About Zaanse Schans
I have always been in awe of wooden windmills, from the first time I, as a child, attempted to paint a Dutch country side with a windmills-dotted skyline to the time when I visited a windmill-turned-brewery (Browerij’t IJ) in Amsterdam on my student trip in 2011. My short time in Amsterdam had not given me the scope to visit any other windmills around the area and my awe persisted. In my recent Euro-trip, I decided to get a closure on my infatuation and visit the Dutch countryside teeming with these imposing wooden structures. The visit turned out to be much more than windmills and alas, my love for the Dutch countryside continues…In Netherlands, there are two very popular neighborhoods which have been protected and preserved to display the Dutch way of living and trades and crafts from rural Netherlands. One is Kinderdijk (near Rotterdam) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other is Zaanse Schans (near Amsterdam). We decided on Zaanse Schans because it was easier for us travel-wise. We took a bus from Stuttgart to Amsterdam and then bought an Amsterdam & Region Travel Pass, which covers a lot of neighborhoods around Amsterdam including the famous Keukenhof tulip gardens and Zaanse Schans. Zaanse Schans is a short 45 mins trip from Amsterdam Central by bus.We had booked an Airbnb accommodation in Zaandijk, very close to the site of Zaanse Schaans. After freshening up, we took our bicycles and made our way to the site. It was very windy and our hair was windswept. As we neared the place, a strong odour accosted us. We were to find out later that it was the emissions from the chocolate and starch factories in the region.We had a preconceived picture of a few windmills and wooden houses that we would get to see at the site. But the scene that welcomed us transported us immediately to the industrial age in Netherlands. It is like an open-air museum with bakery, cheese factory, clog-making warehouse and wooden houses with barns and working-windmills on the banks of river Zaan that flows in the area. It indeed looked like a painting.
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
Although the Secret Annex, where Anne Frank and her sister, parents and four other fearful Jews lived from 1942–1944, is both a testament to human courage and a reminder of wartime horrors, hordes of camera-toting tourists outnumber ghosts of times past these days. Arrive after 8:30—a bit early if you’ve enjoyed Amsterdam’s nightlife the eve before—and you’ll wait in line for hours. Fortunately, you can avoid wasting time by purchasing an e-ticket. For non-planners, there’s free WiFi for playing on your smartphone or tab while queuing up. If you lose patience, buy Anne’s diary and other accounts of the Holocaust at the English Bookshop in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district.
Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh Museum—repositories of Golden Age art, iconic sunflowers and tormented starry nights. While our destination museums are rife with artistic treasures, they’re also chock full of tourists, especially in high season (May–September), when millions descend on the Dutch capital. Avoid the queues with an e-ticket or Museumkaart, or make use of free WiFi while waiting in line. Once in, don’t count on marveling at the work of Dutch masters in solitary reverence at either of these popular tourist attractions, especially if you visit in summer or during school vacation time.
If you hang around Dam Square, Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein long enough, you’re bound to come across talented musicians, jugglers, mimes, break dancers and comedians who come from around the globe to perform in public squares for free. Many are aspiring stars and this is their livelihood, so be sure to throw a few euros their way if they’ve inspired a belly laugh.
Or even someone who just wants to have fun! The Heineken Experience is a trip to the Heineken Brewery and Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is not a working brewery but an old one which has been converted into a museum and is open for everyone. The whole experience is just full of wonder and fun and excitement. You need to go there just to feel like a kid who is given the pass to sit on those 4ft and above rides in an amusement park.
Return to Amsterdam in the evening and spend sometime at the Jordaan, Amsterdam's most famous neighbourhood. Touristy and commercial, it starts from Centraal station and arches around the Canal Ring before ending it Leidsegracht. With plenty of cafes to choose from, decide whether to indulge in traditional or trendy food. Hope across to an art gallery after to soak in the Dutch art scene.
