Tour the Zaanse Schans Windmills in The Netherlands

Zaanse Schans is an open-air conservation area and museum located on the bank of the river Zaan in Zaandam, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It showcases the typical architecture of the Zaan region in the 18th and 19th centuries when Zaandam was an important industrial centre. 

 

The Zaanse Schans was established in the 1950s and 60s when several historic windmills and houses were relocated to the area to preserve them and showcase traditional Dutch life. Today, Zaanse Schans features a collection of well-preserved historic windmills, traditional green wooden houses, workshops, and museums that provide a glimpse into traditional Dutch living and the industrial heritage of the Zaan region. 

The Zaanse Schans Windmills

Various Windmills at Zaanse Schans in Zaandam. Looking over the field

While the Zaanse Schans has, museums, gift shops, a clog workshop, a cheese factory, and a pancake restaurant, the windmills are the location’s stars. The site offers plenty to see during a day trip to this popular tourist destination.

 

There are 10 windmills at Zaanse Schans, which were used for various industrial purposes, such as sawing wood, grinding spices, pressing oil, and grinding pigments for paint and dyes. The windmills include tower mills, smock mills, and a paltrok mill of various sizes and date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the windmills are still operational and offer demonstrations to visitors. The windmills showcase the important role wind technology played in powering the industries of the Zaan region.

Zaanse Schans windmills on the Zaan River,

The windmills are various states of reconstructed mills. The dates of the building are often blurry as mills were built elsewhere, frequently were affected by fire and were rebuilt during their years of operation.

 

In some cases, at the Zaanse Schans, the windmills are fully reconstructed, partially reconstructed, or even only contain part of an original windmill from another location. Either way, whether original or reconstructed, these windmills are a look back into history. 

Woud Aap in krommenierwoud polder

TIP

The Zaanse Schans windmills are just a few of the many windmills in the local region. Consider venturing into the Zaanstreek region and exploring these other windmills.

The Zaanse Schans as living area

The area is considered an open-air conservation area rather than an open-air museum.  This is because the area is still lived in and often the windmills are still running.  That this into consideration when walking through the site located along the zaan river. While this is the best place to see multiple traditional windmills in a single location, it ist still home to many.  

Zaanse Schans House

De Huisman

De Huisman windmill at the Zaanse Schans

The snuff mill De Huisman is the first windmill you will encounter, and it is definitely unique. This mill was originally built in 1786, moved to its current location at the Zaanse Schans in 1955, and restored to working order. 

 

Today, it sits on top of the spice warehouse Indië’s Welvaren, which was itself built in 1908. 

 

The warehouse is free to visit and operates as a store for spices. The mill does have an entrance fee.  

 

For more information on De Huisman.

De Gekroonde Poelenburg

De Gekroonde Polenburg Windmill at the Zaanse Schans

This sawmill, a Paltrok mill, was originally built in 1869. De Held Jozua in Zaandam is another example of a Paltrok mill.  

 

Paltrok Mills, also known as Post Windmills, have wooden posts and rotate around them. They are open on three sides, and their traditional use was to saw the much-needed wood for the local homes and the shipbuilding industry.

 

While there were once hundreds of these style of windmills, there only are 5 today in the Netherlands. Two of which remain in Zaandam.

 

De Held Joza is the second located in a neighbourhood near downtown Zaandam.

 

I have never seen the De Gekroonde Poelenburg open for tours.  For more information on De Gekroonde Poelenburg. 

De Kat

The Paint Mill De Kat is probably one of my favourites at the Zaanse Schans. It still produces pigments, which can be purchased online, and other materials used in paint and restoration work. I personally purchase Shellac Flakes from their website. 

 

The location of De Kat has had a windmill since 1646. However, as windmills are wood constructions, they were often lost to fire and other issues. De Kat was built in 1781 and served as a paint and dye mill for nearly 200 years before being moved to its current location. 

De Kat windmill from Zaanse Schans

In 1960, the mill was carefully restored to its original working condition. It contains two pairs of millstones and all the original machinery needed to produce paints and dyes from ground minerals and other raw materials. 

 

Today, De Kat is one of the few remaining historic windmills where visitors can see traditional paint and dye-making equipment and processes. The mill offers excellent educational tours that explain how the machinery inside operates. Guests can also climb to the top viewing platform for panoramic views. As one of the most iconic mills at Zaanse Schans, De Kat exemplifies Holland’s rich windmill heritage.

 

Check out more information on De Kat.

De Zoeker

De Zoeker (the seeker) has travelled around in its lifetime. Originally built in 1610, it functioned as a Polder (field) mill, which regulates water in the lowlands around it. By 1672, it had been moved to Zaandijk, where it became an oil mill. Its function is to press oil from rapeseed, poppy, and flax seeds. 

 

By 1891, De Zoeker had spent ten years working at a paint mill before returning to oil and switching to cacao. This windmill has really done it all!

 

By 1940, the windmill had fallen into disuse, and it was only in 1958 that an effort was made to restore it to an active oil mill.  

