Windmills of Kinderdijk, gems of The Netherlands

Kinderdijk windmills on cloudy day

Although windmills dot the landscape in various parts of The Netherlands, the 19 remarkably preserved windmills in Kinderdijk make them a must-see on any tour of the region. “The area is located amid low-lying polders, tracts of land reclaimed from the sea by the power of the windmills and enclosed by embankments, or dikes.” (Viking Daily, May 17, 2022)

Windmills at Kinderdijk

For their endurance since the early 1700s and their continued ability to pump water to this small region, the windmills of Kinderdijk (Dutch for “children’s dike”) have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and a beautiful area to visit.

Touring the area: Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Visitors to Kinderdijk, making their way from cruise ship to windmills

A debriefing at the site taught us terminology and engineering — well, at least what we could understand — helping us to appreciate the windmills even more. Our leader emphasized the frugality of the Dutch, a quality that has helped people of the area preserve, rework, reuse, and cherish the properties we were about to see.

Kinderdijk: orientation and briefing
A docent sharing the mechanics of windmills with visitors to Kinderdijk.

We noted the landscape on this cloudy day, a landscape dotted with brick windmills bearing large sails — appropriately nicknamed “ground sailors.” And by standing at the base, we could look up and marvel at the details, structures, and almost-artsy assemblage of boards, bricks, and sails.

From the inside, we noted the view from the top as well as the inner workings of the gears. The tour allows visitors to climb the stairs inside and take pictures and, in one windmill still used as a home, to wander throughout and get a sense of the size of the living space.

In the water leading to the gift shop, a “cat’s cradle” replica reminds visitors of a legend surrounding the St. Elizabeth’s Flood of 1421. As the story goes, a local boy went to look at the damage done to a dike after the storm only to find a wooden cradle on the water. But even more surprising was his sighting of a cat rocking back and forth on the cradle trying to keep it from tipping over. Inside was a little girl asleep and unaware of the storm.

Cat's Cradle at Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Cat’s Cradle at Kinderdijk

Perhaps one of our favorite sights was this one of a millwright climbing up the side of the windmill to unfurl the sails. If you look closely, you can see his wooden shoes with a band of metal on each shoe. We asked our guide about these, and he replied that this man repaired his shoes that had broken with primitive but workable handcrafted “patches.” Dutch frugality, still in operation!

Millwright hoist sails at Kinderdijk, Netherlands
A millwright wearing wooden shoes climbs up to manage the sails.

Kinderdijk is a must-see no matter the time of year or time of day. As with other remarkable places, it’s a treasure whether you see it on a cloudy or a sunny day.

Biking at Kinderdijk
Biking through Kinderdijk with windmills on the landscape

And we, along with many others, were pleased that treasures such as these 19 windmills are not only preserved but also still working.

An elegant windmill at Kinderdijk

Travel with the wind,

Rusha & Bert

This post is one in a series prompted by a recent trip to The Netherlands and Belgium. Thank you to Viking cruises (Holland & Belgium 2022) and our travel agent, Lauren Gunnels of Ortelius Travel Advisors, for the arrangements and free time to enjoy the scenery!

14 thoughts on “Windmills of Kinderdijk, gems of The Netherlands

  1. Amy

    I so enjoy your Netherland series, Rusha! These windmill photos are all beautifully captured. These reflections, wow…

  2. Anonymous

    Old windmills have a class that is totally lacking in today’s giant that have made their cookie-cutter way around the world, Rusha. (Admittedly, they are doing an important job from an energy/environmental perspective.) We see them everywhere, it seems— even flying over the North Sea yesterday.) I particularly liked your reflection shot. Other windmills that always strike my fancy: those found in the ‘Wild West,’ a relic of the past but still doing a job, and those found on the Greek Isles. –Curt

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      We also loved the windmills in the Greek isles, although we’ve only seen Mykonos. And those windmills had no sails, only the staves, or whatever those are called. Liked them anyway. Glad you’re enjoying your new lifestyle, but I bet the deer miss you.

  3. kzmcb

    What fun! Certainly something that we’d love and I thoroughly enjoyed your recount, perhaps especially the cat’s cradle story. Lovely photos.

  4. dawnkinster

    So interesting! We have a Holland, Michigan and there is at least one and probably more windmills there. We went to see the tulip festival when I was a kid, more than 50 years ago. I think we went inside a windmill too. But I’d love to see them over in the REAL Holland!

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