Ever been or planning a trip to the Netherlands and wondering where are the iconic windmills? How to include them in your program or at least make sure you’ll pass by one during your tight sightseeing schedule? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!
Windmills are, together with clogs, cheese, and tulips, one of the symbols of the Netherlands worldwide. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many left as we’d like, so you’ll have to make sure you really pass by one to have this checked out of your Dutch bucket list.
Let’s get our Where are the windmills guide started!
I will conditionally split this list geographically into North and South of Holland, depending on where you’ll be during your trip. North would be the area closer to Amsterdam. We’ll call South the places you can find windmills if you happen to be around Rotterdam or The Hague.
If you are in Amsterdam and on a tight schedule (we know it’s hard to plan a short trip with all the things there are to see!) you’re lucky, because there’s one right in the heart of the city. If you stop by Brouwerij ‘t Ij – you will have the chance to see a classic Dutch windmill and a not so classic bathhouse-turned-brewery that brew their own beer! It’s the biggest in Amsterdam (the brewery, not the windmill :)) and it so happens to be perfectly located next to the biggest wooden windmill in the Netherlands. You can enjoy all this while sipping beer outside if the weather is nice – taking just a 30min. walk from Amsterdam Central station.
In case you’re not excited about just having a beer and looking at a windmill, we have another in-the-city option for you – Riekermolen! Located at the south end of Amstelpark, this is the perfect choice for a long walk around the river while taking a shot of this 1636 polder drainage windmill. It’s working and occupied, so looking inside won’t be possible.
This is for the excited-to-see-windmills enthusiasts! Zaanse Schans is located in the city of Zaandam, about 20km outside of Amsterdam. Don’t worry if you don’t have a car during your stay. The place is easily accessible by bus 391, departing from Amsterdam Central station. It takes around 45 min. and the bus stop is called (surprise, surprise!) “Zaanse Schans” so no chance you’ll miss it even if the Dutch language is not music to your ears. 🙂 Once you’re there it’s pretty much as authentic as it gets! You will see nothing but windmills and old Dutch houses from the 18th and 19th century in their natural habitat. I personally will call this an actual open-air museum with 8 well preserved windmills and traditional houses you can enjoy for free. Make sure you pick a day when the weather is nice (it’s hard, I know!) because you absolutely want to be outside for this one. Even if it’s raining though, there are a few really museums you can visit or nice craft workshops you can attend (check it out here), so don’t scratch it off the list even if you’re not so lucky with the weather.
This one is a challenge to plan but if you manage to do it, you’re in for an amazing day of tulips, sun, and a windmill view to die for.
The Keukenof gardens are open for two months only every year – in 2018 that will be between 22nd March and 13th May. Tickets you can book online and keep in mind this is truly a whole-day trip. You will be mesmerized by no less than 7 million flowers, tulips arranged in different shapes and forms and the change to make one of the most popular shots of the Netherlands – tulip fields with a windmill in the background – what’s more Dutch, right?
The Gardens are close to Lisse – an hour from Amsterdam. A combined e-ticket for the train, bus and the entry for the gardens can be purchase from the website of NS – the main rail provider.
Just like with Amsterdam, even if you don’t have a day to spend looking for windmills, we have an option for you! The biggest park in Rotterdam – Kralingse bos – has a few sights where you can enjoy the view of a lake, windmills, and drinks after a long day of working or sightseeing. Here you can go to the The Star and The Lily – dating back to 1830 and 1777. You can visit both every second Saturday of the month when they are up and running. Occasionally, they are open on Thursdays as well but that would be a gamble. When done with the tour of the windmill, you can buy some of the spices from the store, grab a bite in the restaurant located between the two or walk around the beautiful Kralingse bos.
Since Rotterdam is not exactly the swarming with tourists’ city that Amsterdam is, you won’t see numerous canals or paved little streets with old-school Dutch houses tilted over the river bank. BUT! Nothing is lost just yet. If you want to take a break from the skyscrapers and business atmosphere or you’ve covered all the architectural and cultural sightseeing spots (read about them – in this little something we’ve put together), you are ready to see the part of Rotterdam that is Historic Delfshaven.This charmic yacht marina is one of the few parts of the city that survived the bombings of 1940. Here you can find the classic Dutch houses, boat-apartments, gin bars, local brewers and… ta-daaa! A windmill. I recommend this as a quick stop if you really don’t have a day to spare, because Rotterdam is not very big, it’s easy to go around and if you have a few hours at sunset, this really will be a best-of-both-worlds combination for you! Accessible by metro – lines A,B,C, tram 4 – both stops are called Delfshaven; and, of course, for those of you going all Dutch – by bike! One 15 min ride from the city centre and you’re there.
Tip: Once you get off the metro or tram, start walking towards the river and turn right at the little canal 3 block down (Aelbrechtskolk/Voorhaven). Here you’ll see the Pilgrim father’s church – historically the pilgrim fathers left for America from Delshaven; numerous little cafes by the water, and at the end – of course, the windmill.
Again, if you want to experience seeing windmills like you’ve never seen them before – Kinderdijk is the place. It’s a lot different than Zaanse Schans but it’s truly unique. You probably know the Dutch are world famous for knowing their way around water and being experts in building facilities to maintain the fact they must live with water surrounding them, so you won`t be surprised that this complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Kinderdijk is an old village like most of the places described here, but the 19 windmills site is an outstanding insight into a system of windmills and pumps, created back in the XVIII century that we can look back to today.
To go to the village of Kinderdijk the fastest (and let’s face it – the coolest!) way to go is the waterbus from Rotterdam. Make sure to check it’s timetable as well as the opening hours of Kinderdijk – they vary in summer and winter. You’re not obliged to buy a ticket to see Kinderdijk but note that the bike and footpath are freely accessible if you want to only enjoy the surrounding landscape. To go in and take a look around you have to buy a ticket – this can be done online as well.
Once you’re there you can step inside a real windmill, set one in motion, or visit the museum inside one of the windmills. If you have a whole day planned you can sign up for a boat tour on the canals around the site or take part in a millers’ workshop. In any case prepare to learn everything about this unique place and A LOT about windmills!
On a day-trip to Delft you simply MUST stop by Windmill de Roos (The Rose) in Delft. It’s located along the lines of tram 1 on Phoenixstraat. This is not the original windmill that once stood here, however, the one you will see was rebuilt in 1679 which is still very impressive. You can visit the windmill and climb through the 7 floors on a really narrow staircase but I promise you the view over Delft from the top will be worth it. The city is easily accessible by train from Rotterdam and by train and tram from The Hague. Getting there will take about 30min. from both places and once you’re there, you fill find that this small picturesque city has a lot to offer in addition to visiting the centuries-old windmill.
On the first floor, there’s a shop and since the windmill is actually a working one every Saturday and Thursday you will see the blue flag outside which means it’s free to enter. The staff is very helpful and nice, they will tell you all you want (and need!) to know about how a windmill works!
Another small and very nice town just outside Rotterdam, where you will find no less than 7 windmills. Unfortunately, unless you’re headed for a chill day biking, there’s not much to see in Schiedam. However, hoping on your bike and riding here all the way from Rotterdam (approx. 10km), will be a nice experience if you want to add a little workout to your schedule.