The sight of Kinderdijk's 19 windmills under sail is magnificently and romantically impressive. Not surprisingly, this landmark sight (on the UNESCO World Heritage list) is one of the most visited places in the Netherlands These are water-pumping mills whose job was to drain water from the Alblasserwaard polder enclosed by the rivers Noord and Lek—a function now performed by the 1950 pumping station with its humongously sized water screws, which you pass on the way to the site. The somewhat chocolate-boxy name (which means "child's dyke") comes from a legend involving a baby in a cradle who washed up here after the great floods of 1421, with a cat sitting on its tummy to keep them both from tumbling out.
Rarer than ever, these windmills date all the way back to 1740. Just 150 years ago, 10,000 windmills were in operation across the country, but today only 1,000 remain. These have been saved from the wrecking ball thanks to the help of heritage organizations. The windmills are
open in rotation, so there is always one interior to visit. A walk through a working windmill gives fascinating insight into how the millers and their families lived. The mills can be seen in full action (wind permitting) on Saturday 1–5 pm in July and August, as well as on National Windmill Day (second Saturday of May) and National Monument Day (second weekend of September). Throughout the first week following the first Monday of September, the mills are illuminated at night. You can walk around the mill area whenever you like, so it's a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon. There are a couple of cafés for snacks, but if the weather is good bring a picnic.