Is visiting the historic windmills of Kinderdijk not yet on your bucket list? It should! This iconic Dutch sight is one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands and will show you more about how the Dutch drained their country below sea level to live there. Kinderdijk has the highest amount of windmills: 19 historic windmills lined up along the water, creating the beautiful sight you’ve probably heard of when researching your trip to the Netherlands. This unique place was even listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and now attracts millions of visitors. And did you know you can actually visit the Kinderdijk windmills for free? As we live nearby this must-visit tourist attraction, we will give you some insider tips on how to visit Kinderdijk.
How to get to Kinderdijk from Rotterdam?
Kinderdijk is a village in the Alblasserwaard in South Holland, not far from Rotterdam. There is not much to see and experience in the village. There is just that one big sight attracting millions of visitors: the historic windmills of Kinderdijk.
Parking at Kinderdijk
It’s not difficult to get to Kinderdijk by rental car, but parking can be a bit more tricky. The small village just isn’t big enough to handle all those visitors, so you can now only park your car here with a permit. The best way to park your car is at the Marineweg in Alblasserdam and take the shuttle bus from there to the Kinderdijk windmills. You pay €7.50 for parking space and the shuttle bus. Free parking at Kinderdijk is possible on weekends at shipbuilder Royal IHC, about a 10-minute walk from the windmills, but these parking spaces are limited.
Taking the Waterbus to Kinderdijk
It’s best to come to Kinderdijk by public transport. And it’s more fun too! You can take the normal bus from the nearby cities Dordrecht and Rotterdam, but how about the waterbus? You can use this unique type of public transport using your normal public transport card. Line 20 – or in the summer line 202 – will bring you from the city center of Rotterdam or Dordrecht to the windmills. When staying in Rotterdam, you’ll probably board the bus at the Erasmus Bridge. You can bring bicycles on the waterbus for free.
Cycling from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk
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. You’ll have to use the bike ferry to cross the water to Kinderdijk, adding up to the fun experience.
The history of the Kinderdijk 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 starting in 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.
Kinderdijk is 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! When visiting Kinderdijk, you’ll visit both the windmills and the Wisboom pumping station. Your visit will probably start at the visitor center and the Wisboom pumping station stand. You can learn more about the historic and existing water system in area of the Netherlands region and watch a film about the mills.
The windmills of Kinderdijk
A bicycle and pedestrian path leads straight ahead from the visitor center to the famous mills. As this is a public road, you don’t need a ticket to go there (yet). 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. Some of the mills are open for visitors. Those museum mills will learn you more about the old miller’s life in the mill and how the mills work. You do need a ticket to visit them.
Further down the road are even more windmills. There are fewer visitors there, as they usually stay close to the visitor center. The Blokweer mill is unique and different from all other 18 mills. It’s the only mill at Kinderdijk with a name, as the others just have a number. The Blokweer is the oldest mill in Kinderdijk and a so-called ‘hollow-post windmill’ with a different look from the other Kinderdijk mills.
Again a bit further away from the visitor center, are the Lekkerland windmills. There were once three, but only two remain. When walking the Kinderdijk loop, you’ll pass both windmills in the green meadows before finishing the loop and returning to the visitor center.
The millers of Kinderdijk
You’ll probably notice that most windmills are still inhabited by the old miller’s families. You’ll spot the curtains behind the windows and the clean laundry drying outside. 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.
Tickets for the museum windmills and cruise
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).
Free walking route in Kinderdijk
The best way to enjoy all windmills for free, including the ones further from the visitor center, is to walk or bike the Kinderdijk loop of about 8 kilometers. You can find the exact Kinderdijk walking itinerary online. There will be many visitors at the mills close to the visitor center, but you’ll have most of the Kinderdijk loop by yourself. As this is a public area, there are no opening hours and you can visit Kinderdijk any time of the day. You might want to visit at the golden hour after sunrise or before sunset, when the tourist buses are gone and you’ll have the most magical light.
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.