The Zaanse Schans is an open air conservation area and museum, on the east bank of the Zaan River, north of Zaandam in the Netherlands. It displays the traditional architecture of the area (green wooden houses) and has several functioning windmills and craftsman's workshops, which are open to visitors. Located next to it is the regional museum, the Zaans Museum.
Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands, being very close to Amsterdam. Since it is a fairly large site, it does not feel very crowded, even in the high season. The buildings, most of which have been transported here from elsewhere in the region, have all been meticulously restored, making it a very pretty site - but at the same time it's not very authentic: it is an idealized re-creation of a Dutch village from the late 19th century.
From Amsterdam Centraal Station, take the train to station Koog-Zaandijk (travel time 0h17, single ticket €3 with OV-chipkaart). From there, it is a 10-15 minutes walk through the village of Zaandijk - just follow the signs.
If you have a bike, cycling is equally possible (distance from Amsterdam Centraal Station 22 km, travel time approx. 1h30 min). The ride is not always attractive, but will take you through some areas that most tourists will not explore, like Amsterdam-Noord and Het Twiske.
The site itself is best navigated on foot; you can however take your bike inside the area, a cycling route is crossing the area. A large car park is found on the east side of the open air museum (€8 per day).
If you feel like it, the Zaanse Schans Cycle Route is a 52 or 39-km cycling route leaving from station Zaandam, and takes you through the pretty countryside north of Zaandam, including the picturesque town of De Rijp. Please be aware that renting bikes at Dutch train stations has become impossible for people who don't hold a Dutch bank account - the niche increasingly being filled by bike shops.
The entry to the open air museum is free; most of the wooden houses are lived in and cannot be visited. The windmills however can be entered for a small fee - however, if you want to visit them all, it would cost you €17.50! Buying a Zaanse Schans Card for €10 will give you some discounts, and includes free entrance to one windmill.
Keep in mind that 4 of the 5 windmills you see here today are not in their original position, they have been taken from their original site and were rebuilt in the open air museum. All of them are kept in operating condition, so you will have a good chance to see them working (wind permitting, of course). What you see here today is however only a faint echo of what the Zaan river must have looked like before the Industrial Revolution; more than 1100 industrial windmills were built here between the 17th and 19th century. Much of the restoration and operating work is done by the volunteers of the foundation De Zaansche Molen.
De Gekroonde Poelenburg (saw mill), Kalverringdijk 27. Every second Saturday 10AM-5PM. This striking green sawmill dates from 1869.Adults €3.50 children €2. edit
De Kat (paint mill), Kalverringdijk 29, ☎ +31 756 210 477. Tu-Su 9:30AM-4:30PM; Mo closed. This windmill is the only one in Zaanse Schans that is in its original position. The current building dates from the late 18th century. It still makes pigments from raw materials.Adults €3.50 children €2. edit
De Zoeker (oil mill), Kalverringdijk 31, ☎ +31 756 287 942. Su-Fr 9:30AM-4:30PM; Sa closed. This very old oil mill dates from 1672.Adults €3.50 children €2. edit
De Bonte Hen (oil mill), Kalverringdijk 39, ☎ +31 756 217 452. Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM. Also a very old oil mill, dating from 1693. It is the most recent addition to the Zaanse Schans, relocated there in 1978.Adults €3.50 children €2. edit
Het Jonge Schaap (saw mill), Kalverringdijk 31a, ☎ +31 75 640-1377, . Mo-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM; Su closed in even weeks, 10:30AM-4:30PM in odd weeks. Saw mill dating from 1680, restored using 17th century building methods.Adults €3.50 children €2. edit
Zaans Museum, Schansend 7, ☎ +31 75 810 000, . 10AM-5PM. The museum is not part of the open air site, and is located in a quite ugly building next to the car park. It is a historical museum, showcasing ship models, paintings and other objects related to the history of ship building and whaling in the area. It also houses the Verkade Paviljoen, a re-creation of the famous Verkade factory, producers of chocolate, biscuits - and tealights.Adults €7.50, children €4. edit
