down side is that the staff waits for a crowd to begin a presentation, so you will have to sit through your presentation with a tour group. Seats are limited–don’t be the loser of the musical chairs game immediately prior to the presentation.
In addition to the clog factory, there is a cheese store with seemingly endless samples that you can walk through on your way to visit the windmills. There’s also a distillery museum, soap factory and weaver’s house, all included in the price of your ticket.
3) Zaanse Schans Windmills
The real draw of Zanse Schaans are the 6 working windmills showcased on the property. While half a dozen is a stark decline from the more than two dozen originally in operation, the ones that remain are well maintained and dedicated to a particular purpose.
One windmill grinds minerals for use in paints, for instance, and the raw materials can be seen at the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam during a paint mixing demonstration wherein the paints are endorsed as the preferred medium of the Dutch Masters.
Another windmill, which was actually torn down and reconstructed from plans saved by the original architect, works to saw lumber. It’s amazing to see the ease with which the giant saws move through these tree trunks, soaked in water for a few days to ease removal of the bark.
Once processed, the lumber is used throughout Zaanse Schans for renovations and sold around the world.
The windmills all have separate admission tickets so come prepared with small bills. All proceeds go to maintaining these magnificent structures and are worth your contribution.
Make sure to talk to the local workers. I found the windmill attendants happy to share details with me about the intricate workings of the mechanisms. It’s unbelievable that we as humans managed to find a way to make wind move boulders.
The precision and accuracy that goes into making the windmills work are inspiring. Really, there’s nothing we as humans are incapable of when we put our minds to it.
Aside from the paint powder mentioned earlier, there are many souvenirs you can buy at Zaanse Schaans. Take home a pair of clogs, or just one if you’re on a budget. You can hang and use it as a key holder like a did. You can also purchase the popular ceramic kissing Netherlands children in the blue hues. They come in all sizes and make affordable gifts for friends and family.
But the most important purchase you’ll make, especially if visiting on a chilly day, is the rum-spiced hot chocolate. Even in the suburbs, people in the Netherlands definitely know how to take things up a notch.
5) Timing your visit
The thing about Zaanse Schans is that it is so peaceful and relaxed you could spend a whole day here, exploring windmills and admiring the scenery, including secluded houses and random goats.
However, those on a tight schedule will be pleased to learn they can get the gist of the experience in 2-3 hours, allowing for a half-day trip from the city.
If you’re looking for a taste of the authentic Dutch lifestyle and don’t mind taking a small adventure outside the city, then make sure you visit Zaanse Schans on your next visit to Amsterdam and the Netherlands.
Till next time, safe travels!
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