The Netherlands are famous for their iconic windmills and you can find them literally everywhere. But what is the best place to see windmills in the Netherlands? Is it the famous Kinderdijk or Zaanse Schans tourist attractions? Als Dutchies, we visited both places several times. In this blog we’ll share our experience and practical tips by us as locals about Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans, and we’ll share some other beautiful windmills with you.
The Zaanse Schans Windmills
How to explore Zaanse Schans
The Zaanse Schans is a tourist attraction close to Amsterdam, famous for its windmills. But Zaanse Schans is actually much more than just its windmills. It’s a small historic village that takes you back in time, offering you a glimpse of the Dutch local life back in the old days.
Zaanse Schans has only been constructed quite recently though! It was created in 1963 as an architectonical reserve. Historic buildings and monuments from the area were relocated here to create the historic place you can visit today. Even the iconic windmills were moved here. The Zaanse Schans has the type of charming green wooden houses you’ll only find in this Zaan area in the Netherlands. To preserve those historic Zaan houses, the very best and most beautiful ones were selected and relocated. They are the reason the Zaanse Schans has its protected status.
That doesn’t mean the Zaanse Schans was designed as a tourist attraction. The small new village has been inhabited from its first days, though it soon attracted more and more visitors. As the Zaanse Schans wasn’t set up to welcome that many people, soon other historic buildings were moved and turned into museums and tourist shops. Where the local school was supposed to be built, a huge parking lot was designed and in the seventies, the Zaanse Schans became the tourist highlight it is today.
Exploring the Zaanse Schans is mainly about wandering around the charming houses, seeing the windmills and visiting the shops and museums. It is quite small though, so you’ll only need about half a day for your visit. You can check which museums, windmills and shops are opened on the official website.
Zaanse Schans has eight windmills, lined up along the Zaan river creating the iconic sight the village is known for. There are four smaller windmills as well and you’ll see them in and around the village.
Zaanse Schans Map
How to visit Zaanse Schans for free
The best thing about the Zaanse Schans is how you can actually visit this tourist attraction for free! As it wasn’t designed for tourists and locals live here, it’s a public area and you are free to walk around. You’ll only have to buy a ticket to visit the windmills and Zaanse Schans museums. Parking isn’t free as well and costs € 12 per day.
How to get to Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is close to Amsterdam and therefore easy to visit during an Amsterdam city trip. There are plenty of tours from Amsterdam to the Zaanse Schans. It’s an easy way to get there and you’ll have a guide explaining you about the Zaanse Schans history.
As we always prefer exploring attractions by ourselves, we’d highly recommend you to go to the Zaanse Schans yourself. It’s only a 30-minute drive away, so you could take a rental car from Amsterdam. If you prefer to travel by public transport, there’s a direct bus connection from the Amsterdam central station to Zaanse Schans. You could go by train as well. The Zaanse Schans train station is a 10-minute walk from the historic village.
Where to stay in Zaanse Schans
If you want to experience the Zaanse Schans the way the locals do, make sure to spend the night here. One of the old houses in the center of the Zaanse Schans is now a bed and breakfast, B&B Heerlijck Slaapen. It’s the only place where you can sleep between the historic attractions of Zaanse Schans. Another great place to stay is the iconic Inntell Hotel Zaandam nearby with its unique design of the typical green Zaan buildings.
The Kinderdijk Windmills
How to explore Kinderdijk
Kinderdijk is an attraction close to Rotterdam, so not that far from Amsterdam either. It might just be the best place to see windmills in the Netherlands because of the high concentration of them. There isn’t any other place in our country with this many windmills!
The area south of Rotterdam was once reclaimed from the river water and an ingenious system was created to keep all the water out. The system consisted of dikes, canals and windmills. A system of canals was created to drain the water to the lowest point in the area: Kinderdijk. A then hypermodern system of 19 mills and a pumping station was built in Kinderdijk from 1868 to pump all that water into the river. Over the centuries, this system has been further perfected and as it is unique in its kind, the entire area was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
The 19 mills create an iconic Dutch sight attracting millions of visitors. When visiting Kinderdijk, you’ll first notice the Visitor Center and the Wisboom pump station. You can learn more about the historic and existing water system in area of the Netherlands region and watch a film about the mills. A bicycle and pedestrian path leads straight ahead from the visitor center to the famous mills.
The first sight of the windmills is the best: you’ll have the 8 Overwaard windmills on the left and 8 Nederwaard windmills to the right. The windmills are lined up along the water, creating beautiful reflections. Further down the road are even more windmills. There are fewer visitors there, as they usually stay close to the visitor center.
You’ll probably notice that most windmills are still inhabited by the old miller’s families. Many of the millers have been associated with the Kinderdijk mills for generations. The miller family was once responsible for the mills, but they now have ‘normal’ jobs while living in a beautiful historic UNESCO sight.
How to visit Kinderdijk for free
Kinderdijk is free to visit, as the Kinderdijk windmills are constructed in a public area. There is a public bicycle path between the mills and you can walk along it to enjoy this famous Dutch sight. The best way to enjoy all windmills, including the ones further from the visitor center, we’d recommend you to walk the Kinderdijk loop of about 8 kilometers. You can find the exact Kinderdijk walking itinerary online.
The museum mills and other museums are not free to visit; you need to buy a ticket. A ticket will be valid for the three museum windmills, but also for an introductory film, an audio tour and a boat tour along the windmills. You can order the tickets online in advance for a small discount (€16 during the week and €18.50 at the weekend).
How to get to Kinderdijk
You can easily get to Kinderdijk by rental car, but parking can be a bit tricky. The small village doesn’t really allow visitors to park: there are few public parking spaces and for others you need a permit. It’s easiest to park at the Marine weg at Alblasserdam and take the shuttle bus from there. You pay € 7,50 for both parking and shuttle bus.
Public transport would be the best choice to get to Kinderdijk is by public transport. You could take the regular bus from nearby cities Dordrecht or Rotterdam, but the best experience is the water bus. It’s a public transport system you can only find in this area and you’ll pay for it with your usual public transport card. You can hop on the water bus in the city centers of both Dordrecht and Rotterdam.
Or rent a bike in Rotterdam and do like the locals do: get there by bike! It’s a one-hour ride from Rotterdam and though that might seem much to you, locals bike that long all the time to get from one place to the other.
Where to stay in Kinderdijk
Kinderdijk is only a small village and it doesn’t have any places to stay. You could opt for a stay in Lekkerkerk only 6 kilometers away. It has an amazing wellness cottage at the water with an infrared sauna, Turkish steam shower and a whirlpool on the water. As Kinderdijk is close to Rotterdam and you’d only need half a day for your visit, we’d recommend you to combine your visit with a Rotterdam city trip. Rotterdam has stunning and unique places to stay, including boats and historic monuments.
So, Kinderdijk or Zaanse Schans?
How they are similar
- High concentration of historic Dutch windmills
- Both are free to visit, if you don’t visit the museums
Differences between Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans
- Zaanse Schans is a village located right next to the city of Zaandam, while Kinderdijk is located between the green meadows.
- There is more to explore at Zaanse Schans, offering an historic village experience, but Kinderdijk has much more windmills than Zaanse Schans.
- Kinderdijk is close to Rotterdam, but Zaanse Schans is closer to Amsterdam and therefore has much more visitors.
- The Kinderdijk windmills offer a more authentic experience as they were built on this exact location, and the Zaanse Schans windmills were relocated here.
- The Zaanse Schans windmills were used for different purposes, like grinding spices and making oil, while the Kinderdijk windmills were all built for the same water controlling purpose. Because of this the Zaanse Schans windmills have names, but the Kinderdijk windmills only have numbers.
- Kinderdijk offer a much better photo experience with the windmills reflections in the water and the stunning golden colors around sunrise or sunset.
- It’s easier to park at Zaanse Schans with its big parking, while Kinderdijk only has a big parking outside the village and you’ll have to take the shuttle bus.
- You can reach Kinderdijk by waterbus from Rotterdam or Dordrecht, which is an amazing local experience.
Which windmill location we prefer:
We prefer Kinderdijk over Zaanse Schans. Though both are famous tourist attractions, Kinderdijk is much less touristy. Zaanse Schans is filled with tourists and souvenirs shops, while the village isn’t even authentic but relocated. It feels more authentic to walk around the Dutch countryside and enjoy the wide-open views with the famous windmills.