Zaandam City Centre: The Historic Dutch Town That Inspired Monet

Zaandam is a charming city in the province of North Holland, located just north of Amsterdam. Originally an industrial town focused on shipbuilding and lumber milling along the Zaan River, Zaandam has become a popular tourist destination over the past few decades.

The nearby Zaanse Schans is popular, drawing millions of visitors each year. Unfortunately, these visitors come and go and miss the area’s other sights and historical values.

The City Center area of Zaandam may initially appear to be a standard shopping and dining centre, but when you look closely enough, you can find the remnants of Zaandam’s history mixed alongside modern hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Inverdan project, new city hall and train station in Zaandam City Center

Brief Background of Zaandam

Zaandam rose to prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries as one of the first industrialized areas in the Netherlands. Lumber was milled here to build ships along the Zaan River. In 1697, Russian Czar Peter the Great even resided in Zaandam for a time to learn shipbuilding techniques he later implemented in Russia.

Other prominent visitors to the area include Claude Monet, the renowned French Painter, who spentv4 months painting the local scenery.

Napoleon visited the Czar Wifer House in Zaandam with his wife.

While industry declined in the 20th century, Zaandam’s downtown was preserved and revitalized. Canals were dredged, historic sites restored, and businesses brought back. The mix of old and new architecture makes wandering downtown Zaandam a unique experience today.

Things to do in Zaandam City Centre

New City Center of Zaandam, The revitalization of the area saw many new developments

Zaandam’s downtown area is home to many of the city’s top attractions and landmarks. Here are some of the must-see sites:

  • Monet’s Tea house, Blue house and other sites of his famous works
  • Catch a Play or Film on the Zaan River
  • Check out one of the oldest Wooden Houses, once lived in by Tsar Peter
  • Check out the Modern architecture vs. the traditional Zaans wooden houses.
  • Enjoy dinner or a drink in the Bustling Dam Square.
  • Grab a Febo Kroket
  • Visit the Zaan River and the locks that made the area prosper.


Since 2003 the Zaandam Center has undergone a redevelopment.

The redevelopment included the Iconic Inntel hotel, the re-opening of the Gedempte Gracht (canal) and the new city hall.

The New buildings stand in stark contrast to the old Zaanse Wooden Houses, while paying them hommage.

Monet House

Claude Monet stayed in Zaandam for four months in 1871 with his wife and child. During this time, he painted canvases depicting the town’s landscapes and residents. In total, he painted 24 landscapes and 1 portrait.

The Monet House (Atelier) is a free centre where you can view recreations of the paintings he made while in Zaandam. They feature the windmill and water landscapes heavily, as his visit was just before the Industrial Revolution hit the area.

Zaandam still had its connection to the sea, at the time of Monet’s visit.  Areas that are now neighbourhoods were once water, boats and windmills.

The buildings and areas painted in Monet’s Zaandam studies can be found throughout the city centre and just beyond. You can organize a walking tour of the Monet painting sites with the Monet House.

Monet Tea house in Zaandam City Center

The Monet House is located in a rebuilt teahouse featured in one of Monet’s paintings and make sure you do not miss the Blue House. The house is once again blue, just like the famous painting.

Visit the centre and watch historical Zaandam come to life in his many paintings. The centre is free but donations are highly welcomed to keep this initiative alive.

For more details, visit the Monet House website and explore the landmarks of the Monet paintings.

Paintings to view at Monet House in Zaandam City Center

The Zaan Theater

This Theater is located right off of Dam Square and hosts plays, comedy, concerts, dance performances, and more. It comprises one large theatre room and a secondary smaller space.

There is also a restaurant overlooking the Zaan River. You can enjoy a 3-course meal before catching a show.

For all upcoming performances, check out the Zaan Theatre website. 

Zaan Theater For shows, comedy and music. Located in the City Center

De Fabriek

De Fabriek movie house in Zaandam. Place for art house films

This film house focuses on art and speciality films you will not find at the larger Pathe Bioscoop. This space was built in 1921 and was initially a boy’s school before being transformed in the 80s into a cultural initiative of young people around Theatre, film and music.

Today, this building is home to three theatre rooms, a restaurant, and an outdoor terrace on the Zaan River. Here, you can have a drink on the terrace while watching boats pass by, have dinner, and catch a show. This location has much to offer.

Check out the latest movie agenda on De Fabriek website. 

The Czaar Peterhuisje (Tsar Peter House)

This site is currently listed as temporarily closed. When visiting Zaandam, check the website to verify whether it is open again. 

One of the most important individuals to visit Zaandam was Peter The Great, the Tsar of Russia. He visited in 1697 to study the shipbuilding techniques used in the local area. This was during the Dutch Golden Age.

While in the area,Tsar Peter stayed at the local blacksmith’s small house, which is now the centre of the museum. This wooden structure is now one of the Netherlands’ oldest wooden houses and the country’s second-oldest museum. It has been visited by royalty, presidents, and Napolean and his wife.

In addition to the original wooden house, there are countless artefacts and tidbits on Tzar Peter and the history of shipbuilding in Zaandam.

The iconic Inntel Hotel Zaandam

Inntel hotel Zaandam

The Inntel Hotel is a four-star hotel located in the Zaandam City Centre. Just a few steps from the main Zaandam Train Station, this building is now one of the most famous modern buildings in the area.

