Zaanse Schans - A Trip Down the Dutch Memory Lane

July 23, 2018

 

Introduction

 

A walk through the Amsterdam city centre shows one just how the hustle and bustle of city life in the Netherlands is. Bikes, cars, scooters and pedestrians everywhere. For some, the city life is just too fast and noisy and a trip to the serene countryside can be both therapeutic and inspiring. This is probably one of the reasons why tourists who pour into Amsterdam are always on the lookout for excursions to the Dutch countryside, and Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular ones.

 

Zaanse Schans is a revival of the Zaanstreek's 18th and 19th-century residential area. Many of the typical Zaanse houses here come from other parts of the Zaan region. They were assembled to give visitors an idea of what most Dutch villages looked like in the 18th century. There is also a shipyard, a wooden shoe factory, a bakery museum and a replica of the first Albert Heijn supermarket. Just outside the Schans in Zaandam is the oldest wooden house in the Zaanstreek - the Czaar Peter House. This wooden house which is now protected by a stone structure, is where Tsar Peter the Great lived at the end of the 17th century.

 

The most striking of the Zaanse Schans are the beautiful windmills. There are twelve mills in total on the Schans itself and four more are in the immediate vicinity. Most of the windmills were moved to the area in the last century while a number of mills were already there. The twelve mills at the Schans are all owned by the Zaanse Schans Association and are therefore also responsible for the maintenance and operation of the mills. The mills and the museum associated with them are open to visitors from all parts of the world. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday and there are varying opening times for different windmills.

 

Walk past the bakery museum and enjoy the smell of freshly baked loaves of bread and cakes, or take a look inside the warehouse where clogs are made. You should not miss out on the cheese factory and the tin foundry. The Zaanse Schans is a unique part of the Netherlands, full of wooden houses, windmills, barns and workshops. Go on a cycling or sailing trip, browse around the shops or have a treat in the pancake restaurant. A day out at the Zaanse Schans is fun, educational and a worthwhile trip down the Dutch memory lane.

 

Naming The Zaanse Schans

 

The Zaanse Schans derives its name from the river Zaan and also for being a defensive fortification during the Eighty Years' War. A look around the Zaanse Schans reveals so much history, giving one a feeling of sentimental longing for the past and all it had to offer the inhabitants of the countryside. There are centuries of memories as footsteps of the past can be found in every cabin, museum or room.

 

Discover the Windmills

 

More than 600 windmills were installed in the Zaanse Schans vicinity in the 17th century. This made the area one of Europe's most prosperous and busiest industrial areas. The mills were used, among other things, for grinding spices, producing paint, wooden planks and oil. Some of these mills still exist and can be visited now. You can see how the wind-driven machines work from the outside as well as from the inside.

 

From a distance you can see the blades turning slowly with vast meadows in the background. A serene image from the outside, but inside, the mill works hard to produce products that were shipped and sold to merchants on a daily basis. The creaking, toiling wood and all moving parts in the building's "engine room" form an impressive spectacle in which wood is sawn or oil, flour, spices and dyes are ground. Climb through the exciting, narrow stairs to the deck of the mill for a beautiful view and see how the industry has developed since the 18th century.

 

The Zaans Museum

 

We can talk about the history of the Zaanse Schans for hours, but the stories only come to life when you visit one of the museums on the Zaanse Schans. The Zaans Museum has a special collection of utensils, clothing and paintings local to the area and were predominantly used in the 18th and 19th century. You can also visit the Verkade Experience where it feels like you're in a 20th-century chocolate factory. The original machines are still in use for making tasty chocolate bars and biscuits. Learn how raw materials are processed, how products are made and how they were transported in the past. Operate the machines yourself and wrap up chocolate in real chocolate wrappers. You can also dive into the world of watchmaking at the Museum Zaanse Tijd, where you don't only learn about watchmaking but turn back the hands of time and see what watchmaking was really like in the 18th and 19th century.

 

The Zaans Museum and the Verkade Experience together form the best museums to visit in the Zaanstreek. Their collections are very diverse and presented in a contemporary way. The Zaans Museum has a collection ranging from utensils, clothing and paintings to factory materials from the food industry. Imagine yourself in a factory from the early 20th century, where authentic machines are still in full swing. In the Verkade Experience you can also celebrate children's parties or take a group guided tour. There is also space for workshops, lectures, meetings, company outings and all sorts of arrangements. For more information, check out their website.

 

To-Do:

Take A Stroll Around the Old Country

 

There is so much to see on foot. Walking alone can be quite serene but it's so much fun when you do it with friends and family. You move through the landscape and just like that, you are part of this distinctive piece of "Old Holland." Several hiking trails run across the Zaanse Schans and you are free to choose how many kilometres you walk and where the route takes you.

