Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Netherlands

Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam

If you are looking for a charming, medieval city with ancient buildings and cobbled stone streets, then you must go to Haarlem, a typical “Dutch” town, only 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam. This photographic small city is a hidden gem. Although it resembles Amsterdam with its pretty canals, historical sights, museums, cozy cafes and restaurants and its boutique shops, it has far fewer tourists. It is the perfect size to explore in one day and on foot. Half the fun of visiting Haalem is simply walking around and taking in the beautiful sights. So, let’s get started…

Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com

It’s impossible to miss Haarlem’s main cathedral, Grote Kerk (or Great Church). This impressive church dates back to the early 14th century and is one of the first sights you see as you enter the Grote Markt (or market square). It is here where ten streets converge. Where you will find the hub of daily life – from market stalls selling flowers, fish, cheese and bread or where locals crisscross through on foot or bike or where cafes and restaurants spill out their tables and chairs just waiting for customers. It has a certain quintessential European charm and if you enjoy people watching, this is the perfect spot to sit, observe and enjoy a coffee or beer. Many of the iconic Golden Age Dutch artists captured this very same pretty square and all its activity. Also, on Haarlem’s market square is the Town Hall, the site of the city’s government since 1100.

Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com

Venture out from the Grote Markt by taking any one of the small winding streets as your starting point to explore the city. You will quickly discover the vast number of boutique lined streets full of unique specialty shops. Scattered throughout several streets you will find everything from antiques to small art galleries to big brands to local independent shops. Even for those non-shoppers, it is a great place to wander and no doubt something is bound to pique your interest. But, for those serious shoppers, be sure to check out the best-known streets Grote Houtstraat, the Barteljorisstraat and the Zijlstraat, as well as, the streets of Schagchelstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Anegang, Warmoesstraat, Koningstraat and Gierstraat. And, most shops don’t open until 11:00 or 12:00. 

Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com

Another way to explore the city is to stroll through Haarlem’s hidden courtyard gardens, known as Hofjes. There are 21 hidden gardens scattered around the city, some of them are marked on google maps, others are a bit more secretive. All of them are concealed behind large townhomes and are tucked away behind unassuming doorways or unassuming alleyways, so it may require a bit of curiosity and luck to stumble upon all of them. Historically, the gardens are surrounded by charitable housing for the poor, unmarried or widowed women. Today, these quiet sanctuaries are open to the public and definitely a lovely way to explore the city.

Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com

If you are looking to give your legs a rest but still want to see more of the city, why not take a boat tour to see and hear about the local history and architecture. The Spaarne river winds itself through the heart of city and into various canals, the oldest being the Bakenessergracht, the Singels and the Nieuwe Gracht. It’s such a relaxing way to see the city and a great way to get your bearings before setting off to explore more.

Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com

For cultural enthusiasts, you have the choice of 15 museums. The most popular and definitely the best ones to visit are: 

  1. Teylers Museum is an art, natural history and science museum established in 1784. The building in itself is worth viewing, as it is the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands.
  2. Frans Hals Museum is an art museum and showcases the largest collection of Frans Hals artwork in the Netherlands. This happens to be the oldest art museum in Netherlands and offers visitors a second location called Hof, which means it is two museums for the price of one.
  3. Molen De Adriaan Museum is located under the largest windmill in Haarlem and provides all the interesting insights into these iconic Dutch machines. Part of the draw in visiting this museum is having the access to the windmill’s 12 meter high balcony that offers city views. 
Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
Photo credit: WikiCommons

Lastly, sometimes the best part of visiting a new city is trying out some of the cafes and restaurants. Here is where I recommend:

  1. Yoghurt Barn, a charming and cozy cafe, known by locals, as the perfect spot for a light breakfast offering delicious homemade yogurts, baked goods and coffee. 

  2.  Restaurant Metzo, is a rustic modern interior spread over three levels overlooking a narrow alleyway in the historic center. The menu offers modern takes on Mediterranean classics and the food was delicious. 

  3. The Jopenkerk, is a former church turned brewery. It is situated just outside the historic city center. You can decide to simply enjoy the sampling of the local beer or take part in the tour of the brewery that ends with a beer tasting session. There is plenty of out door seating and is packed on a sunny day.

  4. Native, is the perfect spot for hipster coffee lovers. It is tucked away on a quiet side street and is definitely a local’s hangout spot. 

Haarlem makes for the  perfect day trip. Even if you have limited time in the Netherlands, try and add this to your itinerary. You will not regret it!

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Haarlem – The Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam | DreamPlanExperience.com
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41 Comments

  • Lara Dunning

    I so loved reading about Haarleem. We have friends that live there and hope to visit them one day soon. It looks like a fabulous city with tons of history. I really love all the secret gardens throughout the city and that they provided some solace for the women that lived near them. I definitely want to check out The Jopenkerk!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Lara for your comment. Haarlem is such a wonderful city that I hope you get the chance to visit one day. You are right, those secluded gardens are beautiful and so serene and continue to exist. We could learn from that compassionate city planning couldn’t we?

