The Windmills of the Netherlands

When one thinks of the country as a whole, the stately windmill often comes to mind. There are over 1,000 of them scattered throughout the countryside. Exploring them is a great way to get a close look into the overall beauty of this small country.

Why All the Windmills?

The windmills all over the Holland are beautiful, for sure. But why are there so many of them? Historically, it is because they serve many purposes. The most common of which is to pump water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers so that the land can be farmed. Then there is wind power, which is used for generating electricity and powering many surrounding structures like homes and saw mills. 

Today, some of them are still being used for drainage, and some are used to grind grain. There are very few left that generate power, as many taller buildings are being built around them and cannot catch the wind as they used to.

Traditional Dutch countryside windmills amsterdam will spin counter-clockwise. They tend to catch the wind better that way. The position of a windmill’s wings when stationary can also indicate certain occasions. Fun fact: In World War II, the positions of the wings were used to relay secret messages for the local citizens.

Some Notable Windmills to Check Out

De Gooyer
Built in the 16th century, at the time it was one of the tallest structures in the Netherlands. After having been moved several times, today it is located in the eastern part of Amsterdam, and is the symbol of Brouwerj’t lj, a craft beer with the windmill on the label of their principal beers.

The Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the elaborate system of 19 windmills built in the 18th century and used to pump water from Zuid-Holland’s marshlands. This helped to create a large tract of land that turned the surrounding area into fertile hinterland. Today it is the largest concentration of historic windmills in the country.

Zaanse Schans

A historic neighborhood on the west side of Zaandam, this is a small, picturesque town just north of Amsterdam. The windmills here are very well preserved as are the area’s bakeries and cottages, making for a delightful stroll through town. The colorful windmills are still in use today to produce such goods as timber, dye and mustard.

The Windmills of Schiedam

Known as the tallest in the world (about 40 metres), due to the lack of wind in Schiedam. The town became famous for the jenever distilleries which built the windmills inside the town’s walls to grind down grain for its factories. Today, five of the original 20 are still standing – stop into the De Nieuwe Palmboom – a huge windmill that has been converted into a museum.


Located in the Dordrecht area, there are 19 windmills that have been around since 1740. It was a complex water management system used to prevent flooding. The system also contains dykes, reservoirs and pumping stations. While they’ve been out of use for 60 years, they can still operate if need be as backups to the more modern systems.

National Mill Day

The event usually takes place in May, where the general public can tour hundreds of windmills and watermills, often for free. On the appointed day, more than 950 windmills will be spinning simultaneously in celebration. As you can imagine, it creates quite a captivating sight.