By Trips and Books
Harlem, famously known as the "floral capital of Europe" is also the capital city of North Holland province. Haarlem is at the heart of the Dutch flower-growing districts and is the main export point for flower bulbs all over the world; every spring ~1.7 billion tulips are getting exported from/around Haarlem area.
Haarlem has everything you would want to see in a typical Dutch town, including canals, tulip fields, windmills, markets, breweries, beautiful houses, museums, plenty of bikes and boats. With just a hop away, Haarlem is perfect for a day trip outside Amsterdam. Getting to know about Haarlem:
As one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands, Haarlem has a rich history and cultural background. The city of Haarlem was formally formed in the 12th century. Haarlem used to be the heart of Europe’s Industrial operations until it was brutally sieged by the Spanish in 1572.
Soon in the 17th century (during the Dutch Golden Age), Haarlem reclaimed its industrial supremacy. Shipyards and machinery plants to tulips growing & export...etc, Haarlem became a key for western Europe’s industrialization.
Even today, Haarlem shines as the top exporter of flowers. Though Amsterdam lies within the same province, Haarlem still holds the capital city status for North-Holland province.
How to reach: Haarlem is very close to Amsterdam and well-connected through public transport.
By Train: Probably, this is the quickest and easiest way to reach Haarlem; within 15 minutes you can reach Haarlem from Amsterdam central station.
By Road: It is about 20 kilometers, you can comfortably reach by car within 30 minutes, but be prepared for the rocket-high parking charges. Its € 4.20 per hour!.
You can bike too, it is about the same 20 Kilometers distance. Biking from Amsterdam to Haarlem can be a beautiful experience (of course, when the winds and clouds of Amsterdam are in favor😈).
There are private boat tours from Amsterdam to Haarlem is also available, but not that popular.
Top-5 Things to do in Haarlem Haarlem has a lot to offer to the visitors; depending on your interest and time you can choose an itinerary for just a few hours or upto a week. Below are some of the top-5 things you should do:
1. Walk around Grote Markt & Grote Kerk
Almost all the cities in Europe will have a grand market square in the middle, and I never miss to visit them. With many people gathering around, carnivals, concerts, and markets, these center squares are often the face of the entire city.
The city center square of Haarlem is known as “Grote Markt”, is one of the historic sights. There’ll be always some carnival/ festival or concert during the weekends and can witness a grand street market on Saturdays.
When you’re in the Grote Market, don’t forget to peep-in to the magnificent cathedral - Grote Kerk, located just opposite the town hall. You will witness some of the best gothic architecture marvels, dating back to the14th century.
The pipe organ of the GroKerkerk is a historically renowned instrument. This was built in 1735 and was the biggest pipe in the world - with 60 voices and 32-ft pedal towers. Many famous musicians - including Mozart, have traveled here and played this masterpiece.
2. Climb on the historic Windmill - Molen de Adriaan:
Your visit to Haarlem (any Dutch city for that matter) is not complete if you don’t visit a windmill. The 18th-century windmill - Molen de Adriaan is very close to the city center that attracts visitors with its beautiful panoramic roof-top views. It is picturesquely located on the banks of the of the river – Spaarne.
3. Explore Dutch paintings at Frans Hals Museum
Haarlem is home to 15 different museums, and the Frans Hals is the one always on tourists’ top list. This grand museum features the works of famous Dutch artist - Frans Hals and many other masters. Whether you like arts or not, you’ll definitely like the beautiful facades and the grand building it is located at.
4. Experience the mix of history, arts, and Science at Teylers Museum
This is another special museum, featuring exhibits a nice blending of Dutch history and arts with science. This makes it special and suitable for every visitor. You can find fossils and rocks, to old Dutch master’s art, cultural artifacts, and many age-old scientific apparatus.
5. Enjoy & explore the tulips fields in serenity
If you want to enjoy & explore the tulips fields peacefully (without going to the crowdy Keukenhof), then the fields around the Haarlem area are the number#1 choice. Within 10-15 minutes bike ride from the Haarlem Central, you can find yourself in massive fields, surrounded by millions of colorful tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils. Every year, around the 3rd week of April, you can witness a grand spectacular annual flower parade (called as “Bloemencorso”). There will be 20+ huge floats and 30 to 40 extravagantly adorned floral cars will parade over the whole 40-kilometer road from Noordwijk to Haarlem. If it fits in your itinerary, you should not miss!.
Other noteworthy places:
De Hallen – museum of modern arts
Corrie ten Boom House - to learn about the survival of Jews during World war -II
Hofjes / Courtyards – 14th-century dollhouses at courtyards, built for elderly women.
Hotels & accommodation in Haarlem:
When comes to accommodation, Haarlem has many options to choose from; 5-star luxury hotel to student hostel, Bed& Breakfast to a camping house, you have everything you may want to consider.
Since I live nearby, I did not have the need to find a hotel in Haarlem. However, I have got some recommendations from friends/colleagues – for cheap & best options, here are they:
Hello, I am local – its a boutique type hostel, its very clean and well maintained, close to the city Centre.
B & B Haarlem 1001 night : it’s just on the Grote Markt, rooms are not that spacious, but very bright and clean.
B & B Mya – well furnished with garden
You can find all the other available hotels here.
Eating and Drinking:
Below are the restaurants/ eat-outs personally tasted and recommended by locals.
Staal : Its located on a 17th-century building with a nice wooden/ industrial themes furniture. This is one of the places liked by the residents very much.
Jopenkerk – a place to go for delectable beer tasting (do you know this was once a popular church and now converted into a beer tasting bar? 😉)
Fish & co – for the seafood lovers!
Viqh : for some wine tasting and bear/snacks
Hofje zonder Zorgen – to enjoy a high-tea at a beautiful courtyard.
Jansje – perfect for an evening snack or dinner at a green environment
Jetties – for the fitness / organic lovers. Heard that this restaurant is fully organic.