  • Danik

    I loved this small market town (I call it small even though it looks big on the map and is full of houses/apartments due to being a commuter town for Amsterdam) and I loved my summer day trip here a few years back. I remember eating cheese and biscuits outside a cafe in the main square. Reading this post and looking at the photos sure did bring back some good memories.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Daniel for your comment. I am glad that this post brought back some memories for you. It’s funny a lot of our memories are associated with food and relaxing. Proves we need to do more of that when traveling.

  • Cindy

    Oh, I just love to wander in these kinds of less touristy, smaller cities. I could spend half a day in the market alone and the rest searching out those hidden courtyard gardens. Lovely photos!

  • Ketki

    Haarlem looks so cute! And I’m kicking myself for missing out on visiting this town when I lived in Rotterdam, couple of years back. I hope to make it back one day. Less tourists is such a plus point! You captured lovely photos 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment and your kind compliment. It is definitely too bad that you never had the opportunity to visit there while you lived in Rotterdam. That is one city I wish I have visited.

  • Wendy

    I have never heard of Harleem it looks like a beautiful city to visit. I can see why artist would flock to paint this plan. This will be in my most visit list.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Wendy for your comment. I am glad to hear that you would add this to your wish list. I hope you get there one day.

  • Stephanie

    I’m dying to see more of The Netherlands! It is the one country that I feel completely at home and comfortable in. Haarlem has been on my must visit list for some time, but your article REALLY locks it in for me.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      You and me both! I am dying to return. I absolutely fell in love with Netherlands and would love to see more of it too! Thank you for your comment Stephanie!

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    This is totally my kind of destination!! Easily accessible yet a world away from the major city nearby. The Grote Kerk looks stunning, especially that beautiful spire on top. The boat tour also sounds lovely. I am looking forward to the day when I get to explore more of Europe in depth and the Netherlands is absolutely at the top of that list. Thanks for sharing, Renee!

  • Sage Scott

    While I do love Amsterdam, I really REALLY love exploring other Dutch towns. I lived in Maastricht for three years, so I know those towns a bit better than the ones up north, but I have been to Haarlem. Great place!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I absolutely loved visiting Maastricht, one of my favourite towns. How fortunate you are to have called that home. I agree, Amsterdam is wonderful, but I really enjoyed visiting those smaller towns too. Thank you for commenting Sage.

  • Yukti Agrawal

    I love such charming, medieval city with ancient buildings and cobbled stone streets and therefore this Haarlem, a typical “Dutch” town, would really be my favorite. And it good that it is only 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam. It is truly photogenic.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It is definitely a hidden gem, where Amsterdam gets all the tourists and this city is just as beautiful. Glad to hear you have been inspired to add it to your list. Thanks for your comment Tania.

  • Ciara

    I didn’t know Haarlem in New York was named after this beautiful city! I absolutely love your photo’s – i’ve wanted to visit Haarlem for the longest time so bookmarking this for when I do!

  • April

    I love learning about this country and this particular place. My most favorite part is the idea of riding a boat around the area while learning the history and at the same time able to relax our feet from walking around town. Thanks for sharing this as always very informative!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      How timely is that? I would love to see it at Christmas time, I am sure it will be the perfect spot for some shopping and the market square will definitely be filled with activity. Safe travels and enjoy!

  • April Moreno

    With international trip planning happening in my head currently- hopefully on the horizon of next year, I appreciate that you have dove into writing about a lesser known place. With Haarlem being such a short distance to Amsterdam, it could be such a neat side journey to take…away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. Thanks for the ideas!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I always try and look for those hidden gem places that are not necessarily on everyone’s radar. Trip planning is so much fun, enjoy and can’t wait to hear where you end up! Thanks for commenting April.

  • Josy A

    Oooh great post! Haarleem looks like a gorgeous part of the Netherlands. I’d love to ride a bike through those winding streets.

    p.s. I love your “did you know” points. I didn’t know any of them!!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you so much Josy for your comment and kind words. Yes, biking is a great way to see the city, we did do that, just not in Haarlem. Glad to hear the Did you Know was new info! 😊

  • Smita

    Haarlem was on our list when we went to Amsterdam recently but we didn’t get a chance to visit. Reading your article I really regret not visiting! Your pictures are stunning – Haarlem looks like a supremely charming town. Love your little factoids in the middle too – so interesting that the NYC Harlem neighbourhood is named for this town.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Oh that’s too bad you didn’t get the chance to visit here. Always a reason to return! Thank you for your comment.

  • Brianna

    We were just in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, though we didn’t quite make it to Haarlem! We loved the entire area – the history, the architecture, the food! We’ll have to add Haarlem to our list for next time 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It sounds like you fell in love with the Netherlands as much as I did! I would love to explore more of it too! Thanks for your comment Brianna.

  • WanderlustBeautyDreams

    Haarlem looks so picturesque. Would love to visit here some day. I’ve been dying to visit Amsterdam, it looks like a gorgeous destination. Thanks for sharing this guide. I will include this day trip in mind whenever I get the chance to visit.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I was pleasantly surprised by Amsterdam, it was one of those destinations that you say to yourself “what took me so long”. Thank you so much for commenting.

  • Jas

    You had me at hidden courtyard gardens! Yoghurt Barn sounds like a delicious treat too. Seems like I will most certainly have to add this to my list for when I visit the Netherlands.

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