Kinderdijk on Bike
Windmills. Quintessentially Dutch.
There are under one thousand historic windmills left in the Netherlands. Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 19 historic windmills. These windmills were used to pump water out from the land, which rests up to 7 meters below sea level. A diesel/electric pump hooked to an Archimedes screw now does the work.
Kinderdijk is a 45-minute drive from Delft. We loaded our bikes onto the car and drove up there. (While loading the bikes we realized our Thule bike carrier bought in the U.S. is not designed for the popular step-through bikes in the Netherlands. We made it work, but gathered lots of looks on our drive. We are currently searching for adapters!)
Kinderdijk is a major tourist area. When we visited on a Sunday, a Viking River Cruise boat was docked, filling Kinderdijk with guided tours and red Viking umbrellas. Most of these tours only go to the first windmill and the visitors center, so our tip is to go past the first windmill so you have the place to yourself.
The parking lot costs five euro, but you get a free coffee in the visitors center, located in the old pump house. The coffee was crummy but the alternative to parking in the paid lot wasn’t attractive. If you want to see the two open windmills and the movie in the visitors center there is an additional fee (7.50 Euro per adult). You can easily walk the World Heritage Area, but by bringing your bicycles you can go even farther. (Here is a great article on cycle routes and where to rent a bike.) If you just want to cycle past the windmills it will cost you nothing for entrance.
We packed our lunch and rain gear into our saddlebags and headed down the bicycle path.
The kids loved seeing inside the windmills. The first windmill housed 13 children. The kids enjoyed seeing the small beds built into every closet and available space. We climbed the ladders to to see the gears turning upstairs and felt the wind rush by as the sails moved just feet from the ground. (You can see videos of this on our YouTube channel.)
While we were armed with Google Maps and a PDF of a bicycle route on our iPhones, we felt it was worth 5 Euro to buy a bicycle route map. We still got lost, but having the map gave us the confidence to cycle down unfamiliar paths. Our route followed a large canal past a half dozen windmills, into farmlands and eventually into the quaint town of Streefkerk. It was a Sunday, so there was only one open shop in town. Luckily they had great outdoor seating so we could enjoy our sparkling water and snacks. From Streefkerk, we chose to cycle along the dike past Nieuw-Lekkerland and back into the Kinderdijk area.
While biking, we got rained on twice but had our rain gear readily accessible so everyone stayed dry. You too should take umbrellas and rain jackets everywhere with you in the Netherlands. Luckily our picnic lunch wasn’t rained on and we had plenty of sunshine along our route.
There are bike rental shops on your way to Kinderdijk. There are also public transport options to get there if you don’t have a car.