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Holiday in Haarlem, Holland

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Amsterdam has its charms (and vices), but if you’re looking for a European town with an old world feel, then take this as your cue to head to Haarlem in the Netherlands. Located between Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam, this city of 150,000 has a Golden Age atmosphere and feels like a village. Once a textile and beer center, it’s now best known as the city of flowers and is reputed to have the best shopping in all of Holland. It also makes an ideal home base for families or as a couples retreat. Here’s a look at what to do in Haarlem, Holland.

Haarlem, Holland

Haarlem, Holland (Photo credit: HansGuldemond/Haarlem Marketing)

Historic City Center

Start with a stroll around the historic city center. The ornate main square was once a jousting arena and the city hall was a duke’s hunting lodge in the 13th Century. Around town you’ll find tiny attached houses surrounding spectacularly landscaped inner courtyards. These are almshouses—a tradition dating back to the 14th Century when wealthy citizens commissioned homes for poor, unmarried woman to live in. There are 20 of these homes still in existence and are occupied by single women over the age of 50.Rest your legs at the belle epoch-styled Grand Cafe Brinkmann in Grote Markt square for coffee and a slice of their famous Dutch apple cake or pick up picnic provisions from the bustling Saturday market.

Shopping in Haarlem, the Netherlands

Shopping in Haarlem, the Netherlands (Photo credit: HansGuldemond/Haarlem Marketing)

Speaking of markets, Botermarkt square hosts outdoor markets four days a week. On Mondays there’s a vintage clothing market. Fridays and Saturdays is for food with a wide range of produce, cheese, charcuterie and flowers. And Wednesday is book market day. Anytime, stroll down Koenig Stradt (Kings Street) for an eclectic mix of high street and artisanal shops. Vintage Louis Vuitton suitcases, anyone?

Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Holland

Teylers Museum (Photo credit: HansGuldemond/Haarlem Marketing)

Museum Hopping

Teylers Museum is the world’s oldest museum still in its current form (take that, Louvre!). Established in 1784, you’ll find art by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo as well as the world’s largest collection of Rembrandt drawings inside. The original atmosphere has been preserved, providing a fascinating glimpse of how people looked at science and art in the 18th Century. Kids will enjoy looking at the fossils (wooly mammoth!), minerals and old fashioned scientific instruments.

17th Century buildings in Haarlem, Holland

17th Century buildings in Haarlem, Holland (Photo credit: KeesHageman/Haarlem Marketing)

Art lovers should make a beeline for the Frans Hals Museum. The city’s most famous son, he was one of the most renowned painters of the Golden Age. The museum is housed in a picturesque building which served as an old men’s home in 1609 and exhibits 16th and 17th century paintings.

Jody Robbins in a Dutch beer hall

Sampling the local brews at Jopen Brewery

Jopen Brewery

Beer drinkers will be pleased to know that Haarlem is a city with a rich beer history. Approximately 300 years ago, there were no fewer than 52 breweries in Haarlem. Sadly there are only two now, but the Jopen Brewery makes up for the lack of quantity with its quality. Located inside a former church (don’t you just love how liberal the Dutch are?), this was voted the most beautiful bar in Netherlands after a recent multi-million dollar renovation. Downstairs is a more traditional pub, were you can kick back with one (or more) of the 25 original beers brewed here. Families are welcome upstairs, where there’s a full menu including kid favorites and chalk boards for doodling. They’re also well known for their dinners with wine pairings and beer tasting classes.

Magnificent museums: check. Shopping: check. Craft beers: check. What more can one expect from a European holiday? Since you're in Holland, you should take some time to smell the roses tulips. With spring just around the corner, you won't want to miss the annual flower parade that winds its way through Haarlem each May. But I find the best way to go Dutch is simply sauntering along the canals (ideally with beer in hand), to suss out for yourself what's blooming.

Have you ever been to the Netherlands? Where are your favorite places to visit there?

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: My visit to Haarlem, Holland was hosted for purposes of this review. All opinions are mine, as always.

All photos by Jody Robbins.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments

  1. Ellen Lanin says:

    Good information. Is it a pricey city?

