Day 3.  Haarlem and Zaanse Schans Windmills

Our morning was going to start with a short train journey to Haarlem but noticing the train terminated less than ten minutes later at the seaside town of Zandvoort, we thought we’d head there first before returning down the line to visit Haarlem.

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Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Unusually for us, we hadn’t researched Zandvoort, otherwise I doubt we would have bothered going.  The resort, if one could call it that, lies just a few minutes walk from the station but it held little appeal and was totally lacking in charm.  We ventured along the promenade which had a few kiosks selling the usual seaside paraphernalia and one or two beach bars which appeared to be closed, the resort had the same feel as Cleveleys in north west England, having seen better days.  I’m sure it looks more appealing in midsummer when the beach bars are open and people are relaxing on the beach.

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Haarlem, The Netherlands

So, after a stroll through Zandvoort we returned to the station for the short journey back to Haarlem, the capital of the province of North Holland.  The city lies at the centre of the Dutch flower growing district being close to Keukenhof Gardens and the bulb fields of Lisse and Hillegom.  The medieval centre is a ten minute walk from the station along cobbled, narrow car free streets.  Crossing the broad canal into the old town we found that Haarlem had plenty of the charm that it’s neighbour Zandvoort lacked.

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Haarlem town centre, The Netherlands

Beautiful tall Dutch terraced houses lined the canal with more fine examples of Dutch architecture in the main square.  I’m sure the square usually looks photogenic but sadly like Dam Square in Amsterdam, it was filled with a funfair and Ferris wheel obscuring the buildings behind.  Haarlem’s shopping centre extends over several streets and has many interesting small shops and cosy cafes.  After having our morning coffees in one of these little cafes we returned to our hotel in Sloterdijk for some lunch, the rail journey taking less than 15 minutes.

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The broad canal in the centre of Haarlem, The Netherlands

After a little rest I suggested we set of by train once again, this time to Zaandijk Zaanse Schans to visit the working windmill village at Zaanse Schans.  Getting there from Sloterdijk took only ten minutes and then it was a further 15 minute signposted walk to the windmills.  Zaanse Schans is a preserved village of traditional houses, windmills and warehouses providing a glimpse of life in the Netherlands in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The surrounding region was an industrial area with hundreds of windmills which were used to power the milling of paper, mustard, oil and other products.

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Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands

Wandering through the village is free but admission charges apply to enter individual museums, workshops and windmills.  We enjoyed viewing these characterful houses and looking at the windmills in such a pretty setting.  It’s a bit touristy with coach loads of tourists on guided tours but I’d still recommend a visit as it’s a charming open air museum and very photogenic.  I noticed that tours to Zaans Schans from Amsterdam cost about €35 but it can be visited easily and at a fraction of the cost by train (15 minutes from Amsterdam) and is included in the regional travel ticket.

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Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands

For our evening stroll we headed back into the centre of Amsterdam and boarded a tram to Leidseplein and from there wandered along to Vondel Park which had many cyclists.  We spotted a heron scavenging in a wheelie bin and saw yet more colourful tulips.  Leaving the park as it was falling dark we stopped for drinks in one of the cosy bars along Leidseplein before wandering the streets a little more then returning back to the hotel for the night.

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Vondel Park, Amsterdam
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55 thoughts on “Day 3.  Haarlem and Zaanse Schans Windmills

  1. The Netherlands is nice and compact for train travel – and the services are great. I really liked Haarlem on our whistlestop tour earlier this spring and would love to spend a bit more time there later. Zaanse Schans looks so idyllic! Another place to add onto the list of places to visit…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If you get the chance to go to Haarlem again, there is a lovely hofje (sort to hidden courtyards) walk you can do. It takes you down countless small streets and it’s really charming. Haven’t been to Zaanse Schans for years, but you’ve inspired me to go back.

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  3. Loved our visit to Holland. So much to see and it was nice to have those small roads where people use bicycles rather than cars. I was amazed travelling through the country to see far up above me the built up canals with barges seemingly travelling in the sky above us.

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  4. You are in my town, Zandvoort! 🙂
    Actually there are lots of things you can do in Zandvoort. We have monthly activities that you can actually do and see. We also have a racetrack where the car races. There are beach tents (restaurants) that stays for the whole year and some are only open during summer. But during spring time, it is nice to visit the dunes or the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. Deer, foxes and rabbits freely walk around the vicinity.
    Summer is the best time to visit where almost everything is open until 21:00 and alive. The beach is clean and so is the water. Hope this will give you a different insight of Zandvoort 🙂
    Ciao!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your interesting words. I’m sure that Zandvoort is much nicer in the summertime when it’s warm to go on the beach. The dunes sound inviting too – I would like to have taken a walk there, perhaps I can do this next time I’m visiting Amsterdam.

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  5. I really wanted to visit Harlem but we didn’t make it on our trip – hopefully next time as it looks and sounds lovely. I also fancied a trip to Zaanse Schwans but we ended up having to leave that off our itinerary too (another one for the future), we did get to see the windmills at Kinderdijk though.

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      1. To be fair, it’s not the most exciting town, but when it’s busy and the beachside bars and restaurants are in full swing, it’s a lot better. And the town centre is quite pretty.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Apparently you were there in spring which is not the time to visit Zandvoort. Although it is still not a beautiful place in summer it has a lot of beach restaurants in summer and it is crowded with people of Amsterdam enjoying the beach. But renting a bike and cycling through the dunes north of Zandvoort towards IJmuiden and Velsen or southwards towards Noordwijk is worth the physical effort.

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