Zaandam Introduction Walking Tour, Zaandam

Zaandam Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Zaandam

Although historically significant as such, Zaandam, a charming old town on the banks of the Zaan River in the northwestern part of the Netherlands, does not have the same level of worldwide recognition as some larger cities. Despite its close proximity to Amsterdam, Zaandam has a plethora of tourist attractions of its own, readily available for those who seek them.

The name "Zaandam" has its origins in the Dutch language, with "zaan" referring to the river and "dam" signifying a dam that was constructed to control the water flow in the area. Both Zaandam and the broader Zaan River region, known as the Zaanstreek, for a long time, represented a massive industrial complex.

The town's history can be traced back to the 14th century when it began to flourish as a center for shipbuilding, milling, and trade due to its strategic location near Amsterdam. During the Dutch Golden Age in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Zaandam's industries boomed, and the town became famous for its multiple windmills powering saws that processed Scandinavian wood for shipbuilding and paper production.

At that time, Zaandam boasted nearly 50 shipyards that constructed numerous seagoing vessels annually. Tsar Peter the Great of Russia visited Zaandam in 1697 and 1717 to study shipbuilding. He briefly resided in a wooden house, now known as the Czar Peter House museum, before relocating to Amsterdam due to excessive attention from locals. A statue honoring him stands on Dam Square.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the area played a vital role in whaling. The latter fact is reflected in the coat of arms of Zaanstad municipality, in which Zaandam is the main city, featuring two whales.

Zaandam, as a city, was ultimately formed in 1811 by merging the neighboring towns of Oostzaandam and Westzaandam. It remained a significant timber port until the mid-20th century.

Since 2008, Zaandam has undergone extensive redevelopment, including a new City Hall, expanded shopping areas, new housing, and a cinema. The Hotel Inntel, opened in March 2010, garnered global attention, adding a touch of whimsy to the town's allure.

The unique blend of history and modernity in Zaandam promises an unforgettable experience for travelers who are fascinated by historical sites, captivated by distinctive architecture, or simply seeking a relaxed atmosphere. Zaandam welcomes your passion for exploration! So, let it go on this self-guided walk!
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Zaandam Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Zaandam Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Zaandam (See other walking tours in Zaandam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Zaandam City Hall
  • Hotel Inntel
  • Gedempte Gracht Street
  • Czar Peter House
  • February Strike Monument
  • Hondsbossche Sluis Lock
  • St. Boniface Church
  • Dam Square
Zaandam City Hall

1) Zaandam City Hall (must see)

Zaanstad City Hall is an architectural landmark in the city. It serves as an open and welcoming meeting place for citizens, the city council, and municipal authorities. Spanning a generous area of 25,500 square meters, this impressive building stands out with its unique and majestic architectural design.

Inside the city hall, you'll find a host of distinctive facilities, including a large theater, scientific centers, museums, and rotating exhibitions. It provides a versatile and inspiring space for cultural and educational activities.

The city hall not only functions as an administrative center but also serves as a cultural and artistic hub for Zaanstad. The presence of a massive theater provides a stage for a wide range of artistic and cultural performances, making the city hall a vibrant and lively venue for both residents and visitors.

Furthermore, the city hall houses scientific centers and museums, making it a place of knowledge and discovery. The opportunity for rotating exhibitions ensures that there's always something new to explore for those who visit.

All in all, Zaanstad City Hall is not only a central hub for local governance but also a thriving center for culture, art, and education. It's a place where people come together, learn, and enjoy the rich and diverse experiences it has to offer.
Hotel Inntel

2) Hotel Inntel

Hotel Inntel is a remarkable architectural creation that has drawn both admiration and debate due to its distinctive design.

The vision for this innovative hotel was inspired by the small cottages that define the region's architectural landscape, as well as Claude Monet's famous painting depicting the blue house of Zaandam. Architect Wilfried van Winden embarked on a mission to craft a hotel that seamlessly blended futuristic elements with a touch of nostalgia. The result is a stunning masterpiece boasting 160 rooms, Turkish baths, a bar, and a swimming pool, offering all the conventional amenities expected of a hotel. However, what truly sets it apart is its design, which cleverly evokes the feeling of being "at home."

The exterior of Hotel Inntel is a captivating sight to behold. It features nearly 70 individual cottage facades, each painted in a distinct shade of green and featuring a unique window layout. Crowned by a striking red-orange roof, the stacked-cottage design of the Inntel Hotel serves as a symbol of the city's commitment to revitalization. This ambitious project aims to restore the city's buildings to their former glory while preserving the charming essence of its trademark architecture.

