Kinderdijk, Netherlands

19 polder windmills from 1740 are aligned along a canal in Kinderdijk. This UNESCO World Heritage Site may be the highlight of your trip to the Netherlands.

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1 Historic Windmills in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

The windmill is the quintessential symbol of the Netherlands. In 1850, over 10,000 molens (mills) harnessed the wind to help drain lowlands across the country. Today, less than 10% remain standing while over 2,500 wind turbines generate electricity. The largest collection of mid-18th century windmills are in Kinderdijk, a village ten miles from Rotterdam. This picturesque and historic experience is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see when visiting the Netherlands.

Molenkade Nederwaard 1, 2961 AS Kinderdijk, Netherlands

2 Types of Windmills in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

There are 19 polder windmills in Kinderdijk. They are aligned in two rows along the Nieuwe Waterschap canal. During your scenic excursion, you will walk or cycle among the mills on a two-lane path named Middelkade. Overwaard Windmill No.1 is the first in a series of wooden windmills on one side of the canal. Their scoop wheels drain water from the Lower Basin. On the other side are stone windmills called Nederwaard. They pump water to the Upper Basin. Their sweeping blades are so long they earned the nickname ground sailer. All of these windmills were built around 1740. There are also two Lekkerland polder windmills.

Overwaard Windmill No.1, 2961 AT Kinderdijk, Netherlands

3 Windmill Museums in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

There are eight Nederwaard windmills at Kinderdijk. This is Nederwaard Windmill No. 1. Notice the grazing cattle. The animals are evidence most of the windmills are still occupied by farming families. An exception is next door at Museummolen Nederwaard, a heritage museum at Nederwaard Windmill No. 2. Inside of the working windmill from 1738 are the stories, furniture and photographs of the Hoek family. Imagine the challenges of raising ten children here. Also make sure to visit Museummolen Blokweer. The uniquely-shaped polder windmill was built in 1630. This makes the location of the Blokweer Museum Mill the oldest windmill in Kinderdijk by almost a century.

Nederwaard Windmill No. 1, 2961 AS Kinderdijk, Netherlands

4 Millennium of Water Management in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

The proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” aptly applies to Kinderdijk. Generations have discovered new ways to persevere in their struggle to tame 1.25 miles of Alblasserwaard. This low-land peat bog (called a polder) is fed by Lek and Noord rivers. The water has threatened to reclaim their land for over a millennium. The earliest solutions were random canals and dikes. In the 13th century, three cooperative Water Boards were founded to dig a network of waterways plus four sluices. In the mid-18th century, 20 windmills were built. They could collectively pump excess water into the Upper Basin for drainage or store water in the Lower Basin during droughts. Technological advances included two steam-powered pumping stations in 1868 followed by a diesel-powered one in 1924. New, more advance pumping stations were added in 1972, 1995 and 2019. Ironically, many of the 19 windmills are kept functional in case the pumping stations are compromised.

Nederwaard Windmill No.3, 2961 AS Kinderdijk, Netherlands

5 Cat and the Cradle Legend in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

You have undoubtedly heard Harry Chapin’s 1974 hit song “Cat’s in the Cradle” but never understood the meaning of the title. According to legend, the Saint Elizabeth’s Flood of 1421 ravished the land around Kinderdijk and drowned up to 10,000 people. The following day, an infant girl was found drifting in a crib. The baby had remained afloat by the tireless efforts of a cat jumping back and forth to keep the cradle balanced. The story became a popular Dutch fairytale. And the village was named Kinderdijk meaning children’s dike.

Overwaard Windmill No.2, 2961 AT Kinderdijk, Netherlands

6 Overwaard Museum Mill in Kinderdijk, Netherlands

Overwaard Windmill No.4 houses the third museum at Kinderdijk. Yet, the Overwaard Museum Mill is only accessible by boat and is open on a limited basis. This windmill had the one-of-a-kind capability of pumping water in two directions thanks to a pair of massive scoop wheels. One of these wooden wheels weighs nearly nine tons! Overwaard Windmill No.4 (nicknamed Contra Mill) is located at an elbow in the canal. This position provides the most photographic view of the famous Kinderdijk windmills lined up in either direction.

Overwaard Windmill No.4, 2961 AT Kinderdijk, Netherlands