About twenty kilometers west of Amsterdam lies Haarlem, an ancient city with an absolutely charming historic center. Crossed by a river and canals, rich in streets and alleys harmoniously lined with beautiful houses, it also includes monuments and museums that we take pleasure in visiting. The one dedicated to the painter Frans Hals, a native of this city, alone deserves the trip. Nearby, the dunes of the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, as well as the beaches of the North Sea, offer beautiful natural getaways.
Haarlem, along the water and the canals
Long before designating a famous New York district, Haarlem is a charming town in Holland, whose origins date back to the 9th century.
Today capital of the province of North Holland, it became prosperous thanks to the textile industry, the construction of boats, the creation of many breweries, or the cultivation of the tulip. We are therefore not surprised to see beautiful homes along its streets. Publishing, printing, pharmacy, or services are today part of the activities of this city in which we gladly settle for its pleasant environment.
Despite its charms, some Haarlémois once took to the sea to settle on other lands, such as that of the American island of Manhattan. In the 17th century, Dutch settlers founded Nieuw-Haarlem there under the authority of Governor Pieter Stuyvesant, also in charge of Nieuw-Amsterdam, which would become New York. Thus was born the famous district of Harlem...
Haarlem is crossed by canals, as well as by the Spaarne river. Also, during your walks you constantly cross these waterways which contribute to the seduction that the city operates on you.
If you wish, you can board a small cruise ship or rent a boat without a license. From the water, or the docks, you are struck by the majestic silhouette of the Molen by Adriaan, a typical Dutch mill from the 18th century which, destroyed by fire, had to be completely rebuilt. Regardless, he is magnificent! Just as is the Amsterdam gate (15th century) whose turrets are reflected in the Spaarne.
In the streets of Haarlem
Haarlem has many monuments and architectural gems. On the Grand-place (Grote Markt), there is theCity Hall of medieval origin, the Vleeshal or the Meat Hall, a superb 17th century building, emblematic of Haarlem's golden age.
Opposite, here is the Grote of Sint-Bavokerk - aka Saint Bavo Church -, whose majestic appearance is striking. This Gothic building bordered by stalls became a Protestant temple when the Reformed religion established its domination in the 16th century.
Also to be seen in town, the astonishing Kathedrale Basiliek Sint Bavo (Saint Bavo Cathedral-Basilica, 19th century) whose style combines Romanesque and Byzantine influences in particular. It is dedicated to Catholic rites, after these have long been observed in schuilkerken, churches hidden behind anonymous facades - places of worship that can also be dedicated to other religions.
Other important elements of Haarlem's ancient heritage are to be discovered, such as the hofjes. Many of these sets of small houses built as “social housing” take the form of closed, often adorable courtyards.
In Gouden Straatjes (golden streets), shopping enthusiasts do not fail to lick the windows of shops devoted to art, crafts, design, antiques, fashion ...
And when it comes to places to eat or have a drink, you can find them everywhere. In the evening, terraces are very lively. Walking as you please in the streets and alleys of the center of Haarlem is therefore a continuous pleasure. As long as you take care parking for cyclists which hold the upper hand here, motorized vehicles being rare!
The Frans Hals museum, a must-see in Haarlem
In a city so steeped in history, it is not surprising to find a lot of museums. Two of them are particularly noteworthy.
Le Frans Hals Museum is named after a famous 17th century painter who is one of the most renowned Dutch portrait painters. One can see here in particular large paintings of his hand which represent officers of the guild of Haarlem. Works by contemporaries of Frans Hals are also part of the collections of this museum housed in a former 17th century hospice.
Until February 24, 2019. The museum offers "Frans Hals en de Modernen", an exhibition that brings together works by Hals with copies made as training by painters who have become famous. Paintings inspired by the themes of this great artist are also presented. Signed Hals, Manet, Van Gogh, Liebermann, Singer Sargent, Fantin-Latour, or Courbet, these treasures come from various museums and private collections.
Le Teylers Museum, meanwhile, is a surprising building whose entrance makes one think of that of a theater. It was built at the end of the 18th century by the will of the merchant Pieter Teyler, who adhered to the ideas of the Enlightenment. In what is the oldest museum in the Netherlands, you discover spaces that have hardly changed where artistic and scientific collections are gathered, as well as a library. Time travel guaranteed.
Until January 6, 2019. In modern rooms, you can visit the “Leonardo da Vinci” exhibition which shows more than 30 original drawings by the latter, as well as works by ten contemporaries and followers, as well as a replica of “ The Last Supper ”life size. These pieces come from all over the world.
Other museums may interest you: Museum Haarlem (city history), Het Dolhuys (national museum of psychiatry), ABC Architectuurcentrum, Archeologisch Museum Haarlem, Draaiorgelmuseum (mechanical musical instruments)…
Near Haarlem: tulips, beaches and hikes
In Lisse, south of Haarlem, the Keukenhof park is a must-see site. Open only in spring, its 32 hectares were covered with more than 7 million flowers, including 800 different kinds of tulips! Spaces and activities for children are on the program. From March 21 to May 19, 2019.
West of Haarlem extends the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park which offers you landscapes made up of dunes and marshes, fascinating scenery to discover during walks and hikes.
Crossing this park takes you to the North Sea at the edge of which are the Bloemendaal and Zandvoort beaches.
Finally, east of Haarlem you have a town named Amsterdam. We have been told a lot of good things about it!
Find all the tips, addresses and useful information in our online guide Amsterdam and its surroundings
To prepare for your stay, consult our Netherlands online guide.
Netherlands Tourist Board.
How to get there ?
- Train: Thalys from Paris North, Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam-Schipol. Change at Amsterdam Centraal for Haarlem.
- Plane: Amsterdam-Schiphol airport with Air France-KLM then train.
- Cycling: useful reminder: cyclists have reserved routes throughout the Netherlands. See also our article The Netherlands by bike
Where to eat and have a drink?
- Hotel Amadeus: Grote Markt, 10 in Haarlem. Nice hotel on Haarlem Market Square. Small rooms and bar. Doubles 65-100 €.
- DeDakkas: Kamp parkeergarage, De Witstraat 1A. The place stands out for its location, at the top of a parking lot. This bar and restaurant is set in a large greenhouse and has a spacious terrace with city views. Lunch menus € 8-13, evening € 22-34
- Jopenkerk Haarlem: Gedempte Voldersgracht 2. A church dedicated to the cult of beer! Bringing old recipes back to life, this brasserie is also a bar and restaurant. At noon, dishes and snacks € 6-9. In the evening, count 18-25 € per dish.