Kinderdijk windmills are probably the most famous and most photographed windmills in the world. But behind the picturesque dreamy landscapes, there is a lot of history as well…
I’ve seen many pictures of the windmills of Kinderdijk over the years, but I never knew what the story behind them was and that there is so much more to this area than just the postcard-worthy landscapes…
If you are wondering whether Kinderdijk is worth a visit, what there is to see and do there, or how to get there, then read on.
In this article, you can find learn some history and interesting facts about this unique place, our experience when visiting Kinderdijk with kids, and tips for how to visit Kinderdijk, and what to know before you go. Find out!
Why Visit Kinderdijk
Most people visit Kinderdijk just to see its picturesque windmills. The area is extremely scenic and, no matter the season or time of day, a visit here is a real treat for the eye. If you come here for the scenery, you will not be disappointed. Kinderdijk is just as beautiful in reality as it is in the pictures.
However, as you can imagine, there is much more to the windmills of Kinderdijk than just the postcard-worthy scenery.
If you are somewhat familiar with the history of the Netherlands, you know that almost a third of the country is below the sea level and two-thirds of Holland is vulnerable to flooding. The Dutch are world-known for their water management. And at Kinderdijk, you can learn about the complete history of water management, over the many centuries, in one single location.
A visit to Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage Site is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the history of the Netherlands’ struggles against the rising water levels. This is the place where you can learn about the complete history of water management, over the many centuries, in one single location. It’s also your chance to see what life was like in the Netherlands centuries ago and get to know a very different side of the Netherlands that you won’t find in its cities.
To summarize. Yes, Kinderdijk is well worth a visit. Come here for the picture-perfect tranquil scenery, historic windmills, and a unique opportunity to learn about the Netherlands’ centuries-old fight against rising waters.
Some Facts About the Windmills of Kinderdijk
- Originally there were 20 windmills at Kinderdijk. Now 19 of them remain.
- Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of 19 windmills, but you can only visit two of them inside – Nederwaard and Blokweer. Most other windmills are used as private homes and cannot be visited.
- The oldest windmill of Kinderdijk, the Blokker, dates from the early 16th century (it was first mentioned on a map in 1540).
- The other 18 windmills which now form the unique Kinderdijk landscape date from 1738 – 1740. They were built as part of a drainage system in order to drain the excess water from the area into the river which subsequently discharges the water into the sea. For many centuries the Dutch windmills played an important role in the drainage and reclamation of land in the Netherlands.
- In the past, the sails of the windmills were used as a means of communication between the millers. The position of the sails indicated if the mills should be operated or whether the millers had taken a break. But they were also used to share the news such as birth, marriage or death in a family… On festive occasions, the millers would decorate their windmills with colorful flags.
Where is Kinderdijk & How to Get There
Kinderdijk is located just 15 km east of Rotterdam and is just 1,5 hrs drive from Amsterdam (see map for the exact location).
- By car. The easiest way to get to Kinderijk is by car. However, if you are traveling on a weekend or in a high season, be prepared for busy traffic. It might be hard to find a parking spot as well. We visited on a very quiet weekday end of May and car parking was already a challenge.
- By waterbus. One of the most popular ways to get to Kinderdijk is by taking a water bus from Rotterdam. In summer, there are direct connections from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk. In lower season, it’s a bit more complicated to get there by public transport, but it’s still possible if you also rent a bike for part of the journey. Here you can find more information about the waterbus to Kinderdijk.
- By bus. It’s also possible to get to Kinderdijk by bus from Rotterdam or Dordrecht. Here you can find more information about bus connections to Kinderdijk.
- With a tour. If you don’t have a car and are visiting Kinderdijk from Amsterdam, then it’s best to take an organized tour. If you are staying in Amsterdam for two days or more, you can visit Kinderdijk as a day trip from the city. However, if you only have one day in Amsterdam, then you won’t have the time for Kinderdijk.
What to See in Kinderdijk
At Kinderdijk, you can visit two windmills – museums Nederwaard and Blokweer. Also, make sure to not miss the multi-screen film in the secondary pumping station and an engine room in Wisboom pumping station.
Secondary Pumping Station ‘De Fabriek’
This is the best place to start your visit of Kinderdijk. Make sure to watch the multi-screen film that takes you on a virtual trip through the centuries-old history of Kinderdijk. If you ever wondered where Kinderdijk (Children’s Dike) got its name or want to learn more about the history area before setting to explore it, then this film is a must!
The film is very well done and really worth a few minutes of your time. It’s available in different languages, including Dutch, English, Japanese, French, and German.
Blokweer Museum Mill
Blokweer Museum Mill is one of the oldest mills in the area, built in 1630. Nowadays it’s a museum where you can experience what life was like in the Netherlands in the beginning to mid 20th century.
In high season, you’ll meet the millers wearing traditional garments and can take a short tour of the mill. Kids will love meeting goats who live here.
Nederwaard Museum Mill
Nederwaard Museum Mill dates from 1738. This mill was home of the Hoek family for several generations. Visiting here, it’s like stepping back in time and experiencing what life of miller’s families used to be. Inside, you’ll find historic photos and all kinds of household items used by real miller families.
What left the biggest impression to me were the sails of the windmills. No words can possibly explain what it feels like to be standing next to the giant sails spinning at a high speed. It’s mesmerizing and frightening at the same time. Luckily, everything in Kinderdijk is now built in such a way that you cannot accidentally get hurt by a turning sail.
