Your next trip to The Netherlands is not complete without visiting the iconic and historic windmills. You are probably wondering where the best place to see the windmills is? We’re here to help you out and tell you all about it!
The best places to see the windmills in The Netherlands are:
Historic Windmills areas:
- Zaanse Schans – Zaandam
- Kinderdijk – Rotterdam, Unesco World Heritage
- Windmills Schiedam – Schiedam
Historic Stand Alone Windmills:
- De Gooyer – Amsterdam
- Adriaan – Haarlem
- De Dikkert – Amstelveen
- De Valk – Leiden
In this article, we will tell you all about the history of these famous windmills, the best way and time to visit. And much more interesting information about these famous landmarks of The Netherlands. Also, we will tell you about our personal favorites, which are more local spots, and not so famous among tourists. So let’s find out more!
Best Windmills to Visit in The Netherlands.
With over 1000 windmills located in the country, it is easy to spot one while traveling around. It can be a bit overwhelming to decide which windmills you want to visit during your stay in The Netherlands.
The two most iconic places to see the windmills in The Netherlands are Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk. Zaanse Schans, located close to Amsterdam, is the oldest industrial area in Western Europe. During its heydays in the 18th century, it had over 600 active windmills. Kinderdijk, a Unesco World Heritage site close to Rotterdam, is famous as a unique controlled water management system built in the early 18th century.
Today most of the windmills are stand-alone. However, during the 17th, 18th, and 19th century it was more common to have complete windmill areas. This way, it was easier to work together to produce different products or food. Or to function as a water management system to prevent flooding. Later we will tell you more about the history of these windmills. First, we’ll dive in the best windmill areas you can visit, and then we will tell you more about the best stand-alone windmills.
The famous windmill area Zaanse Schans is close to the village Zaandam. 30 minutes from Amsterdam. The first heydays of this windmill park developed during the 17th-century. This period is known as The Golden Age in The Netherlands. It was the time when the Dutch Eastern Company was the largest maritime trade company in the world. The primary purpose of the windmills in Zaanse Schans was to saw wood.
In that time, there was an enormous need for shipbuilding, to keep up with the requests Zaanse Schaans developed into the first industrial area of Western Europe. The biggest development of Zaanse Schans came after an invention of Cornelis Corneliszoon in 1594, a few years before the start of the new century. He invented a crankshaft that was able to convert the horizontal wind direction of the mill blades into a vertical sawing direction.
Resulting in much more sawing directions, and made the first industrial sawing possible. The industrial windmills were able to deliver machine sawed wood to the shipyards, which resulted in much faster shipbuilding. The shipyards launched around 150 ships annually. The commercial growth was enormous. But it also had its negative effect. For example, many of the ships they produced were used for whaling, which was unfortunately very popular at that time.
During the heydays, the Zaan district was not only the first industrial area in Western Europe but also developed quickly to the largest producing region of the continent. There were over 600 industrial windmills active in the area. The entrepreneurs of this region, locally known as Zaankanters, created the possibility to produce much more than wood sawing windmills. They were able to produce paper, dye, spices, flour, cacao powder, oil for food, and many more products.
How To Reach Zaanse Schans?
When you visit Zaanse Schans today, it feels like you are stepping back in time. There are 11 historic windmills left in the area, giving you a good impression on how the region looked like during its heydays. It is possible to visit all the windmills, as well as several museums where you can learn more about the history of the region.
Visiting Zaanse Schans is easy when staying in Amsterdam. You can take a bus from Amsterdam Central Station, which brings you to Zaanse Schans in approximately 40 minutes. However, when you have enough time, we recommend taking the zaanferry from Amsterdam. It’s a much longer trip, almost 2 hours, but a unique way to explore the area from the water. The ferry only runs between Thursday and Sunday. Check the website of Zaanferry for the latest information.
It is recommended to plan your trip to Zaanse Schans because opening times of the different windmills can vary. You can check the latest information on their website.
Kinderdijk is a Unesco World Heritage site located close to Rotterdam. This windmill park has an entirely different function than the windmills in Zaanse Schans.
