Schiedam is a surprisingly cool place to visit. Hidden behind its big and famous neighbor Rotterdam, Schiedam is a historical town with a couple of impressive super high windmills. It used to be one of the most famous jenever producing towns in Holland and is the place to be if you’d like to learn more about the production of this classic Dutch liquor. Or to taste it of course. It makes for an easy day trip if you are staying anywhere in the west of Holland.
Schiedam is a town of about 80.000 inhabitants just west of Rotterdam. Visiting Schiedam is an easy (half) day trip if you’re staying in Rotterdam. It’s easy to reach from Amsterdam too and well worth your time because it has:
- the highest traditional windmills of the Netherlands,
- a quaint and historical city center without the tourist crowds,
- a jenever museum that still produces jenever in the traditional way, and
- a municipal museum that is a lot better than you would expect for such a small town.
More about these reasons to visit Schiedam, suggestions for hikes, information on how to get there and what to do next below.
The windmills of Schiedam
Holland is famous for its windmills and many tourists travel to Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk to see them. Be aware that those two places are extremely touristic. Do you want to escape the masses? Then go and visit the windmills in Schiedam. These are the highest traditional windmills in Holland. Better even: in the world! There are 7 windmills in Schiedam: 5 of the original 20 windmills and 2 newer ones (built in the old style). They are pretty impressive: the largest is 33 meters high!
The Schiedam windmills date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. They were used to grind the barley, one of the main ingredients for the production of jenever. Schiedam was an important jenever producing town back in those days with up to 400(!) distilleries. To learn more about the history and working of the windmills visit museum windmill “De Walvisch“. This windmill is open to visitors on a daily basis.
Address: Westvest 229, Schiedam
Opened Tuesdays to Sundays 11.00 – 17.00
Website museum mill De Walvisch (in Dutch only)
Visit Schiedam city center
Schiedam has a typical Dutch city center with canals, draw bridges, traditional boats, old warehouses and historical buildings. It isn’t too big and easy to see in just a few hours.
Exploring Schiedam on foot
You could walk around by yourself or follow a hiking trail. Some suggestions:
- A 4 km hike through the inner city of Schiedam, GPX and KMZ files available
- A 9 km hike through the inner city and the parks surrounding it, GPS track available
- or visit the Schiedam tourist info for suggestions, address: Lange Kerkstraat 3.
Though Schiedam is in some ways a bit similar to other Dutch towns, it does have its own unique elements. The high windmills of course and the old jenever (gin) factories. Schiedam had its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries – a bit later than other Dutch towns- and was mainly an industrial town, so you will see more former warehouses and factories here than in other cities.
Exploring Schiedam by boat
If you visit Schiedam between April and October, you can join a boat tour. During the tour you will see the famous windmills and the inner city of Schiedam. Tickets are for sale in the jenever museum or in advance at the website of the boat company. This website is in Dutch only unfortunately. Press the red button that says “Koop nu je tickets” to reserve tickets. Note that on Mondays there are no boat tours.
Visit the jenever museum of Schiedam
As the Russians have vodka and the Scots whisky, jenever is the traditional Dutch liquor. In England you would call this drink gin; the name jenever may only be used for this drink if it has been produced in Holland, Belgium or specific parts of France and Germany. Jenever was extremely popular between about 1650 and 1850 with some people drinking up to half a liter a day. Which is a lot considering the fact that the drink contains 40% of alcohol.
Schiedam is one of the traditional jenever producing towns in Holland. Back in the days there were about 400 jenever distilleries in this small town. Jenever was exported to many countries and brought great wealth to its producers. At the same time it caused a lot of pollution and the laborers in the jenever industry lived in great poverty, which is why Schiedam was sometimes referred to as the Black Nazareth.
Though I am no big fan of strong liquors I enjoyed learning more about the production and history of jenever in the Schiedam jenever museum. This museum contains an actual jenever distillery. This is a replica of a 17th century distillery. There are daily tours in this distillery during which they’ll explain to you how jenever is produced, what’s the difference between old and new jenever and much more.
After the tour there is the possibility of taking part in a jenever tasting. A suggestion: if you are visiting with friends share the largest tasting (instead of each taking a small one) as in the larger tasting you’ll get to taste the most interesting flavors, such as the old barrel aged ones.
Address: Lange Haven 74, Schiedam
Website Jenever museum (in Dutch only)
closed on Mondays
tours & tastings every afternoon
Schiedam municipal museum | Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
Most Dutch towns have a municipal museum that usually has a section about local history, perhaps some local art and from time to time an exhibition that may or may not be interesting. In general I wouldn’t advice you to visit these museums. The municipal museum in Schiedam (Stedelijk museum Schiedam) is an exception to this rule. They have an excellent modern art collection and their temporary exhibitions attract visitors from all over the Netherlands. If you are interested in modern art check out their website to see what’s going on.
Address: Hoogstraat 112 Schiedam
closed on Mondays
Website Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
How to get to Schiedam by public transport
Schiedam has a railway station (Schiedam Centrum) and is easy to reach. There are direct intercity trains coming in from Amsterdam/Leiden/The Hague and from Rotterdam. This will take you about 50 minutes from Amsterdam and only 5 minutes from Rotterdam. If you’re staying in Rotterdam center it might be easier to catch a metro (called RET) taking you directly to Schiedam from close to your hotel.
What to explore next
Schiedam is a perfect off the beaten track day trip destination from anywhere in the west of the Netherlands. There is plenty to see for a day. I wouldn’t advice you to stay here for too long though or to spend the night. If you want to hang on in this area go to Rotterdam, Delft, Dordrecht or The Hague.