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One of the most magical places in the Netherlands has to be Kinderdijk. This UNESCO recognized village full of windmills is a must-see, however, you can certainly avoid the crowds at Kinderdijk with these tips! I highlight the unique history of Kinderdijk, some etiquette for visiting Kinderdijk, and how to visit Kinderdijk independently.
As a Dutch resident, I am ashamed to admit that this was actually my first-time visiting Kinderdijk. This stunning Dutch village is actually inhabited by 60 residents at the moment who live within the windmills, preserving this unique region of the Netherlands as it once was hundreds of years ago!
- History of Kinderdijk
- Tips for visiting Kinderdijk for the first time independently
- How to get to Kinderdijk on your own
The history of Kinderdijk
The Netherlands naturally has a swampy environment, which you can still see in a few Dutch national parks today. Due to the swampy landscape that was prone to flooding, the Dutch engineered environmental as well as technical solutions to drain fields enough for agriculture and raising animals. This technology has created a truly unique environment where windmills designed to drain the natural landscape coexist with humans in a beautiful landscape that transports you back in time to the medieval ages…
Although we think of the Netherlands as a lush green place filled with dykes, this wasn’t always the case. The dykes were created to help drain excess water from the fields that farmers wished to use. With the creation of the Water Board System, which still exists today (with a terrible name in English), the Dutch banded together to create a system to ensure that the polders would stay dry.
Unfortunately, one of the most infamous floods in the Netherlands ruined some of these systems in 1421. Saint Elisabeth’s Flood drastically changed the shape (!) of the Netherlands into what it is today. It’s said that Kinderdijk is named after one of the children who was found after the flood in the area…
Since this time, Kinderdijk has retained its purpose as one of the protectors of the Netherlands against flooding with its nineteen windmills. Although fewer residents live in Kinderdijk today than in the past and thousands of tourists visit this historic village today, it still plays a vital role in the Dutch ecosystem keeping this very flat country above the waterline.
Tips for visiting Kinderdijk on your own
The actual site is free to visit although I encourage you to go day-time when you can take a tour of one of the historic windmills to understand what life was like for one of the families living inside of the windmill! You’ll also gain an appreciation for these delicate structures, which require regular maintenance. Entrance to the windmills is only possible during business houses and costs 8 euros online (2019). You can buy admission online or in person.
To beat the crowds, head out early on the first boat to Kinderdijk! Most tours come later in the day, so you can avoid some of the tours by coming a bit earlier. On the flip side, if you have a car, I strongly encourage you to come around sunset. It’s absolutely magical and quiet. I was recently at Kinderdik around golden hour and it was seriously magical! It was us and a handful of locals taking photos. We also saw cats!
Leave your drone at home! Drones are prohibited at Kinderdijk and as cool as the shots are, they are prohibited here by the locals. There is clear signage prohibiting drones. (People have the right to privacy in their homes!) Stick to your camera as you’ll find tons of great spots to take photos.
Charge up your camera and your phone in advance. Trust me, you’ll be snapping away! There aren’t any outlets that I saw, so consider bringing a power bank if you’ll be taking lots of videos and photos. This is especially helpful if you are taking a day trip from Amsterdam to Kinderdijk as it will be a long day.
Bring an umbrella and dress smartly in preparation for rain. This is the Netherlands after all, so it can always rain. I recommend closed-toe shoes and layers, even if thin (for summer). Click for my tips on what to wear in the Netherlands.
Wear comfortable shoes! This is a big one as over the course of just two hours exploring Kinderdijk, we walked nearly ten thousand steps! Otherwise, do like the locals and see Kinderdijk the Dutch way. You can rent bikes at Café De Klok. This is an ideal way if you have difficulty walking long distances.
Bring your own food if you plan on eating. Within Kinderdijk, it’s pretty quiet and uncommercialized (beyond the museums). You’ll find two eateries near the entrance to Kinderdijk where you can have typical Dutch food at Cafe De Klok and Grand Cafe Buena Vista. Expect slightly elevated prices, but it’s worth it for the convenience. (Sandwiches would be easy and you can get lunch supplies at Albert Heijn or another Dutch supermarket in Rotterdam before you go.)
Give yourself at least two hours to explore Kinderdijk. An hour is just enough to reach the second bridge, but you’ll need more time if you want to explore the various pathways and step into the museums. It will take about thirty minutes to get to Kinderdijk, so plan accordingly. This could be a good half-day trip combined with seeing Rotterdam!
Getting to Kinderdijk by public transit
If you’re visiting Kinderdijk from Amsterdam, this will be a bit time-consuming although possible on your own. You’ll first want to catch the Intercity to Rotterdam Centraal. (For a supplement, you can pay a little extra for the Intercity Direct, which has fewer stops to Rotterdam. Just remember to pay for this advance–and activate your supplement via the tap-in supplements.)
You can take a train/bus to Kinderdijk, but you are going to make your life far more difficult. I encourage you to take the ferry from Rotterdam or Dordrecht. During peak season (May to October), there is a regular ferry between Rotterdam and Dordrecht (one of my favorite Dutch cities!) with a stop off in Kinderdijk. It takes about thirty minutes to sail up to Kinderdijk starting at Rotterdam Erasmusburg (Erasmus bridge) ferry stop. My parents took this ferry and found it very relaxing!
I encourage you to check the schedule on Waterbus.nl for the most recent schedule for when you are traveling! The ferry mentioned runs directly to Kinderdijk, however you can also take the ferry to Ridderkerk before transferring ferries with the direction Krimpen aan de Lek. The last ferry is around 5 pm heading back to Rotterdam, so carefully check the time as not to get stranded.
It is still possible to visit Kinderdijk by ferry in winter, however there’s no direct line during this time of the year (2019). You will need to transfer at Ridderkerk and I encourage you to double-check the schedule as fewer ferries run in winter.
The round-trip fare can be purchased on the ferry for just 8 euros (2019). You must have cash on you. Alternatively, you can purchase an e-ticket in advance via the waterbus website if you want to pay with a card. Those with an OV chipkaart (similar to the Oyster card) can tap in to save.
If you wish not to worry about tickets and you’ll be taking a lot of public transit, this is all included in the Tourist Day Ticket via RET, which covers all buses, ferries, metros, and public transit within South Holland (The Hague, Rotterdam, Delft.) I think the cost is definitely worth it if you are visiting Kinderdijk.
If you’re reading this thinking that this is too much, you’ll find tours from Amsterdam to Kinderdijk, which include some of the most beautiful places in Holland to visit (including my home of the Hague). If you’d prefer to sit back and enjoy the beauty of Holland, that is definitely a possibility!
Getting to Kinderdijk by car
On my recent trip to Kinderdijk, I drove together with my friend Manouk and her boyfriend. If you have a car at your disposal, it’s so much more relaxing to come in the evening once the tourist groups have left!
During the summer (July), the sunset is around 10 pm, so we were able to get these beautiful photos by coming at 9 pm. On the weekends, you’ll be able to park for free at the Royal IHC shipyard, which is a ten-minute walk.