The first thing that hits you as you step out into Zaanse Schans is smell in the air. The air in Zaanse Schans smells of hot chocolate, which is quite a nice change from the usual city smells.
The name of Zaanse Schans comes from a combination of the name of the river than runs thought it Zaan and Schans which is the Dutch word for sconce. A sconce is a small protective fortification mainly earthworks. In Zaanse Schans case it was used against the Spanish during their eight year war for independence.
Zaanse Schans is located just north of Amsterdam. It is easily accessible with public transport or by car. There is a bus from Amsterdam central to Zaanse Schans just use Rnet-bus 391 which leaves every 15 minutes. Zaanse Schans is one of the main tourist attractions in the Netherlands with well over 1.5 million visitors annually. It is a collection of old windmills, workshops, shops, restaurants and houses set along the river Zaan. The windmills were moved into a close group from around the region in the 1970’s
There are eight windmills in total in Zaanse Schans. You do have to pay to go inside each of them so unless you have lots of money pick the ones that interest you. You can get a discount on entry if you purchase a Zaanse Schans card from information center in the museum.
Below is listing of the windmills and what there intended use was
- De Huisman, The Houseman, which made mustard
- De Gekroonde Poeleburg, The Crowned Poelenburg, a sawmill
- Het Jonge Schaap, The Young Sheep, a sawmill
- De Bonte Hen, The Spotted Hen, which made oil
- De Zoeker, The Seeker, another oil producing windmill
- Het Klaverblad, The Cloverleaf, a sawmill
- De Os, The Ox, another oil producing windmill
- De Kat, The cat, this windmill made dye’s
You can buy Zaans Schans card which will get you the following at a cost of €15 per person which is defiantly worth buying. There are discounts for children available.
- Admission to the museum
- Admission to one windmill either, De Kat, Het Jonge Shaap or De Zoeker
- 30% discount at Honin Breethuis and the Windmill museum
- Admission to the Weaver’s House and the Cooperage
- 10% discount in shops and restaurants when you spend over €10
- Discounted parking €6 instead of the normal €9
I visited Zaans Schans in early September and while busy with people it was not so packed with people you had trouble moving or seeing things. I can imagine in peak season that it gets too busy with how small it is and the size of the buildings. The main museum is very well done and defiantly worth your time to visit. You are given a small Rfid device that you hang around you neck before you enter.
With this you touch special markers on exhibits then hold it to you ear and you get an audio clip about that exhibit. The museum takes you through the history of the region with some nice exhibits. Once you are done with the main museum you move into the chocolate one. There are no audio clips in this one, but they do have the machines set up to show how they would work. There are some interactive games dotted around.
Moving out to the older parts of Zaans Schans you have your pick of what do see. Most of the buildings require money to get into with only a few free to enter. Each has there own little demonstration of how the places used to work, which is quite interesting. It is very nice walking round the old buildings and seeing how things used to be done.
For me the items in the shops were a little over priced. I imagine it is set up for tourist prices, but €40 for three small cheeses in wax is a little steep.
Overall Zaans Schans is well worth a visit. There is quite a bit do see and do and it does give a very good history of that area of the Netherlands. Defiantly buy a Zaans Schans card for each of the people in your party. It is not too expensive and can easily make up for its cost with discounts and entry’s.