What to do in Haarlem
Haarlem is the capital of North Holland and it has a lot to offer even though it‘ as a relatively small city. If you were looking for Harlem in New York City, fret not just head here for a full New York itinerary.
Haarlem is located just 15min by train from Amsterdam so which makes it a perfect day trip from the capital.
Haarlem is full of museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants and weekly markets. It is a typical “Dutch” city so let’s not forget the pretty canals, amazing architecture and laid-back vibe.
In this post you can read all about what to do in Haarlem in one day, where to eat and where to stay. Most of the people visit Haarlem for only one day or even as a half-day trip from Amsterdam, which is a shame as this small city offers plenty of things to do.
If you‘re on a budget, Haarlem could be a good option to stay and visit Amsterdam from there.
What to do in Haarlem
Grote Kerk – St.Bavokerk
Grote Kerk is located in the Grote Markt Square and it is one of the city’s most recognized landmarks. It was constructed in the 1500s after the destruction of the previous wooden building.
You can also find here the famous Müller Organ which is considered as one of the greatest such instruments in the world for its tone and decoration.
If you can plan your visit to the church while there are regular organ recitals so you can have the real experience.
Frans Hals Museum
Frans Hals Museum was established in 1913 and it is one of the leading art galleries in the Netherlands and an important historic structure in Haarlem.
The museum offers the work of the Haarlem Academy, which is a group of artists established by Francs Hals in the 1600s.
Nowadays, the museum consists of the world’s largest collection of Hal’s works, portraits, landscapes and the collection of modern and contemporary art from other iconic painters that were working during the Dutch Golden Age.
Teylers Museum was established in 1778 and its collection focuses on the development of the sciences and arts. It is the oldest museum in the Netherlands and it definitely should be on your list about what to do in Haarlem.
The museum’s monumental Oval room which is floor to ceiling with wooden panels became a tourist attraction which is worth visiting.
If you want to feel the real vibe of the city, visit Grote Markt in Haarlem’s centre. During the weekend sometimes you can experience an open market in the middle of the Grote Markt square with organic produce or secondhand goods.
The Grote Markt is also a place where regular festivals and concerts take place so you should not miss one of the prettiest city squares in the country. If you fancy a coffee this is the perfect place to relax during your one day trip in Haarlem.
When you‘re visiting the Grote Markt make sure you also explore City Hall where you can admire amazing architecture and history.
It would not be in the Netherlands if there is no windmill. You can find windmills everywhere in this country and there are many historic windmills that have stood the test of time.
Haarlem is home to the Molen De Adriaan Windmill where you can go for a guided tour which also includes the museum and the history of the windmill.
The best place for taking picture of this windmill is opposite the river, just across the Spaarne river from where you can enjoy this beautiful landscape.
Bloemendaal Aan Zee beach
Within a 20min drive from Haarlem, you can get to this stunning beach and you can enjoy some relaxing time outside of the city.
You can also go for a bike ride with spectacular views as you cycle through kilometers of wild dunes.
During summer, I recommend visiting the beach clubs to grab lunch or have a nice cocktail.
One of the most beautiful corners of Haarlem lies around the Bakenessergracht where you can find plenty of the city’s oldest and most spectacular buildings.
The Amsterdamse Poort is an iconic gatehouse that was originally used as part of the city‘s fortifications in the 17th century.
The gatehouse has been renovated during the years so you can walk through the archway and admire this wonderful historic structure.
It is not open to the public but it remains as an important historical structure and one of the most beautiful attractions in the center of Haarlem.
Day Trips from Haarlem
Haarlem is the perfect location from which to take some day trips and explore the Netherlands a bit more.
One of the amazing places you could easily visit from Haarlem is Zaanse Schans. Zaanse Schans is located just about 40min by train from Haarlem and the ticket cost 5.40 EUR one way.
Zaanse Schans is a typical Dutch small village with authentic houses and traditional windmills. It’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time and are seeing Holland as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of the main attractions is to visit the historic windmills. Some of them are still fully operating so you can see how they were used to make spices, flour and more.
Another important part of Zaanse Schans is the museum where you can learn all about the history of the Zaans. You can learn how raw materials were processed or how other products were made in the past.
When you walk around, you will notice many typical old Dutch handicraft shops including Cheese farm where you can learn all about the cheese production and history.
Additionally, you can also discover the Zaan district from the water and take a boat tour.
The opening times of the village change a bit depending on the season but the majority of the attractions are opened from 9 am to 5 pm.
If you want to take the full advantage of visiting Zaanse Schans, I would recommend getting the Zaanse Schans Card. For only 15 EUR you can visit several museums free of charge and get additional discounts in souvenir and craft shops.
Another place which is perfect for a day trip from Haarlem is Delft. Located about 45min by train from Haarlem, is well known for its historic downtown area, typical Dutch canals and manufacturing of Delftware pottery that has been around since the 17th century.
It was also the home to the popular painter Johannes Vermeer and statesman Hugo Grotius.
When you go to Delft you should not miss the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) which is located at the main Market square in the middle of the city. It was built between 1396-1496. To enjoy the spectacular view, you‘ll need to climb 376 steps to get there so it‘ll give you a little work out for the day too.
Not far from the New Church is the Old Church also known by locals as Old John. The church contains a number of important works of art and it is definitely worth visiting.
As Delft is very famous for the Delftware pottery, you should include visiting De Porceleyne Fles (also called Roayl Delft) where you can learn more about the history and production of Blue Delftware. You will be able to watch the painters in action and view some of the historical collections of Delftware pottery.
Another highlight of Delft is the main City Hall which was originally built in the 13th century and then rebuilt in the 17th century. It is a stunning building and you can take a guided tour to explore an interesting collection of paintings.
And of course, don’t forget the canals. In Delft, you can find popular Old Canal which traverses the city from the north to south and it is a great place for a romantic afternoon.
If you are traveling with kids, I would recommend visiting the Science Centre at the University of Technology in Delft. This museum offers a lot of activities or experiments not only for the kids.
If you want to learn more about the life of the famous painter Johannes Vermeer then visit the Vermeer Center in Delft. The museum contains information about his life and exact copies of his paintings with additional facts.
You can finish your visit in Delft by going to Rose Windmill which is one of the top attractions and historic landmarks of the city. You can climb up using the ladder to enjoy amazing views over the city.
How to get there
To get to Haarlem from Amsterdam is really easy. Just take one of the trains from Amsterdam Centraal Station and you’ll be there in about 20 minutes. The trains usually leave Amsterdam Centraal Station from Platform 1 or 2 every 15 minutes.
The ticket costs 4.50 EUR one way.
You can also take a train from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport which will get you to Haarlem in about 20 minutes.
Due to its location and closeness to Amsterdam, Haarlem is easily reachable by international trains across Europe or by flights to Schiphol Airport.
Where to eat
Westhoff is a popular place for breakfast in Haarlem. It is also a coworking place and they serve a great vegan latte.
Hofje Zonder Zorgen is located in the middle of the city center and it is the perfect place for lunch.
You can enjoy your meal or coffee in the former hofje which is a historic courthouse. You will find many hofjes in the Netherlands and Haarlem is particularly well known for having well-maintained hofjes.
The Jopenkerk is a former church turned brewery so if you are a fan of beer, this is going to be your place. I also recommend having dinner here but be aware that it is quite busy here especially during the weekends.
Where to stay
Stayokay Haarlem is located on the edge of the city within a short distance from the beach. The single bed in 6-Bed Dormitory room starts at $28 USD with breakfast included.
Hello I’m Local is located in the city center of Haarlem close to the main central station. As an interesting fact, each room is designed by a student of the interior design school in Haarlem.
A double room with shared toilet starts from $100 USD without breakfast. You can add breakfast for $10 USD per person when you book it or at the reception.
Boutiquehotel Staats features a restaurant, bar, and a sharp lounge and garden so you can relax during your stay in Haarlem.
The junior suite starts at $180 USD excluding breakfast which costs $16 USD per person.
Haarlem is located very close to Amsterdam, so the obvious recommendation would be visiting the capital for one day or two days.
If you come during springtime, you should not miss Keukenhof, with its amazing tulip gardens close to Haarlem.
Around Haarlem, there are many beautiful Dutch cities which are worth visiting. One of them is Alkmaar sometimes called the ‚cheese‘ city due to its popular cheese market. The train ticket from Haarlem to Alkmaar costs 7.40 EUR one way.
You should also visit Utrecht as it is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and a popular tourist destination with plenty to do.
Got any activities you’d add to what to do in Haarlem? Let me know in the comments and I might add them to the list.
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