 

This mill was moved to its current location along the River Zaan in 1966, in its entirety, making it one of the oldest, original working windmills at the Zaanse Schans. 

 

Check out more information on De Zoeker. 

Windmill at the Zaanse Schans, De Zoeker

Het Jonge Schaap

Het Jonge Schaap windmill at Zaanse Schans

The Sawmill Het Jonge Schaap is a replica of a windmill built in Zaandam in 1680. The original windmill was deconstructed in the 1940s, but only after its construction and design were thoroughly studied and documented.  

 

Het Jonge Schaap Before You was built between 2005 and 2007 using the documented details of the original 1680 windmill. Old methods of building windmills were applied, and the result was the sawmill before you. 

 

Despite being the newest of the mills on the Zaanse Schans, this sawmill, Het Jonge Schaap, stands as a window into the past and the ingenuity that drove the Netherlands’ Golden Age. It remains a highlight for visitors exploring the iconic windmills of Zaanse Schans.

 

Check for more information on Het Jonge Schaap.

De Bonte Hen

Zaanse Schans opening times

The oil mill De Bonte Hen (the brightly coloured hen) is one of the historic windmills at Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands. 

 

De Bonte Hen was originally built in 1693 in another location. It survived lightning strikes, which normally result in fire and the end of a windmill. This lucky mill was moved to its current location on the River Zaan in 1973 and underwent a full renovation.  

 

The site where De Bonte Hen sits was initially home to other mills, the first of which fell into disuse and was dismantled in the 1600s and the second in the 1930s.  

 

The oil mill is often open for tours during Zaanse Schans’ operating hours. Seeing this centuries-old windmill in action provides an authentic glimpse into historic industrial life in the Zaan region.

 

Check for more information on De Bonte Hen.

De Os

De Os mill at Zaanse Schans

De Os (The Ox) stands out among the windmills at the Zaanse Schans as the only mill missing its cap and sail. This is due to the fact that the mill was moved to diesel power in 1916 until 1931.

 

This was a monumental moment of industrialization for the area. No longer relying on the power of wind for the production of oil. 

 

Interestingly, the mill that took this giant leap into the future is also the oldest on-site, dating back to 1663.

 

Check out for more information on De Os. (In Dutch)

 

Het Klaverblad

Het Klaverblad windmill at Zaanse Schans

The Klaverblad (the shamrock) is the outcome of a dream. This rather strange-looking windmill is called a hallow post mill, and it was actually very popular. Built on top of a barn structure, this type of sawmill would permit the farmer to earn extra money cutting logs. 

 

Het Klaverblad was built over the years by miller Ru Pos. The main buildings were built first with the sawmill being buitl between 2000 and 2005. This project was completed by his own hands and was named The Shamrock to represent his 4 daughters. 

 

Check for more information on De Klaverblad (available only in Dutch).

De Bleeke Dood

View from Cafe de Slager

This flour mill stands on the corner before the Zaanse Schans, next to the Juliana Bridge. If you are coming to the site via the train station, you will likely walk past this mill. 

 

The Pale Death was built in 1782 and was a key feature of the surrounding Zaandijk.  Regularly in use until it was no longer required that backers have their flour ground in the local mill around the mid-19th century. At this point, De Bleeke Dood fell into disrepair until the 1950s, when it went through a renovation, and again in the 2000s. While this mill is not open to the public (it is lived in), you may luck out and find the doors open to purchasing flour milled on-site. 

 

Consider taking a drink or lunch across the street at the monument Cafe de Slager. 

 

Check for more information on De Bleeke Dood.

Outdoor seating at Cafe de Slager

De Ooievaar

De Ooievaar windmill at Zaanse Schans

The Ooievaar (The Stork) is not located with the other mills on-site at the Zaanse Schans. You can view this mill by boat tour or on a walkway under the Juliana bridge.

 

Built in 1622 in Assendelft (part of the Zaanstad and Zaanstreek), this oil mill was moved to its current location next to the Duvis factory. It is on the factory grounds and is not accessible to visitors. 

 

Check out more information about de Ooievaar

De Ooievaar windmill at Zaanse Schans, Zaandam with duvis factory behind

Final Thoughts

The Zaanse Schans is home to several historic windmills that offer a glimpse into traditional life and the industry that thrived in the Netherlands. The windmills served important economic functions, such as sawing timber, grinding grain, pressing oil, and creating paint pigments. 

 

Visiting the Zaanse, Schans offers an authentic look at Dutch history and technology despite being built up over the 1950s and 1960s. While not all windmills are open for internal viewing, one or two are usually open per day. The windmills are open year-round, with national holidays often an exception. To be sure which mills are open on your visit, view the Zaanse Schans Website

 

If you are looking for windmills off the beaten path, consider viewing the other windmills in the Zaanstreek area. 

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Sarah

As a proud resident of Zaandam since 2010, I'm excited to share the beauty and charm of this city and surronding area. Join me on a journey to explore its picturesque views, meandering Zaan River, and rich history.
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