The windmills in Kinderdijk function as a water management system to prevent flooding. Mainly for the surrounding area of Alblasserdam, which is lower land. The windmills flooding system Kinderdijk dates back to 1740. Before the water management system was built, the area consisted out of wetlands, with rough rivers connecting to the sea. Even fishermen didn’t reach the rivers because the water was often too rough.
Halfway the 18th-century people wanted to settle in this region, because the larger cities like Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft, Dordrecht grew rapidly, and they all wanted to use the opportunity of finding better-paid work. The Dutch water boards decided to build Kinderdijk to keep the people safe.
Today the nineteen windmills are a symbol of the unique Dutch water management. Since 1997 the Kinderdijk system is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. The windmills are still in active use, but over the years, several pumping stations were built to create an even save environment.
Visiting Kinderdijk is a great thing to do and easy to arrange when you are traveling from Amsterdam. Several group tours are leaving daily. When you have enough time, and staying for a few days in The Netherlands, we recommend you to combine a visit to Kinderdijk with a visit to the city of Rotterdam. Rotterdam is excellent for a day visit! You can read more about this city in our article One Day in Rotterdam, which is a one-day itinerary for the city with the best things to do.
When you’re visiting Kinderdijk, the best way to explore the area is to hop on the tour boat, which allows you to explore the region from the water. We recommend buying tickets for a tour boat in advance, so you secure your seats on the boat. You can purchase the tickets on the official website of Kinderdijk.
If you’re into cycling, it is also great to rent a bicycle and cycle around the beautiful Dutch countryside.
Windmills Schiedam – Schiedam
In Schiedam, you can visit the highest windmills in the world. The historic windmills, originally dating back to the 18th-century, have a height of 33 meters! Schiedam is very close to Rotterdam. You can easily visit the small city taking a metro or other public transport from Rotterdam.
Schiedam has initially been a tiny settlement, it thanks its name to a dam that was built to protect the surrounding lands against the rising waters. Schiedam was able to grow in the 18th-century because of the brewery and export of Gin (in Dutch; Jenever). Gin production is also the main reason why there were so many windmills in Schiedam. To keep up with the production of Gin and some other products, Schiedam built 20 windmills. Today there are still 5 of the original windmills left, which are open for a visit.
The best way to explore the highest museums in the world is to visit Windmill museum De Walvisch. One of the five windmills in Schiedam, which is not only a historical museum, but also a Gin brewery. They still produce their Gin following a recipe that dates back to 1700!
We recommend combining your windmills exploring with some Gin tasting in Schiedam. Make sure to make a reservation before you go, because some parts of the windmills are only accessible with a guide. You’ll find the latest information on their website, where you can also make reservations for a visit. Their website is only available in Dutch. The Gin museum open on Tuesday till Sunday between 11:00 – 17:00
Historic Stand Alone Windmills
When you’re traveling through The Netherlands, you’ll spot many stand-alone windmills often in the countryside areas. Most of them were part of bigger windmill networks that worked as a water management system, wood factory, or to grind flour and other products. Today most of these windmills aren’t active and are preserved often by volunteers or small foundations. Many of them are museums. You’ll also find many old windmills which they now use as a restaurant, cafe or brewery.
With over 1000 historic windmills still standing in The Netherlands, the list is almost endless. So we decided to line up the unique and special windmills, and some of our personal favorites.
De Gooyer – Amsterdam
Let’s stay in the category highest windmills, this time, we focus on a wooden windmill. Windmill de Gooyers dates back to 1725. Over time, this windmill is relocated many times throughout Amsterdam for urban expansion. Windmill de Gooyer is not open to visit inside, which is unfortunate. Many people think the windmill is part of Brewery ‘t IJ, a famous local brewery in Amsterdam, but that’s not the case. The windmill is property of the city, Amsterdam, and today a monument. It functions as a corn mill until halfway the 20th-century.
There is, however, a close relationship with Brewery ‘t IJ. The original brewery, tasting room and pub of Brouwerij ‘t IJ, and the windmill are neighbors.
The brewery is located in the building next to the windmill, which is a former bathhouse.
