Windmills are an iconic part of the Dutch landscape, and no trip to the Netherlands is complete without a visit to a windmill. Every year in mid-May, the country celebrates National Windmill Day when windmills throughout the Netherlands throw open their doors to the public. And with eight windmills located in and around Amsterdam, windmill spotting is a great way to see the city.
Windmills (molens) were an integral part of Dutch life for centuries, employed for industrial purposes like milling corn or draining the lowlands of excess water. More than 10,000 windmills once dotted the Dutch landscape. In fact, they are even ingrained in the language – one Dutch expression to describe an irrational person says that they must have been “hit by a mill”. Windmills are still celebrated during National Windmill Day as well as on festive occasions and national holidays when they are often decorated with flowers, figures of angels or Dutch flags.
17th and 18th-century windmills
Most of Amsterdam’s 17th-century windmills are unfortunately not open to the public, but hunting for windmills is still a fun way to see the city. De Otter on the Kostverlorenvaart in the Amsterdam West is the oldest sawmill of its kind. You can also admire De 1200 Roe or the Riekermolen located on the banks of the Amstel River. Two later examples are d’Admiraal windmill in Amsterdam Noord and De Bloem on the Haarlemmerweg, which was actually moved from its original location. And De Gooyer mill is bound to go down well with those fond of a tipple – Brouwerij ‘t IJ next door serves a range of traditional Dutch beers brewed on site. The bar is open all year-round, and when the sun is shining you can enjoy your cold brew on the large outdoor terrace.
Open for visitors
Of Amsterdam’s eight remaining windmills, the only windmill regularly open to the public is the Molen van Sloten. The Molen van Sloten is a renovated, working windmill built in 1847 and is a popular wedding venue. Whenever possible, the miller demonstrates how he turns the mill’s blades into the wind. Another attraction at the Molen van Sloten is an audio-visual presentation about Rembrandt’s life, called “Rembrandt in the Attic”.
If you fancy checking out more windmills after viewing Amsterdam’s best, the surrounding area also offers some stunning examples. The Zaanse Schans is just a short trip away from Amsterdam – about 15 minutes by train. This picturesque open-air museum is free of charge and boasts eight windmills. And for a small fee, you can also visit a working industrial windmill. From here, you can also stop by the Windmill Museum, a relaxing 15-minute walk away.
More info: I amsterdam