During our time in Amsterdam, we wanted to get out of the city and see some of the smaller towns in the Netherlands. A few years back, we took a tour with Viator in the UK, which we very much enjoyed. We thought this would be a great opportunity to use the same company again, this time, to explore the Dutch countryside. After looking online at all the different options, we chose the Dutch Countryside and Culture Tour which took us for the day from Amsterdam to the Zaanse Schans Windmill Village, and the little towns of Edam and Volendam.
This tour is affordable, requires minimal planning, and enabled us to see parts of the Netherlands that can’t be experienced if you don’t venture outside of Amsterdam. The pick up location for the tour is centrally-located and convenient for everyone – right near Amsterdam Centraal Station. I highly recommend a tour like this for anyone looking to get outside of the city for the day to explore a little more of the Netherlands.
Zaanse Schans and the Historic Windmill Village
Zaanse Schans is a beautiful village with incredibly-preserved, traditional Dutch windmills. The area boasts museums, historic shops and great walking paths. On our tour, we had about an hour and a half to explore the village. First, we stopped in at a workshop that specializes in making Dutch wooden shoes. We learned all about the history of the wooden shoe in the Netherlands and what they’re used for. I had no idea how practical wooden shoes actually are! To this day, Dutch farmers use them to keep their feet dry in the fields. All you need is thick wool socks and wooden shoes – who knew?! We also witnessed how wooden shoes are made. It was fascinating, and the workshop smelled incredible – like fresh cut timber. You can also purchase different kinds of wooden shoes in the workshop – they make wonderful souvenirs!
Afterwards, we wandered through the village and toward the windmills, as they really are the main attraction in Zaanse Schans. They tower over the river and are incredible to see, and hear, in person.
After our visit to Zaanse Schans, we drove through the countryside to the beautiful small town of Edam. Edam is well known for it’s cheese, and lovely narrow, cobbled streets. We walked through Edam, and marvelled at the architecture and quiet canals.
Outside Edam, we stopped at one of the many cheese factories to learn how Dutch Gouda cheese is made, and more importantly, to sample the many different kinds of Gouda cheese. There was young cheese and aged cheese and cheese that had been infused with different spices. It was cheese heaven!
Volendam is a fishing village located on the Markermeer Lake and is well known for its colourful, authentic houses and beautiful harbour and harbourfront. We had time to walk through the town, but the highlight was exploring the harbourfront area of Volendam and enjoying some delicious Dutch eats from market stalls and vendors along the way. We had the most delicious kibbling (fried bits of fresh fish), I braved trying raw herring with pickles and onions (loved it!), and both Scott and I died over the pofferjes we ate – they came fresh off the pan, drizzled with chocolate sauce, dusted with sugar and went straight into our mouths! The. absolute. best.