Take the ferry to Zaandam
One of the best ways to arrive in Old Holland is to take the special Zaan Boat from Amsterdam Central Station to Zaandam. Children under 12 travel for free, and you can take a bike on the boat for free as well. Check out this Waterland Cycle Route for more inspiration on where your two wheels will lead you. The city of Zaandam itself is a lovely place to spend a few hours. Stroll amongst the bustling shopping streets packed with theatres, museums, cafes and restaurants.
Visit industrial monuments along the River Zaan
The River Zaan was one of the oldest industrial areas in Europe, and wind and water played an essential role in its success. Whether you walk, cycle or take a boat cruise here, you’ll pass historical merchants’ houses and former factories. The 11-kilometre waterfront connects some 75 vintage industrial buildings, including windmills at the Zaanse Schans. The Zaans Museum is well worth checking out and tells the story of daily life in the Zaan region over the centuries. You’ll also find the Verkade Experience - a chocolate-and-biscuit factory from the early 20th century, where the original machines are still churning away.
See where a Russian Tsar lived
At the start of the River Zaan is the Czar Peter House – one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands – where Peter the Great spent a week learning the craft of shipbuilding in 1697. Nowadays, it has been loving restored and is open to the public. The interiors include several pieces of furniture from the 17th century and a fascinating exhibition of paintings, engravings and etchings, which is well worth exploring.
Admire contemporary art in a unique industrial space
Once a hub for the production of ammunition and weaponry, Zaandam's Hembrugterrein has now transformed into a cultural centre housing several restaurants, museums and creative venues. The focal point is Het HEM, a former munitions factory in an exceptional architectural space where multidisciplinary art and music programmes unfold. Just around the corner, The Museum of Humanity features thought-provoking portraits of people from all over the world.
*please note Het HEM is closed for renovation until Autumn 2024. Keep an eye on the website for updates.
Sample contemporary cuisine and natural wines
Contemporary flavours and old techniques come together at Het Hem’s Restaurant Bois. By curing, fermenting, smoking and roasting products from Dutch open fields, forests and waters, Bois experiments and searches for the tastiest flavour combinations, offering a monthly changing vegetarian menu consisting of 12 courses and a rich selection of biodynamic wines. Alternatively, read this guide to restaurants and bars in the area for tips on where to grab a bite to eat.
Stay overnight in a one-of-a-kind hotel
Before your head back to Amsterdam, don’t forget to have a look at the Inntel Hotel, a modern interpretation of the traditional green Zaans houses. The gigantic, 12-storey structure is the showpiece of the Inntel Hotels chain. The blue house at the top is based on Monet’s eponymous 1871 painting created in Zaandam. Complete your visit to the Zaan region with an overnight stay in this hotel or check out alternative accommodation options in the area.