Travel to Holland, or just about any province in the Netherlands, and you’re going to see a wide variety of incredible windmills just about everywhere you turn. Windmills, throughout history, have been built in a wide variety of shapes and designs and serve a multitude of purposes.
Older windmills were originally built to use the power created by wind to operate grinding mills. They have also been used to provide power to paper mills and hammer mills. In some parts of the Netherlands, where land is located beneath sea level, windmills are used to pump water and promote proper drainage.
As you travel throughout Holland, you’ll see quite a number of stunning windmills, each gorgeous and serving a purpose of its own. In South Holland, however, you’ll find the incredible village of Kinderdijk, where 19 of the thousands of windmills created back in the 1700’s still exist in good repair.
The city of Kinderdijk is one of the best places in Holland to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of a wide variety of windmills here. As noted, most of the windmills in the village were built in the 1740’s, and 19 remain in great condition.
There are several museums throughout Holland that claim to offer visitors a glimpse at the history of the development of windmills. While some outdoor windmill museums offer you an idea of how and why windmills were built, you can’t always be guaranteed that you are looking at windmills built back in the 1700 and 1800’s – when almost all were built.
At Kinderdijk, however, you will find original windmills in the exact locations they were first built. They’ve all been restored for safety, and for the sake of preservation, but all sit on the grounds upon which they were built.
The Purpose of the Mills at Kinderdijk
The windmills at Kinderdijk had a task unlike many others in the Netherlands. Instead of providing power to grind or saw, these windmills at one time had the dubious task of draining water from the below-sea-level polders. They basically pumped the water away from low-lying land and then drained it directly into the river Lek.
The government stopped using the windmills to drain the polders during the 19th century, instead opting to use a series of steam pumps, and then later electrical pumps. The windmills remained operational up until just after the Second World War and could have been used in an emergency if needed.
Back in 1997 the windmills at Kinderdijk were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. During recent years, additional restoration work has begun in an attempt to make each of the 19 remaining windmills operational.
Visiting Kinderdijk from Amsterdam
Quite a few tourists visiting Kinderdijk do so as part of a day trip or tour leaving from Amsterdam. The village is located just over an hour outside of the city, and is popular amongst tour groups and buses.
Ask the concierge at your hotel in Amsterdam for help if you don’t feel like participating in, or limiting yourself to, a formal tour group. If you have a rental car, you may want to drive yourself to Kinderdijk, enjoying the scenery, the countryside, and some other nearby windmill sites along the way. Those without rental cars may not mind taking a public transportation system out to Kinderdijk.
While there are certainly other windmills and windmill museums scattered throughout the Netherlands, the windmills at Kinderdijk, because of their age and preservation, are simply stunning. This is one sight you won’t want to leave off your itinerary!