I know this can be quite confusing for my New Yorkers on the site but yes, there is a city in the Netherlands called Haarlem. And yes, the Harlem in New York is named after this wonderful and beautiful city.

Haarlem is one of the Netherlands most beautiful cities, located on the river Spaarne at no more than 20 kilometres from Amsterdam. It is a city that caught tourist eyes not very long ago and ever since then, has continued to attract visitors. One look around the city and one can easily tell why it is such a tourist magnet. Haarlem boasts a magnificent old centre with plenty of beautiful and monumental buildings. As the city was home to several first-class Dutch painters, including Frans Hals, there’s a lot of art to see. Summers are quite eventful and even if a tourist was only into shopping, there are shops scattered all over the city centre and are known to have some of the trendiest clothes. Haarlem’s city centre proudly boats of a colourful mix of large chain stores, speciality shops, boutiques and art galleries. A broad range of bars and restaurants makes the picture complete. In short, Haarlem is well worth a visit. And the wonderful thing is that it is only just a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam central station.

Things to do in Haarlem

There is so much to see in Haarlem and a visit in the summer months is always worth it. With over 14 large and small museums in the city, you won’t be hard-pressed to get your art and culture here. The most prominent ones are listed below. It is advised to rent a bike and cycle around the city as that is the best way to see the sights.

Here are a few interesting places to visit and things to do.

1. Teyler’s Museum Haarlem

Teyler’s museum can boast of being the oldest museum in the Netherlands. Opened in 1784, the museum’s collection remains broad and incredibly interesting. Apart from a fine collection of paintings and drawings, including works by Rembrandt and Michelangelo, it has a great collection of fossils, minerals and antique scientific instruments on display, but also medals and coins. https://www.teylersmuseum.nl/

2. Join a Baja Bikes Cycling Tour of Haarlem

Do you like cycling and are you curious about what the city of Haarlem has to offer? Then make sure you join the Baja Bikes Cycling Tour of Haarlem!

Curious why the beautiful Haarlem is so popular among day-trippers and tourists? Find out during the Baja Bikes Cycling Tour of Haarlem. Haarlem is located in-between Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Beach Zandvoort and is known for a large amount of greenery. The city is home to some nice museums and beautiful parks, some of which are national monuments. You will find out more about these during the bike tour. There are regular stops along the way, so the guide can surprise you with the best anecdotes and stories about the area and sights.

Order your tickets via Baja Bikes with the discount code BB0825 for a 5% discount.

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3. Take a Haarlem canal cruise

Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands that has beautiful canals. In a country mainly below sea level, water is never far away. Haarlem is a city rich of picturesque canals just like Amsterdam, so make sure to book yourself a canal cruise and discover the city from the water. A canal cruise in Haarlem will be a relaxing experience, as you can fully focus on the architecture, interesting places and people without having to watch where you walk. In Haarlem, there are two options for a canal cruise: the standard canal cruise or a hop-on-hop-off cruise which allows you to get off at points of interest. Both canal cruises have a duration of approximately 50 minutes.

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4. Frans Hals Museum

Named after one of the great Dutch Golden age painters, this museum houses a good collection of artworks from the Dutch Golden Age. In those days, Haarlem was one of the leading Dutch cities in the area of art. This museum is home to about a dozen painting by Frans Hals as well as works by a list of other renowned artists, including Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan Steen. At a separate location on the Grote Markt, the museum also has several exhibition halls with modern art. https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/

5. Archaeology Museum

Opened in 1991, Haarlem’s archaeology museum aims t show the world all the underground treasures excavated during many of Haarlem’s building projects. The museum is run by the Archeologische Werkgroep Haarlem (AWH) which was formed in 1970, and falls under the amateur archaeology society of the Netherlands (AWN). The museum is kept open by a large group of volunteers and is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 13:00 to 17:00. Admission is free for all.

What to see in Haarlem?

One of the main things to do in Haarlem is a boat cruise. Another is to rent a bike and cycle around the city. Haarlem is a pretty small city, so it is quite possible to cycle around it in a few hours. If you go sightseeing make sure not to miss out on the following sights:

Grote Markt Haarlem
Grote Markt Haarlem

1. Grote Markt

Haarlem’s Grote Markt is the hub of daily life in Haarlem and also happens to be one of the prettiest city squares in the Netherlands. Go there on a Saturday when the Netherlands’ finest street market rolls out its wares. You might find some nice souvenirs.