Its unique architectural style resembles a stack of traditional Zaan houses, making this hotel stand out. Each house facade represents an actual facade of a traditional home in the local area.

The colourful hotel has become a landmark, representing Zaandam’s historic and modern charm. It is also the most recognizable landmark.

After taking your photo of the building from the second-story promenade, stroll down to the restaurant at the Inntel Hotel and enjoy lunch or drink at its restaurant, Puur Saen.

Check out the hotel website for the latest restaurant menu and to reserve your room.

Zaan Store

Just across the street from the Inntel hotel is the Zaan Store.  This store (including webshop) is a great stop to pick up tourist attractions information, unique locally made gifts, traditional crafts and local edible treats.

Have lunch at ‘t Groene Pandje.

This hot spot for lunch is unique in that despite being fully renovated in 2013, the building holds its history dating back to 1793. It’s a busy place serving salads, sandwiches, omelettes and, of course, dutch pancakes.

On warm summer days, the boat built in the canal is open as a terrace. It’s the perfect place to sit and people-watch while enjoying the warm weather and lunch.

For opening times and contact details to reserve, check out ‘t Groene Pandje website.

FEbo Kroket

Febo in Zaandam City Centre

Only hungry for a small snack? Consider getting lunch from Febo.  It may be fast food, but it’s an experience not found elsewhere.

Febo has small food lockets where you can place your money and open the door of your choice.  Try a Dutch Kroket or go for a Frikandel.

There are two Febo’s in Zaandam on the shopping street (that’s how popular it is among the locals).

Wall for food in Febo

Experience the River Zaan

Hondsbossche sluis (lock) in city centre Zaandam

The downtown area begins by the train station and ends along the Zaan.  Just past the Dam is where the Zaan began. Once upon a time, Zaandam had connections to the sea, experienced the tides, and had a prosperous shipbuilding and whaling history.

The impressive Hondsbossche sluis (lock) was built to control the Zaan River and open up the area to transportation via boat. While the lock appears small next to the modern Wilhelmina Lock, its historical importance for the area cannot be underestimated.

Be sure to see the Wilhelmina lock where the Zaan meets the North Sea Canal. This lock recently underwent a renovation. Want to sit and watch boats come and go through the lock? Sit at Castell for dinner on a warm summer evening.

These enormous locks, an incredible feat of engineering, allow giant sea vessels to access the canal. You can watch ships navigate through the locks throughout the day.

Dining and Nightlife in Dam Square

Tsar Peter Statue at Zaandam Dam Square

The Dam square is the bustling restaurant and cafe center in Zaandam.   In the center of Dam is a large Statue of Peter the Great depicting the Russian Czar dressed as a carpenter and working on a ship to reflect his shipbuilding studies in Zaandam.

This location is the central hub for horeca in the area.  Here you can find countless restaurants and cafe’s.

Dam Square is the lively heart of downtown Zaandam’s nightlife. This bustling public square is lined with restaurants, and cafes that come alive at night.

Local Experience Tips

The best way to truly experience Zaandam like a local is to immerse yourself in the culture and daily life. Here are some tips to have an authentic experience:

Rent a bike! Biking is the main mode of transportation for locals. It’s the best way to easily explore the city. There are many bike rental shops around downtown.

With a bike you can get further afield, visit the Zaanse Schans, or explore all the Monet painting locations.

Be sure to try local Dutch snacks and treats. Favorites include stroopwafels (syrup waffles), poffertjes (mini pancakes), bitterballen (fried meatballs), and raw herring.

Experience a Food markets every Thursday and Saturday. From morning until early afternoon, twice a week the food market is available on the Rozengracht in Zaandam.  You can purchase flowers, cheese, fresh fish and fruit, among other staples.  On Saturday’s there is a fresh stroopwafel stand which is a favourite among local children.

Zaandam Food Market on Thursday

Getting to Zaandam City Centre

Zaandam is located just north of Amsterdam, making it easy to reach by various modes of transportation. Here are the best ways to get there and get around:

Getting there via Train

The Zaandam Central Station is right at the beginning of the downtown area. It is approximately a 5 minute walk from the Train Station to the Dam Square. This leisurely stroll will take you past the famous Intel Hotel and through the newly re-done city center featuring the gedempte gracht (canel) which was reopened after years of being closed.

Arriving By Car

There are three key areas to park around downtown Zaandam. 

Q-Park Hermitage (Next to the Inntel Hotel)

Q-Park at Rozenhof  (Just behind Dam Square)

Paid Parking Lot behind the old City Hall.

Getting Around the City Centre

The historic center of Zaandam is very compact and walkable. All sights are within close proximity of eachother. It’s only about a 5 minute walk from the train station to the main Dam square.

Final Thoughts

City Centre Zaandam, Near Dam Square

Zaandam is a charming destination that blends the historic with the modern.  From historic sites like the Czar Peter House to modern attractions like the iconic Inntel Hotel, downtown Zaandam combines classic Dutch culture and contemporary flair.

While in the area, don’t miss top sites like the Zaanse Schans windmills, Zaans Museum, the other windmills in the area, Hemburg Terrain and more.

With its historic charm, modern attractions, and wealth of authentic Dutch experiences, Zaandam is a destination not to be missed for any visitor to the Netherlands.

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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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