On the way back from our weekend break in Zeeland towards Amsterdam, we visited Kinderdijk. One of the archetypal Dutch attractions for a day trip in the Netherlands. I had high expectations beforehand; was it really as beautiful as imagined? What to see and to do in Kinderdijk? How do you visit the mills? Why are the windmills there in the first place? Read all about visiting this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage destination here.
What is Kinderdijk?
Kinderdijk is a village located in the Dutch province of South Holland, more precisely in the Alblasserwaard. A tract of land between Utrecht, Rotterdam and Dordrecht that is part of the southern part of the Green Heart. Kinderdijk is located in the municipality of Molenlanden at the place where the rivers North and Lek meet.
The original name of the village is Elshout. Where the name Kinderdijk comes from is not entirely clear, although there are several theories. In 1886, Kinderdijk was the first Dutch village with an electricity supply.
Very interesting, but of course Kinderdijk is mainly known for its windmills. Nineteen to be exact. Which have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Besides the mills, Kinderdijk is also internationally known for its water management, which has played an important role in this low-lying part of the Netherlands since the Middle Ages.
Why are there windmills in Kinderdijk, anyway?
Very nice of course all those windmills, but why are they really there?
The mills in Kinderdijk were built between 1738 and 1740 to keep the low-lying polder of the Alblasserwaard dry by pumping up the water. The 19 mills are there as part of a water management system to prevent flooding. Besides making for a beautiful picture, the mills are also a pretty interesting historical site in terms of water management. With its many locks, waterways, dikes and windmills, you can see how the Dutch have been using water to their advantage for centuries.
Are the mills of Kinderdijk inhabited?
Three of the 19 mills can be viewed inside. The remaining 16 mills are inhabited. Some for 50 years by the same family. Although the mills were decommissioned in the year 1950, they all still work. There are now modern plants to pump up the water, which is why the mills are on standby in case those plants fail. To live in one of the mills, you must first undergo a miller’s training so that you know how to operate the mill.
Things to do in Kinderdijk
Although when you think of UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinderdijk you immediately think of windmills, there is more to do and see.
Hiking and biking in Kinderdijk
Kinderdijk is always open free of charge to hikers and cyclists who want to enjoy the beautiful polder. Walk and bike along the Molenkade, the road between the World Heritage Visitor Center and Alblasserdam. During this tour you will pass famous windmills and the beautiful Dutch polder landscape. We walked only the stretch between the entrance and mill Blokweer. This too is already a beautiful piece of nature along the water and over bridges.
Taking the e-chopper to the World Heritage Site
You can also rent an e-chopper, an electric scooter. A 4-hour tour to the mills from Moordrecht and back for €42.50 per person. We haven’t done this, but seems like a really fun eco-friendly outing in the Netherlands.
Take a cruise through Dutch polder landscape
A cruise through Kinderdijk is a very fun and beautiful way to explore the area and the windmills. From the boat you will enjoy beautiful nature and stunning views. In addition, the boat will also take you to the museum mills. You can also visit these on foot or by bike, except museum mill Overwaard; it can only be reached by boat.
Visit the Wisboom pumping station
Everything in Kinderdijk revolves around water, and that starts with the pumping station you can visit. Here you will learn more about the history of Kinderdijk and how the pumping station used to function. The Wisboom pumping station was built in 1868 and now tells you the story of water management in UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinderdijk.
Admire the mills inside
Besides the beautiful nature and views of the windmills, this is what I enjoyed most: discovering the history of life in Kinderdijk Holland. You can visit 3 of the 19 mills, which is really a must do. Below I tell you all about it.
Visit the 3 museum mills
Really fun to do! You can visit these mills. For this, you do need to buy a ticket (see below practical).
Museum mill Blokweer
From the Kinderdijk visitor center, the mill Blokweer is the farthest away. You get there after a wonderful walk along and across the water. In this mill, you can see what life was like in the 1950s. The mill has a large yard with a beautiful garden. White 1950s laundry flutters in the wind. Mill Blokweer was built in the year 1630 and is a true look into history. When the sails of the mill are turning, it is also quite exciting to reach the entrance. So powerful!
