Visititing the Windmills in Holland

This past weekend, B and I took a long, leisurely bike ride to Zaanse Schans Zaandam. Now try saying that 10 times fast!! Zaanse Schans Zaandam is know for being Western Europe’s oldest industrial area, and in centuries past, there were more than 600 windmills operating throughout the region. Today, there are considerably fewer windmills, but the traditional Dutch beauty has been well-preserved. A trip to Zaanse Schans Zaandam is a must for anyone visiting Holland. It’s a town packed with Dutch clichés – windmills, wooden shoes, cheese, and bikes!!IMG_0504On Sunday, B and I decided to escape Amsterdam city life and take advantage of the stellar sunshine. We hopped on our bikes and headed for Zaanse Schans Zaandam, eager to explore this glorious Dutch windmill-land. Zaandam is a 70 minute bike ride from Amsterdam. Knowing this, we packed a picnic lunch, put on our sunnies, and started our trek by taking the ferry across the IJ to Amsterdam-Noord.

IMG_0461Exploring Amsterdam-Noord is a wonderful day trip in and of itself. There are a free GVB ferries situated behind Amsterdam’s Central Station, available to carry people, bikes and scooters across the IJ to the lovely Amsterdam-Noord. Once in the Noord, there are waterfront restaurants, urban beaches, large creative spaces, and small countryside villages, all to be explored. You can read more about what to do in Amstedam-Noord here.IMG_0465However, as B and I were headed to Zaandam, we didn’t dally in the north and continued on our bike-route. B was the navigator and we went under tunnels, along highways, over bridges, and through wide fields – all while trucking along the designated bike paths.IMG_0476When we reached Zaandam, I was in awe. I did not expect to find such a picturesque village! Everywhere you looked was quintessential Dutch. There were long wooden docks along the water for boats, tables outside in the sun for drinking small pints of beer, and bikers slowly pedaling along the waterfront.IMG_0506And windmills. For miles and miles, only windmills.IMG_0504Windmills in HollandWe parked our bikes at the beginning of the village, and then slowly walked our way through. IMG_0525It seemed like the whole town had to be a museum, or something from the Truman Show – everything was so quaint and well put together, from the manicured gardens to the lovely cobble stone streets.IMG_0526IMG_0532IMG_0528We found a quiet spot to eat our picnic, and then went on to walk around the windmills.IMG_0534The weather was absolutely perfect, and some kids were even swimming in the river. When I was a young ‘un, my mom used to turn to me on days like this and tell me how it was her absolute favorite. Not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze, and the sun beaming down at a balmy 70 degrees. I always think of her on these early summer days.IMG_0547Along our stroll, we ventured in and out of the windmills. Some were museums, some were shops, and others were closed for restorations.IMG_0550IMG_0564I swear everyone in this town was fake. Men strolled around in wooden shoes, and old guys in suspenders just sat outside, jamming on their accordions. I refuse to believe this is real, and not all completely staged!
IMG_0574IMG_0562Vintage Windmill HollandB took these two photos, and the awkward sun-spot that insists on hovering RIGHT where I am standing is not a Photoshop effect!Ali WindmillDutch WindmillWe stopped by a goat pen, and my Maine farm-gal mentality instantly kicked in. The woman next to me handed me a cracker, so I placed the it in the center of my palm, fingers tightly pressed together.  A nearby goat spotted the treat, and nearly leapt over over the fence to nibble the cracker from my hand! IMG_0556IMG_0590There were also chickens . . . Dutch Chicken. . . and silly old men in wooden clogs!!
Dutch Man in ClogsIMG_0608IMG_0606IMG_0599After roaming around for a few hours, we stopped at a quaint restaurant for a drink and a snack. The front of the restaurant was facing the street, and was completely packed. There was not a spare table to be seen. We found our way inside, and were surprised to find a beautiful, almost empty terrace out back, right on the water!IMG_0626IMG_0627We helped ourselves to a table, and ordered a few beers and some classic Dutch bitterballen.Boyfriend on TerraceIMG_0651Flower TerraceBen Terrace WindmillSitting in the sun and drinking beer was a great finish to our day trip, but we did moan about having to bike back. It had been a full day of exercise, and after some bitterballen and sunshine, it was hard to rally the effort to move!! That said, if the worst thing about Zaanse Schans Zaandam was having to leave, it must have been a pretty epic day, right? ;)

If you’re looking to see some gorgeous windmills, learn about Dutch history, or just escape the city for the day, you can find Zaanse Schans Zaandam at  Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam. They have an info center incase you have any questions or need to call ahead, and you can reach them at +31 (0)75 681 00 00. They also have a kick ass website that’s also in English. Check it out, and have a lovely weekend!

XO Ali

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13 thoughts on “Visititing the Windmills in Holland

    • Thanks love! It was a short quick one, B and I both got that ‘vacation’ mentality on while we were there, as it was so sunny and outside of the city. . . . bummer to have to come back to work the next day. ha!

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  1. Once a country of 10,000 windmills, Holland now has over 1,000 historic vertical mills, more than any other country in the world. Vertical mills come in a variety of shapes, from the post mill, hollow post mill, tower mill, and the smock mill. All of these are really a variation on the post mill, where a post stands vertically and its attached sails can be turned to face the direction of the wind. The other types of vertical windmills expand the center from a simple post to large interior spaces where the miller can live.

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