For my 30th birthday, my
boyfriend husband offered me the perfect gift: a trip to Amsterdam and tickets to a U2 concert! And since it was our second time in the city, we figured we would spend the time exploring other places outside the Dutch capital, such as a day trip to Zaanse Schans, the Windmills Village.
I have to admit that before this trip, I had no idea about what else could be seen and visited in The Netherlands apart from well Amsterdam, windmills, the tulip fields in April and of course, The Hague.
After doing a little bit of research (you know, the usual ask a friend, ask a colleague, search on Pinterest kind of thing), I ended up with a plan for a perfect day trip from Amsterdam. A very good plan.
boyfriend husband was terrified and mortified he will have to walk the 20 – 30 km per day I usually do on city breaks, but he went along with it. After all, it was my birthday, right?
Wondering where to stay in Amsterdam? Check out the perfect Amsterdam accommodation guide!
The only thing he was complaining about every now and then, was his walking app, alerting him that he has broken yet another record!
With that in mind, we set out for a day trip to Zaanse Schans on a lovely Summer morning.
Zaanse Schans day trip – getting from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans
Getting from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans by train
Getting from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans could not be easier and it takes only 4 train stops and less than 20 minutes, making it the perfect way of spending half of the day outside of Amsterdam.
You just need to go to Amsterdam Centraal (Amsterdam Central Station) and take the first train passing through Zaandijk – Zaanse Schans, where you will need to exit the train. More about the timetable and route for the train from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans here.
Make sure to buy a ticket from the train station in Amsterdam (or online from the above link), it will cost you 4,2 EUR one – way (or 3.3 EUR online, worth buying it online for the cheaper version), and don’t forget to validate it before getting on the train.
Getting from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans by bus
Of course, you always have the option of taking the bus and seeing different scenery.
Your option would be to take the 391 bus, also called the Industrial Heritage line. Apart from getting you from Amsterdam to Zaansche Schans, your final destination, the bus will also give the chance to visit NDSM Wharf and Zaandam Centre (you have surely seen the colorful one of kind buildings that Zaandam is famous for).
For more information on the 391 bus timetable, prices and route, check out this pdf.
Getting from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans on a guided tour
There’s always the option of booking a guided tour when it comes to planning a day trip somewhere.
Our travel style is a mix of DIY travel experiences and activities, and booking guided tours. We like to book a guide whenever we don’t have too much time on hand and by having everything organized we could manage to see way more than we would on our own.
Or even when the destination we want to get to is not so easily reachable, and can be linked together with other lovely places.
In this particular case, we chose to take the train to Zaanse Schans and book a day trip from Amsterdam to some other pretty Dutch villages. Because we had the time to do both.
But when you only have a few days in Amsterdam and want to explore also the Dutch countryside, you can choose to hook up a day trip to Zaanse Schans with other lovely villages (a Volendam tour for example) or book a hop-on-hop-off tour where you will still have the flexibility while having the transfer covered.
Here are the top 3 day trips from Amsterdam including a stop in Zaanse Schans:
My one day in Zaanse Schans guide – see the Zaanse Schans windmills
Ok, so you took the train, got off at the right station, and asked the nice guy in the coffee shop how to find the windmills at Zaanse Schans and you are on your way to …well…this small Paradise. I’ll help you out with everything you must know for your Zaanse Schans self-guided tour.
And if you’ve decided to book that tour, good for you! Keep on reading just to know what to expect from your visit and since you’ll have limited time you could use all the Zaanse Schans tips you could get, right?
The first thing that stroke me since I step foot on the main street leading to the windmills of Zaanse Schans was the smell. Yes, you read it right, the smell!
Oh, what a wonderful smell that was!
This is one of the few times when I wished cameras could record also the smell of a place.
In this little fairy tale city, the air was filled with chocolate dust!
I felt like opening my mouth wide and take all the air in, without risking of gaining any weight!
And I really did it, forgot I was actually turning 30 not 13, even encouraging my
boyfriend husband to do the same!
Visit CacaoLab at Zaans Gedaan
And now to answer the question you are asking yourself: where did the smell come from?
Well, as you might know, The Netherlands used to be a great (the greatest for a period) colonial power in the world, thus bringing large amounts of spices on water from different distant places such as Indonesia. You’ve guessed it, in Zaanse Schans you will find a chocolate and cocoa factory and a chocolate museum.
Unfortunately, when we got there, the museum was closed but still got to see the demonstrations people make in all the small shops in the windmill village, but maybe you will be luckier than us and get to see the real deal 🙂
But if you are lucky, you can
book a tour at CocoaLab which is located on the Zaan, between the mills (update 2021: closed). Here is where cocoa beans have been grounded and chocolate has been made for centuries.