 

Cycling

 

Due to few hills and many asphalted paths, one can almost claim that the Netherlands is naturally made for cyclists. Cycling remains one of the best ways to discover the Zaanse Schans area. Get to know the diversity of the Zaan region, cycle along the Zaan river and past the beautiful old buildings as you take in the mother nature and the unique scenery.

 

Boat Cruise

 

Discover the Zaanse Schans from a different perspective: the water! There are different boats sailing different routes across the Zaan every single day. Step aboard any of the boats and let the captain (or host) tell you all about the history of the mills and the Zaanse Schans. You also sail right past the meadows and sometimes see the cows as they eat grass in the fields. You see traditional mills turning and discover monumental warehouses and factory buildings with names like Batavia, Saigon and De Liefde. With every stop, there is always something new to discover.

 

There is so much beauty and splendor to admire in the Zaanse Schans. The craftsmen who make clogs, the miller of De Kat, which is the only remaining working windmill in the world. Discover how this windmill grinds raw materials such as chalk to make pigments for paints the traditional way.

 

Food

 

There is definitely no way you'd visit the Zaanstreek and not try their food. Fresh sandwiches from the bakery museum and the candy from the Zaans Gedaan CaocaoLab has a penchant for awakening everyone's appetite. There are also a lot of places to enjoy a cup of coffee with pastries or a delicious meal. For example, try the real Dutch pancakes from Pannenkoeken restaurant de Kraai or reserve a table at Restaurant De Hoop at d'Swarte Walvis, the cosy spot on the water with their very own terrace. Pancake restaurant De Kraai is located in an 18th century Zaanse granary which was moved to the Zaanse Schans from Wormerveer. The building has been on the Zaanse Schans since 1976.

 

Lodging

 

More and more Bed & Breakfast locations are emerging in the Zaanstreek. That makes staying more fun! The only accommodation option at the Zaanse Schans itself is B&B Heerlijck Slaapen. The hotel industry is also growing rapidly. With the absolute highlight is the unique Inntel Hotel in Zaandam, which is an accumulation of Zaanse facades. View all lodging options on their website.

 

Accessibility

 

The Zaanse Schans is only a stone throw from Amsterdam Central Station and is easily accessible by bus, train, car and even bicycle.

 

Bus
The Rnet bus line 391 departs from Amsterdam Central Station to Zaanse Schans every 15 minutes. The journey lasts about forty minutes.

 

The bus line 817 connects the Zaanse Schans with Volendam/Edam in July and August. The bus also runs during the holidays.

 

Train

The nearest train station is Zaandijk - Zaanse Schans. You can reach this station with the stop-train from Amsterdam Central Station in 17 minutes. Then continue by foot to the Zaanse Schans and you'll be there in just 15 minutes.

 

For real time public transportation advice, please visit 9292.

 

Bike-Taxi
From April 1 to October 1, bicycle taxis run between station Koog Zaandijk and the Zaanse Schans, between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00.

 

Tuk-tuk
Go Tuk is a tuk-tuk transportation company in the Zaanse Schans area. They operate a shuttle service from the Zaandam city center to Zaanse Schans. You can also reserve tuk-tuks for short trips in the Zaanstreek.

 

Zaanse Schans Card

 

For tourists or visitors who cannot get enough of the Zaanse Schans, getting a Zaanse Schans Card would be the best bet on visiting museums and getting discounts. With the Zaanse Schans Card, you can visit several museums for free for a day. You also receive attractive discounts: in souvenir and museum shops, in catering and on demonstrations of Old Dutch crafts. The card is valid every day, during the low and high seasons.

 

Where do you buy the Card?

 

The Zaanse Schans Card can be purchased at the Zaan Store, the information Center in the Zaans Museum, the Zaans Weaver's House and at Museum Zaanse Tijd.

 

Note: Some tour operators organise excursions to the Zaanse Schans area. If you search "Guided excursions to Zaanse Schans", you're definitely going to find some excursions on the result page.

 

Parking Possibilities 

 

Are you coming by car? Use the address "Schansend 7" as your navigation's destination. Parking costs
€10 per day for cars while coaches pay €20.

 

Zaanse Schans Opening Times

 

Information Desk: 09:00 - 17:00

Parking Spaces & Toilets: 08:00 - 19:00

 

Contact

 

Would you like to know more about the Zaanse Schans? Contact them at info@zaanseschans.nl or call +31 (0) 75-681 00 00.

 

Finally,

 

It feels almost unreal to realise that hundreds of years ago, people slept, worked, loved, laughed, cried, argued, and died inside those walls. It is a gift to the present generation to have the opportunity of looking into the past and seeing how life was in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Zaanse Schans is very much alive and we should all be grateful that we can witness history by visiting the country side.

 

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