Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Michela
The Netherlands are known around the world for (mainly) two things: tulips and windmills! Since I already covered everything you need to know about visiting Keukenhof Gardens, the most renowned tulip garden in the world, it’s time I share my tips for visiting the best place to see the Dutch people’s signature architecture. Discover the best way to visit Zaanse Schans in this guide!
Zaanse Schans is a residential area/park just north of Amsterdam. It is not only a fantastic place to see windmills, but a fun and educational experience to learning about Dutch history and way of life in centuries past.
Even if you only have a weekend in Amsterdam, you can squeeze this quick and easy day trip!
Some of these links are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through that link, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure!
How to reach Zaanse Schans
First things first – how can you get to Zaanse Schans? If you are coming from Amsterdam, you have several options.
The first option is to arrive by car. There is a paid parking lot right in front of the park, but if you arrive towards sunset after it is no longer officially open, you don’t have to pay for the parking.
It is an 18-minute drive from the center of Amsterdam, completely along main roads.
By public transportation
You can take the Sprinter 4060 bus toward Uitgeest from Amsterdam Sloterdijk station to Zaandijk Zaanse Schans station, which is about a 20 minute walk from the park. The bus ride is 30 minutes long.
If you are already in the surrounding area, there are a number of public boats and boat tours you can hop on to reach the park.
By organized tour
Getting to Zaanse Schans isn’t overwhelming by car or public transport, so to save money, I suggest you use one of those options.
But if you are looking to enrich your day trip with more activities or simply prefer someone else handling the transportation for you, then opt for an organized tour.
What to See in Zaanse Schans
Enter the historic Dutch Windmills
The main attraction are the Zaanse Schans windmills.
Some mills date back to the 1600s, and what makes them all special is that they each have different histories and use cases. One makes paint, one houses spices, one is a saw mill and more!
One thing to keep in mind is that not every mill is open every day or during all seasons. If there is something particular you want to see, check the website for updated opening times.
You can buy your tickets to enter the mills online or at the mill entrance.
Walk along the windmills and nature park trail
Right beside the trail that leads you down the path of the windmills is an expansive stretch of land that looks like a nature park.
The atmosphere is so tranquil, and you can spot wildlife! I saw birds and rabbits, but I believe there are other small fluffy creatures that also roam the area.
If you have a bike or rent one, it is also the perfect scenic route for a bike ride.
Get up-close to sweet farm animals
One thing I wasn’t expecting about Zaanse Schans but absolutely loved were the farm animals that roam around the village!
I saw the fluffiest sheep just munching away at the grass only a few feet from me, completely out in the open.
Explore the replica of an 18th century Dutch village
There are so many things to do at Zaanse Schans beyond the windmills. The replica village comes alive with mini museums, workshops and boutiques. There are also several restaurants serving traditional Dutch cuisine.
Tips for Visiting Zaanse Schans
Go at early morning or towards sunset
It’s always better to visit attractions with fewer crowds, right? I visited the park at sunset, which was actually after the park’s opening hours. The area was still open to enter and people were visiting, but many of the shops were closed.
This was actually a perfect time to visit if you want a tranquil experience with nearly no people and a gorgeous landscape of the windmills at sunset.
If instead you are all about the attractions (which I actually didn’t know much about before visiting), then try to arrive at opening hours before the midday peak.
Don’t skip the Zaans Museum
I wish the museum were open when I visited, but unfortunately, I arrived after closing time, so I didn’t get to experience it firsthand.
However, this main museum is all about food coming to life in various ways! Besides the Zaans Museum, there are also other experiences like the Albert Heign Museum, bakery museum and more!
Don’t disturb the wildlife of the Zaan region
The Zaanse Schans is right next to what looks like a sort of nature preserve and along the Zaan River. We saw lots of birds and rabbits that get pretty close to you.
Another animal we saw a lot of? Cats. To ensure nothing bad happens to you or the animals, it is best to just avoid interaction.
Get the Zaanse Schans card for access to all activities
The Zaanse Schans park is free to visit, but if you are interested in doing more than just walking around and actually engaging in all the activities it has to offer, then consider purchasing the Zaanse Schans card.
I think this option is great for families, since many of the activities are designed to keep kids engaged. If you have short time, then it may be better to just visit the park for free and pay for one or two activities as you go.
But, at least you know that there is this option for enjoying the Zaanse Schans.
The SGTD Take
I believe Zaanse Schans is totally worth a visit if you are in Amsterdam and would like an extra interesting thing to do. Not only are the windmills beautiful, but it is really special to be immersed in Dutch history and culture.
A visit shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours. In fact, if you are just interested in seeing the windmills, you could probably walk by all of them in less than an hour. In this way, it becomes a day trip adaptable to any itinerary and one I don’t think you should miss!
Save these travel tips to Pinterest!
Have any questions about visiting Zaanse Schans? Let me know in a comment!