LivingTravelDay trip to Haarlem, the capital of North Holland

Day trip to Haarlem, the capital of North Holland

Haarlem, the provincial capital of North Holland, offers hikers a leafier and less crowded alternative to Amsterdam. Beautiful 17th century architecture, secluded hofjes (courtyards) to explore, and a number of excellent museums make Haarlem a great destination, one that is only 20km from Amsterdam.

How to get to Haarlem

If you want to fly from Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport, take bus 277 or 300 (direction Haarlem) to the Central / Verwulft stop (approximately 30-40 minutes). Those who prefer the train should transfer to Amsterdam Sloterdijk to continue towards Haarlem.

By train, Haarlem can be reached in 15 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station.

If you are feeling really adventurous, why not get on a bike? The cycling route from Amsterdam Central Station to the Grote Markt, Haarlem’s main square, takes about 90 minutes. Bike rental services are available throughout Amsterdam.

Haarlem’s Top 5 Attractions

  • Stroll through Grote Markt , Haarlem’s main square, whose market stalls and museums during the day are separated from cozy bars and eclectic restaurants after business hours. Its jewel in the crown is the Gothic Sint-Bavokerk (St. Bavo’s Church), whose quirky interior details and world-famous Christian Mueller organ are definitely worth a visit. Most of the square’s monumental architecture now houses temporary exhibition spaces: De Hallen and Vishal showcase modern and contemporary artists, while the Historical Association of Haarlem Curators exhibits in the oldest Haarlem at its headquarters, the Hoofdwacht.
  • Explore the hofjes , the impeccably manicured courtyards that are the pride of Haarlem. The Haarlem Shuffle information portal provides a list of the most popular hofjes.
  • See the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands, the Teylers Museum. Established in 1784, the Teylers Museum has been dubbed a “treasure room for art and science” due to its permanent eclectic collection, from fossils and skeletons to Old Masters and more.
  • Admire the Old Masters , away from the Rijksmuseum crowds, at the Frans Hals Museum. Frans Hals, a native Haarlem son, appears alongside other 16th and 17th century masters such as Martin van Heemskerck, Judith Leyster, Jan Steen, and others.
  • Berserk with Het Dolhuys. Het Dolhuys, Dutch for “The Madhouse,” is the national museum of psychiatry, whose mission is to explore the definition, perception and limits of insanity in its provocative temporary exhibits.

Haarlem festivals and events

Revelers from all corners of the Netherlands flock to the annual festivals and other events held in Haarlem, some of the most beloved in the country.

  • Bevrijdingspop: Haarlem celebrates Liberation Day (May 5) with Bevrijdingspop, or Liberation Pop, a 12-hour music festival in the tree-lined garden of the Frederikspark. Two podiums for various musical acts, market stalls for retail therapy, and a special festival for children make this an event that attracts all persuasions.
  • Haarlem Jazz Stad – Jazz enthusiasts will know of Rotterdam’s top-notch North Sea Jazz Festival, but did you know that Haarlem Jazz Stad is the most popular free jazz festival in all of Europe? Acts from the Netherlands and abroad perform for thousands of fans for five days in August.
  • Stripdagen Haarlem: The biannual Stripdagen Haarlem (Haarlem Comics Days) is the leading comic book festival in Northern Europe, welcoming visitors with the diversity of comic art from around the world.

Dining in Haarlem

End your day in Haarlem with a meal at one of the city’s distinctive restaurants. Stellar restaurants line Haarlem’s cobblestone streets, but here are some real standouts.

  • Erawan: The Thai Ministry of Commerce awarded Erawan its “Thai Select” award for the supreme authenticity of its dishes. All the classics are represented here, from spicy tom yum (shrimp soup) to savory pad thai (Thailand’s national noodle dish).
  • Jai Bharat: Critics are unanimous that Jai Bharat, opened in 2009 just behind St. Bavo’s Church, serves the finest North Indian cuisine in the city. Relax with a lassi and one of their classic curries in its elegant but cozy atmosphere.
  • De Bokkedoorns: For the ultimate culinary experience in and around Haarlem, book a table at De Bokkedoorns in the picturesque dunes of nearby Overveen, whose new Dutch menu has earned it two Michelin stars.

Snacks in Haarlem

When it’s time for a mid-day snack, head over to one of these local favorites.

  • Anne and Max – A perennial favorite for excellent coffee, irresistible pastries and cakes, and sandwiches loaded with the best produce of the season. Crowded on weekends.
  • Haerlemsche Vlaamse (Spekstraat 3 ) – It doesn’t have the best frieze (fries) in Haarlem, with a wide variety of particularly Dutch and Flemish sauces (peanut sauce, anyone?), And located in the center of the Grote Markt.
  • IJssalon Garrone (Grote Houtstraat 179) : Classic Dutch flavors like specula (gingerbread) and stroopwafel (syrup waffle) are transformed into ice cream at this local institution.

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