Just above Amsterdam you can enjoy Dutch folklore at its best. A visit to the Zaanse Schans and the fishing villages of Volendam and Marken is a must when visiting the Netherlands. You will get to know the famous windmills in the Netherlands and enjoy the traditional costumes.
The Zaanse Schans
The Zaanse Schans is a neighbourhood with historic wooden buildings in the municipality of Zaanstad. It lies on the river Zaan. It is a well-known tourist destination with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It was set up with the intention of preserving historical heritage, but it is not a confined open-air museum. The houses are inhabited, so that not only tourists come to the site.
All the houses in the Zaanse Schans are made of wood. This is because stone houses would immediately sink on the soft soil in this region. Moreover, there was a lot of wood available thanks to the various sawmills in the region.
Windmills in the Zaanse Schans
There are many working windmills in the area. When there is wind, which is almost always the case in the Netherlands, most of them are active. Some are used to saw wood, others to grind grains or spices. There are also mills that make oil or dyes. In the “De Kat” windmill, the miller even makes paint. This mill from 1664 supplies paint to artists and restorers all over the world. Several mills are open for viewing. Walk up the narrow and steep stairs and enjoy a beautiful view over the Zaanse Schans and surroundings.
Cloggeries and other old crafts
The Netherlands is known for its clogs. These wooden shoes were and still are worn by farmers. In the past, workmen and “the common people” also used wooden shoes. In the Zaanse Schans you can see how the clogmaker makes shoes from a piece of wood. You can also take a look at a cooperage, where they make wooden barrels or a cheese dairy. Dutch cheese is world famous. In the cheese dairy you will learn how to make cheeses. Of course, you can also taste and buy some. In the weaver’s house you can see how people used to make sails and canvases for the mills.
Other sights of the Zaanse Schans
Meet Albert Heijn’s first grocery store, which opened its first store in the area in 1887. This has now become the largest supermarket group in the Netherlands. In the Zaans museum you can learn more about the history of the region. You can visit a simple fisherman’s house. You can experience the contrast in a monumental merchant’s house, where a wealthy merchant once lived with his family.
Activities in the Zaanse Schans
There are several walking routes through the area. You can choose which sights you want to see on foot. There are also several cycling routes that visit the surroundings of the Zaanse Schans too. Bicycles can be rented on the spot. Every day there are different boats going different routes over the Zaan. Get on board the cowboat too where the captain likes to tell about the history of the mills and the environment. On the way, you sail close to the meadows and the cows come curiously to look at you. More information about the Zaanse Schans.
Just north of the Zaanse Schans lies the world-famous traditional fishing village of Volendam. Every year tourists from all over the world visit Volendam to eat delicious fish, see the special costumes, take pictures in traditional costumes and wander through the narrow streets behind the dike. Volendam eel is a delicacy for many. You can visit the eel smokehouses. Keep in mind that every day during peak season it can be very busy to walk here in the Volendam dike.
Marken was an island for almost 8 centuries. In 1957 a dike to the mainland put an end to this. Marken has kept its old character, with wooden houses built on yards and poles as a precaution against flooding. The beacon of Marken is the Het Paard lighthouse. The Marker Museum, housed in four fish smoke houses, gives an impression of former life on Marken. From Volendam you can take a boat to cross over to Marken.