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Open-Air Museums in the Netherlands

I’m taking the Heart of Belgium and Holland tour in late March that finishes in Amsterdam. We will be staying an additional 3 days in Amsterdam. The itinerary doesn’t show a visit to a traditional windmill, so I am interested in visiting one post-tour. I am reading about 2 Open-Air museums that are close to Amsterdam. Zaanse Schans and one in Arnem. Have any of you seen both and if so, do you have a preference of one over the other? What are the pros and cons? We love the history and the architecture of the Open Museums, so we are looking forward to other buildings in addition to the windmills.
I also see that we visit some museums in Amsterdam. Are we given a museum card that we can use later in our free time, or will we need to pay the entrance fees ourselves.
Anyone who has taken this tour and has any suggestions, I would appreciate it.
Thanks.

Posted by
6763 posts

The best open air museum is Kinderdijk outside of Rotterdam. Nineteen windmills are still in their original locations along a canal. You can walk, bike or go by boat past them. Take a train to Rotterdam and connect to a river boat to Kinderdijk .
We were disappointed in Zaanse Schans. Buildings including windmills which were moved there.

Posted by
12612 posts

Janet, I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for but Bruges has 4 windmills along a section of the remains of the city's old ramparts. Three were moved here from other locations, and one, Sint-Janshuismill, is still in its original position. It's also a museum, although it looks like it's only open on a limited number of dates, and not at all during low season. If nothing else, you can examine them from the outside.

https://www.visitbruges.be/en/windmills-of-bruges
https://www.visitbruges.be/en/sint-janshuismolen-sint-janshuis-mill

More on the ramparts and what can be seen along the way. You don't have to do ALL of the route at one time or do more than a small section but we enjoyed the breathing room on a sunny day! The Visitor Center should have more info/maps.
https://www.visitbruges.be/en/brugse-vesten-bruges-city-ramparts

Posted by
26094 posts

I too was underwhelmed by Zaanse Schans. Nice enough, but really mostly tourist tat selling stuff, do you want some clogs?

The Open Air Museum near Arnhem is fabulous (my last visit was several years ago) and looks like it has been there for centuries and is large enough for total immersion. A bit further away from Amsterdam and pretty much a full day experience.

Kinderdijk is pretty special, as described above. To get there you can ride a water bus too.

Posted by
1332 posts
Posted by
1773 posts

We also very much like open air museums and spent nearly the entire day at Arnhem but I can’t recall specifically about windmills. But we made it a two night stay in Otterlo and spent the other day at the Kröller-Müller Museum and riding bikes in the national park. Kinderdijk is next to visit for us and sounds like windmill central. We were in Zaanse Schans in 1972 as starry eyed youth when everything was wonderful. I envy any choice you make. Safe travels.

Posted by
274 posts

I have not taken this RS tour, but have visited both Kinderdijk and the open air museum in Arnhem (my family says I never met an open air museum I didn't like). The setting at Kinderdijk is very picturesque and enjoyable, but I preferred Arnhem as there is so much more to see there. There are a number of windmills on site at Arnhem, the one I remember most vividly was a windmill-driven sawmill.

Posted by
8456 posts

I’d have a plan but only put it into place if you don’t feel you’ve seen enough windmills on the Belgium and Holland tour. There is a free day (or part of a day?) in Bruges and as Kathy said you can walk to see the windmills. They are quite near the hotel the tour has stayed at in the past. For lunch on the transit day from Bruges to Delft the tour stopped in a small town and there was also a windmill there. I am very sorry I don’t recall the name of the town and I’m traveling right now (yea!!) so cannot look it up.

I’d also tell your guide early on of your interest and they may have some ideas for you.

I don’t know what the situation will be when you travel but when I did this tour in April 2019 we did not have a museum card. We went as a group to the Rijksmuseum. I’d called the office to ask a question and the person suggested I book the Van Gogh Museum for later that afternoon ahead of time. I did that which was a good tip as they were sold out well ahead. The next day the group did the Anne Frank House which I opted out of as I’d been before. I went back to the Rijksmuseum which I paid for on my own.

Download the official Rijksmuseum app before you go if you decide you want a second run at it. You can purchase your ticket thru the app and have it electronically on your phone. I just bought my ticket the morning I decided to go back.

Fair warning that the hotel they used before in Delft had very weirdly decorated rooms! After check in everyone toured each other’s rooms.

Many of the group opted to go to Den Haag the free afternoon we had in Delft. The guide showed us where to catch the tram and the morning activity ended where we could buy a tram pass. About half a dozen of us went together on the tram and helpful locals showed us how to tag in.

Keukenhof was stunning in mid-April.

If you can arrive in Ghent the day before I’d do it. I actually spent 2 nights bevore the tour there and didn’t get everything done.

For what it’s worth, here is a link to my trip report from 2019. Who knows what will have changed! (And editing to add after I re-read my TR from then I see you commented on it, lol!!)

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/trip-report-rs-belgium-holland-4-6-4-16-2019-plus-time-in-paris

Posted by
298 posts

Thank you Suki, I appreciate you letting me know how commercialized that Zaanse Schans is. I will probably eliminate that from my list of extra activities.
Kathy, you’ve given me some information that I will check out. Hopefully, I can find time to see those windmills.
Nigel, you and Suki have convinced me to look elsewhere for open air museums. And Nigel, I definitely don’t want any wooden shoes. I always hunt for shoes with lots of padding. I will do more research on Arnhem, especially because I might be able to add in Kroller Muller museum.
Dianne, thanks for your information on another possible windmill.
Thanks also to Denny and Katherine. I might have to check out Kinderdijk as well. I’m glad I’m not the only one that loves Open Air museums.
Pam, as always you are the queen of knowledge. You’ve always been so helpful whenever I’ve asked you questions. I re-read your trip report. There is so much information that I can use. You will probably get some private messages from me.

