On my second morning in Amsterdam I started my day by grabbing some breakfast in a place called Bagels & Beans at Ijdok. I had a delicious peanut butter, wholemeal bagel with views north over the River Ij which was a great start to the morning.
Following this I caught a train from Centraal Station out to a place called Zaanse Schans which is famous for its windmills. The journey was only around 20 mins and a return ticket cost me 7.60Euros which I thought was pretty fair. Because I was there in February there were some things in Amsterdam that were not yet open for the “tourist/ summer” season. The bike hire place actually in Zaanse Schans was one of those things so anyone who wanted to hire one either had to cycle out there from the city centre or get one from the guy directly outside the Zaanse station. I decided to stick to walking and so skipped his offer. It was about a 10minute walk to where the windmills started which was through a residential and industrial area including a large, ugly chocolate factory which had the most delicious smells emanating from within its depths!
Once I reached the crossroads to the bridge that takes your over towards the main tourist area most people turned right to go in that direction. I however continued straight along a street called Lagedijk. The buildings along here are so adorable and peaceful as only a few cyclists seemed to venture this way. Not only were these well worth the time to wander between but also there were a couple of areas you could turn towards the Zaan river and get views across the water to the windmills on the far bank, a vista that most other people there didn’t get to see. This may not be so much the case during the summer as there is a boat that links the 2 sides which I daresay means more people will explore this area but certainly when I was there I had it all to myself.
After I had gone a fair distance I turned and retraced my steps back towards the bridge and crossed over to the side with most of the windmills. When I first arrived it was busy but manageable, a bit later on in the day a few tour buses did begin to arrive which was a slight bummer but the whole place is still beautiful and so quaint. It is the perfect place for those postcard perfect, old school pictures of The Netherlands that you see everywhere and to be able to stroll through them first hand was delightful. Around every corner was something pretty, although that being said this was only true of the direct area because on the horizon in almost every direction were gigantic, metal factories which did rather ruin the overall scene. I was disappointed that the walk through the fields adjacent to the main windmills was blocked off, I think due to it being waterlogged, but I had a pleasant time meandering my way along the streets taking it all in and visiting inside any of the free museums.
After a few hours I finally decided to return to the city centre. Once here I went to find some food. I ended up in the cutest café called Ree 7 which is on Hartenstraat. It was here that I eyed up all the healthier stuff on the menu and then caved and ordered a huge strawberry freak shake which was incredible. The milkshake itself was slightly more milky than sweet to combat the plethora of sweets and naughty things perched precariously on the top. Like so many of the cafes in this area it was an Instagram paradise with the food presentation and interior décor on point.
From here I slowly made my way back towards my hostel where there was a solo travellers meet up for some card games and a glow yoga session in their UV room which was an interesting experience to say the least.
Although Zaanse Schans is a highly popular tourist spot and I can imagine during peak season is unbearably crowded it is easy to see why so many people want to go there and explore. It is very easily accessible from the city centre and offers both a cultural and beautiful change of pace. I would highly recommend going there for a quick trip when visiting Amsterdam.
Do you know of any equally pretty but less well visited places in The Netherlands that give you a similar vibe? What are your favourite cafes in Amsterdam?