Everything you need to know for your visit to Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands
I have seen quite a bit from the world now. But the more I see abroad, the more I appreciate my own country – the Netherlands – as well. Young Jessica would not be interested in visiting some old mills and wooden shoe factories. But the older and more life-experienced version of me loves it! One of the most touristic places in the Netherlands is Zaanse Schans, near Amsterdam. But it’s touristic for a reason of course. Make sure you bring your camera with ya, because there are some nice photo opportunities here! In this blog I will share all the tips for your visit and everything you need to know before you go to Zaanse Schans.
1. How do you even go to Zaanse Schans?
Zaanse Schans is a small area in the province Noord-Holland. It’s only some kilometers in north western direction from Amsterdam. You’ll find Zaanse Schans at the rivier named the Zaan, across the village Zaandijk. Because of the location it’s such a popular destination as a (half) day trip from Amsterdam.
Go by car to Zaanse Schans
If you are visiting with Dutch friends who have a car it can be useful to travel by car to Zaanse Schans. But honestly I would not recommend renting a car only for visiting Zaanse Schans. This place is easily reachable by train (or bus or boat) and it saves you some parking hussle. But if you wanna combine your visit to Zaanse Schans with another place – let’s say Volendom, Marken or the beach – then it can be useful to have a rental car.
There’s a parking lot for visitors next to the museum Zaans Museum. Parking costs are €10 euros per car per day. If you’re using some navigation system you can use the address Schansend 7 in Zaandam to reach the parking lot. By the way: make sure you can pay by card. It’s not possible to pay the parking costs with cash money.
If you’re a little bit more adventurous you can also park the car in Zaandijk, at the other side of the river. Near the train station of Zaandijk Zaanse Schans there are a couple of places where you can park for free. If you don’t see a blue line next to the parking space or a machine to buy tickets you’re probably safe. Most of the village is free parking. Although it’s nice to not use the parking spots right in front of someone’s home if there aren’t any other places left for the people of Zaandijk.
Go by train to Zaanse Schans
The easiest way to reach Zaanse Schans is by train. From Amsterdam Central Train Station you travel to the train station Zaandijk Zaanse Schans in about 15 minutes. The ride is €3,30 euro, one way (without discount). It’s a train that stops in multiple places, so be aware of that. It also stops in other places in Amsterdam, like Amsterdam Sloterdijk.
When you’re at the train station of Zaandijk Zaanse Schans you’ll walk for 1,5 kilometers to reach Zaanse Schans. Just leave the train station and follow the directions. It’s quite easy: walk one way, go once to the left and then cross the bridge at the right side. Et voilà, you’re there!
Are you staying in Zaandam? From there you can take bus 391 to Zaanse Schans. There are also busses going from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaanse Schans, but the ride is more than 40 minutes. So I would suggest to take the train from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans instead.
Go by boat to Zaanse Schans
You can even go to Zaanse Schans by boat. That’s an original way to travel from Amsterdam to this place, right? There’s a boat company called Zaanferry. They sell tickets to different places along the Zaan river, like Zaanse Schans. Make sure you take a Zone-2-ticket, because with the Zone-1-ticket you will not end up in Zaanse Schans. The tickets are €10 euros for adults for one way, €15 euros for a retour ticket. Kids get discount. Check the website of Zaanferry for more information and the departure times of the boats.
2. What can you do once you’re at Zaanse Schans?
If you visit Zaanse Schans you really have the feeling of travelling back in time. You will see how life was in the Netherlands, quite some time ago. I’m Dutch and even for me there were some surprising things to learn about my country and culture. There are a couple of authentic buildings and museums at Zaanse Schans, where you get information about typical (former) Dutch craftsmanships. And of course there are the photogenic mills at the river side. Most places you can visit for free, which makes Zaanse Schans an affordable trip. Please do check the opening times for most musea and historical buildings before your visit, because they can change from day to day.
These are some of my favorite places to visit and things to do when you’re visiting Zaanse Schans:
1. Check out the mills at the river side
Like I said before: the mills of Zaanse Schans are located at the riverside and are really photogenic. From the bridge Julianabrug you will have a great view to see most of them. Besides that you have a good view point in the little ‘harbour’ of the small boat in Zaandijk (at the other side of the river). You can cross the bridge by walking or first walk a little bit through Zaandijk and take the ferry for €1 euro (for adults) to the side of the mills.
2. See how a mill in the Netherlands actually works
Of course you can visit some of the mills as well. Check them out from the inside and enjoy the view from the platform on the first floor. The millers love to talk about their job, the different mills we have in the Netherlands and the way they produce. The entrance fee for most mills is €5 euros for adults.
