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The Zaanstreek is known for its rich history. The region is home to the oldest industrial area in Europe, was the ‘Larder of the Netherlands’ and is a source of inspiration for painters. 

With the arms and ammunition factory on the Hembrug site, Zaandam was once the heart of the Defence Line of Amsterdam. And the region is still the heart of the cocoa processing industry.

Also world-famous were the Zaans paper, sailcloth and, of course, shipbuilding. Every year, hundreds of ships rolled over what was once the largest portage sites in the Netherlands. Below are some of the best stories about the region.

Tsar Peter

Tsar Peter the Great stayed in the house of blacksmith Gerrit Kist in Zaandam in 1697. He came to Zaandam in order to learn the shipwright’s trade. 

The Tsar Peter Hous is now one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands and de second-oldest museum. Russian tsars, presidents, Dutch monarchs, and even Napoleon and Empress Elisabeth of Austria have visited the Tsar Peter House in the past.

More about Tsar Peter in Zaandam

Thousand windmills

The Zaanstreek hosted one of the first industrial area in Europe. With at one point more than 1,000 windmills the Zaanstreek produced paper, pearl barley, dyes, flour, spices, all kinds of oils, wooden planks and beams. 

Our windmills were the driving force behing the success of the Netherlands in the Golden Age.

Discover our windmills
specerijenmolen huisman zaanse schans molenaar


‘Zaandam is particularly remarkable and there is enough to paint here for a lifetime. Houses in all colours, hundreds of windmills and delightful boats.’ Claude Monet wrote to his friend and painter Pissarro after arriving in Zaandam on 2 June 1871.

Captivated by these motifs, his stay would ultimately last a full four months.

More about Monet in Zaandam