Hotel Inntel stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of tradition and innovation. It captures the essence of Zaanstad's iconic green cottages while pushing the boundaries of architectural imagination. This bold and captivating structure serves as a beacon of transformation in the city, inviting visitors to experience a blend of past and future within its welcoming walls.
Gedempte Gracht Street

3) Gedempte Gracht Street

The Gedempte Gracht is a unique street and canal in Zaandam, known for its charming shopping street and bridges that span its length on both sides. This area has been designated as a pedestrian zone, allowing for unhurried strolls and leisurely shopping experiences. While the name "Gedempte Gracht" might suggest otherwise, it does indeed include a canal.

One side of the Gedempte Gracht features a stone embankment, while the other boasts a grassy one. Several of the bridges are adorned with long benches, providing a perfect spot for resting and taking in the surroundings. Along the stone embankment, there are steps leading down to the water, offering a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the canal. The area also features a music dome and wooden kiosks designed in the charming Zaanse style.

Across from the Gedempte Gracht, near the Hermitage, you'll find the Pathé Zaandam cinema. The street continues as it leads to Zaandam station, effectively connecting the canal area with transportation and entertainment hubs.

The Gedempte Gracht came into existence in 1858 when the wide ditch between the two paths on either side was filled in. Over time, the Gedempte Gracht evolved into an important shopping street in Zaandam and served as a vital thoroughfare for traffic.

In the late 1990s, the Gedempte Gracht underwent a transformation, becoming a pedestrian area, and automobile and bus traffic was redirected to the adjacent Vinkenstraat. During this time, shopping pavilions were added to the middle of the street.

In 2011, the pavilions were removed, and the canal was dug open again. It now boasts an average width of 6.5 meters and is equipped with seven bridges, as well as a waterfall on the side near the station. This metamorphosis was a significant part of the Inverdan project, a redevelopment initiative in the area. Interestingly, the municipality decided to retain the name "Gedempte" for the canal, serving as a reminder of its history and transformation.
Czar Peter House

4) Czar Peter House (must see)

The Czar Peter House is most famous for being the place where Tsar Peter I of Russia stayed in 1697 during his Grand Embassy. The building itself dates back to 1632.

Peter had previously encountered the Zaandam blacksmith and craftsman Gerrit Kist when Kist had worked for the tsar in Moscow. When Peter visited the Zaanstreek region, he insisted on staying at Kist's home, despite Kist's protests that his house was a humble dwelling shared with the widow of one of his workers. The widow was compensated to vacate the premises, and Peter spent a week as Kist's houseguest. The tsar was traveling incognito under the name Peter Michaeloff, and although Kist did not reveal his guest's true identity, it didn't take long for Peter to be recognized, making his observations in the area somewhat challenging.

Peter's primary goal was to learn more about the Dutch shipbuilding industry, and armed with this knowledge, along with other insights acquired during the Grand Embassy, he aimed to initiate a period of modernization and growth in Russia. During this time, the Dutch Republic was one of the most advanced and developed countries in the world.

Although Peter's stay at the house was relatively brief, he would return several times, with his final visit occurring in 1717.

In 1895, a new stone covering was constructed over the house to protect it, and this addition was designed by the architect Salm, best known for his work on the Artis Aquarium in Amsterdam. The cover was later designated as a national monument in 2001, signifying the historical significance of the Czar Peter House, both in its original form and after the renovation.

Today, the house is an integral part of the Zaans Museum and is open to visitors, allowing them to explore the historical importance of this place where Tsar Peter the Great once stayed.
February Strike Monument

5) February Strike Monument

The February Strike Monument in Zaandam, located within the municipality of Zaanstad, commemorates the historic events of the February strike that took place on February 25th and 26th in the year 1941. This strike originally began in Amsterdam and subsequently spread to various locations, including the Zaanstreek region, Haarlem, Velsen, Weesp, Hilversum, and the city of Utrecht. It marked a significant turning point in Dutch history as the first large-scale resistance action against the German occupiers during World War II. Importantly, it also stood as the sole massive and public protest against the persecution of Jews in occupied Europe during that time.

The catalyst for the strike was the initial wave of arrests targeting hundreds of Jewish men in Amsterdam. The illegal Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN) played a pivotal role in initiating and organizing this strike, rallying people under the motto 'STRIKE!!! STRESS!!! STRESS!!!'

The 'February strike' monument in Zaandam consists of a small bronze group of statues. Within this group, one of the figures is depicted carrying a bicycle. These statues are prominently placed on the balustrade of the Wilhelminasluis, a canal lock. Below the statue, a bronze memorial plaque is affixed to the wall. The group of statues measures 50 centimeters in height, 70 centimeters in width, and 40 centimeters in depth.

