Historic Village on the River: Zaanse Schans

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Located along the Zaan river in the province of North Holland is the small historic village of Zaanse Schans.

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It neighbors the city of Zaandam and is just a 12 minute drive up the road from its center. It's only a 20 minute drive from Amsterdam as well and busses full of tourists travel there regularly from the capital.

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The site was conceived as a tourist attraction and in that regard it worked quite well. Over one million tourists visit the location each year.

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The area is known for its historic windmills and its quaint little homes that were recreated to look like they did back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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The village itself is very fairytale like and somewhat surprisingly, people actually live in some of the homes there.

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It's surprising given the amount of people wandering the grounds, essentially just outside of the homes backyards.

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The houses are surrounded by canals that act as a moat and are only accessible via small bridges that are protected by a gate.

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Good thing too, because you can pretty much guarantee that people would enter the property to take photos. Many people stood on the bridges outside the gates to take selfies in front to the charming little green and blue cottages.

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Another surprising feature of Zaanse Schans is that admission to the grounds is completely free.

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You can enter the property just by walking in and you can view the village and windmills without having to pay.

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Parking costs money of course and there is a parking lot on site. But it was entirely full by the time we got there in the early afternoon so we had to drive to a neighboring village to find a spot for our vehicle.

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The 20 minute walk to Zaanse Schans was nice though.

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We walked a bike path next to fields and marshland that was zigzagged by canals.

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We saw a ton of ducks and geese there, along with several brightly colored pheasants. I had never seen so many pheasants in one place before. We probably saw 5 or 6 that day.

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Brief History


A few hundred years ago the Zaanse Schans would have looked much different than it does today.

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In the 17th century it was actually an industrial zone with more than 600 windmills scattered about the surrounding area.

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The mills were used for a variety of purposes including grinding spices (especially mustard), to saw Scandanavian wood, to produce paper and paint, as well as many other things.

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Some of the windmills are still functioning even to this day and they still have employees working them. One is a sawmill and wood shed that builds furniture.

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You can go into some of them to see them in action or climb their inner ladder to walk onto the platform outside for a view of the grounds and the river.

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We don't like to wait in long lines when we are on vacation though, so we didn't bother to go inside. There were just too many people there that day to make it worth it.

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There are also plenty of other places to view the river from ground level so it isn't necessary if you don't like crowds.

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Historically, the city of Zaandam was a leader during the industrial revolution but that status declined quite rapidly over the years.

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Now tourism is its biggest draw economically and as mentioned above Zaanse Schans was designed to capitalize on that.

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Cheese Factory Building

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Museums, farm animals, and little shops selling artisinal food and wears are some of the things you will see there.

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There is also the Clog factory, a large store that features a small museum and clog making demonstration at set hours each day. It's completely free to enter because they mostly make their money selling clogs, wooden tulips and other country specific souvenirs.

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Clog Factory Building

There is a cheese factory that provides samples to the public and a pewter foundry on site as well. The line up for the cheese factory was way too long for us unfortunately.

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The spot is obviously very touristy, especially on a Saturday afternoon, so there were literally people everywhere. It was a good thing that the grounds were large though, otherwise it would feel too crowded. It was only crowded in the buildings and a few bottle neck type spots (ex. bridges and fenced pathways).

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One thing that was missing there were restaurants. There is food being sold there but from what I could see they looked more like concession stands than anything else (i.e. Waffles and bottled drinks and that sort of thing). So if you want a decent meal it might be better to eat outside the village either before or after your visit. I think you would get better quality for less money that way as well.

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Overall we really enjoyed visiting the village of Zaanse Schans. There were a lot of people there and it was very touristy but the grounds were large enough in most places to accommodate the crowds. I was impressed that the site was free to enter as well, and that you could do most things without having to pay. I myself wouldn't want to spend an entire day there but I thought that the windmills and charming little cottages were worth checking out for a few hours in the day.

Well thats it for now. I hope you enjoyed the tour. If you are interested in seeing more of our trip to the Netherlands than stay tuned, theres more to come. Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

Zaandam

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