I was interested in the green building in Zaandam appearing in many viral Tiktoks, so I checked the map and noticed it is pretty close to cycling. So, I grabbed my bike, and here is a review of Zaandam for you to explore with me more about this beautiful city, the stories behind it, and the must-go places around. Let's go!
First, if you don't want to cycle there, you take one train from Amsterdam Centraal, and you will be there in 10 minutes, fast and easy. But if you are the adventurous type and have a free afternoon, there are a couple of things to consider on the route.
Zaandam is crossing the IJ River, which means you can take several routes to cross the river. As I live in Amsterdam West, my fastest way is traveling it on Veer Hempontplein, which is the same place where you find the Kissing Couple XXXL that I told you about in a previous blog post.
What to know about this section of the route? Still, in May 2021, there is a construction happening on Nieuwe Hemweg, and the best way is to go until the end of Westerpark - closest to Sloterdijk station - and from there go next to the A10 ring until Westhavenweg. This way, you avoid all the drama of walking with your bike around four blocks (we did it once).
Once crossing the IJ, go straight, and you will see the significant green buildings. They look impressive and beautiful. You will see a bike parking on the street, and you can leave your bike there if you don't want to cycle up to the center, but if you have the skills, cycle towards the avenue, and then go forward to the buildings, and you will find a tunnel to your left. This will take you straight to the path going up to the city center street, and there is beautiful bike parking all in orange before the train station.
Welkom in Zaandam! The colors, the streets, this feeling of being in an old city, but at the same time modern. Why all these colors in a Dutch town? I wondered this, trying to remember the Amsterdamse Architecture Style that makes Amsterdam so impressive, and this looks different.
Well, while looking for an explanation, I stop to look at the colors and why. From this point, you can see the reminiscence of the old houses, yet modern colors. Places in Zaans state were green, and you can see lots of square or rectangular windows. Ah, if you left your bike downstairs, you might be likely to go up to the center on this stair and have this same view in front of you. Now turn 360º. It is like a dream!
Here you have two options, going to the right or going to the left (simple, right?). While on the right, you will go to the entire center, the esplanade, and the shopping mall. I decided to go first to the right. There were no signs of what to see on that side which made me curious. There is always something to see. Everywhere. If you are wondering if that on the right is a map, you have a fantastic eye. It is not only a map of Zaandam but of Zaansstad. If you are walking, I recommend you to go only to Zaandam, but if you can rent a bike (or have your own), give it a try and follow the route to Zaanse Schans. I will do another blog about it :).
Okay, now we are going to the left, and certainly quieter than the city center, but we can see a little hill at the end. Yes, I know there are no mountains in The Netherlands, wondering if this hill is above sea level. Look closer at the images. Do you see the Rabobank building? This is the best way to notice it is not far from walking, and it is the perfect place for a picture.
When doing architecture pictures or images that have some buildings on them, you must check the vertical lines look vertical. You might be surprised by the number of images on popular renting sites with this issue on their photographs. I confess my renting place has this issue too, as photos were taken by the Airbnb photographer and Verified Pictures are better than good pictures in this kind of circumstances.
Tip # 1: Check on the vertical lines
Tip # 2 Horizon matters. There is a horizontal line, and even though we can be creative and change the angle, it must be evident that it was on purpose. Keep that in mind.
Tip # 3 Use the Rule of Thirds when incorporating elements as sky or water. Put your horizon in one of the lines, and you are safe to go depending on what is more important, the drama on the sky or the city. And always remember, Rules are meant to be broken, with knowledge and intention.
Let's go back to Zaandam, and now you see how obsessed I am with all those beautiful buildings. One detail here. You are going up and easy to walk the hill, but there is nothing on the mountain itself. You are not going to discover a secret spot or an interesting sculpture. There is nothing but a fantastic view. On one side the city, and on the other fields. This leads to another thought: Wouldn't it be nice to cycle on these fields? Let's hold on to this, though, for the next adventure, and let's walk back to the center.
