With its population of 145.000 Zaanstad is the fifteenth largest city in The Netherlands. The municipality was established in 1974 through the merger of seven villages. This feature makes Zaanstad unique: the dynamics of the city, the peacefulness of the villages and the extensive stretches of peat-meadow alternate in the Zaanstad landscape. This region has an industrial tradition of more than four hundred years, with many industrial monuments along the River Zaan as silent witnesses. This river is another important attribute of Zaanstad. This old peat route is 11 kilometres long, its two banks stretching 22 kilometres. Zaanstad cherishes its location on the river.
When Amsterdam developed into a global trading centre in the 17th century, the Zaan Region joined this economic boom. Staple products stored in Amsterdam were refined here. No less than one thousand industrial windmills were built in the Zaan Region to this end. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the second period of prosperity for Zaan industry and trade began. Zaan businesses switched to the production of end products. In this way, the Zaan food industry emerged and its accompanying large food supermarket group.
Working in the 21st century
In Zaanstad, some 16% of the population still works in industry. The food industry (including the large cocoa industry) is still prominent and Forbo Krommenie is the world's largest manufacturer of linoleum. The international retail concern Ahold grew into the Zaan Region's leading company. Many offices were developed in the vicinity of the Zaandam train station. These were occupied by a large number of companies coming from outside the region, because Zaanstad had become a vital component of regional economics and the job market. Office space is still available now, and there is space in the new industrial estates for industrial and service companies.
Living in the 21st century
As an industrial town, Zaanstad has many pre-war and post-war workers districts. In recent decades, new housing became more spacious and luxurious. Zaanstad has many new housing areas, often of high quality in terms of architecture, variety and their spacious lay-out. The desire to save as much as possible of the Zaan peat-meadow areas means that most of the housing needs to be built within the confines of the city. This is often done along the banks of the Zaan, when old businesses relocate. The municipal Zaan Banks project provides the structure for these activities. The basic assumption in the project is that the characteristic atmosphere of the historic town along the river is reinforced.
Effervescent town centre
Zaanstad wants to retain and strengthen its atmosphere of both a village and a town. Colossal steps have already been taken to reinforce the urban identity of Zaandam, the main village. Part of the centre has been turned into a pedestrian-only area, underlining its shopping and entertainment function and improving the atmosphere. The cultural level of Zaanstad improved substantially when the Zaan Theatre and smaller surrounding cultural facilities were opened in the city centre.
Recreation and tourism
The charm of Zaanstad lies in its variety. This attracts more and more tourists to the peat-meadow areas, the industrial monuments, the urban centre and the Zaanse Schans, which shows how Zaan villages looked one hundred years ago. In the immediate vicinity of the Zaanse Schans, the Zaans Museum is situated. The Zaan Region has enough to offer to spend several days visiting the different tourist sites. There is plenty to see in the town itself and visitors can take advantage of the region's surroundings: the towns and villages along the former Zuiderzee, the coast, the dune area and Amsterdam.