Grote Kerk Haarlem
Grote Kerk Haarlem From The Back

2. Visit the Grote Kerk.

When you’re done with the Grote Markt, step inside Haarlem’s magnificent cathedral, which dates back to the 14th century. The building’s turbulent history has seen it serve as a religious home to different denominations of Christianity, damaged by fire and still stands as one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the Netherlands. Inside, the gothic interior is nothing short of breathtaking and is the final resting place of several famous Haarlemmers including Frans Hals and Willem Bilderdijk. http://www.bavo.nl/

3. Visit the Molen De Adrian Windmills

De Adriaan Windmill which was originally constructed in 1778 and was burnt down in 1938 still stands today due to the mill being reconstructed. Guided tours of its museum are available on request. The museum showcases the history of the mill and the history of Haarlem and also shows a thing or two about the process of milling grain. http://www.molenadriaan.nl/

4. Visit the NZH Public Transport Museum

NZH Public Transport Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of public transport methods such as trams and buses. Its main aim is to preserve the heritage and history of public transport in the Kennemerland region of North Holland and on display are many different vintage tram carts. This museum shows you the different means of transport all through the years in Haarlem.

5. Haarlem City Hall

This is one for the history buffs and lovers of architecture. After large fires in 1347 and 1351, William II, Count of Holland donated the remains of the Gravenzaal to the city’s municipality. This is where the city hall was built in the 14th century, replacing the Count’s castle. The city hall is still used for weddings. There is a big market in front of the City Hall every Sunday and Monday. Saturdays are mainly for flowers, household goods, and food while Mondays are mainly for clothing materials, sewing accessories and clothing. Although the market is frequented by the local population, it is also a tourist attraction and is definitely worth a visit. Don’t forget to try the raw herring from the fish stand, or stroopwafels from the stroopwafel stand. The city hall is also used for state visits and it worth knowing that the Frans Hals Museum and the Haarlem Public Library were originally located in the city hall.

How to get to there

Haarlem is a city outside of Amsterdam in the northwest Netherlands. Renting a bike and cycling around the city would be the best way to discover it. Amsterdam isn’t very far away. It’s only a 30-minute drive and there are trains leaving Amsterdam Central very 15 minutes. It’s just a 15-minute train ride from the Amsterdam Central station to the Haarlem Central station. Haarlem has two stations – Haarlem Spaarnwoude and Haarlem Centraal – and it is Haarlem Centraal you need to disembark at to visit the city centre.

Trains to Haarlem

From Amsterdam Central station

From Amsterdam Central Station, there’s a regular connection with Haarlem. The trains depart every 15 minutes from platforms 1 and 2. There is a Sprinter (always departs from platform 1) and an Intercity (always departs from platform 2). Tickets cost approximately € 3 for a one-way trip from either of the two stations.

From Leiden Central station

There are trains leaving every 10 minutes from Leiden Central station. It’s a 20-minute train ride from Leiden to Haarlem and it costs € 5,90- for a one-way ticket.

From The Hague

There are trains leaving every 15 minutes from The Hague Central Station to Haarlem. The train ride lasts 30 minutes and costs € 8,50- for a one-way ticket.

From Schiphol Airport

Bus 300 departs every 15 minutes from Schiphol Airport to Haarlem. The bus ride lasts 40 minutes and the ticket costs € 4,37- for a one-way ticket. Tickets can be bought on the bus from the driver and also at the NS ticket office inside the airport.

Parking In Haarlem And How To Get Around

Of course, you could travel to Haarlem by car, but be aware that most parking needs to be paid for and is horribly expensive (around EUR 3,90 per hour during the day, and about EUR 2,70 per hour after 18h00). There are some streets around the centre where you don’t need to park but check carefully that you don’t need a permit to park there or you’ll receive a hefty fine.

Here’s a tip: If you don’t really need your car while in the Haarlem city centre, we’d advise you to park your car at the free “Park & Ride” parking lot at Harlem Spaarnwoude Train Station (right in front of IKEA). There is a frequent train connection between Haarlem Spaarnwoude and Haarlem Central Station. A train comes every 15 minutes and it’s only one stop away and a 4-minute train ride. Make sure you don’t leave any valuables in your car though.

Getting Around

Finding your way in Haarlem is actually quite easy. The city isn’t that big and you can easily walk from one place to the other. Of course, it is always a welcomed idea to “Go Dutch” and cycle around the city. Bikes can be rented from several locations in the Haarlem city centre.

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