Now, we are back to the initial point and walking to the right. Do you see the orange roof next to the clock? This was our view before, and the brown wooden board is the map, don't forget to take a picture of it. In front of you, it was the city hall - not in the picture - so you go and send me a picture when you are there. Do you like to leave places unseen for coming back once again? I love to do this on all my travels.
This is the same place we were standing at the beginning, from this corner turn left, you will be at the City Hall. Also, the famous Inntel Hotel is on your right. Yes, that renowned building that seems made with a lot of houses is a hotel. This is why locals have mixed feelings about having the hotel image as their central representation. It is not part of their cultural heritage.
But if you want to see it entirely, there are two angles for you. One is keeping your right side walking towards this path. You will be in the middle platform with a perfect view of the entire building. But go down the electrical escalator, and you can be in an ideal position for a complete picture with a wide-angle lens.
On our way to Czaar Peterhuisje, the central place we will visit in this story, we stop for Kibbeling. It is fried fish for the ones outside The Netherlands or if you are not familiar with this delicious treat. It usually comes with garlic sauce, and if you love to fish, this is one of the snacks to eat while in The Netherlands.
Fun Fact: Usually, Nederlanders don't eat served food at lunch, and dinner is served at 6 pm. When you come to The Netherlands, you are most likely not to find too many restaurants outside the tourist places, and the ones you find have tourist prices. Learning about the most common snacks and their names will be helpful if you find your way on the Low Lands. Do you want a blog post about snacks and food in The Netherlands?
The place I bought the kibbeling is De Zwaan, and as soon as you are outside the esplanade, you will find this street with directions on where to go. We are going now to Czaar Peterhuisje. Before leaving the road, there is one extra exciting point. Right in the middle of the street, now a KPN store, you will find an old Synagogue with information on the outside to know more about its history. It is in Dutch.
As you can read on the Museum Site, "The Tsar Peter House is one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands and the second-oldest museum, with the Teylers Museum in Haarlem being the oldest. This now world-famous house was where the Russian Tsar Peter the Great stayed in 1697". The museum is temporarily closed due to the lockdown, but you can see the outside of the house, walk around it, and read the legend written on the streets. While going towards it, you will pass a cute terrace area with plenty of restaurants and bars around a Peter the Great statue. This statue shows the activity Peter the Great did during his 8-day stay, learning how to build boats.
But there is more. Zaandam is full of surprises. Around the block from Czaar Peterhuisje, you can find the Blue House, which was the inspiration for The Blue House of Monet. But, nowadays, it looks a bit different, and the street is under construction. There is also a house next to it that doesn't appear in the painting. Can you recognize the artwork from the recent picture?
Fun Fact: If you walk towards the Wilhemina Sluis, you will find a cute sculpture on your right and stairs going down. Despite it looks like nothing is in there. Go down. You will find a machine with Free Maps to collect, showing you all the attractions on Zaandam. You're welcome!
The last picture on this blog post shows you, Whilemina Sluis, but you have three options before going there, going to the right path of it, to the left, or staying there. My goal was to go to Verkade, an old chocolate factory, where I saw the picture on a book I collected on the street about Monuments in North Holland. So, we are taking now the right path until the end of it. The last of the four pictures is how the Verkade factory looks in 2021, and the picture before it, it's the path you will take.
Thank you for joining me on this trip around Zaandam. If you know more places to visit in this beautiful city, don't hesitate to share them in the comments, and I will be sure to visit them soon.
Only as a reminder if you are not following y stories. Photo Sessions will happen during June only twice a week. Timeslots are reduced due to my Dutch exams coming on July 1st and 2nd. Wedding bookings are happening as usual and only accepting up to 3 hours of coverage in June. From July 1st, pricing goes back to normal after a year of Corona pricing, so happy to get back to normal soon.
Have a fantastic weekend and see you next week.
Joanna, your Amsterdam photographer
(For now, only in English for a better understanding of all your wishes)