Standing there you understand where the Dutch saying ‘een klap van de molen krijgen’ comes from. Literally it means ‘to get hit by a windmill’ and people use it to say that someone has a screw loose. You would definitely have more than a loose screw if you were hit by a windmill…
Wisboom Pumping Station
Wisboom Pumping Station is one of the historic buildings that you should visit inside. This pumping station dates from 1868 and, back then, was used as a modern and more efficient way to pump the water from this area out into the river beyond. It was in operation till 1995 when a new pumping station replaced it.
Nowadays it serves as a museum. One of our favorite things was a tabeltop game with miniature windmills that you can operate all by yourself putting the polders under water and trying to drain them again.
Make sure to also visit the original engine room!
Kinderdijk with Kids
Kinderdijk is a great day trip for the whole family. It’s a really nice area and you can spend a nice couple of hours walking around, bicycling, having a picnic, etc.
Visiting the windmills of Kinderdijk is also a unique experience. You get to see how people used to live there in the past, the way they cooked or did their laundry, the tiny rooms they slept in or the clothes they wore… It’s definitely a very unique experience for the children.
Our boys loved exploring the interior of the windmills. They even attempted to learn how to do the laundry the old-fashioned way (not that they would ever offer to help with the laundry at home). And they loved looking for some grass to feed the two goats living at the Blokweer windmill – Milly and Molly.
The kids really liked the short film at the visitor’s center and the explanation about the history of the area. And here I was thinking that a 5 or a 7 year old couldn’t care less about history…
Our oldest told us in the evening that he didn’t expect much of the visit, but that he had a really good time.
TIP: We took kids’ kick scooters to Kinderdijk and they kept the kids busy when walking between the windmills. That helped a lot, but I think they would have enjoyed it just as much if they had to walk.
Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage site is spread over several kilometers. There are nice flat walkways/ bicycle paths that make it possible to explore this beautiful area on foot or by bike. If you don’t like to walk, you can take a boat tour. There are two possibilities – Canal Hopper and Canal Cruiser – see below.
The whole area around Kinderdijk windmills is easily accessible. So you can visit Kinderdijk in a wheelchair or stroller.
We walked and our kids took their kick scooters which they could ride everywhere. It’s not a very long walk, about 25 to 45 minutes one-way depending on your pace and how many photo stops you make.
When we visited, bike rental cost about 3 EUR per hour and we saw at least two places in the village where you could rent bikes.
Canal Hopper runs the whole year round and takes about 30 minutes (if you don’t disembark anywhere). This boat serves as hop-on hop-off boat and stops at all the main sights of the area (jetty near the secondary pumping station, at the Middle Quay, and at the Nederwaard and Blokweer Museum Mills).
Canal Cruiser operates in high season – from the beginning of April to the end of October. This is a scenic boat tour of the area, starting and ending at the jetty next to the pedestrian bridge near Kinderdijk Visitor’s Center.
The Cruiser goes a bit further than the Hopper, but it doesn’t stop along the way. It’s a great way to see the area for those who are short on time and also for those who want to get a different view of the windmills, from the water.
Practical info: Both boats are accessible for wheelchair users. There is covered seating on both boats. A boat ride costs 6,5 EUR for adults and 3,5 EUR for the children. It’s a bit cheaper if you book your tickets online.
Tickets & Opening Times
You can visit Kinderdijk at any time of the day the whole year round. There is no good or bad season to visit, but if you can choose, come on a dry sunny day. It’s much quieter in spring or in autumn than it is in summer. In winter, Kinderdijk is almost deserted but can be just as magical.
Access to the site is free of charge, but you have to pay a small fee for the entrance to the museum windmills and the pumping stations.
The museums/ pumping stations are open daily, in high season from April to October from 9 AM to 5.30 PM, and from 10 AM to 4 PM from November to March.
At the moment, a ticket costs 11 EUR (9 EUR online) for adults and 5,5 EUR (5 EUR online) for the kids. It includes a short film at the visitor’s center, the engine room in the Wisboom pumping station, and the entrance to the two museum mills.
For more information about opening times or to buy discounted online tickets, please consult the official website.
TIP: The best time to visit Kinderdijk is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It can be magical at sunset, just keep in mind that the museums and other sites close quite early, so visit those first if you plan to stay late.
Additional Information for Visiting Kinderdijk
- How much time fo you need in Kinderdijk? You can visit Kinderdijk in just an hour or spend half a day – the choice is yours. If you want to explore the whole area, visit all the sites, and take a scenic boat tour, you’ll need at least half a day in Kinderdijk.
- Facilities. There are several small cafes with bathroom facilities at different locations in Kinderdijk. There are also several bigger restaurants in the village, where you can have lunch or dinner. Alternatively, you can bring your own picnic. There is a nice picnic area at the Blokweer windmill.
- Photography. I took the widest lens I have (16-35mm) and it was ok to photograph the windmills from close by as it allowed me to get the whole building. However, the lens was too wide for photographing landscapes as many windmills were standing pretty far, on the other side of the canal. Next time I would take my regular lens, 24-70mm.
We had been planning to visit the windmills of Kinderdijk in the Netherlands for a long time. Despite it being so close (or maybe just because of it), somehow we never found the time to get there. I’m so glad we finally went, it was a great day trip for the whole family.
Would I go again? Absolutely! Would I come from the other side of the world for it? Just for the windmills, no. But it’s something you should really consider adding to your itinerary if you are traveling to the Netherlands. Kinderdijk windmills are well worth a visit. This place is truly one of a kind!
TIP: For more great things to do in the Netherlands, take a look at our guide to the best day trips from Amsterdam. There is so much to discover in the Netherlands. Check it out!
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