Windmills are mind-blowing structures that were used centuries ago, all over the Netherlands. As the country sits below sea level, it is no surprise that the Dutch were battling the sea. Windmills were originally used to pump water to keep the land dry. This was ideal with the rising population and the increased need for farming. Over time, they were used for many other purposes, especially during the industrial revolution. Mills were used to grind flour, oil, paint, the list goes on! These windmills took on other purposes due to the increase in coal-powered pumps which were eventually replaced by modern machinery.
Don’t fret though! Windmills are an amazing piece of preserved history and are still used today. With over 1000 windmills still standing in the Netherlands, you won’t miss the chance to see a good few on your trip. National Windmill Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May every year. On this special holiday, 950 mills open their doors and give you the ultimate experience to explore the inside and learn how these amazing structures work. If you’re a mill fan, make sure to pop this special day in your diary! If you’re looking for an idea of which area is best to visit, below are a few famous destinations that are itching for your eyes to see:
The mills in Zaanse Schans were built in the 17th century during the industrial revolution. Over 600 mills were built and carried out various jobs, like grinding spices, corn, and flour, to name a few! A popular mill to see is De Huisman, it is relatively small with an octagonal base, which was used to grind mustard, sawing, and process tobacco. De Huisman is known for its production of mustard, which you can buy and browse through the range of mustard products available inside.
If you are visiting Amsterdam and want to see some authentic windmills, Zaanse Schans, approximately 30 minutes via public transport would make an awesome day out. Hoping to make it more of an experience? Take a boat tour from Amsterdam through to Zaandam. On this tour, you get to explore the quirks of the historically preserved village Zaanse Schans, followed on to see more windmills, including must-visit places in the city of Zaandam.
Schiedam is home to some of the world’s largest windmills, spanning over 40m high. This is because they had to stand above the surrounding buildings to catch the wind. Only 7 mills out of the original 20 are still standing today throughout the city. During the 18th century, Schiedam became the jenever (Dutch gin) capital as their windmills took priority in producing jenever with many types of ground grains.
If you’re a gin lover, the city of Schiedam is for you! The National Jenever Museum is where you can be shown how jenever was traditionally distilled 300 years ago. Visit the museum and mill shop in De Walvisch (the whale), located close to the distillery.
This little village is a great icon for the everlasting Dutch struggle against flooding. The 19 windmills played a vital role in “keeping the land dry”. They drained the land creating more space for farming and housing the growing population. Kinderdijk is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. If you want to know more about the history behind Dutch waterways and windmills, it is highly recommended you visit. You can view the village via boat, which gives you a new perspective of these jaw-dropping structures.
The mills are regularly maintained and preserved in working order as a backup if modern systems fail. This mesmerizing village holds the largest collection of vintage working windmills in Holland!
If your time in Holland is limited, you will never fail to spot a traditional windmill. If you plan to visit the capital Amsterdam, there is a chance you may walk by one of 8 windmills throughout the city. The most attractive mill to visit is De Gooyer, it is worth the journey, as it’s the tallest wooden windmill in Holland shaped with an octagonal base. On the first Saturday of every month, the mill spins its wings.
Although the mill is not open to the public, it sits next to a small traditional brewery. Grab a drink and admire the history behind De Gooyer!