The working, inhabited village Zaanse Schans functions as a windmill gallery on the Zaan river. Popular with tourists, its mills are completely authentic and operated with enthusiasm and love. You can explore the windmills at your own pace, seeing the vast moving parts firsthand. Individual windmill hours and days vary.
Artists will love the mill with paint pigments for sale – you can see the actual materials used in producing Renaissance masterpieces turned into powders.
The other buildings have been brought here from all over the country to re-create a 17th-century community. There's an early Albert Heijn market, a cheese maker, and a popular clog factory (which has a surprisingly interesting museum) that turns out wooden shoes as if grinding keys. The engaging pewter-smith will explain the story behind dozens of tiny figures while the soft metal sets in the moulds.
Once you've finished exploring the village, take a boat across the Zaan river.