Best Things to Do in Zaanse Schans (Plus How To Get Here & Tips)

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During my recent trip to Amsterdam, I knew that the Zaandam region had to be on my itinerary. Mostly because this is where you can see those classic windmills in the Netherlands. Because of this, the Zaanse Schans Windmills are one of the most popular day trips from Amsterdam and are relatively easy to reach.

My mom and I spent several hours here, and while it is touristy, we still enjoyed our time at Zaanse Schans. I believe it is worth a visit, despite the crowds. It was actually one of my mom’s favorite parts of our trip because we got to climb up a working windmill. Below, I am covering the best things to do in Zaanse Schans, along with travel tips and practical information to make your visit a breeze.

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to visit all the attractions in one day, and you probably won’t want to. Just take what interests you most from the list below. Additionally, if you are spending a few days in Amsterdam, check out my 3 Days in Amsterdam Itinerary, which includes this day trip to Zaanse Schans!

Best things to do in Zaanse Schans when visiting

A Quick History Review of the Zaanse Schans

The Zaanse Schans is a heritage village with buildings and relics from the 17th century through the 18th century. The land was chosen to be reconstructed in 1961 to preserve this history.

The Zaandam region itself is most well-known for its iconic windmills and green-painted buildings. Before the Industrial Revolution, there were around 1,100 working wooden windmills used to grind paint, flour, spices, cut wood, and more.

As the Industrial Revolution grew, the use of windmills declined, as did the area. Many of the homes and even windmills were facing demolition, so they were meticulously moved to Zaanse Schans for us to enjoy.

While touring this area, you can imagine what it was like living in the Zaandam region around the year 1850. You can even see people dressed in traditional costumes.

Related: First time in Amsterdam? Check out these Amsterdam Travel Tips!

Photos from the Zaans Museum of them constructing Zannse Schans
Photos from the Zaans Museum of them constructing Zannse Schans
Mom and I with windmills in the background of Zaanse Schans

Best Things To Do in Zaanse Schans

Tour The Windmills

The main reason we came to visit the Zaanse Schans was to see the windmills, and I’d argue this is true for most people visiting the region. They are a special symbol to the Netherlands and still operational, which is really neat if you ask me.

There are 10 windmills (Molens) in total to tour, although touring all of them will be a bit of an over-kill since each one has an entrance fee. Out of all of them, there is only 1 spice, paint, and flour mill. The rest are either saw or oil mills.

I think the paint mill, De Kat, is a must. Inside, you will see the mill grinding pigment up, and it is believed that it may even be the last paint windmill in the world. Just think, this is how famous artist like Rembrandt would have gotten their paint colors back in the day. It’s the 3rd windmill in.

Each windmill has admission that is around €6 – some are more.

Related: Most Instagrammable Places in Amsterdam

Windmill Tip: The stairs which is more like a ladder to get to the top can be tough to climb for those with mobility issues or fears of heights. My mom has a small fear of heights and was able to do it, however.

Sam Opp at the top of a windmill in Zaanse Schans
Inside a windmill with wooden gears
Paint Pigments at the paint mill
Paint Pigments at the paint mill

Explore One of the Museums

Another one of the best things to do while visiting the Zaanse Schans is to visit one of the 7 museums. The main and most popular museum to visit is the Zaans Museum. If you are visiting with the Go City Pass (more on this later), make sure you come here first to pick up your tickets.

The museum covers the history of the Zaandam region, including the impacts of the Industrial Revolution, along with how they built the Zaanse Schans. There was also a mix of nice artwork and antiques.

Included is also the Chocolate and Biscuit Factory. Unless you have children, I didn’t find this section of the museum too interesting. It shows how a chocolate factory would look, but I think I would much rather visit a real one.

Other popular museums include the Albert Heijn Museum Grocery Shop, the Dutch Watch and Clock Museum, and the Windmill Museum. Depending on how long you stay at Zaanse Schans, I probably wouldn’t visit more than 2 museums.

Zaans Museum Art Work
Zaans Museum Art Work
Zaans Museum Chocolate factory
Zaans Museum Chocolate factory

Enjoy the Gardens

Arguably one of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans is just walking around the traditional Dutch homes and garden areas. It is free to do, and the area feels like a storybook. You can also escape some of the crowds this way. Oh, and if you’re looking for something a little more organized, check out the daily walking theatre that is organized by Kaatje.

Green homes in Zannse Schans
Gardens in Zaanse Schans

Visit Traditional Craft Shops

You have to visit at least one of the craft shops when visiting Zaanse Schans. There are 7, to be exact. My favorite is the wooden shoe clog workshop. Here, you get to see a live demonstration of how they make clogs (for free), and I think it is so cool.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Cheese Farm, which has delicious Dutch cheese tastings and already packaged goods that you can take home with you. Other craft shops include a weaving workshop, traditional household custom try-ons, a Pewter Foundry, a Barrel workshop, and a DIY chocolate drink.

Clogs demonstration at wooden shoe workshop
Clogs demonstration | Zaanse Schans
Cheese Wheels at Henri Willig

Explore Zaanse Schans by Water

A more unique way to see Zaanse Schans is by water, and you have a couple of options. This includes the Windmillhopper (located next to the Spice Mill) and the cow boat. The Windmillhopper is available every half hour and hour for around a 25-minute tour.

