Before you book a tour to see windmills near Amsterdam, you need to decide a few things. Are you a tour person? Do you like to travel in groups? And do you want to miss an opportunity to walk by a chocolate factory on the way?
It is not hard to travel to Zaanse Schans Windmills without a tour and for a family of four it might also keep the costs down a little too. The “Plan your Visit” button on the Zaanse Schans website is helpful and tells you how to take the bus, the train or even a boat. We were there in February so the boat option was not available so we rode a tram to the Central Station where we took a train that took about twenty minutes. If our kids were a bit older we might have explored the biking option but this time the weather was a little unpredictable and we chose to bike a smaller route at the Vondelpark instead.
The train was quick and easy and we were able to get to the Zaanse Schans windmills area early and before the crowds. When we got off the train the air smelled like chocolate because there was a factory close by. We could not go in the factory but there was a chocolate shop across the street where we picked up some treats. We also stopped by a little bakery for hot chocolate and snacks.
We walked about 15 minutes through a little town and over a big bridge to where the windmills were and we wandered through a few of them while we meandered down a picturesque walkway by the water. Each of the windmills operates like its own museum-some have entry fees and gift shops and some are free. We really enjoyed a mill where we paid a little entry fee to see how windmills work grinding flax and making some kind of oil. We watched an informative video before we saw two men working the same process in real life. It was mesmerizing watching how the windmill powered wheels and pullies and levers and we learned a lot about early machinery.
The cheese factory here was also entertaining. I read that they will do cheese making demonstrations if you ask and sure enough, when we asked, we were brought to a little room where we were told how cheese in Amsterdam is made. I wanted to bring so much of this home, but I’m always a little wary of bringing back fresh foods on trips so we just brought home one small cheese and it was so tasty.
The kids also liked seeing a little shop where wooden shoes are made-there were no live demonstrations when we went but we saw a short video and I think everyone who goes to Amsterdam seems to have a picture in the shoes in front of this shop. There were also a lot of shoes on display and there was no entry fee for this shop. I was surprised at how long we spent in this place, and how much the kids enjoyed it.
When we finished our touring we wandered to a little sandwich shop called Groeneveld Eten and had a beautiful and tasty lunch before taking the train home. With kids, this way of touring Zaanse Schans made it easy to do our trip on our own time without having to worry about the schedule of a tour and we all had a really great day.
(PS. If you travel with kids-do you take tours or do you make your own itinerary? I’d love to hear what works for you!)