Kinderdijk is a village in the Alblasserwaard polder of the Netherlands. It's a popular, yet authentic, tourist destination for its large network of windmills. These received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Kinderdijk lies in the Alblasserwaard, at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers. In Alblasserwaard, problems with water became more and more apparent in the 13th century. Large canals, called "weteringen", were dug to get rid of the excess water in the polders. However, the drained soil started setting, while the level of the river rose due to the river's sand deposits.
After a few centuries, an additional way to keep the polders dry was required. It was decided to build a series of windmills, with a limited capacity to bridge water level differences, but just able to pump water into a reservoir at an intermediate level between the soil in the polder and the river; the reservoir could be pumped out into the river by other windmills whenever the river level was low enough; the river level has both seasonal and tidal variations. Although some of the windmills are still used, the main water works are provided by two diesel pumping stations near one of the entrances of the windmills site.
By public transit
As Kinderdijk is in a rural area, getting there with public transport can be a time-consuming process. The easiest way to get there is to first take a train to railway station Rotterdam Lombardijen. This station is easily accessible from the major cities. You will have to continue your way by bus. When leaving the railway station, cross the street and tram lines to get to the bus stop. Arriva operates two bus connections that serve bus stop Kinderdijk, Molenkade:
- Bus 90 operates hourly, 7 days a week, and has Utrecht CS as its final destination. The ride takes about 45 minutes.
- Bus 190 is a special bus that operates infrequently. It only seems to reach Kinderdijk during morning rush hours.
If you're not sure when to get off, ask the bus driver to tell you when he's there. You can plan your trip ahead from 9292.nl. As both bus lines depart from metro station Rotterdam Zuidplein, you could alternatively take the bus from there.
There are many ways to get to Kinderdijk by motorway. If you're coming from Rotterdam, drive south along motorway A16 in the direction to Dordrecht. At the junction, get onto the A15 that goes in eastward direction to Gorinchem. Get off at exit 22 and follow the signs to Kinderdijk.
If you're coming from Amsterdam or Utrecht, drive south along motorway A2. At the junction Everdingen, get onto motorway A27 that goes to Gorinchem in southwestern direction. At the junction Gorinchem, get onto motorway A15 that goes to Rotterdam in westwards direction. Get off at exit 22 and follow the signs to Kinderdijk. The ride is about 100 km from Amsterdam.
You can also take the Waterbus ferry from Rotterdam (near Erasmusbrug) or from Dordrecht (on Merwekade). Take Route 20 and get off at Ridderkerk (De Schans). There you have to change onto the Driehoeksveer, a smaller ferry to Kinderdijk. From 6 May to 20 September, there is a direct connection at Ridderkerk so total travel time from Rotterdam is 35 minutes. There is a Waterbus day pass available which includes coupons for a free return ride on the Driehoeksveer ferry and free entrance to the Museummolen and Wisboomgemaal.
The best way to see the windmills is on foot or by bicycle. Bike rental is available. In the summer season (April 1-October 31), you can make a boat tour (☎ +31 6 222-484-27) in the canal along the windmills. It starts at the parking lot, costs €4 (children €3) and takes about 30 minutes. The first boat leaves at 10AM, while the last boat heads out at 5PM.
The Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout (☎ +31 6 520-834-86) is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands. The windmills, being a part of the general landscape, are free to visit. In total, there are 19 windmills that were built in 1740 to drain the Albasserwaard. The mills are not always in operation; this depends on the weather.
One of the windmills, the Museummolen, can be visited inside, and a visit is usually combined with the steam-powered pumping station Wisboomgemaal. The Museummolen and the Wisboomgemaal are opened 09:30-17:30 daily in the summer season, that starts at April 1 and ends at October 31. Outside the summer season, they are only opened 11:00-16:00 on weekends. Tickets are €6 and can be bought at the parking lot, at the Museummolen or at the Wisboomgemaal. The Wisboomgemaal has a visitor's centre, a digital scale model and an introductory film. Some of the facilities here include free restrooms and soda machines.
Cycling is a popular activity in Kinderdijk. You can cycling along the windmills, or in the wider area. It is even possible to cycle all the way to here from Rotterdam!
By bike you can easily combine a visit to Kinderdijk with other tourist attractions, such as Schoonhoven (Silver City), the fortress town of Nieuwpoort and Stork Village Het Liesvelt. See: Kinderdijk Cycle Route.
Kinderdijk is not really a place to go shopping, but you can buy souvenirs from the usual gift shops.
There are a few restaurants at the entrance of the park.
- Buena Vista, Molenstraat 230 (near the entrance of the park), ☎ +31 78 691-2485. W-Su 12:00-late. This restaurant is housed in a historic building at the main road close to the windmills. It has an old-Dutch luxurious interior that has a traditional appearance. On the menu are meat and fish dishes and Dutch pancakes. €20-30.
Coffee for an affordable price right at the entrance of the park.
- Hotel Kinderdijk, West Kinderdijk 361, Alblasserdam (walk southwest along the main road from the entrance), ☎ +31 78 691-2425. This is a decent hotel with rooms for mid-range prices. There's also a restaurant attached to it where you can have dinner or lunch. Mains are about €17-20. It is possible to make a reservation. €70.
You can take the Waterbus to Dordrecht, a historic town with some interesting museums.