Because of the presence of the brewery, it makes a perfect place to visit. You can enjoy the beauty of windmill de Gooyer outside, and go for a beer tasting afterward!
You’ll find both the windmill and tasting room of the brewery at Funenkade in Amsterdam.
Adriaan – Haarlem
When you look at old pictures and paintings of the skyline of Haarlem, you’ll notice a large windmill as one of the most remarkable buildings. However, the windmill you see today is not at all the historic windmill you can see on many paintings.
Originally windmill de Adriaan dates back to 1778 when a local businessman (Adriaan de Boois, hence the name of the windmill) got a permit to build a new windmill. He used the windmill for years to produce special cement and sold it in 1802 to a tobacco company. In 1865 the windmill was transformed into a steam- and windmill so that it could produce grain.
The windmill burnt down to the ground in 1932. It was such a massive fire that the firemen couldn’t safe the windmill. The day after the fire, locals started a fundraiser to rebuilt the windmill. The money got raised quickly, but it took almost 70 years before the rebuilding finished. In 2002 the new windmill ‘de Adriaan’ opened for public again. Today its again an iconic building. It recreates the unique skyline of the city Haarlem. The windmill functions as a museum where you can learn more about the history of Haarlem. Also, it is a venue for private events and weddings.
Opening hours vary per season. Between March and November, it opens every day between 13:00 – 17:00. During the winter season between November and March, it opens only from Friday until Monday. Opening times can vary, though, so for the latest information, make sure to check their website before you plan your visit to this windmill.
De Dikkert – Amstelveen
Combining history, modern style, and fine dining. Windmill de Dikkert is a perfect place to spend your time having dinner. You can also go to this place and enjoy the beauty of the windmill outside. However, we highly recommend to reserve a table at restaurant De Jonge Dikkert and enjoy the Michelin-star awarded fine dining cuisine. For many years this top restaurant houses in the historic windmill, from which Amstelveen is not its original place.
Windmill de Dikkert originally belonged to Zaandam, where it was part of the industrial area and functioned as a wood sawing mill — originally built in 1672, which makes De Dikkert one of the oldest windmills in The Netherlands. The windmill relocated in 1896, where it functions changed into a flour grinding mill until 1929.
De Dikkert houses a restaurant since 1983, which is known as one of the best restaurants in the country. When you decide to go for a dining experience here, you must reserve a table which you can do via the website of the restaurant.
De Valk – Leiden
The best place to visit a windmill and learn exactly how it worked is to visit De Valk in Leiden. This windmill, built-in 1743, is 29 meters high, offers living space for two families, and functioned as a grinding mill to produce flour. The height of the windmill was essential to provide the best functionality because the windmill is higher than regular buildings and surrounding houses, it was able to catch more wind.
Since 1966 Windmill De Valk is an official museum. Many years before that, it had stopped functioning as a windmill to produce flour and other products. The windmill became an unofficial museum, where the last miller often showed interested visitors around. During the early 1960’s it even functioned as a place for student housing.
Today the windmill is one of the best places to learn and explore how a windmill works. The museum offers a great experience where you can visit the old living areas and grinding lofts. When you visit the mill, we advise you to take a guided tour, this way, you’ll learn even more about the history and functioning of this windmill!
It is excellent to visit Windmill De Valk with kids and the whole family. However, some parts of the windmill are not easily accessible, so make sure you’re able to climb some stairs!
Windmill de Salamander – Leidschendam
One of my favorite windmills is relatively unknown in The Netherlands. The windmill is located in Leidschendam, the village where I grew up, closely located next to The Hague. De Salamander was built in 1643 and ever since played a significant role in the local economy of the village. Over time the windmill got heavily damaged during fires and heavy storms. Every time the windmill was rebuilt, which resulted in a modernly functioning windmill today.
Today De Salamander still functions as a wood sawing mill and is the most famous landmark of the village. It is possible to visit the windmill at no cost, but for a guided tour, you’ll need to pay 2 Euro per person. The windmill is lovely to visit and easy to reach traveling from Leiden or The Hague. It is located next to Rijn-Schie Canal, which is the important waterway that connects Leiden, The Hague, and Delft.
