The next stop in our two-month road trip across Europe was Kinderdijk windmills in the Netherlands. Flipping through a magazine several years earlier, these picturesque windmills caught my attention.
Though Kinderdijk is only two hours from Ghent, it was out of the way for our next road trip stop in Luxembourg. However, as this UNESCO World Heritage area is so unique, I really wanted to see it before leaving Europe.
Since we had both already been to Amsterdam, we agreed the Netherlands would only be a short stop on our tour. Overall, this little detour took us around one and a half day, but was seeing Kinderdijk Windmills worth it? Absolutely!
One third of The Netherlands is below sea-level. In order to make the land livable, the Dutch had to work together and get creative. The area of Kinderdijk is a working example on how this was accomplished over the centuries.
Originally a large peat bog, in the 13th century a system of watercourses, ditches, and sluices was built to drain the water. However, the area was still prone to flooding.
It wasn’t until the 18th century the windmills of Kinderdijk were installed to manage the water. Who else thought windmills were just for milling grain?
From there, various pumping stations, from steam to electricity, were added to manage the job. You can visit these pumping stations, in addition to the windmills.
Today, the windmills remain in place as artifacts of history and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, they are not just for show. The 19 remaining windmills are kept in working order as an integral part of the area’s flood management contingency plans. They are kept in working order in case of power outages, or fuel shortages, etc.
What you may find most fascinating, Kinderdijk is actually a village, not just an attraction. People volunteer to live in the windmills and maintain them.
Where Does the Name Kinderdijk Come From?
Prior to the windmills, there was a great flood in 1421, called the Saint Elisabeth’s flood. It was so bad, it wiped out many of the dykes. Sadly, many people drowned.
After the floods subsided, survivors went out to survey the land and damage. As the legend goes, there was a cradle bobbing in the water. They could see a cat jumping back and forth, keeping the cradle balanced.
As it neared, they noticed a child in the cradle. The cat had kept the cradle afloat and the baby safe.
It’s believed this is how the area got its name, Kinderdijk, or “Children’s Dyke.”
What To Do at Kinderdijk
Obviously, the main reason to visit Kinderdijk is to see the windmills. What you may not realize is there are two ways to see them.
- With a purchased ticket
- Without a ticket
Personally, I think it’s worth purchasing a ticket as it supports the maintenance of this historical site. However, you don’t need one to enjoy your time here.
Without a ticket you can still walk, or ride a bike, through the complex. You also have access to the great photo worthy spots. However, you can’t visit the museums or use the boats without a ticket.
Prior to Covid, the park sold separate tickets for the boat rides. This was economical if you wanted to visit some of the museums, but not take the boats. However, at time of writing there’s only one ticket available, which now includes the museums and the boats. Also, tickets can only be purchased online.
It’s unsure how long these policies will be in place, but it’s looking like these may be long term changes.
It is still possible to visit the area for free, but crowd numbers are strictly monitored. You may find the area temporarily closed to those without a ticket during peak times.
Check directly with the park if you plan to go and not purchase tickets.
Whether you choose to purchase a ticket or not, it’s worth touring the complex and just enjoying the beauty of the area.
One way to find your way around is with the Kinderdijk smart phone app. With a nice map of the area, the app helps with labeling each of the windmills and provides a little background on each.
Also, if you purchase tickets, you can connect them to the app for access to the audio guide. To make things convenient, you can purchase tickets through the app.
Lots of folks also like to tour the grounds on bicycle. The Tourist Information Center Alblasserdam, about an 11 minute bike ride away, rents them.
Plan to spend at least 2 hours touring the area, especially if you are walking.
There are three windmill museums in Kinderdijk.
- Blokweer Museum Mill – From 1630, this mill is older than the others in the area by over a century.
- Nederwaard Museum Mill – Experience the history of the Hoek family. A family of millers who occupied and operated this mill for generations.
- Overwaard Museum Mill -Only accessible by boat, this mill is one of a kind, with two scoop wheels instead of one.
Boats Of Kinderdijk
The facility offers a 30-minute cruise and a hop-on-hop-off.
The cruise is worth it if you have a nice day. It gets you really close to the windmills. Plus, if you’re into photography, you’ll get some stunning angles you won’t get otherwise.
If you don’t like the thought of walking the complex, then the hop-on-hop-off boat is for you. They are an easy way to get around the area. Plus, it’s the only way to reach the Overwaard Museum Mill.
Other Attractions at Kinderdijk
In addition to the windmills, having a ticket gets you access to the two pumping stations and the millwrights workshop.
- De Fabriek Auxiliary Pumping Station – A replica of the original pumping station, includes a movie on the history of the area.
- Wisboom Pumping Station – Built in 1868, this building originally housed the first advancement in pumping technology, a steam engine.
- Millwrights’ Workshop – An engineer’s fantasy, this is where all the windmill parts and repairs are done.
Where to Stay Near Kinderdijk
If you have a car there are plenty of options near Kinderdjik. However, if you need public transportation, it may be best to stay in the city of Rotterdam.
- For something really special and only a 15 minute drive away, look no further than Villa Augustus. Boasting amazing views of the surrounding area from the rooms, this former water building is something you just have to see for yourself.
- B&B Meet The Dutch in Ridderkerk, is only 10 minutes down the road from the Kinderdjik. With a large room and in-room kitchen this is a sure win.
- On this trip we were camping and stayed at Camping and Hall Landhoeve. The site was only minutes down the road from Kinderdjik.
Tips on Visiting Kinderdijk
When To Go
- Kindersijk is open year-round. Spring and summer bring an abundance of flowers. While winter brings its own beauty, as the water freezes and snow blankets the landscape. Many people come to the area for ice skating.
- The complex can get very busy in summer and public holidays. Go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds.
- If you are staying close by, it’s a beautiful area to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. The museums and facilities won’t be open, but you can still walk along the trails.
- Illumination Week takes place on the first full week of September (Monday – Friday). The windmills are lit up by floodlights, with many other illuminations. The Friday evening of the event, a large market is held in the windmill complex.
Where To Eat
- Kinderdijk has a small cafe on site with sandwiches, snacks, and drinks.
- Grand Cafe Buena Vista, just at the entrance to the attraction, makes an easy stop.
- Alblasserdam area, a 5-minute drive away, has several restaurants.
- Alternatively, you can bring your own lunch and enjoy a picnic. There are several picnic tables at Blokweer Museum Mill.
Parking for Kinderdijk
The parking lot for Kinderdijk charges €7.50 cars and €2.50 motocycles (2021). Plus, the lot is small. Here are a couple of alternatives.
- On non-workdays (weekends and many public holidays) the Royal IHC shipyard allows tourists to park in their parking lot for free. From there, it’s about a 10-minute walk to Kinderdijk. Just be cautious, apparently, they close the fence at 6 pm. Address: Smitweg 6 Kinderdijk
- During the weekdays, or if you have a larger vehicle, there is another free lot. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the entrance. Address: Vletstraat 2, 2957 EB Nieuw-Lekkerland.
Other Windmills in the Area
Though Kinderdijk has the largest concentration of windmills, they are not the only windmills in the area. Take a drive through the countryside to find these beauties.
- On Tiendweg street in Streefkerk, there are three windmills. One even has a coffee shop, Koffie Molen. Address: Beneden Tiendweg 9, 2959 LA Streefkerk
- Scheiwijkse Molen – Lage Giessen 53, 4223 SJ Hoornaar
Goudriaanse Molen – Molenkade 5, 2977 AC Goudriaan