Anne Frank House
Many people come to Amsterdam with a bucket list—a compilation of tips gleaned from guidebooks, friends, family, curiosity and a little classroom history. Topping many lists is the Anne Frank House, one of the city’s most famous museums. Long deserted by its last residents, it’s where Amsterdam’s most famous teen writer vented daily frustrations in her world-renowned diary while hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Although the Secret Annex, where Anne Frank and her sister, parents and four other fearful Jews lived from 1942–1944, is both a testament to human courage and a reminder of wartime horrors, hordes of camera-toting tourists outnumber ghosts of times past these days. Arrive after 8:30—a bit early if you’ve enjoyed Amsterdam’s nightlife the eve before—and you’ll wait in line for hours. Fortunately, you can avoid wasting time by purchasing an e-ticket. For non-planners, there’s free WiFi for playing on your smartphone or tab while queuing up. If you lose patience, buy Anne’s diary and other accounts of the Holocaust at the English Bookshop in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district.
When in Amsterdam - this is a must visit place. Most of us wouldn't have ever seen anything like this before - so be prepared to be amused and surprised :) Beautiful women standing in skimpy clothes in Windows, like an exhibit. You can see these in many of the lanes around this area. If you are lucky you will catch a negotiation or two happening. €50 for 15 min No photography allowed :)
Finish Day 1 indulging in the best french fries Amsterdam offers - at Manneken Pis. Located near Amsterdam Centraal, it's a small fries shop and extremely popular with the tourists. One pack is more than enough for dinner. As you eat the fries dripping with sauces, reminiscence about your first day in Amsterdam.
Stuck at the Amsterdam International Airport with more than a 6 hour layover? If you’re flying with KLM, sign up for their ‘layover with a local’ program. All you have to do is fill up a questionnaire that asks about your interests and KLM then pairs you up with an English-speaking local who will show you the town! Free bus tickets and a rounds of drinks is included as well!How to do it: Once you’ve booked your flight via KLM, check your email as there will be a link in it asking you if you’d like to sign up for the program.Important: Transit Visa is required if you take these city tours. The cost of a transit visa is 60 euros or Rs. 4200.
Built in 1408, this soaring church has been the stage for royal weddings and coronations, including King Willem’s marriage to Maxima and his crowning as Holland’s first king in a century in 2013. Now used for major art exhibitions, it has a gift shop that leads to a free display about the church’s turbulent history.
After the glitz of the previous excursion, find respite in this hidden courtyard protected from the madness of central Amsterdam. Beyond the Begijnhof’s humble doors, an oasis of 14th century houses, gardens and relic-filled churches provides quiet escape from the buzz of the city. Once a residential sanctuary for the Bengijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood comprised of women who took no monastic vows but dedicated their lives to educating the poor and taking care of the sick, it’s now a place where people still gather to worship, marry and reflect.
This month, after more than a decade’s closure, the Rijkshuseum, with one of the world’s greatest start collections, at last reopens its doors. Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan Steen and a host of other glorious Old Masters are in place, alongside a treasure trove of silverware, delft and princely furniture, and exquisitely detailed doll’s houses made as showpieces for Golden Age grandees.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Across the way, the Stedelijk Museum , also now up and running after a 10 years hiatus, brings Matisse, Chagall and Bruce Nauman into the fray, as well as video art, performances, an exceptional collection of De Stijl, and designs including Ettore Sottsass teapots and the famous Gerrit Rietveld chair.
Walk through Central Station, turn left and hop on the free ferry to NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam-Noord. On the ride across the Ij to what was once a derelict shipyard, take in the low, village-like skyline. In 15 minutes, you’ll arrive in an artsy community and cultural hot spot peppered with recycled-junk sculptures, a giant tiki head, and numerous funky restaurants and night spots. Throughout the year, festivals, performances, exhibitions and IJ Hallen, Europe’s largest flea market, are held in Amsterdam-Noord.
Amsterdam’s floating flower market is a fine source for high-quality flora. Pick up a bag of tulip bulbs for the folks back home and they’ll thank you when they receive the gift, then think of you again in spring when the blooms come up. The thoughtful souvenir will cost you a few euros, but it’s free to smell the roses and photograph the stunning blooms at this fragrant open flower market lining Singel Canal between Muntplein and Koningsplein.