On my KLM flight to Amsterdam, there was a quote in the airline’s magazine. It said, “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”
Throughout my trip to North Holland, I could not help but admire the innovation of the Dutch. They are relentless in their perseverance to keep the water out, using dikes and dams to ensure that their lands stay safe and dry.
Originally, Dutch windmills were used to pump water so the land could be farmed. They gained another purpose in the Industrial Era, where they ground grain, extracted oils, and milled wood.
Unless you have already made a stop to visit the Browerij’t IJ, you are probably looking forward to seeing a windmill!
The I amsterdam City Pass makes it easy to take a day trip to a quintessential village, Zaanse Schans, where you can admire the clever handiwork of the Dutch.
The I amsterdam City Card allows you access to everything in Zaanse Schans, so you can do it all and see it all on this day trip from Amsterdam.
The largest one in the area, the Zaans Museum displays various Dutch paintings, artifacts and traditional clothing. There is also a chocolate and cookie factory section as well as an audio guide to round out the experience.
Probably the neatest part of the museum is the time-lapse of the windmills at Zaanse Schans. You can see the changing landscape of the village right in front of your eyes!
Zaan Time Museum (Zaanse Tijd)
Observe the gears up close in this museum that showcases different clocks from the 16th century.
Dutch engineering is on full display as you admire the timekeeping strategies from the Golden Age as well as an abundance of pendulums, pocket watches, and a water clock.
Saw Mill (Het Jonge Schaap)
This is a super cool mill that shows the extent of Dutch engineering. The frame saw cuts the wood while simultaneously pulling up the next log, and you can then climb upstairs for the view from the top of the mill.
With a lift that will take you to the second deck to observe the gears, this mill is also ability-friendly.
Peanut Oil Mill (De Zoeker)
I entered this mill with my mouth watering, as it smelled delicious.
All is done right here as you watch the miller roast the peanuts over a fire, shovel them into a bag, and put it under the mill for pressing. There is also a second-story platform to observe the spinning blades of the mill.
Chalk Paint Mill (De Kat)
This mill grounds chalk to be developed into coloured powders or mixed with oil to create paint. Check out the cap-winder and the capstan wheel on the second-floor platform and marvel at what is probably the last remaining paint windmill in the world.
It’s no wonder there were so many Dutch painters in the Golden Age!
Linseed Oil Mill (De Bonte Hen)
This mill was built in 1693 and restored in 1973, although the original base and storage cellars still stand. With photos lining the walls and the presses on the floor, you can gather information on how they extract oil and are left with a “cattle cake.”
After being spoiled by the second-story platforms of the last 3 mills, we were slightly disappointed that we could not climb to the top of this one.
The Weaver’s House (Wevershuis)
Learn how they used to make sail cloths when you visit this traditional home. Try your hand at one of the looms and discuss the importance of windmill cloth.
The Weaver’s House had a pioneer feel to it and would make a great learning opportunity for kids.
The Coopery (Kuiperij Tiemstra)
Admire tools from the past centuries and marvel at how we used to store everything in BARRELS.
This ancient art is a time-honed practiced used to store high-value products such as wine and sugar. For comparison, there are fewer than 50 master coopers in the United States. Crazy!
See the windmills from the water and relive the tales of Zaanse Schans with a boat ride around the village.
This cruise is one hour and offers excellent photo opportunities, including a stop at a windmill.
As a bonus, the I amsterdam City Card also allows you a FREE turn in the washroom at the Zaans Museum. Otherwise, you will be paying €0.50 to use the toilets.
Food & Drink
There are a few cafés and restaurants at Zaanse Schans, but you can definitely bring your own snacks, and I would always recommend that you bring a bottle of water.
Personally, I make a point to stop at the Albert Cuyp Market, as one of my favourite parts of Amsterdam is the snacks!
You can also choose to eat at Restaurant De Hoop op d’Swarte Walvis, as they offer a 25% discount on lunch with the I amsterdam City Card.
Getting to Zaanse Schans
Although your I amsterdam City Pass covers the entry fees to all of the museums and windmills in Zaanse Schans, it does not cover your transportation out of the city.
