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Head to Amsterdam for a historic windmill experience

Topic European Travel

Head to Amsterdam for a historic windmill experience - Image

The Netherlands are known for a few things in particular: wooden clogs, magnificent tulips and historic windmills. If you're stopping into Amsterdam during Europe travel, you should take a day to see Dutch history right outside the city at Zaanse Schans. The entire countryside was covered in windmills once upon a time, but there aren't too many right by the city of Amsterdam.

Check out the history of windmills in the Netherlands and a few you can tour while visiting Zaanse Schans.

A brief history
When windmills were first constructed, they were meant to pump water out of the ground. According to the Public Broadcasting Service, roughly 25 percent of the country is located below sea level, so flooding has always been a common problem. As time went on, the Dutch started using windmills to produce a variety of goods, ranging from food stuffs to pigment for paint. I amsterdam explained how each May brings National Windmill Day, a joyous occasion when people decorate the structures with flowers and such.

About Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is a historic community about 15 minutes away from Amsterdam's city centre, where you can find a cluster of windmills, museums and other traditional attractions. Dutch wooden architecture is evident from houses and barns to museums and mills - many of which were relocated to the area starting in the 1960s. You can visit clog- and cheese-making areas, the windmill museum and even take a boat ride at Zaanse Schans. There's also a museum dedicated to clock-making, as well as another dedicated to the baking industry. Zaanse Schans does have a general entrance fee, but some of the windmills cost a few euro to enter. Don't miss the shops where you can buy items actually made by the windmills.

  • Although Oil Mill De Bonte Hen, or The Spotted Hen, has been the victim of many a fire, it was restored back to its full glory in the 1970s and continues making oil today.
  • Mill De Kat, or The Cat, is responsible for pigment production. It was originally built in the 1600s but the structure you see today is a reconstruction.
  • Windmill De Zoeker is an oil mill that was built in the early 1600s to pump water, but was converted into an oil mill toward the end of the 17th century. During the 20th century, De Zoeker became a pigment mill, went back to an oil mill then became a place to grind cocoa waste. It went out of operation for a while before being transported to Zaanse Schans and brought back into operation. According to I amsterdam, the view from the windmill's steps is essential for tourists to take in.
  • Windmill Het Jonge Schaab is a hexagonal mill that was destroyed in 1942 then reconstructed in 2007. While the original isn't what you'll see in Zaanse Schans, it was built using methods from the 17th century. You can tour this windmill for a fee, but there's also a video of the reconstruction process and working millers who can answer any questions you have about the profession. I amsterdam explained how this windmill's name means "the young sheep."
  • Windmill De Huisman is used to grind tropical spices and is one of the few windmills that doesn't have an entrance fee. The Zaanse Schans website explained how the windmill used to sit next to the general store, but ultimately was installed on top of the building to create more space as the population grew.
  • Molen De Gekroonde Poelburg is unique in that the whole windmill rotates to catch the breeze. The sawmill was built in 1869 and was relocated to Zaanse Schans.