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A man with typical dress in Edam comes to the Cheesemarket to sell its cheese
Image from Cris Toala Olivares

4 hours in Old Holland: traditional artisans

Visit the magnificent windmills of Zaanse Schans and explore the Dutch cheese and clog-making tradition in the quaint villages of Old Holland. This 4-hour tour will give you a fascinating insight into artisanal crafts and the Netherlands of a bygone era.

Explore the polder landscapes on two wheels

People cycling in the countryside
Image from Koen Dijkstra

For anyone pressed for time, one of the best ways to explore the spectacular countryside of Old Holland is with a bike rental. There are various rental shops in the region, including at the entrance to Zaanse Schans. Or, an even more excellent way to reach the region is to take the special Zaan Boat from Pier 14 (behind Amsterdam Central Station). Children under 12 travel for free, and you can take a bike on the boat for free as well. Also check out this Waterland Cycle Route for more inspiration on where your two wheels will lead you.

Get a lifetime’s dose of windmills

A couple is walking on a sunny day in the winter at the Zaanse Schans.
Image from Pauline Arkesteijn

Zaanse Schans offers a perfectly preserved glimpse into the Netherlands' industrial past with its traditional houses, warehouses and workshops. While there, you can watch traditional craft demonstrations such as clog and cheese making, visit the magnificent windmills and explore The Windmill Museum. Across the water, you’ll find the village of Grotershoek with its beautifully-preserved 17th-century merchant houses. Pop into the Honig Breethuis Museum (closed until 16 March 2023) for an exhibition on the history of Zaanse paper, original hand-painted wallpaper from the 18th century, beautiful porcelain and much more.

Feast on traditional Dutch pancakes

What could be better than feasting on traditional Dutch pancakes in the heart of the beautiful Zaanse Schans? De Kraai is a rustic restaurant with a cosy interior and sunny terrace that is perfect for enjoying lunch, coffee and cake, and of course, the famous 29-centimetre pancakes loaded with tasty toppings. Have a read of our guide to restaurants and bars in the Old Holland area for more tips on where to refuel.

Get cheesy in Edam

Cheesemarket Edam
Image from Geert Snoeijer

Edam, also known as the cheese capital of the Netherlands, is a true treasure. In the 14th century, the fortress town was one of the country’s most important commercial centres, with thriving shipbuilding, timber and cheese-trading industries. Until 1922, farmers from the surrounding area sailed to the cheese market, where their produce was weighed and sold. You can see these old practices for yourself when the cheese market is revived every Wednesday in July and August (10:30-12:30) or by heading into the Kaaswaag (Cheese Weigh House) Museum, which features a permanent exhibition that explains the art of cheesemaking.

Become acquainted with local history

People walking over a bridge in Edam.

The Edams Museum, located in a gorgeous house that dates back to the 1540s, offers visitors a journey into the life of a 17th-century merchant. It's one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands, where you can learn about Edam’s fascinating past. In addition to historical artefacts and paintings, it features only the ‘latest’ in 17th-century furnishings. The museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that feature personal stories and unique archival material from Edam’s residents.

Don’t fancy leaving the area so soon? Check out these 12 and 24-hour guides, which will take you further into the industrial heritage, quaint fishing villages and polder landscapes of Old Holland.