Windmills - Dutch icons of Rotterdam

Windmills - Dutch icons of Rotterdam

Ever wanted to visit a windmill and take a peek inside? You can and you don't need to leave the city to do it. Rotterdam has various windmills to admire and many are open to the public.

So, you're in the Netherlands. That means you've seen windmills practically everywhere, right? Funnily enough, I recently found out there are a few windmills left that are still alive and kicking today. On the one hand, it seems cheesy and touristy, but on the other hand, it’s interesting to see one from the inside!

Obviously, there are a few “proper” windmill-landscapes, like Kinderdijk. Windmills you see scattered around the landscape are usually pumping stations from the 18th century, built to keep the polders dry and adjust the wet Dutch countryside. However, you do not have to leave Rotterdam for your Dutch Icon experience. In my case, we didn’t even have to leave the neighbourhood.

Windmills of Rotterdam

In Delfshaven there is the Distilleerketel (Distillery Kettle). That’s its name. In the old days, this mill was used in the production of Jenever - which later became Gin. The old folks loved their booze. Can you tell?

In Kralingse Bos, you'll find the Lelie (Lily) and the Ster (Star). In Hillegersberg Noord, there's the Prince Windmill (Prinsenmolen). In Zestienhoven, there's a windmill called the Speelman (Musician). Nearby, in Molenlaankwartier you'll find the Vier Winden (Four Winds) and across the river in Oud Charlois, the Zandweg (Sand Road). For a total overview of Rotterdam's many windmills check out the Wikipedia page (Dutch).

There are also three mills, no longer equipped with blades, like the Hope. Yeah, I know, the name is not very fitting.

Inside the Distilleerketel Distillery KettleInside the Distilleerketel Distillery KettleInside the Distilleerketel Distillery KettleInside the Distilleerketel Distillery KettleInside the Distilleerketel Distillery KettleInside the Distilleerketel Distillery Kettle

Visit a windmill

Anyway, you can visit most of them and take a look on the inside. Your best bet is to go there and check the sign on (or near) the door. For some, you need to call until you are blue in the face – I didn’t get anywhere when I tried to contact the Kralingse Bos' windmills years ago. Some have tours at specific times, others you need to call to make an appointment.

Some, like the Distileerketel (Distillery Kettle) in Delfshaven have opening hours. I can really recommend that one: It is cosy and lovely. The people who run it are delightful and you can get a tour during opening hours. You can be sure to find open doors on Wednesday and Saturday. During the summer months, on Sunday as well.

If you rock up during opening hours, you can get a tour for a few quid through the whole tower of the windmill. Between 12:00 -17:00 is always a safe bet but check their website to be sure. Learn more about the secret way the windmills can be used to communicate, the things they used to mill – e.g. how they make expensive blue paper and how the millers daringly climb into the mill to adjust the “sails.”

If you dare, step out on the platform and enjoy the view, or take some pictures. If you don’t want to go up, buy some flour (it’s as fresh as it gets, cause that's its primary function these days) or have a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit. The lady who runs it (Virginia I suppose since it's Virginia's kitchen) knows how to make them crisp and spicy in just the right way.

P.S. with a Rotterdam Pass, you can get a big discount on the tour.
Stairs of the Windmill de Distilleerketel (Distillery Kettle)Stairs of the Windmill de Distilleerketel (Distillery Kettle)


A word to the wise: the stairs are no more than a ladder. They are steep and some things like trap doors are fully functioning. The platform of the windmill has a fence, but it looked more like a suggestion to me. So, if you are not sure your children are up for a climb or have a phase of not listening, do reconsider. If not, the windmill people are not fussy about children. My five-year-old and two-year-old were allowed up, no problem. Even when my two-year-old threw a fit, because she didn’t want to leave the grinding stone, they were super helpful. I don’t know why the grinding stone was so attractive, maybe you only understand if you are two. Anyway, you can also hire their canoe and explore nearby waters. I do assume that other windmills also offer boats since most of them are close to the canals.


Roof of the Distilleerketel (Distillery Kettle)Roof of the Distilleerketel (Distillery Kettle)Roof of De Walvisch (The Whale) Windmill MuseumRoof of De Walvisch (The Whale) Windmill Museum


Windmill Museum

And if you want to go on a bit of a bike ride/car ride or public transport ride, go to Schiedam. They have a windmill museum inside a windmill. It’s called the Walvisch (Whale), and from its platform, you can see many more windmills. Mainly, you get the idea of what it was like in the old days when windmills were the first factories that could produce, pump and mill stuff. They also have a bigger shop and more flour, should you be in the mood for some windmill cookie action. For an extra Euro, you can even test the windmill principle and grind your own flour. Assertiveness required! Oh, and they have a bigger boat that is used for canal tours through the old city centre. Very scenic.

I am sure to revisit both of them!

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