Just 30 minutes outside of Rotterdam in a small village of Kinderdijk, lies the world largest cluster of windmills. It is a complex of 19 mills built in the year 1738 and 1740 set in an authentic breathtakingly beautiful Dutch polder landscape.
World famous windmills of Kinderdijk was officially recognized as the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout by UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 December 1997.
When translated, Kinderdijk means Children’s Dike! According to the folktale, a man went to the dike in this area hoping to salvage what was left behind after a terrible flood in 1421. He saw a wooden cradle floating on the water and on it, a cat jumping back and forth trying to balance and keep the cradle afloat. This bystander soon discovered a baby girl was quietly sleeping inside it, alive and well. Thus the legend of “The Cat and the Cradle” was born and that is how Kinderdijk got its name. Seriously!
The 19 historic mills consist of 8 Nederwaard stone mills standing in one row and 8 Overwaard wooden mills standing on another row, De Blokker mill in Alblasserdam nearby and 2 more mills; De Hoge Molen and Klein of Lage Molen in Nieuwe-Lekkerland further away.
These iconic mills were built by the Dutch as floods preventive measure to manage nature by controlling water level out of the polder. Since the surrounding area already existed below sea level, these mills drain excess water from the polders and pump the water into a reservoir hence protecting the entire area from sinking. These windmills were retired in 1860s and the neighboring pumping stations took over to cope with the ever increasing water level threats. All the mills are kept in original state and remain operational if and when they are needed. The upkeep cost is €15.000 annually per mill. ACCESSIBILITY – Kinderdijk and its surrounding area are easily accessible. It is free every day of the year! The bike and foot paths are always open to public, but shops and museums do have seasonal opening hours. The peak season is generally from 1 March – 31 October. Operating hours are from 0900hrs – 1730hrs. During off-peak season, shorter operating hours are 1100hrs – 1600hrs.
WALKING – It will take about 15-20 minutes to walk from the Ticket Office to the most picturesque spot near Nederwaard mill number 5, which is at a bridge where my video was taken.
This does not include extra time for all that necessary photo sessions or selfies. There are many wonderful distractions along the way such as cows, horses, sheep, windmill museums, small shops, bridges, pumping stations, farm houses, other buildings, etc. Walking is the best way to embrace the entire Kinderdijk landscape but it is a LOT, a LOT of walking.
CYCLING – This is the fastest and easiest way to see the mills and explore Kinderdijk village. Plan your own route or buy the different cycling routes at the Ticket Office. Bicycle(s) renting is possible on site from a souvenir shop across the bus stop / next to parking area. I can not remember the pricing, but I am certain it is rental by the hour. Bicycles available are typically Dutch – gearless with back paddle braking system. Child bikes are available too.
BOAT RIDEs – If you are too lazy to walk or reluctant to cycle for some reason, there are 2 boat rides at your convenience. A Canal Hopper stops at 4 main points where you are free to get on and off at will. A Canal Cruiser is a non-stop 30 minute sightseeing round trip. This boat ride travels a little further than Canal Hopper and a short introduction about Kinderdijk is provided on board. Each boat ride cost €5.50 for adult and €3.00 for children age 4-12 years old. I highly recommend the Canal Cruiser because it is a splendid view travelling on water.
THINGS TO DO – Out of 19 mills, only 2 mills; (one of the) Nederwaard and De Blokweer are open to public as museums. The inside of these mills are staged for visitors to experience how millers and their families used to live. Be very careful climbing up and down the narrow, almost up-right ladders inside the mills. You can visit the old Wisboomgemaal or Wisboom steam-powered pumping station which is now a Visitors’ Centre to learn about Kinderdijk’s history and its water management system. Purchase a combi-ticket at Ticket Office/Information to visit the above 3 places. Prices are €8.00 for adults and €5.50 for children age 4-12 years old. Buy your ticket online in advance and get a rebate of €1.00 per person. Other than that, take the canal boat ride before you leave Kinderdijk to complete your visit.
Ways to get to Kinderdijk:
Public Buses – Bus number 90 & 93 by Arriva bus company reaches Kinderdijk from Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Please not that these buses only run once is an hour. Use this website to plan your journey http://9292.nl/en
Waterbus 202 http://www.waterbus.nl/kinderdijk-en/ – This is the best 30-min scenic route to Kinderdijk along the River Maas. You may board the ferry at Erasmus pier in Rotterdam or Merwekade pier in Dordrecht. Buy your ticket on board for €4 per person or use OV-card (if you have) for a cheaper price. This route runs every 2 hours during off peak timing and only from 1 May till 31 October. No extra charge when you bring your bicycles on board the waterbus. If you plan to visit during the cold winter months, use http://9292.nl/en to plan your journey. Bicycles – The ultimate Dutch way to visit Kinderdijk is to pedal your way through to get to these windmills. You can always bring your own, borrow or rent one at major train stations.
Car/Tour Bus/Motor/Camper – The address for your GPS navigation is Nederwaard 1. 2961 AS Kinderdijk. Parking charges are as follow (2017): Motor € 2,50, Car €5,00, Camper € 7,50, Bus € 15,00.
Boat Excursion – Rebus Verande Evenementen runs boat excursion from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk daily except on Mondays at 12 noon. The duration of this trip is about 4 hours including 1.5-2 hours on your own to explore Kinderdijk. The boat, Nehalennia departs from De Boompjeskade quay about 200m left of Erasmus Bridge. Prices are €17.50 for adults and €12.50 for children up to 11 yrs old. http://www.rebus-info.nl. This service only operates from 1 April – 27 October 2017.
My journey from Haarlem to Kinderdijk was a 3 hours long on public transportation. I arrived at Rotterdam Central Station around 10 in the morning, took Tram 7 towards Willemsplein and was in time to catch the 10:35am Waterbus 202. The 30 minutes fast ferry ride was very comfortable even though it was a cold afternoon with occasional drizzle.
I was rather disappointed looking at my photos without the majestic blue sky and white clouds glowing above the mills. Nevertheless, the photos were undeniably cinematic. I spent about 4 hours walking, visiting the above 3 places of interests and ride the Canal Cruiser. I was exhausted and did not wish to continue further to venture the village.
Even with the somber gray sky, my trip was unforgettable! You have to experience it in person. Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout is a treasured National Monument and World Heritage Site for a great reason. Simply stunning nature!
I left on the last ferry at 1603hrs back to Rotterdam. I will be back again soon to venture the village and to take better pictures.
Kinderdijk Official Website: https://www.kinderdijk.com (available in English too)
Currently, there are 10 properties in the Netherlands and Curaçao are inscribed on the World Heritage List.
This my 3 out of 10.