When going for a Zaanse Schans self-guided tour, you might want to look into the Amsterdam City Card, which grants you access to over 100 top attractions in Amsterdam and its surroundings.
Sit down and sip a cup of hot chocolate!
I have to admit I almost missed this, choosing to drink a glass of prosecco instead, but luckily someone else was smarter and made me try the cocoa. And boy I’m happy I did it!
Never have I tasted something similar, so silky, so dense, with such an intense taste! Make sure to try it!
Drink your chocolate and walk around on the small streets between the waters of this open-air museum windmill village, admire the view, the flowers in bloom so beautifully colored, the old windmills (you can even visit some of them, free of charge, get to see how people used to live in the 18th century and what the windmills were used for).
Visit an old windmill on the inside
How many times would one get the chance to visit an old windmill? Well, in the Netherlands, and especially in Zaanse Schans this is a must and why most of the people come here.
In the small windmill village, you will find the last paint mill in the world, and you could visit it on the inside, and let yourself immersed in Dutch history.
Dutch cheese and clog museum
Make sure not to miss the traditional Dutch cheese factory in Zaanse Schans and cheese museum, having a chance to taste all sorts of cheese variety.
Move forward and stop at the clog workshop where you will have a tough job choosing between hundreds of types and colors of traditional Dutch clogs. This is a wooden shoe museum in other words. We saw wooden shoes from all over the world, we have never thought about: Japanese wooden shoes, European Medieval from different countries, Korean, and even Turkish types.
Here is where we got the chance to see live the process of clog making, and how they make this pretty yet strong wooden shoes, originally designed for the risk-prone work in a farm.
Don’t leave the open-air museum before paying a visit to the bakery museum, and the fisherman’s cottage.
Buy some traditional Dutch goods
I fell in love with every visit to the Netherlands with their amazingly beautiful Delft blue ceramics. They have it on their walls, they have the patterns on different ornaments or everyday products.
I’ve even seen the tiles in Lisbon in their famous pasteis de Nata place.
So that’s something you should definitely bring home as a souvenir for yourself or your dear ones. That, and some fresh cheese directly from the cheese farm in Zaanse Schans. I’m a huge cheese addict.
And don’t forget about the delicious cocoa powder and some great quality chocolate.
Rent a bike and go on the Zaanse Schans Cycling Route
When you have more time to spend on your day trip to Zaanse Schans and you actually have the whole day to spare, this is such a great way of exploring the Dutch countryside.
This biking route to Zaanse Schans starts from Amsterdam Central Train Station and leaves the city, heading northwest and crosses the IJ by ferry. The Amsterdam – Zaandam Ferry is free and runs 24 hours a day, with very regular crossings.
You don’t have to do it all, just create your cycling route as you wish by looking at this map.
Zaanse Schans ticket price & Opening Hours
When it comes to the Zaanse Schans ticket price, the most efficient and cheapest version of seeing all you can (when you don’t book a guided tour, of course) is by investing 15 EUR in a Zaanse Schans Card.
Buy your card in advance here, or at the ZaanStore at the entrance in the Zaans Museum.
Before planning a day in Zaanse Schans, the windmill village, you might want to check out the timetables for all the museums, cafes and restaurants, and you can do that by accessing this link.
When to visit Zaanse Schans
I think the best time to visit both The Netherlands and Zaanse Schans windmill village might be during the Summer.
While I always recommend seeing the more important travel destinations out there during shoulder season (off-season) so that you can avoid the crowds, and paying extra for almost everything, The Netherlands is quite different.
We visited Zaanse Schans in early August and I still had a jacket on. Dutch summers are not as the oned you might expect from Italy or Greece.
That’s why, when you want to make the best out of your trip, be active and see all you can, go during Summer.
What stroke me the most about windmills village?
Apart from the beauty of the houses? Yes, they are just stunning, straight out of a story.
I must admit that after this trip into the countryside of the Netherlands, I fell in love with hydrangeas and wish Romania has a chillier climate so I could have some of my own.
I guess you got my point 😀
But the thing that stroke me the most was the moving bridge. I had never before seen something similar! How traffic stopped for the bridge to open like a gate and the ship to pass through it. Amazing!
So here it is, my perfect Amsterdam day trip at Zaanse Schans, the Windmill village with Chocolate flavor.
Other travel resources for when you visit The Netherlands
- Here are 4 pretty small Dutch villages you must see
- Do you only have one day for a trip from Amsterdam? See why you should take a day tour from Amsterdam to Giethoorn, Venice of the North
- Looking for tulip fields near Amsterdam? Look no further! Here’s my guide on seeing the tourist-free tulip fields and tulip farm.
What have I missed? What should I have done more? Hit the comment below and let me know!