Haarlem in a great city to visit in the Netherlands, with many things to do and the beach around the corner. The city used to be an important sea trading port, surrounded by a defensive wall, and you can still notice the medieval atmosphere. Especially when you walk over the cobblestone streets and observe the many gabled houses. Haarlem is known for its cultural highlights, museums, great shops and gastronomy. And it is the perfect destination for a weekend away or daytrip. In this article you’ll find a two-day itinerary, including many tips for your visit.
De Adriaan Windmill
Start your day with a visit to the Adriaan windmill, located at the Spaarne river. It is one of the most famous picture spots in Haarlem. The best thing to do is to find a place at the other side of the river and capture the windmill from there. Make sure to visit the windmill’s little museum as well. You will not only learn about the history and importance of windmills in the Netherlands. But the 12 meters high platform is offering nice views of the river and city. If you like to wake up early, try to go for a sunrise, around the Adriaan! it is beautiful.
Visit the Sain Bavo Church and main city square
From here it is an easy walk into the historic center of Haarlem. Head towards the Saint Bavo church, located at the Grote Markt (central square). It is one of the main landmarks in Haarlem, because of its 78 meters high tower and historical importance. You can see the church and tower from almost everywhere in the city. It is worth to enter the church and look around, as many famous Haarlem inhabitants are buried in the church. Pay also special attention to the organ. It became world famous, because it was played by Händel and Mozart.
After your visit, stroll around the Grote Markt square. There are many terraces to enjoy a drink and observe the daily life around you. As it is the main city square, there is always something going on.
Enjoy a lunch at one of the Hofjes
You might be hungry at this point. One of the best places for lunch in a scenic setting is the Hofje Zonder Zorgen. This lunchroom, housed in a 15th century building, is serving organic food only. While enjoying your lunch, you’ll have a beautiful view of the courtyard of the Proveniershofje.
Explore the Haarlemse Hofjes
After your lunchbreak you can continue your tour through the Haarlemse Hofjes (courtyards). Haarlem is home to 21 hidden courtyards, all surrounded by old mansions. These mansions were used as alsmhouses (charitable housing) and inhabited by the poor, unmarried and widowed women from Haarlem.
Nowadays these courtyards are open to the public and it’s super nice to visit a few of them and enjoy the lovely atmosphere.
Discover the Teylers Museum
When you finish your walk through the Hofjes and you have some energy left, visit the Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands. It was founded in the 18th century and nothing has been changed since. The Teylers museum is all about discoveries such as scientific experiments, world expeditions, excavations and artistic achievements. The museum is a big surprise to most people, because of the authentic setting. There are fossils, minerals, scientific instruments, books, prints and paintings, all displayed in a beautiful way with natural lights. If you want to visit their impressive library, it is important to schedule your visit in advance and request a time slot.
Observe the crow-stepped gable houses
When you leave the museum, pay some special attention to the other side of the canal. You’ll see a drawbridge with two crow-stepped gable houses in the background. It’s a great photo spot!
Finish your day in one of the many restaurants Haarlem has to offer. If you are into fish, head to Fishbar Monk. All plates are to share, so you can taste different dishes. And for every meal, there are matching wines and bubbles! Looking for a different style or vibe, there are many restaurants around the Grote Markt, Spaarne and golden streets.
Stroll around the Vijfhoek area
Start you day with a nice walk through the Vijfhoek area. It’s one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Haarlem and a perfect place to take pictures. You will find many cobblestone streets, little squares and typical Dutch houses. Many of them are decorated with flowers and greenery and have a little seating area in front. Make sure to stop and have a drink at the local Cafe the Vijfhoek. It’s located on a square in the center of the Vijfhoek.
Visit the Dome Cathedral
From here it’s an easy walk to the De Kathedrale Basiliek Sint Bavo, better known as the Dome Cathedral. This impressive basilica, is located just outside the city center and less visited than the cathedral on the main square. Interesting to know is that the Dome Cathedral together with the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona), Sacré-Coeur (Paris) and Westminster Cathedral (London) is one of the most important churches built in the world between 1850 and 1950.
You can walk around and observe the cathedral from different sides. Inside you can admire the beautiful stained glass decorations. It is also recommended to visit the towers. Steep stairs will bring you all the way to the top of the 60 meters high tower, from where you have a beautiful view of the surroundings.
Lunch at the Parck cafe
Head to the Parck Cafe for a nice lunch break, located at the Frederikspark. They serve fresh salads, sandwiches and soups. And if the weather is nice, you can find a table on their terrace.
Admire art in the Frans Hals Museum
If you are interested in art, you might already have heard about Frans Hals. Frans Hals, together with Rembrandt and Vermeer, is one of the most important Dutch masters of the Golden Age. One of the places you therefore can’t miss when visiting Haarlem is the Frans Hals Museum, the birthplace of the famous artists. You will find his largest and most important collection here, including his famous group portraits of archers and regents. The Museum has two locations, only 5 minutes away from each other, and you can easily visit both in one afternoon.
Shop in the Golden streets
Just behind the museum there are the Golden Streets of Haarlem. In this trendy district, you’ll find hundreds of vintage & concepts stores, nice lunchrooms and many restaurants. Walk through de Kleine Houstraat, Gierstraat, Koningstraat and many more. Haarlem has even been voted best shopping destination in the Netherlands. Just don’t forget to have a look at the beautiful facades of the houses as well!
Dinner at the Jopenkerk
Finish your stay in Haarlem, with dinner and drinks at a special location: the Jopenkerk. The Jopenkerk is a former church transformed into a grand café and beer brewery, with countless of beers to taste.
But even if you don’t drink beer, you still want to go here because of the food and the super cool interiors. They also have a great tasting menu, with small dishes and bites. And if you are into beers, make sure you opt for beer pairing.
Extra tip –the beach
If the weather is nice, enjoy a day or afternoon at the beach! Haarlem is famous for having its beaches Bloemendaal and Zandvoort around the corner. Rent a bike and you will reach the beach within 30 minutes. Or take the train to Zandvoort beach! If you don’t feel like relaxing on the beach, there are kilometers of wild dunes to explore. There are many cool beachclubs in Bloemendaal to enjoy a drink or dinner.
About Deborah from Passport The World
Deborah is a TV reporter, producer, tour guide, host and content creator from the Netherlands. She has been travelling around Latin America and Asia for the last 15 years, looking for the most scenic places and stories that are worth sharing. Passport The World is her online magazine, focusing on scenic and cultural travels around the world. You can also find her on Instagram at @passporttheworld, facebook @passporttheworld.and pinterest (https://nl.pinterest.com/PassportTheWorld)
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