When we talk about the Netherlands, the first city that comes to our mind is Amsterdam. Of course, Amsterdam is amazing and there’s a lot to discover but it’s also packed with tourists. If you really want to experience the Dutch culture, you’ll have to visit one of the smaller cities.
Situated just 15 minutes away from Amsterdam by train, Haarlem is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a beautiful, quiet city with a lot to offer. One day in Haarlem is more than enough to explore it and trust me, you’ll fall in love with it.
Quick jump list
1. About Haarlem
Even now, when I think about Haarlem city I just can’t help to also think about that weird dance called Harlem Shake that took the internet by storm a couple of years ago. Haarlem and the Harlem Shake are not related in any way. Now that we’ve cleared things up, let’s talk about serious stuff.
Haarlem is the capital of province North Holland and is situated on the river Spaarne. Haarlem has been the historical centre of tulip bulb-growing, hence its nickname – “Flower City”.
Beer brewing was an important industry in Haarlem. An interesting fact is that the water for beer was taken directly from the city’s canals until the 16th century.
2. Things to do in Haarlem in one day
Haarlem is the typical Dutch city: with ginger bread-like house, narrow canals and countless bridges. If you are planning to visit Haarlem in one day, here are the things you shouldn’t miss.
Grote Markt & Grote Kerk
One of the top things to do in Haarlem is to visit the Grote Markt. This is the historical heart of the city and one of the most important tourist attractions. Grote Mark hosts many festivals, concerts and local markets. Also, here you will find cute cafes and many souvenirs shops. I loved Grote Markt’s Dutch character and the fact that unlike Amsterdam, it was not busy at all!
Towering over Grote Markt is Grote Kerk. This cathedral dates back to the 14th century and its Gothic architecture can’t pass unnoticed. For just 2.5 euros you can also go inside the cathedral and admire its impressive organ with more than 5000 pipes (Note: this organ was played by Mozart). If you are lucky enough, you can even catch an organ performance (only during summer).
This 17th century wooden bridge over Spaarne River is one of Haarlem’s landmarks. This is one of the typical Dutch bascule bridges and if you haven’t seen one yet in Amsterdam, you’ll have to check out the Gravestenenbrug Bridge.
Hit the shops
Almost all the Dutch houses in Haarlem city centre have small boutique shops, bakeries and antiques shops at the ground floor. However, the most famous streets for shopping are Grote Houtstraat, the Barteljorisstraat and the Zijlstraat. If you are looking for souvenirs for your loved ones or just want to go window-shopping, Haarlem is the perfect choice.
Molen de Adriaan
A day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem would never be complete without a visit to Molen de Adriaan. This beautiful Dutch windmill is one of the most photogenic spots in Haarlem. Although this windmill is just a reconstruction (the original one burnt down in 1932), it still has its charm. For 3.5 euros you can climb on it and admire the views over Haarlem.
Also, don’t forget to cross the river to take some photos with this beautiful windmill.
Take a canal cruise
Head to Club Spaarne and rent a boat for one hour for just 25 euros. You can pilot it yourself! Just follow the map and enjoy a different perspective over Haarlem. It’s fun!
Discover Haarlem’s hidden courtyards
Haarlem is well known for its hofjes. These houses with enclosed courtyards were built for poor, unmarried or widowed women. There are 21 main public hofjes in Haarlem but finding them can be a challenge since most are well hidden behind closed doors.
In order to make things easier for you, I’ll name a few popular hofjes (you’ll just have to search them on Google Maps): Hofje van Noblet, Teylers Hofje and Hofje van Bakenes. You’ll have to find the other 18 on your own (challenge accepted?).
You can find more information about hofjes here.
Cathedral of St Bavo
One of my favorite Haarlem tourist attractions is Cathedral of St Bavo. Its Neo-baroque architecture with countless round shaped towers is awe-inspiring. A visit to this cathedral is the perfect way to end your Haarlem day trip.
3. The best time to visit Haarlem
The best time to visit Haarlem is during summer. We all know that the weather in the Netherlands is rainy most of the time, especially during autumn, winter and spring. However, don’t let yourself get discouraged by the weather.
Haarlem is beautiful year-round. Even if it rains, just bring your umbrella and explore the city; it’s still better than the hotel room.
4. How to get around Haarlem
Haarlem is a small city. You can walk pretty much anywhere. If you want to follow my recommendations about the must see places in Haarlem, you should definitely walk. You’ll discover cute, narrow streets with beautiful shops and you’ll have the time to admire Haarlem’s architecture.
5. How to get to Haarlem from Amsterdam
Taking the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem is the best choice. The ride will take only about 15 minutes. You can use 9292.nl to find the trains’ schedule. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also bike to Haarlem (22 kilometers). You can easily rent a bicycle from Amsterdam and go to Haarlem – it will take you about one hour and a half each way.
If you are planning to visit Haarlem in one day, I hope that this itinerary was helpful. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments section.
May the travel bug bite you!
More about the Netherlands:
- Giethoorn – the city with no roads – click here
- Keukenhof tulip garden – complete guide – click here
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