3. Getting some free cheese at Catharina Hoeve
Dutchies love free things. So that’s why you will see a lot of tastings in supermarkets and in the streets. In Catharina Hoeve there’s a cheese factory, of Henri Willig. This is a pretty big cheese brand and they have SO MANY DIFFERENT CHEESES. It’s like heaven for cheese addicts. Honestly they promote this place as a museum of an old cheese farm, but it’s actually just a shop with some nice decoration and people dressed up. But you have the opportunity to taste some really good cheese. For free!
4. Wooden shoe factory: because that’s what makes the Netherlands famous
Everyone thinks of wooden shoes when they think about the Netherlands. But fun fact is: almost nobody nowadays wears them anymore. Only some countryside people who have to be outside a lot. Or farmers. Or people who just love to walk around with quite heavy shoes. One of the coolest small museums in Zaanse Schans is the wooden shoe factory.
I learnt a lot of new things about wooden shoes in the Netherlands! For example, the Sunday shoes were super colorful and with a lot of decoration. Those were for the visits to the church. But you could also know where someone was from, if you would check out the decoration, colors and shape of the wooden shoes. The whole day there are small demonstrations in the wooden shoe factory, so you can see how they made them back in the days and nowadays. There is no entrance fee.
5. The museum shop of Albert Heijn
Maybe you have already noticed, but one of our biggest supermarket chains is Albert Heijn (the one with the blue letters). In Zaanse Schans they used one of the authentic houses to replicate the first shop of Albert Heijn. There are coffee cans from the sixties and lots of other authentic products from years ago. You get a good taste of how life was years and years ago. Entrance is free.
6. Tulip liquor tasting at the Tweekoppige Phoenix
There are a couple of places where you can eat and drink something at Zaanse Schans. One of those places is Tweekoppige Phoenix. They make their own liquors! The most unique one is the tulip wodka. You can have a tasting of 3 liquors for €5,75 euros.
7. Some nice views from the lookout tower over the Dutch fields
Next to the museum Zaans Museum and the parking lot there’s a wooden lookout tower. You can easily climb this tower and enjoy a lovely view over the Dutch landscape. And the mills at the riverside as well of course. You can climb the tower for free.
3. Is it possible to eat or drink anything at Zaanse Schans?
Of course! There are a couple of shops where you can buy small snacks like ice-cream, waffles, candy and drinks. But there are also some restaurants where you can have a decent lunch or dinner.
But if you wanna do it the Dutch way you will probably bring your own food and drinks and have a picknick. You’re allowed to bring stuff to Zaanse Schans. There’s a Spar supermarket at the other side of the bridge Julianabrug where you can buy some things last minute.
4. How much time do you need for your visit to Zaanse Schans?
The place itself is actually quite small. If you walk around a bit, take some photos and visit some of the museums you can probably leave after 2 hours. If you wanna eat anything make it 3. You will not walk a lot, because all of the sights are nearby each other. I would either go here for the morning or for the afternoon. It’s a perfect trip of half a day that you can easily combine with your visit to Amsterdam.
5. Staying over: where can I sleep for my visit to Zaanse Schans?
So there are a bunch of options for your accommodation. There is 1 hotel at Zaanse Schans, named Heerlijck Slaapen. It means something like ‘delightful sleep’ in Dutch. It’s a small hotel right in the middle of Zaanse Schans, so you can’t stay any closer to the mills than in this place!
You can also stay in the beautiful Inntel Hotel in Zaandam. Zaandam is the city just south of Zaanse Schans and it’s just as lovely and photogenic. So it’s not a horrible idea to spend the night here. The hotel is designed in the style of the authentic wooden houses. It’s a piece of art, if you ask me. And it’s a lovely place to sleep if you wanna stay over nearby Zaanse Schans but not in Amsterdam.
And of course then there’s Amsterdam. There are hundreds of options for accommodations in the capital. If you wanna sleep in a special place I would recommend the Train Lodge, at Amsterdam Sloterdijk. Here you sleep in an old train wagon! They rooms are not the biggest you’ll ever see, but the atmosphere and the special way of sleeping makes definitely up for it. From here you can take a train really easy: just go to the train station Amsterdam Sloterdijk and within 10 minutes you’re at Zaandijk Zaanse Schans.
I love exploring more of my own country. So if you have any tips – either more tips for Zaanse Schans or for other places in the Netherlands – please let me know in the comments!
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