A great thing to do when you have enough time while visiting The Netherlands is to rent a bicycle and cycle between The Hague and Leiden. This way you can visit the windmills located in the countryside between the cities. We will tell you later about the best cycling route.
For the latest up to date visitor information about Windmill de Salamander, you can visit their website.
Three Windmills – Stompwijk (Leidschendam)
Located close to windmill de Salamander, you can find three historic windmills next to each other. They look similar to the water management construction in Kinderdijk – Rotterdam. These three historic windmills are also a great example of Dutch water management. The windmills are dating back to 1642, and there are still active today. Over the years, several adjustments were made to modernize the pumps. Molendriegang, which is the original name of these windmills, has a critical function to keep the grasslands in the polder dry. The pumps function at least once a month.
It is not possible to visit these windmills inside, but you can walk around the property. Also, it is possible to rent a small rowing boat and row alongside the ditch and the windmills, which is a fun thing to do.
The location of these windmills is unique, in between a relatively new neighborhood, a highway, and the countryside. It is one of the few places where you can still wander around and feel like you’re in the countryside while being very close to a big city. It’s what makes these windmills one of our favorite spots.
A must visit when you like to explore historic windmills. It is easy to combine with the windmill cycling route between Leiden and The Hague.
Windmills Cycling Routes
When you’re visiting The Netherlands and are spending several days in the country, you can easily plan more time for exploring the windmills. A unique way to do this is by renting a bicycle and cycle around the Dutch countryside while crossing several historic windmills. There are many different cycle routes you can follow, depending on the city where you’re staying.
We lined up two different routes you can follow. All of them are easily accessible but will take you almost all day when you also stop for exploring the historic windmills. Cycling in The Netherlands is straightforward and very safe. We have a lot of designated cycle lanes where it is not allowed to drive for cars. Also, the country is flat at most places. So these cycle routes are accessible for everyone with an average fitness level. And when you want some extra support with pedal power, you can always rent an electric bicycle!
We recommend planning these cycle routes during the spring and summer months when you have the highest chance of lovely weather. Also, when you only spend like two days in The Netherlands, you probably want to spend your time differently, exploring other unique landmarks of the country. You can find the best way to spend your time during a short stay in The Netherlands by reading our article, How many days do I need in The Netherlands?
Let’s get back to the three best cycling routes for exploring the historic windmills.
Cycling Route: Leiden – The Hague – Leiden
Length: 25 kilometers (one way) – 45 kilometers (Retour)
Duration: full day (approximately 2 – 4 hours cycling + sightseeing)
You will combine a visit to the cities Leiden and The Hague, and explore the historic windmills and unique countryside in between the cities. This route starts in Leiden at windmill De Valk. From there, it follows the Rijn-Schie Canal, also known as De Vliet, in the direction of The Hague.
You’ll follow the cycling path alongside the canal and cross beautiful historic windmills and the unique Dutch countryside. An excellent stop for lunch or coffee is at the village Leidschendam. Where you also stop to see the historic windmill Salamander and the three windmills in Stompwijk. We recommend stopping for lunch at one of the cafe’s at Sluisplein in between the two unique bridges that function as a sluice.
When you’ll go back on the road and set the direction to The Hague, you’ll cross the old village Voorburg, which is also a beautiful village to cross. After crossing Voorburg, you’ll notice that the landscape will change, and you’ll feel that you’re reaching a large city. Before entering The Hague, you’ll first stop at the last windmill De Trekvliet, a unique windmill at the edge of the city. Cycling into the city, there’s you’ll find that there’s a lot to explore in The Hague. Make sure to read our article with The Best Things To Do In The Hague before visiting the city!
The cycling route between Leiden and The Hague is around 25 kilometers for one direction. When you also cycle back to Leiden, the total length of the route will be 45 kilometers. A great route to go back to Leiden is to follow the provincial cycling route. This route will take you to the countryside across several museums, and Huis Ten Bosch, the palace where our King and Queen lives. And when you’re getting closer to Leiden, you’ll cross the beautiful flower and tulip fields (these fields are flourishing only for a few weeks a year, you can read more about it in our article Why Is The Netherlands Famous for its Tulips?).
