There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands. Of them, Kinderdijk is the most popular, drawing a steady stream of tourists during the warmer months. Personally, I like to find the road less traveled. I’ve been to some UNESCO Sites that are just tourist traps. Kinderdijk isn’t one of them.
Kinderdijk was originally formed in 1740. The way The Netherlands is settled is by a series of plodders which are low-lying regions of land surrounded by dikes which can either be levees or artificial canals. The windmills in The Netherlands aren’t just for milling but act as pumps to drain water from the land and into the artificial canals. Kinderdijk has the largest system of these windmills, nineteen in total along the dike.
The name Kinderdijk translates to Children’s Dike. There’s a legend that in the Great Flood of 1421, a cradle was found floating in the dike. A cat was jumping back and forth in the cradle, keeping it balanced and afloat to save the life of a baby inside. It’s an urban legend, but cool nonetheless.
Entrance into Kinderdijk is free, but there are two attractions you might want to consider purchasing. The first is a boat cruise along the dike. It lasts for 25 minutes and allows you to see the windmills up close with a running commentary by a guide. The cost is about $6. I’d say it’s worth it. The second paid attraction is an entry for two of the windmills which have been converted into museums. The cost for that one is about $10. I can’t rate it as I skipped it myself.
Exploring Kinderdikjk is an all-day affair (including transportation). It can get fairly crowded with tourists, but it’s also a large area. The crowds thin out considerably as you walk toward the end of the dike. If you want to skip the boat ride and museums and just walk to the end of the dike, taking your time and some photographs, expect to spend about two hours in Kinderdijk. If you’re going to include the boat ride and museums, or if you’re a slow walker, perhaps plan to stay closer to 4-5 hours. Just make sure to take care when walking on the paths when they merge with the bike lanes or look for the alternate paths through the rushes.
Getting to Kinderdijk is easy between March and October. The 202 Line leaves from the ferry terminal next to the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam 5-6 times a day and takes a little over half an hour. Just make sure to go earlier in the day, as the last ferry leaves Kinderkijk at 5 p.m. After that, you’ll have to take the buses back into town. Either way, the cost is only about $5 each way, but the bus takes over an hour. You can also ride a bike to Kinderdijk, which takes about an hour from the city center.
A couple of tips: bring a packed lunch and have a picnic along the dike while you’re there, and bring comfortable walking shoes. Lastly, enjoy! Kinderdijk definitely is not just another tourist attraction.