When planning a one day trip outside the Amsterdam, Haarlem should be one of your first choices. This charming medieval city is situated only 15 minutes train ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station and will surprise you with its amazing history and beautiful architecture.
Did you know?
- The New York city’s neighborhood Harlem was named after it
- In the 14th century it was a Dutch major city
- It was a historical residence of counts of Holland
- In 1620 it had around 100 breweries
- It has more museums per inhabitant than any other Dutch city
- Medieval center is still mainly intact
Once one of the most important cities in the country, it is a home to the oldest museum and the oldest public park in the Netherlands. Here are some of the must-see things in Haarlem.
City walk: Must-see
#1 – Haarlem Train Station
Let’s start with the building you will probably see first when coming to Haarlem. It is one of the oldest train stations in the Netherlands and at the beggining of the 20th century it was connected with city center with first Dutch electrical tram. Beaufiul Art Deco building was even starring in the movie, when it was portraying Amsterdam Central Station in ‘Ocean’s Twelve’.
A short walk from the train station is Grote Markt, the city’s main square (*Tip: If you will feel a bit hungry on your way, there is a great small fries restaurant there – Friethoes. They serve absolutely the best fries in the city!)
#2 – Grote Markt
The main square in Haarlem has a beautiful historical layout and many interesting buildings.
St. Bavo Church (Grote Kerk)
It is one of the most beautiful churches in the Netherlands and definitely a central point of the square. It is a home to the graves of many notable Haarlemers, among which the most famous is painter Frans Hals.
Statue of Laurens Janszoon Coster
Next to St. Bavo’s Church is the statue of alleged inventor of printing press. He said he invented it at the same time as Gutenberg, but couldn’t prove it. However, some people regarding him as a true inventor of it.
There is a Tourist Info Center there, where you can get a lot of useful info about events, walking and boat tours together with a booklets about the city.
Hoofdwacht (Guard House)
Built in the 13th century, it is the oldest building in Haarlem. When it was first built it served as a city hall, after it, it had several purposes (printing shop, home of some noble families, headquarters of the civic guard, jail etc.) (Grote Markt 17, 2011 RC Haarlem)
#3 – Frans Hals Museum
A famous Dutch Golden Age painter lived and worked in Haarlem. The museum is telling his story and displays many of his works. It is definitely not to be missed! (Groot Heiligland 62, 2011 ES Haarlem)
#4 – Teylers Museum
The oldest museum in the Netherlands is located in a beautiful classical house in the Spaarne River. It contains a number of works from Michelangelo and Rembrandt, together with natural history collection. (Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem)
Both Frans Hals and Teylers museums have a great children program. Every Sunday there is a free children workshop in Teylers Museum, and Frans Halls’ Doll House Gallery will definitely be very interesting for the youngest visitors.
#5 – De Adriaan Windmill
The original windmill was built at the end of the 18th century, but after it burnt down, it was rebuilt in 2002. There is a small museum inside it and a nice restaurant with a great view on the canal just next to it. (Spaarnwouderbuurt, Haarlem, more info).
#6 – Saint Bavo Cathedral
Sometimes it seems like Haarlem has two cathedrals, but the story is, when Saint Bavo Church (the one on the Grote Markt) was converted to Protestantism in the 16th century, it was first replaced with the smaller St. Joseph’s Church, until in 1895 a new cathedral was built. It is a bit outside the city center, but only 15 minutes walk from the main square. (Leidsevaart 146, 2014 HE Haarlem)
It is also famous for…
#1 – Beer brewing
Beer brewing was one of the most important industries in the city. The water for the beers was taken from the canals in the city until the 16th century. It was a major beer producer in the Netherlands (in 1620 there were around 100 breweries in the city). In the 1990s some of the old beer recipes were revived under the new Jopen beer brand, that is marked as a ‘Haarlem bier’. In 2010 Jopen opened a brewery and restaurant in a former church in a central Haarlem called the Jopenkerk.
#2 – Bloemenstad (‘Flower City’)
Also known as a ‘Flower City’, Haarlem was an important trading centre for the tulips from the 17th century (the time of ‘tulipmania’). Flower parade throughout the city is organized annually in April.
#3 – Saturday Market
Each Saturday food market with a variety of fresh fish, meat, vegetable, flowers, sweets, cheese and other local products is taking place on Grote Markt. There is one smaller market next to former V&D building (at Botermarkt) which has good choice of organic products.
Take a walk
#1 – Stroll around the Medieval city center
Get lost in the small streets around the Grote Markt. They are filled with small shops, restaurants and bars. Haarlem was declared to be the best shopping city in the Netherlands many times, so you will find a lot of interesting items there.
#2 – The Haarlemmerhout
Situated in the south of the city (around 10 min walking from the main square), this is the oldest park in the Netherlands. It has animal farm inside it, children playground and a nice pancake restaurant.
#3 – Kenemerland National Park
If you are up to some serious walk than visit Kenemerland National Park! It has many bike lanes, walking paths and nice sceneries with cute little lakes. Some very nice restaurants are also placed here, with outdoor children playgrounds. For more info click here.
#4 – Go to the beach
The sea and a nice sandy beach are only 20 minutes away from Haarlem train station (take bus no. 81 or the train to Zandvort aan Zee, both departing from the Train Station). It is a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Eat and drink
#1 – Jopenkerk – placed in the former church, this place offers nice fine food combined with a great Jopen beers. A truly original Haarlem experience! (Gedempte Voldersgracht 2, Haarlem, website)
#2 – Popocatepetl – This Mexican restaurant always has such a great atmosphere! The food is great, prices are decent, waiters are funny and nice, and the interior is truly Mexican. Definitely, my favorite restaurant in the city! (Riviervismarkt 1-3, 2011 HJ Haarlem, website)
#3 – Thrill Grill – on the other side of Grote Markt is a modern burger restaurant. I love their burger served without the bread, but just the veggies! (Oude Groenmarkt 26-28, 2011HL Haarlem, website)
#1 – Cups and Leafs – This quite new caffe is a great place for all tea lovers. It offers a combination of wide selection of the finest teas, chai lattes, the best chocolate cheesecake in a town, nice stuff and a cozy environment! (Zijlstraat 54, 2011 TP Haarlem, website)
#2 – Ann and Max – Great place for a breakfast! It offers some very tasteful and healthy combinations. If you are not the early bird, there is a nice choice of good coffee and cakes, as well. (Zijlstraat 68, 2011 TP Haarlem, website)
#3 – Chocolate Company – This place offers a combination of coffee and chocolate. And they do have a great chocolate! (Kruisstraat 14, 2011 PX Haarlem, website)
Child friendly restaurants
#1 – Pippas – This children friendly restaurant, with huge indoor playground is located next to the train station. There is a lot of space there, so it’s never too crowded. The food is delicious as well, everything is organic and they have a nice choice of meals in children menu. (Stationsplein 64-66, 2011 LM Haarlem, website)
#2 – Jetties – The same owners as Pippas are running Jetties, so the menus are very similar. It is a bit smaller place, but it’s closer to the city center. (Kruisweg 57, 2011 LB Haarlem, website)
#3 – Maneer Paprika – – Placed just around the corner of the main square, Maneer Paprika is a restaurant with children playground and a toy store in one. It is very popular place in Haarlem, so it can get a bit crowded during the weekend. If you would like to explore city on bike, you can rent out one here (they have both bakfiets and bicycles with child sits). (Koningstraat 19, 2011 Haarlem, website)
So the city definitely has a lot to offer, from museums to the great shopping! With the help of this guide, you should have a lovely day in Haarlem!