European Open-Air Museums

There’s nothing like walking among the operating windmills of Zaanse Schaans in the Zaan district of Noord Holland, or strolling among the vertically-jutting blade sculpture at the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Denmark to gain a sense of the importance of wind in European–and thus Western–culture. For the avid wind aficionado and the scholar alike, I strongly suggest putting one of the many open-air museums in Europe on your travel itinerary. Some we discovered by serendipity others we searched out. All were worth the effort.

In most western European countries there are national “windmill” days where many of the historical windmills are open to the public. Many now include some modern wind turbines as well. Often the national windmill day is the second Saturday in May though this may vary by country. In Germany, Deutscher Mühlentag is held on Whit Monday or Pfingstmontag in German. In 2023 Whit Monday was 29 May. Note that the wind industry celebrates global wind day on 15 June.

  • Museum Park, Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Germany displays a historic stage mill, a mechanical farm windmill, and a micro wind turbine.
  • Schloss Sanssouci Berlin displays a reconstructed stage or gallery windmill that has served the palace (Schloss) since 1787. It was a mill on this site that served in the famous legend of the Miller of Sanssouci who challenged kingly power.
  • Windmill Blade Expo at the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Jutland, Denmark.
  • Showroom for historical Danish wind turbines at the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Jutland, Denmark–An extensive collection of wind turbine drive trains from the early days of Danish wind power.
  • Poul la Cour Museum–The museum is situated in the historical buildings where Poul la Cour, affectionately called the Danish Edison by Danes, conducted his research into wind energy and hydrogen storage. The site is the cradle of modern wind energy.
  • Energimuseet Vindkraft–The museums’ open-air exhibits include the original nacelle from the famed Gedser mill designed by Johannes Juul, an erect Riisager machine from the rebirth of Danish wind energy in the late 1970s-early 1980s, a cut-away wind turbine blade and more.
  • Frilandsmuseet–The Open Air Museum north of Copenhagen is one of the largest and oldest in the world. Spread across 86 acres of land the museum houses more than 50 farms, mills and houses from the period 1650-1950.
  • Museummolen Schermerhorn–Open air museum of the polder mill on the Schermer polder in Noord Holland (north of Amsterdam).
  • Germania (molen)–Platform grain grinding mill in the province of Groningen, the Netherlands. One of the more than 1,000 windmills in the Netherlands that are periodically open to the public.
  • Internationales Muhlenmuseum–in Gifhorn, Niedersachsen, Germany has 13 different windmills on display, including a Greek sail windmill.
  • World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk–The nineteen windmills of Kinderdijk illustrate the way the Dutch have used windmills to drain the polders that have made the Netherlands what it is today. Kinderdijk is most likely the world’s oldest wind farm and was in use into the 1950s.
  • De Vereniging Zaanse Molen–No tourist trip to the Netherlands is complete without a visit to Zaanse Schans and the working windmills of the Zaan district. The Society of Zaan Mills was founded in 1925, beginning with the restoration of the oil mill De Zoeker. Three years later, they opened the Mill Museum at Zaanse Schans. Now, nearly a century later, the Society possesses 12 industrial windmills, representing an important part of Dutch cultural heritage and to this day still define the Zaan skyline.
  • Museumdorf Cloppenburg is south of Oldenburg in Niedersachsen, Germany.
  • Nederlands Openluchtmuseum–Open Air Museum in Arnhem, Gelderland, the Netherlands.
  • Mola – het Provinciaal Molencentrum–East Flanders windmill museum in Belgium with four restored windmills.
  • Wind Energy Museum Norfolk Great Britain–The museum is closed in 2023. The collection depicts the evolution of polder drainage in what’s called the “Broads.” The technology for the mills and how to use them was imported from the Netherlands.
  • Deutsches Windkraftmuseum–Begun in 1997, the museum seeks to preserve some of the early electricity-generating wind turbines from the 1980s and 1990s in northern Germany. While the exhibits focus on German development of wind technology, the museum includes a Lagerwey, an early Dutch machine, early Danish wind turbines, and some American-made wind turbines as well, including a Kenetech drive train and a Bergey small wind turbine.
  • Allemolens.NL–Web site listing the location of every windmill in the Netherlands from the smallest mechanical wind pump to the giant polder draining windmills and to the multi-story stage windmills for grinding grain. They even include a few modern wind turbines as well. In Dutch.
  • Dutch Windmill and Watermill Database–Working historic windmills and watermills of the Netherlands with a searchable database and interactive map. The map identifies individual windmills and when they are open to visitors. The home page is in English, map data is in Dutch but understandable to English-speakers.
  • La route des moulins–Interactive map and list of windmills and watermills by region with a description of the specific mill in French. Includes a description of the Centre Molinologique.
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Mühlenkunde und Mühlenerhaltung–The German society for the preservation of wind and water mills. They too have an interactive map of the mills throughout the country. The map can be searched by town, village, or state. The detailed data includes the type of mill and its construction.