ZAANSE SCHANS is a neighbourhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam near Amsterdam. It’s a Dutch village which has historic windmills and houses from 18th and 19th century restored efficiently. It has derived its name from river ZAAN that flows through Zaandam. Its picturesque, different and fun for all ages. Kids love to run around all over the place. It’s open to view without a fee but the windmills , museums, workshops are chargeable.
How to reach… It can be reached from Amsterdam Centraal[central train station] by bus or by train .Train takes about 17–20 minutes to reach plus 10–15 minutes walk. Bus [Line 391] is the easiest to reach takes about 40 minutes and drops outside the place.The first view you get after getting down from bus is like walking into an old world of a Dutch village.It is not necessary to take a guided tour ,you can explore it on your own especially with kids it is a good way to spend half a day there.
ATTRACTIONS- WORKING WINDMILLS-The main attraction of the place is the century-old windmills that too working the same way they used to. There were around 300 windmills in that area and now only 6 of them are working. People who lived there made their living by selling the products they produced from windmills like oil, rice, paper dye. Worlds last working dye mill is there known as De Kat. Windmills were fascinating, you can go inside and see fantastic engineering. We went inside the oil mill Molenda Zoeker, at that time peanut oil was being extracted
To go inside they charge around 3–5 euros. A video plays inside the windmill to show how things use to happen and also how it works. Climb up the steep and narrow ladder to get to the beautiful view and also the huge wooden cogs that turn.
For kids- There is one windmill where you get really nice hot chocolate.The small snack shop there serves yummy milkshakes ,doughnut and stroopwaffles…
DUTCH CLOGS-They is a part of Dutch heritage and worn in mostly by farmers and gardeners. They were earlier made by hand but now mostly by machines. There is a wooden shoe museum where there are different types of clogs. There are also demonstrations given by craftsman how they turn a piece of wood into clogs. The shop has all sizes and colours for kids, men and women, and of course picture sitting in giant clogs is a must.
ZAANS MUSEUM tells the story of the daily life of people of the Zaan region.It has a collection of original costumes, furniture and household objects which reflect their cultural as well as industrial heritage. Museum also houses VERKADE PAVILLION which shows the history of chocolate and biscuit making.
CHEESE TASTING -I had never tasted so many flavours of cheese, the CATHARINA HOEVE cheese farm offers you the finest cheese. It is the replica of the original farm. The cheese tasting was free, you can engage in cheese-making demonstrations and lots of goodies to buy from the farm shop. Cheesemakers wear traditional costumes.My older one loves cheese so he tasted more variety than I did. On the backside of the cheese tasting room, there is a place where you can feed the chicken and hens .Put a certain amount of cents in the machine and you get the hen food out of it, so my little girl just wanted to stay there feeding them.
Bakery Museum de Gecroonde Duyvekater-is located in a house where there are baking demonstrations in the authentic old bread oven. The name of the museum comes from the Duivekater, a famous Zaanse sweet bread. You can, of course, taste and buy the Duivekater in the bakery, along with other traditional Dutch baked products and confectioneries. There is also a ZAAN TIME MUSEUM which focuses on the craft of clock making over the years of Dutch heritage. There are different types of showcased clocks, pendulum clocks, windmill clocks and a lot more. JISPER HOUSE is a fisherman’s cottage where you can try original costumes. WEAVERS HOUSE where sails were made ….which we skipped. Few buildings are private also.There is also a ZAAN RIVER CRUISE which takes across the area in 40 minutes. We skipped that one as my older one was not interested as we took the canal cruise a day before in Amsterdam so was not interested in this one. ALBERT HEIJN GROCERY STORE-Albert Heijn is the chain of supermarket in Amsterdam and around, this store is the reconstruction of their first grocery store with all the original furniture. Take a step back in time as you enter the Tiemstra Coopery which is an art of making barrels. One of the last pewter foundries in the Netherlands stands on the Zaanse Schans. This traditional craft does not involve any machinery; all the products are cast and finished by hand.COCOA LAB-The air in the Zaanse smells of chocolate. There is delicious chocolate making workshop right from cocoa beans using the old traditional utensils. My 9-year-old enjoyed this. There are also some tasty treats to buy. There is DE KRAAI restaurant that offers yummy pancakes.
The scenery of Zaanse Schans is like a painting, the windmills and the calm lake add to the beauty of the place. If you are looking for a break from the city life of Amsterdam…its a good choice to explore the Dutch countryside especially with kids..
Do try the honey waffles…..DOEI