It will probably take you two to three hours to reach The Hague, depending on how long you’ll stop at the windmills. Going back to Leiden will take you around 1.5 hours.
If you feel like 25 kilometers of cycling is enough, you can easily hop on a train from The Hague station to Leiden. The train will take you in around 15 to 20 minutes to the city! Note; it is not allowed to take your bicycles during rush hours, roughly between 17:00 – 19:00. Make sure to check this at the train station, before buying your train ticket.
Click on the image below to open the cycle route in Google Maps between Leiden and The Hague. Remember, when you’re reaching The Hague, there’s much more to explore, which you can find in our article Best Things To Do In The Hague.
Cycling Route: De Zaanse Schans
Length: 8 or 30 kilometers (there are two routes)
Duration: 1 – 4 hours (depending on the route)
We already told you about de Zaanse Schans, which is a must-visit for exploring the windmills in The Netherlands. Zaanse Schans, which was the first industrial area of Europe, is not only great to explore by a tour boat. The surroundings are also perfect for cycling around.
(Scroll back to the top of this article to read more about Zaanse Schans)
Zaanse Schans is a very popular area for tourists, but also Dutch citizens like to visit this historical place. When you visit the official site of Zaanse Schans, you’ll find that they offer several cycling routes for exploring. There are two routes you can follow, a short one (8 kilometers) and the long route (30 kilometers). Both routes are easy to cycle around. The long route takes up more time (approximately 2 – 3 hours), so if you have all day, it would be great to follow this one.
Click on the image below to open the official cycling maps of Zaanse Schans.
Interactive Windmill Map
There are over 1000 historic windmills in The Netherlands. So if you’re keen on exploring more windmills and want to do some searching and planning yourself, you can use the interactive windmill map.
The website Dutch Windmill Database is a database with information on every windmill in The Netherlands. Also, from windmills that aren’t existing anymore. So when you’re looking for windmills, make sure to doublecheck if you still can visiting them. Otherwise, you might end up at an empty field where a historic windmill used to be, that would be funny, but also a waste of your time 😉
Best Time to Visit Windmills in The Netherlands
We recommend visiting the windmills between April and September. Where the best time would be between April and May. These months are the best time to visit The Netherlands because a lot is going on during this period. Between April and May, you can combine a visit to the historic windmills while enjoying many national events like Kingsday and Liberation Day, and visit the tulip fields and Keukenhof. It is our favorite time to be in The Netherlands!
What to Pack for The Netherlands
When you’re planning for your trip to The Netherlands, you might also wonder what to pack. The country is known for its constantly changing weather conditions, but also its lovely summer days. It can be challenging to pack the right things, depending on which time you visit the country.
We love to help you out and make your life a bit easier. So that’s why we wrote a complete packing guide for The Netherlands. The packing guide contains different lists with seasonal tips, recommendations for the best travel bags, travel insurance, and much more. Make sure to check out the packing guide before packing your bags!
Read more about The Netherlands
We wrote several articles about The Netherlands to help you plan for your next travel adventure. You can see the full list of the articles we wrote about our home country visiting this page.
Some articles you might find interesting and which can complement planning your visit to the historic windmills are;
- What is Amsterdam Best Known For?
Many historic windmills are found in or close to Amsterdam. So it’s great to combine your visit to the windmills while exploring Amsterdam!
- What can you do in Rotterdam For One Day?
One of the most unique historic windmills sites, Kinderdijk, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, is close to Rotterdam. We recommend combining a visit to Kinderdijk with a visit to the city of Rotterdam.
- Best Things To Do in The Hague
In our cycling route between Leiden and The Hague, we recommend reading this article. The Hague is excellent for a visit and to explore more about the history of The Netherlands.
- What is Keukenhof Famous For?
The largest garden in the world, and you can easily cross it while cycling between Leiden and The Hague, or just as a visit from Leiden or Amsterdam. When you’re in The Netherlands during the opening weeks of Keukenhof, this is a must-visit!