Unless you have an Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket, you will need to buy a bus ticket from Centraal Station to Zaanse Shans. You will take bus 391, which is the Industrial Heritage Line, right to the last stop. Don’t worry, almost everyone on the bus will be going there too!
Unfortunately, the ticket machines do not accept cash, so you will have to go to the information desk OR, if you are there between 9 am and 2 pm, head to Platform H for the Tourist Information employee. He will be wearing a red jacket that says GVB on it – he will sell you a ticket to Zaanse Schans. Round trip, the cost is 11.50 Euros.
There IS a free way to get there…
If you have a whole day, you CAN make the most of your I amsterdam City Card and take a trip to Zaanse Schans for free.
From Centraal Station, hop on the ferry instead of the bus for a free trip to Zaans Schans. This boat ride is only available from Thursday to Sunday and departs at 10 am from Pier 14.
While the 2-hour boat ride to Zaans Schans may seem long, there are significant sights to see along the way, including A’DAM lookout tower and the EYE film museum.
If you are interested, you can see the schedule for yourself at Zaanferry.com.
Other day trips that you can do with the I amsterdam City Card:
Muiden (Muiderslot Castle)
A fun and exciting day trip, as it also includes a ferry ride.
While the I amsterdam City Card includes your admission to the castle, you will have to buy an Amsterdam & Region bus ticket (Bus 320, 322 or 327) to get there.
Another option, if you are willing to make a day of it, is to take the 26 Tram to the end of the line (IJburg Stop), and then use your I amsterdam City Card to get a 25% discount and take the Ferry.
The Ferry option allows you to squeeze in an extra attraction, Amsterdam Fortress Island (Pampus) as well as Muiderslot Castle.
If you’re looking to swing it like the Dutch, you can always rent a bicycle (the City Card allows you a 25% discount), as the route is far safer for tourists than cycling in the city!
An Instagram favourite, most come to Zaandam to photograph this colourful stacked hotel, but while you’re here, scope out a piece of history by visiting the Czaar Peterhuisje.
The Czar Peter House was built is 1632, and is so named after its famous guest, Peter the Great, who ruled the Russian Empire until 1725.
I would consider this “on the way” to Zaanse Schans, and these two could easily be combined in one trip. Entrance to the Czaar Peterhuisje is included in the I amsterdam City Card.
Head West out of the city to see the authentic Dutch town of Haarlem. Only 15 min away by train, Haarlem is an easy day trip with LOTS to do.
With the I amsterdam City Card, you can:
- explore psychiatry and mental illness at Dolhuys, The Museum of the Mind (currently closed for renovations until 2020)
- visit both locations of the Frans Hals Museum, with Roman Catholic and Rembrandt style art dating from the 15th century
- marvel at the fossils at Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands
- take a canal cruise with Smidtje Canal Cruises Haarlem
- get a walking tour guide from the Haarlem Tourist Information Office
- enjoys discounts at Rent a Bike Haarlem, Dijkers Eten & Drinken, and Tapasbar El Pincho
With so many options, it makes for a great day trip from Amsterdam. Keep in mind that transportation to Haarlem is not included in the I amsterdam City Card, so you will have to buy a train ticket from Centraal to Haarlem Station.
Volendam & Marken
Both Volendam and Marken are perfectly preserved Dutch villages that are any photographer’s dream.
Get a free walking tour guide from the Volendam Tourist Office and visit the Volendams Museum to see what traditional clothing in a Dutch village looks like.
As a BONUS: your I amsterdam City Card allows you a free Ferry ride to the nearby village of Marken, where you can enjoy lunch at a discount at Restaurant Land & Zeezicht or Taverne de Visscher.
While you’re there, stop in at the Wooden Shoe Factory for a free clog making demonstration before heading back on the ferry.
You will need to buy a bus ticket to Volendam, as regional travel is not included in the I amsterdam City Card. Take the 316 bus to Volendam for only € 10 round-trip, and be sure to get off at the Julianaweg Stop.