You guys are the best!

Posted by
2096 posts

Try this website for a list of ALL the windmills in The Netherlands: https://en.molendatabase.nl/
And for windmills by province, go here: https://en.molendatabase.nl/nederland/zoekprov.php
The province I live in - South Holland - has the MOST windmills (227 at last count).
(You may have to use Google Translate for this site)

Surprisingly, many offer tours and/or access! We've probably been in 50+ in the last few years.
Kinderdijk may be among the most "realistic" - in the sense of showing how a family lived in the windmills. (In fact, some folks STILL live in windmills at Kinderdijk). Check out the map on either website above to see locations and windmill facts & details.

Posted by
298 posts

Thanks for your advice RnR. I never knew there were so many wind and water mills. You certainly have a unique heritage in your country. Are you a native, or did you move here?

Posted by
671 posts

A few years ago we went to the open air museum Zuiderzee museum (see https://www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl/) We went there by train from Amsterdam, took a short ferry ride from the train station to the museum and then walked back from the museum to the train station. It was an enjoyable visit, they have the craft exhibits you'd expect at an outdoor museum and you can also visit the adjacent small town of Enkhuizen. Here is a blog post someone put up about their visit: https://thirstyjourneys.com/zuiderzee-museum-enkhuizen/

I'll add that Amsterdam (and Holland) are one of our favorite places to visit. Since the country is relatively compact its easy to visit other towns as day trips.. Leiden was one of our favorites, reachable by train. On your tour you stop in Delft so I highly recommend taking the tram to The Hague as well. And in Amsterdam we enjoyed the Mikes Bikes tour.

Posted by
2096 posts

@Janet - we're Americans living in The Hague for the past 4 years. Our granddaughter first visited us when she was 4 and one of her "must-sees" was windmills. So we did a little research and took her into many!

Kindedijk was perhaps her favorite - although we have had some great tours at various windmills. The website I mentioned gives you information about the type of windmill (there are several), whether they are still active, what they were used for, and if you can visit. Many windmills have been "moved" to their present location to preserve them (especially in S. Holland). Often, we'd strap her onto our bikes and go in search of windmills near Den Haag, Leiden, Delft, Leidschendam, and the surrounding areas.

A car makes travel easier to hop from village to village in the NL but is often not necessary. Public transportation is great! Buy an OV-chipkaart - you can top it up as necessary - and ride trains, trams, buses, and the metro systems through the Netherlands. Or depending on where you're based... hop on a bike!

Posted by
298 posts

John, I appreciate the information on the Zuiderzee Open Air museum. I’m glad that you mentioned visiting The Hague while we are in Delft. I’ve had more than one person mention that, so I will have to pencil that in during our free time.

RnR, what a great experience for you to live in a new country. I hope you get to experience a lot of the great things in Europe. We will be using public transportation. I am not proficient on a bicycle. When I look at all the people on bikes, it scares me to death. I think I would get run over by a mass of bikers. Can you tell me where I could purchase the OV-Chipkaart? That sounds like it works the same as the Oyster cards in London. Thank you again.

Posted by
12612 posts

Janet, here's more info on the OV Chip Card from Amsterdam's tourism website:
https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/plan-your-trip/getting-around/public-transport

And a little side info on RNR? He's been happily residing abroad for many years now; used to have a terrific website called "Ron in Rome" when he lived there. I'm just one of many who miss that one, but we're fortunate to have him passing on great insights for the country he's currently calling home! (Couldn't resist the plug, Ron :O)

His RS profile: https://community.ricksteves.com/users/9342

Posted by
2096 posts

Thanks Kathy - I do miss the RnR site and the multitude of comments and feedback I received... but NOT the challenges of keeping it updated daily. Maybe when I retire, I'll rebuild a similar site. I was in Rome a couple of weeks ago, reviewing all the things that have changed!

@Janet, as Kathy has posted via the link, you can purchase an OV-chipkaart at a train station and many metro stations. If you're arriving at AMS, you can purchase your cards there and then have them loaded immediately. We have four "anonymous" cards for visiting friends that we keep loaded with 20-30 Euro each. (Locals have a "photo card" tied to their bank accounts which automatically top-up). Hopefully, soon we'll be able to use our phones/credit cards for public transportation. It's been tested in the NL, but not yet rolled out. In the meantime, the OV-chipkaart is the easiest method to jump on and off of train, metro, bus, and tram options. And if you change your mind about biking, yes, you can use your OV-chipkaart to rent a bike also!

Posted by
941 posts

Janet, we have been to both Zuiderzee open air museum and Arnhem open air museum.
Our first trip to Arnhem was on our 2015 BOE tour and we were pretty disappointed that only two of the working buildings were occupied. Our next trip to Arnhem was at Christmas the next year and it was fabulous because the crafters were all in their buildings showing their trades. I wouldn't chance that disappointment again without checking first that the crafters would all be in session.
In 2017 we spent the day at the Zuiderzee open air museum and it was GREAT! With our museum pass we were able to ride the ferry to the site (tickets needed but free), tour part of the area, have a fabulous cafeteria lunch, and then finish the day touring the rest of the museum and then walking to the indoor museum closer to town. It also was wonderful.

Posted by
298 posts

Thank you RnR. I didn’t realize I was corresponding with a celebrity. I appreciate the information on the OV Chipkaart. I will definitely check this out.

Thanks also to Nance. I will do some research on the Zuiderzee Open Air museum.