Grocery Museum Albert Heijn, Kalverringdijk 5, ☎ +31 756 169 619. Tu-Su 10:30AM-4:30PM; Mo closed. Old coffee grinders, coffee storage boxes and commercial posters from the history of the most famous Dutch grocery store chain, who started business in Zaandam in 1887.Entrance free. edit
Bakery Museum In De Gecroonde Duijvekater, Zeilenmakerspad 4, ☎ +31 756 173 522. Daily 10AM-5PM. This bakery dates from 1658, and sells bread, pastries and candy, including the local specialty duivekater.Entrance free. edit
Museum of the Dutch Clock (Nederlands Uurwerk Museum), Kalverringdijk 3, ☎ +31 756 179 769 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . daily 10AM-5PM. Museum dedicated to old Dutch clocks, some of them dating back to the 17th century.Adults €10, children €5. edit
Distillery Museum De Tweekoppige Phoenix, Kraaienest 3, ☎ +31 756 353 111 (email@example.com), . Apr-Oct: daily 10AM-6PM; Nov-Mar: daily 10AM-5PM. It is not just a small museum, but also a proeflokaal - a good place to sample and buy Dutch liquors. Some of it is home-produced.Entrance free. edit
Catharina Hoeve (cheese farm), Zeilenmakerspad 5, ☎ +31 756 215 820, . daily 8AM-6PM. This cheese farm is not as authentic as they would like you to believe. The cheese blender however is real, although it can hardly account for all the cheese they sell there. If you want to see a real cheese farm, head for the area around Edam instead. But you can pet the goats that wander in the back yard, and sample the cheese for free.Entrance free. edit
Klompenmakerij De Zaanse Schans (wooden shoe workshop), Kraaienest 4, ☎ +31 75 617-7121 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . daily 8AM-6PM; Sep-Oct 9AM-6PM. The workshop houses a small museum section with many types of both old, original clogs (for every day life and special occasions) and new artistic version of clogs. They are also selling what is probably the largest collection of wooden shoes that you will find in the Netherlands. Every ten minutes or so there is a live demonstration of modern machine-operated clog making.Entrance free. edit
Craft Centre De Saense Lelie, Zeilenmakerspad 7, ☎ +31 756 354 622 (email@example.com), . daily 8:30AM-6PM. A somewhat peculiar collection of crafts(wo)men ply their trade here: a Delft Blue-ware painter, a diamond cutter, a gold smith ... and a stroopwafel baker.Entrance free. edit
Kuiperij Tiemstra (coopery), Kalverringdijk 27, ☎ +31 75 681-0000, . daily 1PM-5PM. Re-creation of an original coopery.€2, entrance free with Zaans Museum ticket. edit
The gift shops are probably not worth a visit; much of the same stuff can be bought in Amsterdam at lower prices. The cheeses are probably not worth the money either; in general, cheese is better and more cheaply bought at supermarkets or specialized cheese shops, and not in tourist stores. The bakery sells traditional Dutch candies, and the local sweet bread called duivekater. Again, these products can be bought cheaper in ordinary bakeries in the area. The wooden shoe workshop however has a good collection of wooden shoes that make a nice souvenir.
Orse ket aan 't Glop, Kalverringdijk 21, ☎ +31 6 555 53 443. daily 10AM-5PM. This building dates from the 19th century, but the porch is as old as from 1630. The building has functioned as a book shop annex library at the Rozengracht in Zaandam, but now is a design and gift shop with watches, bags, ceramics, jewellery and many other small products.edit
De Hoop op d'Swarte Walvis, Kalverringdijk 15, ☎ +31 75 616-5629 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Tu-Su 11AM-10PM; Mo closed. A quite fancy restaurant, but if you feel like spending, it is a good choice.€40. edit
De Kraai, Kraaienpad 1, ☎ +31 756 156 403 (email@example.com), . daily 9AM-6PM. This is a decent pancake house in an authentic former granary - but it can be fairly crowded. If you don't like pancakes, they have other dishes as well.edit
Museum Café, Schansend 7 (at the Zaans Museum), ☎ +31 756 810 000. 10:00-17:00 daily. Before or after heading out for the windmills you can have a cup of coffee or tea at the Museum Café. There is a beautiful view of the Kalverpolder and the windmills.edit
Spending the night in Zaanse Schans is probably not worth the trouble - with Amsterdam close by, there really is no need to stay after you have seen the site. But if you feel like it, there is one quite expensive, but also very romantic B&B:
Heerlijck Slaapen, Kalverringdijk 17-21, ☎ +31 756 701 290, . This bed and breakfast is one of the few accommodation in the Zaanse Schans. There are three rooms in unique old Zaan houses that are protected as monuments. Price includes breakfast.Double room from €129, including breakfast. edit
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