This monument serves as a poignant reminder of the courageous actions taken by ordinary citizens during a critical period in Dutch history, standing up against oppression and persecution in defense of human rights and dignity.
Hondsbossche Sluis Lock

6) Hondsbossche Sluis Lock

The Hondsbossche Sluis, located in the municipality of Zaanstad, is a distinctive lock with pointed doors situated in the Hoge- or Zaandam area. This lock primarily serves the purpose of accommodating pleasure boats. During the sailing season, passage through the Hondsbossche Sluis is free of charge. However, ships are grouped together, allowing the skipper the option to make a voluntary contribution toward the operational costs of the lock's service.

The lock complex comprises a lock master's house and an excise house dating back to 1724. In 1722, as a decorative element, two coats of arms were affixed to the south side of the lock. These coats of arms represent the Water Board from Hondsbossche and Duinen to Petten, along with the Dijkgraaf and Heemraden. The coats of arms were crafted by the Alkmaar sculptor Jacob van der Beek.

During the demolition of the Duikersluis, two natural stone crowns were relocated to the north side of the Hondsbossche Sluis. Subsequently, during the renovation of the lock in 1777-1779, these crowns were adorned with Louis-style bundles of wheat stalks by the skilled hands of Jacob Mattheus Cressant.
St. Boniface Church

7) St. Boniface Church

The St. Boniface Church in Zaandam is a neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church built between 1899 and 1900. It is known for its squat square tower and a particularly cool and colorful neo-Gothic interior. The church is part of a larger complex that also includes a rectory. The Boniface parish was founded in 1784. Before that, Roman Catholics (the Old Catholics had their own secret church) worshipped in the remote hamlet of 't Kalf.

The reason for the parish's foundation was the capture of a small and hideous animal (a rat) by a Protestant government official, which he wanted to show to his Catholic neighbor. However, he was at church and did not return until hours later. The conversation between the two neighbors ended with the advice to the Catholic neighbor to submit a request to found a secret church closer to home. This request was granted, and the Zaandam wooden secret church was inaugurated in 1785. This church served until the end of the 19th century but then became too small.

As a result, a new church was built opposite the old secret church, which was completed in 1900. The building is a three-aisled cross basilica with an integrated, westwork-like square tower. The church is oriented so that the choir faces east. Inside, there is a platform on which the organ is located. At the top, there is a rose window. To the east of the landing are four more bays followed by the transept, which barely extends beyond the nave. This is followed by the choir, which comprises two more complete bays and a final bay. All bays have pointed arches, usually with stained glass windows.

The neo-Gothic interior has remained largely intact and exudes a sense of peace and harmony. Notable and interesting are the banners of various Roman Catholic associations that hang on the church's pillars. Also striking are the colorful stained glass windows depicting episodes from the lives of Saint Mary, Saint Joseph, and Saint Boniface.

The modest Mitterreither organ located above the platform is part of the national monument registration. This organ was built in 1786 and originally stood in the secret church.
Dam Square

8) Dam Square

Dam Square, located in the heart of Zaandam, serves as both a historical landmark and a vibrant city square. This square takes its name from the dam built across the Zaan River, which was constructed between 1288 and 1316. Initially known as "Hogendam," this structure played a vital role in the region's history and development.

The original purpose of the dam was to create a barrier in the Zaan River, which was positioned quite a distance from the existing residential areas of Oostzaan and Westzaan. In 1401, a chapel was built on the dam, reflecting its growing significance. In 1547, local authorities took a significant step by constructing a new stone lock in the dam.

As the French period unfolded, the two villages were merged into Zaandam. This transformation led to increased activity around the dam and overtoom, resulting in the development of numerous public facilities. The dam became a bustling departure point for barges, inns sprang up to accommodate travelers, and the Gemenelandshuis, a notable local building, appeared.

Today, Dam Square stands as a vital hub of entertainment and commerce in Zaandam and the surrounding Zaan region. It boasts numerous restaurants and cafes, offering a lively atmosphere for residents and visitors alike. The square is also home to various shops situated around the Gedempte canal and Westzijde, providing ample shopping opportunities. Cultural amenities, such as the Zaantheater, are located in close proximity to the square, enriching the area's cultural life.

Walking Tours in Zaandam, Netherlands

Create Your Own Walk in Zaandam

Create Your Own Walk in Zaandam

Creating your own self-guided walk in Zaandam is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Windmills Village Walk

Windmills Village Walk

Windmills Village, or Zaanse Schans, as it's known locally, is a truly unique place in the Netherlands. In this quaint location, packed to the brim with postcard-perfect wooden houses, windmills, and barns, one can easily experience what life was like in the country back in the 1850s.

Among the village's top highlights is the Museum of the Dutch Clock. Home to a stunning collection of...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles