The village of Kinderdijk, beloved for its rich history and culture, is a must-see for tourists visiting South Holland. Located a mere 9 miles from Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is home to the oldest collection of Dutch windmills in the Netherlands, quietly nestled away in the meeting place of the Lek and the Noord rivers.
With plenty of tours and activities to keep you busy, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the folklore surrounding this singularly stunning countryside retreat.
Innovations in water-working, tales of ravaging storms and heroic rescues, and masterful feats of architecture are just a few of the wonders that punctuate the storied history of this otherwise sleepy town.
The windmills of Kinderdijk gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997 and have become a bucket-list destination for those looking to experience something truly unique from the hustle and bustle of the city.
What is Kinderdijk?
Kinderdijk (pronounced kin-der-daik) is a village in South Holland, Netherlands. It is known for its 17 windmills, built in the 18th Century to drain the surrounding older. Together with the old canal system and other historical buildings and monuments, they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws over one million tourists annually.
Kinderdijk’s windmills were constructed between 1740 and 1854 as part of an elaborate system of drainage ditches that drained the peat fields and turned this part of Holland into fertile farmland. The Dutch have lived on land reclaimed from water since medieval times; about half of their country sits below sea level.
The windmills of Kinderdijk are all still operational today, their sails turning in response to gusts from passing boats or trucks driving along nearby roads at speeds up to 70 km/h (43 mph).
History of Kinderdijk
Established in 1421, Kinderdijk forms part of the Municipality of Molenlanden and is home to the world’s oldest and most breathtaking collection of traditional 18th Century windmills.
The village’s name, which directly translates to “Children’s Dike,” is derived from a legend in which a baby is said to have washed ashore in the village in a cradle made from wood. Accompanied only by a cat, the child was unharmed despite being caught in one of the region’s most significant floods, Saint Elizabeth’s flood in 1421.
This tale inspired the world-famous children’s story, The Cat and the Cradle. Given the Netherlands’ unique geography, floods have always played a significant role in Dutch history—several other interesting facts about the Kinderdijk windmills, such as the polders themselves.
Polders, low-lying areas of land reclaimed from large bodies of water, endure extreme difficulties during climate-related crises. Consequently, dikes and canals are built to combat the havoc caused by natural water disasters like storms and floods.
It makes sense that the Dutch are experts at handling water, with two-thirds of the country lying below sea level. Hence, the name of the Netherlands translates directly to “low lands” in English.
The polder in which Kinderdijk resides is called Alblasserwaard. In 1740, the townspeople erected a monumental 20 windmills to prevent the village from becoming engulfed by water.
This ingenious feat of architecture ensured that water levels remained stable by draining excess water into reservoirs, thereby keeping the polder sufficiently dry. Today, 19 of these windmills remain, but they are guaranteed to exceed your expectations. While a day trip to Kinderdijk won’t disappoint, a week is even better.
With so much to see and learn, it’s no surprise that this village has become increasingly popular with tourists over the centuries. Before we dive into the activities you can plan for your itinerary, you’ll be pleased to learn that most tours cost less than ten euros and start at around four euros.
The best way to get to Kinderdijk is to fly into either Rotterdam or Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, where a short car or bus trip will take you straight into the town. We’ll go into more detail about this shortly.
Affordable dorm accommodation starts at around 25 to 40 euros on Booking.com, but this increases depending on the standard of your overnight stay and whether or not you factor in breakfast and other meals. This is a popular attraction mainly because of its picturesque scenery and in-depth history of Dutch water management.
It is every photographer’s dream and looks as good in real life as in the film. Of course, it’s good to prepare in advance so you know what to expect to see when you get there.
Visiting the Windmills of Kinderdijk: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
As mentioned, the Kinderdijk windmills are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is enough reason to visit. The oldest windmill in Kinderdijk, an absolute must-see, is called Blokker. It first surfaced in the history books in the early 16th Century.
Only 2 of Kinderdijk’s 19 windmills are open to the public today. While you can photograph the rest, they are used as private residences. The two windmills you can tour are named Blokweer and Nederwaard.
While these structures were built to manage water levels, they were also used by the village people to communicate news and events. Raising the windmills’ sails commemorated marriages, births, and deaths.
During town festivities, the windmill operators would decorate them with colorful ribbons and flags. Apart from the world-famous Kinderdijk windmills, you can also take historical tours of the town’s pumping stations.
How to Get To Kinderdijk
You have many options for getting to Kinderdijk, which is remarkably accessible for even novice travelers. Renting a car at the airport is one option, but be warned that you may spend some time looking for parking if you take a day trip to Kinderdijk from Amsterdam.
That said, considering how close this lovely town is to Rotterdam and Schiphol, it’s worth the effort. Public transportation is an excellent choice if you’re not keen to drive. You can take a bus, as there are plenty of connections from neighboring towns and airports, with trips scheduled throughout the day. For travelers that aren’t in a hurry, there’s also the option of booking a trip on a waterbus.
This unique mode of transport takes you via the Netherlands’ famous canal systems straight into the village. I recommend taking this trip to Kinderdijk from Rotterdam, where you can also rent a bike to complete your journey to and from the docking areas.
Even so, for the whole experience, I recommend booking a guided tour. This is a great way to make the most of your time, especially if you only spend a day or two in Kinderdijk and don’t want to get bogged down in logistics.
How to get to Kinderdijk from Amsterdam
Take a train if you want to get from Amsterdam to Kinderdijk in less than an hour. Trains leave Amsterdam Central Station every 30 minutes and will get you there in 40 minutes. No trains go directly from Rotterdam Centraal Station to Kinderdijk, so if you’re coming from Rotterdam, it’s best to rent a car or take the bus.
If you are visiting the windmills with children and have ample time, consider taking a boat ride along the Maas River instead of driving or taking the train. You’ll be able to see many more windmills along this route and even stop off at some towns along the way.
How to get to Kinderdijk from Rotterdam
To get to Kinderdijk from Rotterdam, you can take the train. A direct train goes directly from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk, it’s usually very crowded, and the tickets are expensive (around €23 each way). However, many trains stop at Kinderdijk Station through Zeeland or between Nijmegen and The Hague Airport Schiphol.
These trains are cheaper than the direct ones, but they’re still not cheap: usually around €7 each way. A bike is another option if you want to exercise and avoid paying extra for transportation.
There are bike paths all over The Netherlands, so biking isn’t challenging; however, if you don’t feel comfortable biking on your own or don’t have time for it, try getting a group together with some friends or family members who want to do something fun together!
How to get to Kinderdijk from Dordrecht
The best way of getting to the windmills of Kinderdijk is by driving. The road is pretty simple, and some signs tell you exactly where to go. If you don’t like driving, take the bus or train from Dordrecht to Kinderdijk. If you want to save money on fuel, then take a ferry from Dordrecht to Kinderdijk instead.
How to Get Around Kinderdijk
Once you’ve made it to the windmills of Kinderdijk, you can follow the foot trails or rent bikes from the various vendors around town. Bikes cost around four euros per hour, making them a fun and affordable option. It’s a great way to explore Kinderdijk the Dutch way.
Accessibility is no issue, and the town is well-equipped for wheelchairs and other alternative modes of transport. For kids, there are pathways for scooters and skateboards.
There are also boat tours within the town that will take you to the various sites situated over a few miles. Traveling through the canals on a boat ride is a truly authentic experience and a reminder of water’s impact on every decision the townspeople have made over the years.
Best Things to Do in Kinderdijk, Netherlands
1. Visit the Museum Mills
On your visit to Kinderdijk, there are four sites you have to see, starting with the two historic windmills that are open to the public. The Blokweer Museum Mill, erected in 1630, showcases the village’s unique history.
This is a fun trip for the whole family, where traditionally dressed millers take you on a guided tour of the building while explaining its inner workings. Free-roaming goats will entertain the kids while Mom and Dad soak in the picturesque scenery.
The Nederwaard Museum Mill offers an even more in-depth look at life in the windmill’s heydays. For generations, this mill was inhabited by the Hoek family. You’ll find items from their daily lives on display and collections of authentic photographs.
This is also the best spot to get up close and personal with the windmills complex and its expansive and impressive sails. Get your entry ticket in advance and enjoy learning about the mill.
2. Visit De Fabriek Pumping Station
Intrigued? Another great spot to visit is De Fabriek, the secondary pumping station. A multiscreen filming experience will fill you in on the town’s history via an innovative virtual tour in multiple languages.
If you have questions about the Cat and the Cradle story, this is the place to learn more. I couldn’t get enough of the Wisboom Pumping Station.
While no longer in operation, a tour of the original engine room gives you a natural feeling of what things were like back in the day. There is even a miniature tabletop game where you can experiment with flooding polders and trying to drain them yourself with tiny homages to the famous windmills. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back to 1868 when the pumphouse was erected!
3. Activities for the Kids
Kinderdijk is a wholesome experience for the whole family, with many experiences tailored to fascinate both young and old. The tours are fascinating and cater to inquisitive minds by providing insight into the lives of even the youngest villagers and the tasks they had to complete as part of historic miller families, like laundry and goat-minding.
Best Tours & Excursions for the Windmills of Kinderdijk
If you want to avoid public transport and enjoy a passive way to visit this incredible landmark, check out these various tours, including a tour of the windmill complex and other top attractions in South Holland.
Small Group Tour to UNESCO Kinderdijk & The Hague
Get to know Dutch history and culture from a local expert through an entertaining tour. Experience The Hague, Kinderdijk, and more with a small group! Visit the windmills and discover masterpieces such as Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and paintings by the famous Rembrandt van Rijn.
Visit Madurodam, Holland’s highlights and heritage in miniature form, and much more! This small group tour is excellent for seeing what makes The Hague special.
From Rotterdam: UNESCO Kinderdijk, Euromast & Spido Day Trip
Relax and enjoy the views of the Dutch landscape while you’re on the air-conditioned bus during your 30-minute trip to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. Take your time visiting Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997.
See the unique polder area of dikes, mills, and pumping stations and learn about human inventiveness in reclaiming and protecting the Dutch land. After exploring the area, head back to Rotterdam and hop on a boat for a Spido Harbor Cruise! Sail through one of Europe’s largest functioning ports on a 75-minute tour before seeing all the beauty Rotterdam offers from the top with a Euromast ticket.
Private Day Trip From Amsterdam to Rotterdam and Kinderdijk
Join a private day trip from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and Kinderdijk. You will have an opportunity to visit the picturesque village of Kinderdijk and the fantastic city of Rotterdam, learning about the culture and history of the Netherlands that has influenced the innovation and architecture you will see on tour.
This day tour begins when your guide and driver from your accommodations in Amsterdam pick you up. From Amsterdam, you will dive into the verdant countryside of the Netherlands before exploring Kinderdijk via a stunning 1-hour boat tour.
From the historic windmill region, your tour will continue to Rotterdam, the second city of the Netherlands. With your guide, you will explore the town’s old and new and learn about how the city was shaped.
You will find many architectural sights throughout the city, like Markthal, the famous Cube Houses, the Erasmus Bridge, and the Town Hall of Rotterdam.
When is the Best Time to Visit Kinderdijk?
There is no wrong time to visit Kinderdijk. It is open all year round to tourists and has no real on or off-season. While quieter in the colder months, the scenery is always beautiful.
Visiting the site comes at no cost, but touring the museums and pumphouse costs a fee of between five and ten euros, depending on the number of children and adults in your group. Kinderdijk tickets can be purchased in town at various sites.
If you’re an early bird, you won’t regret getting up with the sun to experience the full magic of the day ahead, especially because you can take your time visiting the town’s offerings. For the late risers, the city is spectacular at sunset. However, many of the attractions close by mid-afternoon.
This village is no bustling metropolis, but it is peppered with charming cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat and use the bathroom. There are also various areas to settle in for a packed lunch or picnic to take in the atmosphere around you.
Final Thoughts: Is Kinderdijk Worth Visiting?
The windmills, canals, and villages are unique and worth your time. If you’re looking for a day trip or weekend trip from Amsterdam, Kinderdijk is worth visiting. Make sure that you see the inside of the windmills there. Each has different views of the area, so seeing them all is always lovely.
You won’t regret visiting Kinderdijk, even if you only spend a few hours there. With so much to see, you’ll be tempted to stay for days, but even if you can’t, it’s well worth the short travel time from Amsterdam. Best of all, it won’t break the bank.