Zaandam, Zaanstad, Zaanstreek – What’s the Difference?

It can be confusing when you first visit or relocate to Zaandam.  Often you will hear mention of Zaandam, Zaanstad and the Zaanstreek.  The names often seem interchangeable and yet they are three distinct areas. Let’s break down what is exactly Zaandam, Zaanstad and The Zaanstreek?

Zaanse Schans windmills on the Zaan River,
River Zaan

What is Zaandam?

Zaandam is the main city located in the wider area known as the Zaanstreek region in North Holland.  It’s the next stop after Amsterdam Sloterdijjk Train station, heading north, (unless you are on the intercity to Eindhoven).  It’s a city that has grown to approximately 80,000 residents making it the largest in the Zaanstreek region.


Historically, Zaandam started as a settlement around a dam built over the river Zaan in the 15th century.  It has a long history of shipbuilding and lumber mills powered by windmills along the Zaan River.  And a sit was once a major center of Dutch industry and saw it granted city rights in 1811.

Whale symbol on lamp posts in Zaandam
Whale on lamp post in Zaandam

Today the city is home to many historic monuments and sights, including the Zaanse Schans, Hemburg Terrein and countless monumental buildings. The city is filled with traditional examples of Dutch wooden architecture dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Despite being so close to Amsterdam geographically, Zaandam has maintained its own distinct identity and history as an industrial Zaan river settlement.

What is the Zaanstad?

De Kat windmill from Zaanse Schans

Zaanstad is the largest municipality in the region of The Zaanstreek. It was created in 1974 when a number of towns and villages around Zaandam merged to create the municipality of the Zaanstad. It contains the city of Zaandam as well as several other towns and villages.

Today the municipality is home to approximately 150,000 people, lovingly referred to as Zaankanters, whom reside in the following towns.

  • Assendelft
  • Koog aan de Zaan
  • Krommenie
  • Westknollendam
  • Westzaan
  • Wormerveer
  • Zaandam
  • Zaandijk
Coat of arms of Zaanstad

Coat of Arms from Zaanstad. Whaling was historically important in the area.

What is the Zaanstreek?


The Zaanstreek refers to a wider geographical area in the province of North Holland which contains multiple municipalities.   In addition to the Zaanstad, it also contains Wormerland and Oostzaan and surrounding areas.  It has no governmental function.

So now you should understand the difference between Zaandam, Zaanstad, the Zaanstreek and who the Zaankanters are.

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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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