Zaandam is a Dutch city well known for its Zaanse Schans – a recreated village with typical Dutch windmills and wooden houses. Zaandam is located just north of Amsterdam and along with Zaanse Schans it’s often mentioned as one of the best day trips from Amsterdam. We absolutely agree with that, and hence included Zaandam and Zaanse Schans into our ‘Small Dutch towns you must see‘ list.
We would recommend visiting Zaandam and Zaanse Schans in one day as they are located really close to each other and, combined, have lots of things to do and see in a day. Take a train to Zaandam (under 15 mins ride from Amsterdam Central station), spend a couple of hours in the city center, then rent a bike and go to Zaanse Schans (20 min by bike from Zaandam).
If you arrive in Zaandam by train, start your walk from the Stadhuisplein – a Town Hall Square surrounded by colorful wooden houses. Visit the tourist information center and its small souvenir shop (Zaan Store) with local produce and gifts.
We really liked all the cute houses and quirky architecture at the Stadhuisplein. One of the most remarkable of them is the building of the Inntel Hotel.
After Stadhuisplein, continue over the pedestrian bridge and down towards Gedempte Gracht.
Gedempte Gracht is a very nice pedestrian and shopping street with a mix of old and new architecture, many shops and few restaurants. The street goes along the canal with several small bridges over it. There is even a waterfall under one of the pedestrian bridges near the Inntel Hotel.
When you reach the end of the Gedempte Gracht (or actually, that would be the beginning of the street according to the house numbers) there is a fresh seafood kiosk – Vishandel de Boer. We recommend trying the traditional Dutch food – ‘Haring’ – slightly brined herring sprinkled with chopped onions. (Read more about Dutch foods in 20 Foods to try in the Netherlands)
There is also a small playground with water features near the fish kiosk. So, while you enjoy Dutch herring, your kids can play with water nearby.
De Dam central square
After the Gedempte Gracht, walk to the central square – De Dam. It’s a nice place to have a drink and a lunch in one of the local cafes and restaurants.
Name of the square – De Dam (‘The Dam’) – comes from the actual dam on the Zaan river that’s located just outside the square. You can walk there to enjoy the views to the river and residential houses across it.
Besides the cafes at De Dam you will find Czaar Peter Monument in the middle of the square. The monument dates back to 1909 and commemorates the stay of Russian Czar (or Tsar) Peter in the city of Zaandam. Csar Peter visited Zaandam to learn about ship building from Dutch masters. Hence, the statue shows Tsar Peter carving a ship.
The Czar Peter House
As mentioned above, Czar Peter 1 of Russia visited Zaandam in 1697 to learn about ship building from Dutch masters. During the visit he stayed in the house of blacksmith Gerrit Kist for seven days. The stay made this small wooden house famous.
You can visit The Czar Peter House for a small fee (when we visited it was € 4 Adult ticket). The wooden house is now one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands. Though of course it doesn’t stand under the open sky any longer, but covered by a bigger stone house.
After visiting Zaandam you can either take a train or bike to Zaanse Schans – it will take you 20-25 minutes either way to get there.
Zaanse Schans is a small Dutch village outside the city of Zaandam with typical 18th-19th century Dutch wooden houses, workshops and windmills. The village was recreated in the late 20th century by relocating old wooden buildings from around the region to this place. Zaanse Schans is a very popular tourist destination as it makes a perfect one day trip from Amsterdam.
Museums and windmills of Zaanse Schans
You can walk around the village and enter some of the workshops, cafes and shops for free. But if you want to visit one of the many museums or windmills on the site you’ll have to pay an entrance fee. Alternatively, you can purchase a Zaanse Schans Card that includes entrance to some of the museums and windmills.
There are many windmills in Zaanse Schans and most of them are fully operational and open for visitors. There is a windmill for making oil, a wood saw windmill, a windmill to mill flour and spices. Even a windmill for making paint! Some of the windmills are original ones, dated back as far as to the 17th century. Some windmills are just replicas of old windmills, but nevertheless are still beautiful and authentic looking buildings.
There are several museums in Zaanse Schans, such as Albert Heijn Museum Shop, Zaanse Time Museum, Windmill Museum and others.
We really enjoyed visiting the Clog Workshop and watching how the clogs are made (the entrance to the workshop is free). Clogs (or Klompen in Dutch) are traditional Dutch wooden shoes made from wood.
It was really interesting to see a short demonstration and listen to the details of how Dutch klompen are traditionally made. There is a small exhibition of different kinds of clogs right there in the shop. You can of course buy a pair of wooden shoes too. There is a big selection of styles and sizes in the store. If buying clogs for yourself or as a gift, don’t forget they’re supposed to be worn on thick socks!
You can visit other workshops in the village such as Weaver’s House, Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm or even Liqueur distillery.
Besides the museums and workshops there are several shops in Zaanse Schans village where you can taste and buy cheese, souvenirs and other Dutch products.
Finally, visit Zaans Museum – not only to learn about the history of Zaan region, but also for its Verkade experience. (Verkade is a Dutch chocolate and confectionery company based in Zaandam).
Alternatively, if you prefer hassle free travel in a group you can always join one of the bus tours to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam: