Presentation of the destination
Cosy restaurants, blooming flowers, museums galore and the Netherlands’ best shopping await you in Haarlem, the capital of North Holland. Start your tour of Haarlem in the Grote Markt, at the center of the city’s historic buildings, and enjoy a coffee at one of the many cafes and restaurants or enjoy the Monday and Saturday market. Visit the oldest museum in the Netherlands, the Teylers Museum to discover art, science and Netherlands natural history in a beautiful 18th century building. See the works of the Dutch masters and contemporary artists in a former meat market hall ‘De Hallen’ and the Frans Hals Museum. Wander the ruins of the castle complex Huis ter Kleef in the city gardens or take a boat tour along the picturesque canals. Hire a cycle and head out to see the flower fields just outside the city. For those who are here for the retail therapy, you can pick up antiques, or a new outfit in the boutique lined pedestrian-only alleys or find luxury brands in the shopping centres. Relax in the evenings by the fire in one of Haarlem’s many restaurants. The focus here is on fine dining with fresh fish, oysters and steaks and meals ranging from three to as many as six courses.
Points of interests / things to see
Haarlem’s charming central square is the location of a big Monday and Saturday market and is surrounded by historic buildings such as the Saint Bavo Cathedral and City Hall. On market days the square comes alive with vendors selling delicious fried fish, breads and cheeses, vibrant flowers and clothing. Take a look inside the gothic Saint Bavo Cathedral, known also as the Grote Kerk, as there are some beautiful stained glass windows, Rennaisance paintings and an enormous organ once played by Mozart. The 14th century City Hall is Holland’s oldest. Originally commissioned in the 13th century as a hunting retreat for a Count it was added to in the following century but retained many of its original architectural features. Though it is not normally open to the public you can tour the hall on Open Monuments Day in mid-September. The Hoofdwacht building, constructed in the 13th century was used variously as a town jail, a city hall and even a printing shop. The De Hallen Museum displays modern art in a decorative building once used as a meat market here and downstairs is a small archaeological museum that gives an insight into the ingenuity and cultures of early Netherlands dwellers. Rest your legs and sample some local fare in one of the many cosy restaurants and cafes lining the square.
Take a walk along the Spaande River and you’ll find the oldest museum in the Netherlands, where works by Michelangelo and Rembrandt sit alongside displays of natural history and the sciences. The grand old museum has been entertaining visitors since 1784. The building itself is not particularly arresting from outside but the interior is quite fantastic with a high, window-lined roof that welcomes light into the gilded expanse of the Oval Room. In the centre of the room is an 18th century collection of gemstones and minerals, and scientific instruments and models line the cabinets along the walls. On the second tier is a library of encyclopaedias. Wander the rooms and halls off the Oval Room to discover fossils and dinosaur bones, stunning still-life paintings and depictions of 18th century Dutch life by master painters, including a large collection of Rembrandt drawings and etchings. Temporary art exhibitions are also held in the museum so there’s always something new to see. The museum also has a café with a restful indoor garden where you can take a break and enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Pick up a souvenir fossil or gemstone in the museum’s shop. http://www.teylersmuseum.eu/
Though not as famous as the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the Corrie Ten Boom House which hid Jewish fugitives behind a false wall provides an important insight into World War II in the Netherlands. The house belonged to Christian woman Corrie ten Boom whose family had lived in it since her grandfather had opened a watch shop in it generations before. The family housed around 7 fugitives at a time, from the Jewish faith and the Dutch underground resistance movement. It is thought that such safehouses, which Corrie helped to organise may have saved the lives of close to 800 people. Despite a Nazi raid on the house, the false wall in Corrie’s bedroom, behind which six fugitives were hiding, was never found. Of the four Ten Boom family members taken into custody under suspicion of helping Jews, only Corrie returned from the labour camps. She later wrote a book about the time, called ‘The Hiding Place’ which can be purchased at the museum. As you tour the house you’ll learn about the family and life in wartime from your guide. There are even ‘extended’ family photographs on the walls showing some of the people the Ten Booms hid. Peer inside through the hole in Corrie’s wall to the hiding place that saved so many. The house is not for profit but appreciates donations for upkeep. http://www.corrietenboom.com/
Play doctor, listen to patient histories, learn how brains work and malfunction and tread the fine line between insanity and normality in this unusual museum of psychiatry. Seven psychiatric hospices around the Netherlands have contributed to the collection of histories, instruments of treatment and interactive exhibits on display. It’s rather appropriately housed in the Dolhuys building which in the 15th and 16th centuries provided begging licenses for leppers and housed mentally ill people who were a danger to themselves. Wander through touching displays of patients’ belongings and learn about specific patients at interactive terminals. See a treatment room, discover the evolution of psychiatric treatment, and see tools used by patients put to work making shoes and clothing. Take interactive tests to see how your reactions compare to ‘normal’ ones, see what it’s like to be mentally ill, and enjoy temporary exhibits with a focus on mental health. Though you can get an English Audio guide, much of the interactive audio at the exhibits is in Dutch The museum also has a café located next door in an adjoining chapel. Entrance is € 8,50 for adults and €6 for children. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Haarlem is the beginning of one of the most picturesque driving routes in Europe, through fields of blossoming flowers to the town of Leiden. It’s definitely a trip you’ll want to pack your camera for! Adventurous cyclists can ride the 25 miles (40 kilometers) to Leiden or do a shorter trip to the start of the fields and back to Haarlem. Known as the Bollenstreek Route, the drive is at its most beautiful from February to May. There are a multitude of roadside stalls where you can pick up some of those lovely blooms that seem to pattern the landscapes right up to the horizon. Tulips (a huge export industry in Holland since the 16th century, crocuses, daffodils and irises are among the vibrant palette you’ll see on this drive. On the way to Leiden you can stop in at Lisse to wander through the winding, flower-strewn pathways of the woodland Keukenhof Garden and Castle. Leiden is worth the drive. The picturesque town features the Netherland’s oldest Botanical Gardens planted in the 16th century, art galleries, windmill, ethnology and antiquities museums and historic canal-front buildings. There are some very good restaurants and bistros here too, which serve up seasonal fare and feature lovely displays of cut flowers!
Not far from Haarlem in Alkmaar is the Dutch Cheese Museum and the Friday Alkmaar Cheese Market, where you can taste your way through the Netherlands’ cheeses. There is a small entry fee to the museum, where you will learn about cheese and butter making processes, from milking the cow to the final aged product through a short film, interactive panels and exhibits of the tools of cheese making. If you’re visiting on a Friday don’t miss the fun of the Alkmaar Cheese Market, where locals wearing traditional hats run with huge loads of cheese to be weighed and you can taste and buy cheeses of literally every colour. The market has been running here for over 400 years!
The Dutch masters are known throughout the world, and here in this former orphanage dating to the 1600s you can see why. The technique of loose brushwork, and an obsession with light playing across a subject were handed down from master to pupil. Wander amid scenes depicting daily life and get a feel for life in the Netherlands in the 15th to 17th centuries. The museum’s predominant collections are works by the local master painters Frans Hals and Verspronck, but the museum is also decorated with silverware, ceramics and period furniture. Audio guides are included in the entry cost so you can hear about the history and importance of the pieces. http://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/en/
The Netherlands’ oldest park is a natural retreat within the city. Long walking and cycling trails take you through the English style gardens and woods. There are several buildings within the park including a tea house, pancake restaurant and a mansion built as a rural retreat for a local banker in the 18th Century. The Villa Welgelegen was retained by Napoleon’s brother Louis after the French invasion. Later it was the home of Princess Wilhelmina of Holland who became the nation’s longest ruling monarch. These days it houses offices of local government, but some of the rooms are still open to the public. If you’re travelling with children, make a stop at the deer farm where these gentle creatures can be petted.
Some of the best shopping streets in the best shopping city, Great and Little Houtstraat also features many beautiful old historic buildings, which now house boutiques and restaurants. You’ll find Houtstraat just off the Grote Markt. Much of the street is shared access, meaning there are few cars and pedestrians have right of way. Big brands and outlet stores can be found on Great Houtstraat, while Little Houtstraat is known for its large variety of independent shops, chocolatiers, antiques, intimate cafes and even a candleshop where you can make your own! Shops in Haarlem are open every day including Sundays, with late night shopping on Thursdays.
Vacation rentals in Haarlem (North Holland)
How to get there ?
The drive from Amsterdam to Haarlem is around half an hour, but you can also get there by train or a bus in roughly the same time, and it’s actually worth stopping in at the Haarlem train station to see its beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and decor. If you’re arriving with large amounts of luggage, there are taxi stands outside the Haarlem train station that can take you to your hotel. Haarlem has car rental facilities, which is handy if you want to take the Flower Route, or you can hire a car at the Schiphol airport. If you plan to self-drive be aware that much of Haarlem’s parking is metered. As with much of the Netherlands, the most scenic way to get around is by bicycle, particularly if you’re keen to see the flower fields, as it’s only about an hour ride out to where the first fields begin. It’s also easy to get around on foot, with much of the best shopping and attractions centred around the Grote Markt and surrounding streets. Buses are regular and easy to use if you are getting footsore! If you have a bit of spare time why not see Haarlem by boat on a canal tour, or stay overnight on a historic ferry.
Hotels in Haarlem (North Holland)
Hotel Lion D'Or
2011 LC - Haarlem
Indicative price : 85 EUR - 169 EUR
Carlton Square Hotel
2012 DB - Haarlem
Indicative price : 98.1 EUR - 239 EUR
Grote Markt 10 - 1 hoog
2011 RD - Haarlem
Indicative price : 50 EUR - 95 EUR
Van der Valk Hotel Haarlem
2035 LC - Haarlem
Indicative price : 98.55 EUR - 385 EUR
Korte Veerstraat 40
2011 CL - Haarlem
Indicative price : 109.25 EUR - 198 EUR
Grote Markt 27
2011 RC - Haarlem
Indicative price : 44 EUR - 75 EUR
Hotel De Zoete Inval Haarlemmerliede
2065 AE - Haarlem
Indicative price : 97.5 EUR - 145 EUR
Amrâth Grand Hôtel Frans Hals
2011 HA - Haarlem
Indicative price : 110.25 EUR - 257.5 EUR
Jan Gijzenpad 3
2024 CL - Haarlem
Indicative price : 21 EUR - 174.5 EUR
Ambassador City Centre Hotel
Oude Groenmarkt 20
2011 HL - Haarlem
Indicative price : 79 EUR - 136 EUR
Joops City Centre Hotel
2011 DB - Haarlem
Indicative price : 69 EUR - 230 EUR
Bed & Breakfast Hotel Malts
2011 TP - Haarlem
Indicative price : 99 EUR - 162.5 EUR
Brasss Hotel Suites
Korte Veerstraat 1
2011 CL - Haarlem
Indicative price : 112 EUR - 295 EUR
Holiday home Waterpas
2034JM - Haarlem
De Witte Olyphant
2011 CJ - Haarlem
Indicative price : 186 EUR - 186 EUR
Turfhuys aan het Spaarne
2011 CB - Haarlem
Indicative price : 120 EUR - 120 EUR