The cow boat (which was used to transport cattle) has to be reserved in advance and only sails from May to October. They suggest you call or Whatsapp them to make arrangements. The number is +31 626106174.

Additionally, you can also go on a quick ferry ride to see the landscape from the Zaan River. This is open between May 1st to October 1st. We weren’t able to make either boat ride this trip (we visited at the end of April), so if you do it, let me know how it went!

Zaans Schans over the water and iconic Dutch green buildings

Other Things to Do at Zaanse Schans

That covers the main best things to do when touring Zaanse Schans. However, here are some of the more obvious things you might want to do when visiting Zaanse Schans.

Since visiting will likely be at least a half-day trip, there are two places to get food. I bought a package of Stroopwafels, and my mom got ice cream – both are very popular. The stroopwafels were actually a pretty good price for being freshly made.

There is also souvenir shopping. We bought little decorative clogs, but the prices were better at the floating flower market in Amsterdam. If you want clogs to actually wear, it can be cool to get them here, however.

Additionally, you can cycle around the Zaanse Schans, which is very popular among locals. However, there are no bike rentals around (that I noticed), so unless you are more local to the area, you may not be able to do this one.

Clogs Workshop in the Zannse
Clogs Workshop in the Zannse

How to Get To Zaanse Schans From Amsterdam

There are 4 ways to reach Zaanse Schans, although the public bus and tour bus are by far the most popular ways if you don’t have a car.

By Public Bus

We took the bus personally, and it was very easy to do, although it has slightly changed from when I visited last. From Amsterdam Central, You will need to take the M52 to Noorderpark (just one stop). Then, hop on the 391 bus.

Even though we left pretty early in the morning, we still had to stand, and just about everyone was heading to Zaanse Schans. The bus takes approximately 1 hour, and then it is about less than a 5-minute walk to the entrance gate. Always verify your route beforehand. We used Google Maps and it worked great. 9292 is also a very popular trip planner for locals in the Netherlands.

FYI: Be careful of the bike lane when you exit. We watched a person on a bike run over someone from our bus, and they didn’t even blink an eye.

Windmills across the water at Zaans Schans with Sam Opp

By Tour Bus

Taking a bus tour is equally as popular – especially since it is included in the Go City Pass. We had the pass, but we didn’t book our spot in advance, so the coach bus was already full.

However, if you do have the Go City Pass, it also includes a free Zaanse Schans Card. The card includes a free visit to some of the museums, windmills, and a discount at the restaurants. To claim this, you must pick it up at the Zaans Museum, which opens at 10 AM.

They also have tours that stop at Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam & Marken, although I think a tour like this really won’t give you enough time at any of the stops.

So, I would recommend a tour that is just to Zaanse Schans, but if you like to see a lot of things in a short amount of time, the other tour may be right for you.

By Train

You could also take the train from Amsterdam Centraal, but it’s around a 15-20 minute walk from the Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans train station. This trip takes around 45 minutes. Personally, our legs were so tired from walking around the city the day before, the bus sounded much better.

Zaanse Public Transport

By Car

If you have a car, this will be the easiest way to visit Zaanse Schans, but I would not recommend renting a car just for this. If you do happen to have a car however, I suggest leaving early since the parking lot can fill up quickly. Type into your GPS: Schansend 7 in Zaandam, and Parking costs € 15 per car.


Zaanse Schans Travel Tips

Now that you know the best places to visit, here are some additional travel tips I learned from visiting.

  • Get your map, and Zaanse Schans passes from the Zaans Museum first. It opens at 10 AM. If you don’t want a Zaanse Schans Pass, still make sure to get a map!
  • Visit early to avoid some of the crowds. This is one of the most popular places to visit in the Netherlands.
  • Bring layers with you as the Netherlands weather is unpredictable, and you can experience all the seasons in one day. Plus, aside from the museum, you will spend your time mainly outside.
  • If you happen to be traveling with a dog, they are allowed to visit, and we saw tons of pups!
Seeing the windmills is one of the best things to do in Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Time Do You Need at Zaanse Schans

You need at least 3 hours in at Zaanse Schans to explore the area properly. Some even opt for a full day at Zaanse Schans, but a half-day should be the minimum.

When Does the Zaanse Schans Open

Most attractions open at 9 AM, but if you need to pick up the free Zaanse Pass, arrive at 10 AM when the Zaans Museum opens.

Is it Worth Going to Zaanse Schans?

While very touristy and busy, it is still a unique place to visit just outside Amsterdam as the area is picturesque, and you have the opportunity to see working windmills up close.

What is the Entrance Fee to Zaanse Schans

It is free to enter the Zaanse Schans, however, attractions such as going up the windmills and visiting the museums have their own admission.

How Far is Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam?

From Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans is anywhere from 20 minutes driving to 1 hour taking public transportation, making it the perfect day trip.


Best Things to Do in Zaanse Schans Wrap-up

This concludes the best things to do for your Zaanse Schans day trip. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out some of my other Amsterdam guides linked throughout this post, or you can view my Netherlands Travel Guide.

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Have any questions or feel like I may have missed something/something changed? Please let me know in the comments below!

Did you find these Things to Do in Zaanse Schans helpful? I’d greatly appreciate it if you could share it below!

Things to do in Zaanse Schans

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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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