/ The Amsterdam Guide

If Amsterdam is too Crowded for You

Haarlem is the perfect escape, if Amsterdam is too crowded for you. The city is a showcase of historic sights, medieval architecture and Renaissance façades. Wander along idyllic canals, through cobbled street and serene hofjes. Haarlem is a vibrant city and only fifteen minutes by train from Amsterdam.

Haarlem is also the centre of the bulb growing industry. Late March and early April millions of bulbs burst into bloom. This is also the ideal time to visit Keukenhof Flower Garden in Lisse, only 15 km (9 miles) from Haarlem.


Train Station
Haarlem train station is a sight in its own right. This imposing building with arches and square towers and Art Nouveau details is worth more than a peek. Coloured tiles depicting various modes of transport grace the walls of the entrance hall. It was the terminus of the first Dutch railway that ran from Amsterdam to Haarlem and was opened in 1842.

St Bavo Cathedral

Grote Markt and St Bavo Cathedral
The vibrant market square packed with historic buildings, restaurants and outdoor cafés is dominated by 14th century St Bavo cathedral. The entrance to the church is through one of the 17th century shops that cling to its exterior.

On a sunny day the church glows with light from the stained-glass windows. Look high up at the patterned vaulted ceiling. Smile at funny-looking animals and humans carved in the choir stalls. The flamboyant organ is one of the largest in Europe and played by Mozart and Händel. It is still used for concerts.

The statue in front of the cathedral is Laurens Janszoon Coster, Haarlem’s most famous citizen after painter Frans Hals. He holds the latter A in his right hand. This is not just for decoration, Coster invented printing several years before Gutenberg claimed the same. The Town Hall next to the cathedral is a jumble of gables and pinnacles in different styles and dates back to mid 13th century. It is open during office hours for a discrete peek.

Frans Hals Museum, Groot Heiligland 62 (map)
opening hours, Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 – 17.00, Sunday 12.00 – 17.00, closed on Mondays
The collection in the museum comprises works of Frans Hals and other 17th century masters. Frans Hals was a talented portraitist who captured fleeting expressions of his subjects even more brilliantly than Rembrandt did. The museum displays the works of art in the way it was done in the 17th century – above antique oak tables and between cabinets filled with porcelain, silver and glass ware.

Hofje van Oorschol, Haarlem

Hofje van Oorschot

Hofjes or almshouses
Hofjes were built in the 17th and 18th centuries and used to provide subsidised housing for the poor and elderly, mostly women. The houses were very small and built around a central courtyard with beautiful flower gardens and communal water pump in the centre. Hofjes are often difficult to spot because the entrance is through an simple front door not much different from other doors in the street. Many hofjes have been renovated and are very popular places to live. Haarlem has 19 of them. One of the most beautiful is Hofje van Oorschot, at Kruisstraat 44.

Draaiorgel Museum, Küppersweg 3 (map)
opening hours, Sunday 12.00 – 18.00, entrance free
Learn about the mechanics of mechanical organs and an organ books. This is a set of folded cardboard paper with holes in it at different places. Air is forced through these holes and produces a melody.

Corrie ten Boom Museum, Barteljorisstraat 19 (map)
opening hours, Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 – 15.30, closed on Sunday and Monday, entrance free
During World War II the Ten Boom home became a hiding place for Jews and members of the Dutch Underground Resistance Movement. The living room looks still the same as it did during the war. In one of the bedrooms is the hiding place, a double sliding door in one of the wardrobes that led to a secret place. Corrie ten Boom wrote A Hiding Place which gives a true account of those days.


Eetcafé Aangenaam, Kleine Houtstraat 105 (map) uses Fair Trade and organic products. Medium sized portions and a limited choice of main courses €12 – €19.

Restaurant Noor, Kleine Houtstraat 31,(map) is more upmarket. Their 5-course (€ 42.50) menu is French oriented, every day a different menu. They are closed on Sunday and Monday.


Indrapoera, Kruisweg 18, (map) is a small hotel with only 7 rooms (doubles at €85). It is close to the bus and train station, but Haarlem is only a small town which means that almost every thing you want to see is within walking distance. The rooms are of medium size with shower and cable television. Breakfast is served in your room. Downstairs is a Chinese – Indonesian restaurant.

Hotel Die Raeckse, Raaks 1, (map) has a variety of rooms, singles, doubles, triples. Prices start at €75 for a double and include breakfast buffet. All rooms have recently been renovated, are ensuite and have cable television. WiFi is also available.

If you want to stay right in Haarlem centre Hotel Carillion at Grote Markt 27 (map) is the place to be. They have 20 rooms of which 14 are ensuite. (€85 for an ensuite).


If you like live music Café Stiels is your place, on weekdays they are open from 8 pm – 2 am and Friday and Saturday until 4 am. Every day of the week different style of music from Soul to Jazz and everything in between. Friday and Saturday you can join in the dancing and listen to soul, hip hop and rock. Look for their monthly programme. You will find them in Smedestraat 21, (map) just one-min walk from the Market Square.

Patronaat at 2 Zijlsingel (map) stages pop concerts, disco dancing and parties and starts at 9 pm. Check Patronaat for what’s on.

Haarlem has three cinemas. Films are always shown in the original version with Dutch subtitles. Brinkman is at de Grote Markt, the main square, Filmschuur Haarlem is at 9 Lange Begijnestraat and Palace at 111 Lange Houtstraat.

Frans Hals Museum

Organ in St Bavo Cathedral












photo credits: personal collection

    1 Comment

  • Hi Marianne, enjoyed your post! I didn’t have the best experience in Amsterdam – but I’m definitely interested in checking Haarlem out. Great pictures!

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