Celebrating windmills

Windmills (molens) were an integral part of Dutch life for centuries, employed for industrial purposes like milling grains or draining the lowlands of excess water. More than 10,000 windmills once dotted the Dutch landscape, and there are still 8 in Amsterdam. 

Every year in mid-May, the country celebrates National Windmill Day when windmills throughout the Netherlands are decorated with flowers, figures of angels or Dutch flags, and doors are thrown open to visitors. Listed below is a sampling of windmills to visit in and around Amsterdam any time of year.

De Gooyer 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. This is the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands and is a listed monument. The windmill itself is not open for visitors, but that doesn't seem to matter when you're sitting alongside it on the sunny terrace with a cool beer.

De Otter is located in Amsterdam West and was built around 1631. It is the last remaining windmill of its kind in the city, as the other sawmills were dismantled by the early 1900s. As such, it is now considered a monument and is protected from being torn down or moved. Not open for visitors.

Molen van Sloten is a reconstructed working mill from 1847 and the only mill open to visitors in Amsterdam. This tower mill works to drain water from lower-lying surroundings to keep the area dry. Guided tours are available and occasionally include the miller who shows visitors how the different parts function.

The Zaanse Schans is just 15 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam. This picturesque open-air "museum" is free of charge and boasts eight well-preserved windmills in one cluster. The windmills produced all sorts of items from paint to mustard to oil, and for a small fee, some of the windmills are open for visiting. Make a day of it and wander through the traditional houses, clog factories, or stop by the Windmill Museum, a 15-minute walk away.

Riekermolen was built in 1636 and is located near Amstelpark. This mill and electric pumping-engine keep the garden city of Buitenveldert dry, covering a size of 515 hectare. Not open for visitors.

D'Admiraal windmill is located in the north part of Amsterdam and operated as a chalk and ash mill until shutting down in 1954. The windmill was restored in the '60s and still works occasionally to mill raw materials. Not open for visitors.