Zaandam is a small city that is around 5 minutes north by train from Amsterdam. With its working windmills and traditional factories, the city’s De Zaanse Schans neighborhood produces everything from cheese and chocolate to typically Dutch wooden shoes.
Stand back and look at the new and completely unique architecture of the city hall and central shopping arcade that dominates the center of Zaandam. A modern interpretation of the traditional green painted Zaan-style houses, one of the most striking buildings is the Inntel Hotel that resembles layers of houses stacked on top of each other. Love it or loathe it, it is something that must be seen to be believed.
Head out to De Zaanse Schans near Zaandijk for a glimpse of Dutch life in the 17th and 18th centuries. Marvel at the neighborhood’s many colorful windmills and admire the green Zaan-style traditional wooden houses that are reflected so neatly in the canals. Browse the small museums and sample the traditional treats, ranging from cheese to sweets, that are made in small artisan workshops. Visit the arts and crafts shops to find a typically Dutch souvenir.
While at De Zaanse Schans, make sure you don’t miss the Zaans Museum. This museum gives an insight into the history and trading of the local area. It also includes the Verkade Experience, a tour of a still functioning chocolate and biscuit factory from the early 20th century. Of course, sampling the products will be the highlight of your time at the museum. End your visit with the small Claude Monet presentation, which highlights this French artist’s visit to the area in 1871.
Monet also painted the Blauwe Huis van Monet (Monet’s Blue House), a still partly blue corner house that you can find in the center of Zaandam. Another house with an interesting past is the Tsaar Peterhuisje (Czar Peter’s House). Czar Peter from Russia actually stayed here during a visit to the region in 1697. Built in 1632, it is one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands.
Zaandam not only offers a great opportunity to see and taste Dutch history and heritage, but to also get a glimpse of the fascinating road the Dutch are taking towards the future.