  2. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

    I wouldn’t say so. Europe is for sure more expensive than North America, but when comparing it to other European cities, I think you’ll find it’s quite reasonable.

  3. Jasmine Brown says:

    This is definitely a new place for me to visit. I never think of going to places I don’t normally have knowledge about. But your post makes me see that Holland is promising. I’ll add this to my travel bucketlist.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Holland is super easy to get around in. Almost everyone speaks English, it’s clean and feels very safe. If you’re considering Europe, it’s a great destination.

  4. Nicoline says:

    Hi, I’m a mother of three boys and I live in Haarlem. Your article is very nice and accurate and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed visiting my city. If you have any followers with kids who are thinking about visiting Haarlem but don’t know where to go, just let me know, I’ll gladly give some advice. (I even published a book about this subject, but unfortunately it isn’t available in English… :))

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

      Thank you so much for your kind offer! I’m sure our readers would love to get in touch for specific advice. If any requests come our way, we’ll be share to make the connection.

    • Hi Nicoline,
      I have family in the Netherlands (Broek in Waterland and Breda) and visit with my husband and children (6 and 4) every year. We always add a few days in a new town as a family and I think Haarlem will be our next choice. I’d really appreciate any suggestions on what to do with kids this age – we love galleries and breweries but they get bored easily! I speak a little Dutch but they don’t at all.
      We are thinking of hiring a houseboat I saw in the centre – my son would love it I think!
      Alison, Newcastle, UK

      • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

        A houseboat would be great! Would love to hear how that works out for your family!

      • Dear Alison,

        Great choice 😉 When are you coming over? Haarlem has lots of fun activities in the summer, like a picknick festival in the beautiful city forest called ‘the Haarlemmerhout’. A short list of things ‘not to miss’ with kids in Haarlem:
        – Meneer Paprika: a kids’ warehouse / lunchroom in the city centre, where kids have room to play while you enjoy your coffee or look around in the great store. Around the corner, at the Grote Markt, are the Vishal with changing exhibitions and museum ‘de Hallen’ with modern art.
        – Frans Hals museum: if your kids can handle one museum, let it be this one. The street alone is magnificent
        – Jopenkerk: a brewery in a former church. Have a delicious ‘Jopenbeer’ while the kids chase birds around the terrace or you can bribe them with ice-cream at the opposite side of the Raaks (Crostino)
        – Proefpark Haarlem: 22 – 24 August, great small-scale food truck festival in a park (www.proefparkhaarlem.nl). The weekend before, there’s Haarlem Jazz (www.haarlemjazzandmore.nl), which is also nice.
        – Dinner with kids is nice at one of the several pancake restaurants around town, for example ‘De Konijnenberg’ in adjacent town Heemstede (combine it with a walk in the Groenendaalse forest, where there’s also a playground called Groenendaal and a petting zoo). But what is really special, is a restaurant called ‘Buitenplaats de Plantage’, just outside of Haarlem, in Vogelenzang. You can order a great healthy meal, kids can play in the garden, you can take one of their picknick baskets. It’s wonderful.

        Enjoy your stay! And if you have any more questions, send them to nicoline [at] mugjes.nl, I’ll be happy to help.

        Best regards, Nicoline
        (writer and publisher of a book called ‘Mugjes’ – http://www.mugjes.nl)

        • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says:

          Great suggestions, Nicoline! Thank you so much. Next time I’m back I’ll be sure to add these to my list. What a great resource your comments are!

  5. Also close to Harlem is an awesome kids amusement Park called Linnaeushof. It’s got lots of rides and activities but they’re almost all muscle powered so it has a much more ‘hands on’ and interactive aspect for the kids. It’s fun for adults too, and is not so busy that once you’re tired, you can’t sit down to rest while your kid plays nearby.

Trackbacks

  1. Why Amsterdam is so Cool - Jody Robbins | Travels with Baggage says:

    […] More bikes and canal houses. These buildings are in Haarlem, an impossibly pretty town (and shopping enclave!) less than an hour away from Amsterdam. I wrote another piece on Haarlem you can read here. […]

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