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Open-air museums in the winter

I'm going to the Netherlands for work in January, and I love open-air folk museums. The Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen is closed, but Zaanse Schans and the Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem are both open. Both seem doable as a day trip from Amsterdam. Rick says the one in Arnhem is better, but he's focused on the summer, when most people are visiting. If I were going in the summer, I would definitely go to Arnhem, but given that it's the off-season, I'm worried about going there and being disappointed, although its website says they have special winter programming through Jan. 20. On the other hand, Zaanse Schans, as the most touristy site, will be more of a sure bet all year round. Does anyone have any experience with either site in the winter?

Posted by
846 posts

Brad - check the schedule on the Arnhem Openluchtmuseum to make sure that the crafts will be operating. Take a close look at the calendar for events. You might find more activities offered on weekends. It is a FABULOUS wintertime museum and you will thoroughly enjoy it as long as some of the artisans are crafting and the buildings are open to visit. If they are not, I wouldn't take the time and effort to go. Most of it was closed up when we visited on our 2015 RS tour, but we had the best time there in December 2016 and thought it much more entertaining than the Zuiderzee museum which we visited last fall of 2017. There is an indoor museum part of the Zuiderzee closer to the train station and it is very interesting, but not worth the trip from Amsterdam without the outdoor part being open. I've never gone to Zaanse Schans.
You might also check with Mark Law (owner of thatdamguide) for a winter windmill tour. It has gone up a little in price but is a good tour. He worked with us and another family to make it happen, even though he doesn't always have that tour up on schedule for winter. Some of the windmills usually visited were not open but they adapted the itinerary and still got us to a fabulous working windmill, as well as interesting countryside ride, cheese/wine tasting at a pampered cow farm, etc.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks, Nance! That's helpful information. I'm glad to hear you went to Arnhem in December and enjoyed it, because I believe that the it's the same programming in December and January. I'll check the website again looking at crafting in particular, too. Thanks!

Posted by
330 posts

We went to Zaanse Schans in mid March. It was bitter cold but open. We got to go inside a few windmills, climbed up and outside the windmill. We made our own hot cocoa in another building. We bought those great super warm Amsterdam hats there. I remember it was a bit of a walk from the train station. I would definitely say Openluchtmuseum, even in the winter would surpass Zaanse Schans. This past June, I did a Get Your Guide tour Windmills, Cheese & Clogs , a 3 hour bike tour. I really enjoyed it but the windmill was privately owned and couldn’t go in, no big deal for me as I have been to the Netherlands a lot. In Utrecht there is a working wood saw windmill that is opened on Saturdays from 1-4 with guided tours called Molen de Ster. Another off the radar place if interested is Oudewater, Heksenwaag, witches weigh house museum from the 14th century.

Posted by
20715 posts

As highlighted by Pab, remember the wind when you pack and when you go out in the morning.

All those windmills all around the country don't spin by motors you know....

Winter in the Netherlands can often be above freezing, just, but the wind off the North Sea, or from Russia, can really be biting.

Posted by
3 posts

Those are good tips, thank you! I think I'm going to head for Arnhem, unless I find out something new. I'll also make sure to dress for the weather. (Thankfully, coming from Chicago, I do pretty well in the cold.) Thanks for your thoughts!