Museum mill Nederwaard
Mill Nederwaard was built in 1738 and was occupied by the Hoek family for generations. Perhaps that is why I found this the most interesting mill to visit. Indeed, you can see how families lived here with sometimes more than 10 children. Black-and-white photographs of the time, cozy primitive Dutch rooms, narrow steep wooden stairs and the bedsteads. It is almost impossible to imagine that so many people once lived in such a small space. A fun and interesting glimpse into Dutch history.
Museum mill Overwaard
Mill Overwaard was built in the year 1740 and can only be reached by canal boat. Overwaard is a unique mill that was the only one that could grind water two ways. In this mill, you can see more of the technology that was used, such as the impressive scoop wheels. In addition, from here you have a beautiful view of Kinderdijk. Do have to climb up the narrow steep steps.
Kinderdijk or the Zaanse Schans? Was it really as beautiful as imagined?
In the winter of 2016, I visited the Zaanse Schans . Just a little closer to where my parents live than Kinderdijk. I was impressed: the Zaanse Schans is special! Not only the location, views and mills, but also the old Dutch houses, stores and history. I expected Kinderdijk to be even more beautiful, but it was precisely there that the wow-feeling I did have at Zaanse Schans was missing.
Now, of course, that could be because at the time of our visit to the Zaanse Schans, during Christmas, there was hardly anyone there. While in Kinderdijk there were crowds of tourists. Surely that makes it a little less picturesque. The sun was also missing this day. Something that almost always makes for a feeling of happiness and beautiful pictures.
Anyway, if you have to choose between Kinderdijk or the Zaanse Schans, I would recommend the latter. It is a difficult choice, however, since the windmills in Kinderdijk are there for a very different purpose. Especially the history of water management is very interesting. In addition, it is a beautiful area where you can hike and bike well. I also really enjoyed visiting the museum mills, very interesting that history. In any case, I would advise choosing a time when there are fewer tourists. For example, early in the morning.
Whichever way you look at it, both typically Dutch sights are worth seeing. Both for the beautiful nature and the history.
Practical: Visiting Kinderdijk Holland
Do you have to pay for Kinderdijk?
No, you can bike or walk across Kinderdijk for free. However, if you want to visit the museum mills and other museums, you need a ticket. You also need that ticket if you want to take one of the boats.
What is included in the ticket?
A ticket is ideal for a day trip to Kinderdijk. In fact, you can easily spend an entire day there. Included in the ticket is:
- Access to the 3 museum mills
- Use of the tour boats
- Listening to the audio tour via the app
- Watch a film about the history of Kinderdijk at the Auxiliary Pumping Station The Factory
How much does Kinderdijk cost?
A ticket to Kinderdijk costs €16 per person for adults, €5.75 for children between 4 and 12 and free under 4.
Where do you buy the ticket?
You can buy a ticket to this World Heritage Site only online. You choose a date and time slot and the ticket is valid for that moment only. Buy your ticket to Kinderdijk here.
The mills in Kinderdijk are not always open. Find current opening hours.
How to get to Kinderdijk?
Located between Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Gouda, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk is easily accessible by car, bus, bicycle and water bus:
- With the Waterbus from Rotterdam or Dordrecht, line 20. During summer vacation, line 202 is also available.
- With the ferry service from Krimpen aan de Lek.
- From Rotterdam by bus line 489, from Dordrecht by line 93 or line 416. Plan your route here.
Where to park.
Kinderdijk is a busy sight in the Netherlands, which can make it difficult if you come by car. Fortunately, there are several options.
- Parking is available at the visitor center on Nederwaard 1B in Kinderdijk for €7.50 per car per day. However, availability is limited, so I wouldn’t choose it during vacations.
- We parked at the Marineweg 3A in Alblasserdam. A large parking lot from where you take the shuttle bus to the entrance of the World Heritage Site. Parking costs €7.50 per car per day. Includes the shuttle bus that runs every half hour between the parking lot and the mills.
- Parking in Krimpen aan de Lek or Dordrecht is also an option. From here, take the ferry or Waterbus as explained above.
Have you visited Kinderdijk yet? What did you think?
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