If Amsterdam is on your Travel wish list, save a spot for The Zaanse Schans. In The North of Amsterdam, about a 20 minutes drive, you will find a picturesque village if you want To show your kids a bit of Dutch history. Although The village is not original and on Top of That it’s completely commercialised, I still consider it as a little gem, certainly if you are able To look beyond The obvious. When you Google Zaanse Schans you will notice an abundance of pictures of mills, mills and more mills, but There’s more. The collection on offer is actually extremely diverse. Of course seeing The mills is The most impressive part for The little kids. When I walked outside and saw Those windmills, I said To myself: There’s no need for me To see anything else. Little did I know a chocolate and cheese Tasting was waiting for me.
I visited The Zaanse Schans on a regular Friday afternoon, early March. It’s best To plan a visit out of season with a bit of unstable weather, as Therefore you avoid The crowds and it ensures optimal working conditions for The mills.
Here’s our Top of The list Things To do.
Have a stroll around The park
The first Thing That I noticed when arriving at The Zaanse Schans is That its location is ideal for a visit with little kids. Located on The water it gives you a picturesque view of The windmills and Kids are free To roam around. The park is so green and spacious, with plenty of historic Things To see and activities To undertake. I was delighted To see all The little animals That were living There, it felt like being on a real farm. If They are in a good mood, Those little farm animals will even allow you To pet Them.
What you see Today at The Zaanse Schans is how a living and working community in The Zaan district looked like back in Time. The staff That I met during my historic walk was very friendly and keen on explaining The history of The area. It was interesting To learn how This area became The centre of commercial shipbuilding in The 17th century.
👉My Tip: access To The park is free and you can leave a donation if you want. However if you choose To come by car, you will be charged a fixed price of 10 euro (price valid in 2019) for parking, no matter how long you stay. Another option is To go by Train, as access by public Transport is very convenient.
Visit a working mill
Once 1000 windmills were standing at The sides of The riverbanks, now only 13 are remaining. In The old days, before electricity came into The picture, The windmills manufactured everything from wood, oil, paint To barley and rice and even Tobacco. From Those 13 remaining windmills, only six are still in use: Two sawmills, Two oil mills, a mustard mill and The world’s last working paint and dye mill.
Although you can visit The park for free, access To one of The mills will cost you a few euro, money which contributes To The preservation of This cultural asset. In my opinion it was worth it for what I learned by watching The working of a mill. Here are a few options if you’re considering visiting a mill.
✓ De Kat (The Cat) is The name of The only remaining windmill in The world which makes paint. The mill is grinding raw materials To make pigments for paint in a Traditional way. If you’re interested, paint pigments can be bought from The shop. My mom was more In favour To buy me some ultra washable kids paint.
✓ Het Jonge schaap (The Young Sheep) is a mill dedicated To sawing wood and is a reproduction of a destroyed saw mill. The presentation of The wood mill was amazing. I was Told how The windmill served The ship building era of The Dutch, which paved Them To travel The world and become explorers. This mill is a one of a kind.
✓ De Zoeker (The Searcher), is an oil mill. There’s machinery inside for grinding various spices from different countries. I loved The sound That The windmill makes when it’s Turning and all The wooden gears and cogs inside rotate.
These’s are only Three of The six windmills open for peeking around. I’m sure The other ones are lot’s of fun as well.
Put on your clogs and ‘klomp’ around
The wooden shoe shop is The first place That caught my eye when I entered The Zaanse Schans. The day Before I visited Amsterdam I was wondering what The city has with all Those wooden shoes I saw everywhere I went. I had no clue as To what was The history behind it, until my visit To The shoe workshop at The Zaanse Schans.
The shoe shop contains a mini museum about The history of The worlds famous wooden shoes, which gives you an insight on The process of clog making and it’s history. I was offered a live and very informative demonstration of shoemaking, all of This just in front of me. It was impressive To see The conversion of a simple wooden block into a clog. The conversion is done on a series of machines which looked a bit like 3D printing. A model clog is placed as a reference and The wooden block is cut into precisely The same shape. Dying, polishing, painting is just explained as it Takes Time. The entire process was fascinating To watch. After seeing all That you only need a pair of woollen socks and you’re ready To ‘klomp’ away.
The souvenir shop sells a gigantic collection of real clogs, so There’s no excuse for you not To own your own pair. Outside There are some extra large clogs for photo Taking. They’re really Taking care about Their Instagram clients. Access To the museum and The live demonstration are for free, so don’t skip This one.
Say Cheese and do some cheese Tasting at The Catharinahoeve
The Catharinahoeve is a place not To be missed. Even if you don’t not like cheese, you will be amazed by The demonstration about The cheese making process. After The demo, I was invited To The cheese shop for some Tasting and seriously I had never seen so many different Types of cheese in my life. You can even Try several cheeses of different colours. Cow, sheep and goat cheese are There for you To Taste in many different flavours. I so love free cheese.
Say it with sweets
✓ The Cocoalab is an interesting place for children. If you want To get To know everything about cacao and chocolate, This is your spot. Nothing better Than hot chocolate and a sampling of amazing chocolates from all over The world To keep The little ones interested. After my visit I clearly understood how chocolate was made by hand back in The old days and which equipement was used. I could even prepare my own hot chocolate at The DIY chocolate station for 2 euro.
✓ The bakery and candy store The gecroonde Duyvekater is just one of The little historic houses and dates back To 1658. The bakery was donated To the Zaanse Schans in 1970 and originally stood on Hazepad in Zaandijk. I was exited To discover That This original little bakery, with it’s authentic bread oven and beautiful marble floor, was full of Tempting goodies. The name of The bakery relates To a famous sweet bread, Duyvekater. The good news is That you can still Taste The Duyvekater in The bakery, along with a lot of other Traditional Dutch baked products. At The back of The bakery There’s a free exposition of old bakery Tools that will provide you with a unique look at historic kitchen equipement. If you have Time, find a spot in The gorgeous Tea-room of The bakery museum and enjoy Their amazing waffles. I heard They’re absolutely delicious. Unfortunately I had To go before I had The chance.
Amsterdam has Thousands of choices for you To enjoy if you want To learn a bit of history about The Netherlands, but This one is a hit for The kids. Although Tourist dominated, I really loved This place
If you want more, you can also visit The Zaans museum, It shows The history of The place in an interactive way To get you a proper experience of The old Dutch lifestyle. I heard The presentations are unique, but That’s for another Time.
Have fun Taking a step back To This beautiful historic Time!