Haarlem is a lovely historical city, located on the river Spaarne at no more than 20 kilometres from Amsterdam. International tourism finally seems to have discovered the town's many charms, and an increasing number of visitors find their way here each year. A quick glance at the city centre makes it obvious why. Haarlem boasts a magnificent old centre with plenty of monumental buildings. As the city was home to several first class Dutch painters, including Frans Hals, there's a lot of art to go around. And if you're into shopping, a day in Haarlem is a day well spent too, as it was best shopping city of the country several times. Other towns may lay claims to that title, but Haarlem's centre undisputably offers a colorful mix of large chain stores, specialty shops, boutiques and art galeries. A broad range of bars and restaurants makes the picture complete. In short, Haarlem is well worth a visit. For those who are wondering: yes, the famous New York City neighbourhood of Harlem is named after this once powerful Dutch city.


Haarlem is the centre of a flower-growing district and a major export point for flower bulbs. However, with some 750.000 people visiting the city each year, tourism makes up an increasingly important part of the town's economy. With about 150.000 inhabitants, Haarlem is 13th on the list of largest cities in the Netherlands but when it comes to tourism, it's the 4th most visited city. As for most popular places, this may mean the incidental line and some crowds around main attractions in high season. However, the town is fairly quiet in off season and its growing popularity does come with ample opportunities to eat and sleep.


The first record of the name 'Haarlem' dates from the 10th century. Located on a busy north/south connection route, the city became the seat of the Counts of Holland. In 1245 the city was granted city rights by Count William II of Holland. Due to the heroic acts of knights from Haarlem during the fifth crusade and their contributions to the siege of Damiate in 1217, Haarlem was granted permission to show a cross and a sword in the city's coat of arms. Originally known for its flower growing district, Haarlem in the beginning was also known for its textiles, shipyards, engineering plants and textile mills. In 1573, the Spanish ended its charter. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Haarlem became known as a mecca for Dutch painting. Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Adriaen van Ostade were all located here. Also in the 17th century it became a refuge for Huguenots.

In the beginning, all of the city's buildings were wooden and the risk of fire was always present. Unfortunately for Haarlem, in 1328 most of the city was burnt down. When rebuilding began, yet again in 1347, another fire spread through Haarlem. This time though, it engulfed the Counts' castle and city hall. However, the Count decided that he no longer needed a base in Haarlem and decided to move to Den Haag (Hague). With that, he donated the land to Haarlem and later a new city hall would be built in its place. It would take over 150 years for the city to be rebuilt.

Get in

By train

Haarlem is well-connected by train, with intercity and sprinter trains running between Amsterdam and Haarlem Central Station roughly every 10 minutes. From Amsterdam, it's a 15 minute journey (€3,80) with trains usually leaving from platform 1 or 2. Pay a bit of attention: Haarlem is one of the stops on the main train line between Amsterdam and Dordrecht/ The Hague, so it will likely not be the final destination for the train. However, as not all trains to those cities will stop in Haarlem, check the signs or ask a conductor to make sure you're getting into the right one. Coming from Schiphol directly, you'll have to change once, at Amsterdam Sloterdijk (or at Amsterdam Central Station, but that will take you an extra 10 minutes or so). Trains are easy to use and you may be lucky enough to encounter one or more of the most entertaining ticket collectors in the country. They number singers and magicians among their members.

By bus

A good alternative is to use the big red and grey "R-net"-bus, line 300. It runs every 6–10 minutes between Schiphol and Haarlem Central Station, or you can get out at Wulft/Centrum. There are a fair amount of stops along the way, but for a lot of the journey there is no traffic because the bus has its own dedicated lane. The trip is approximately 45 minutes. You will need to carry your luggage on the bus with you. As on all public transport in the Netherlands, you pay with a OV chipcard and a single trip costs € 3,64. There are many bus stops clustered in this area—the one for the R-net 300 is across the street, and is indicated on the sign at the bus stop.

By bike

If you have or rent a bike, it takes between an hour and an hour and a half to cycle (depending on the cyclist) from the centre of Amsterdam, a fairly relaxing ride on typically level terrain.

Get around

Haarlem is best seen on foot: it's a 10 to 15 minute walk from the train station to the city centre. If you don't want to walk, bus lines 2, 73 and 300 will take you from the central train and busstation to busstop "Centrum/Verwulft" in about 5 minutes.

Although Haarlem's waterways aren't quite as numerous as those of Amsterdam, there are enough of them to make a tour of the city by boat a nice experience. Boats are operated by Post Verkade cruises(€9.50, Dutch only) and Haarlem Canal Cruises (smaller groups, open boat, €12.50) and leave from opposite Teylers Museum. It's best to call ahead.


After burning down in 1932, windmill the Adriaan was rebuilt only in 2002 to reclaim it's prominent place among Haarlem's attractions.

Haarlem's main sights are its lovely historic centre and its fine art museums. You'll get a good idea of what the city has to offer by just wandering the streets in the centre for a while, as many monumental buildings and the most prominent museums are all there. The tourist information office can provide maps and walking routes as well as guides, if you don't want to miss anything.


Teylers Museum, one of the main museums, is located along the river Spaarne

With 14 large and small museums in town, you won't be hard pressed to get your art and culture here. The most prominent ones are listed here. Museumkaart accepted.

Landmarks and sights

Saint Bavo Church on the market square


Visit the Teylers Museum which is the oldest public museum in the Netherlands. The museum hosts a collection of fossils (among which the famous Haarlem specimen of Archaeopteryx), minerals, historical scientific instruments and works of art, exhibited in a 19th-century manner.

The Patronaat is Haarlem's largest venue for live music. Their Fridays and Saturdays are dance nights and generally packed.

On summer days, hang out in the sun on Haarlem's 'Grote Markt' (near the Grote Kerk) after a long day of shopping or go sightseeing in Haarlem's ancient city centre.


Explore the Haarlem area by bike:


Kleine Houtstraat

Haarlem is a popular city for shopping in the region. It has been voted many times as Best Shopping City in the Netherlands and boasts a very diverse range of shops. The Grote Houtstraat, the main shopping street, has most of the obvious shops. The surrounding streets (Kleine Houtstraat and Gierstraat) house smaller shops, where you can browse or buy everything from high-end bicycles to teapots.

Shops are open from Monday to Saturday. Opening times usually are from 9AM to 5PM, except on Mondays when shops open at 1PM. Many shops in the city centre also open on the first Sunday of the month and usually shops may be open from 7PM to 9PM on Thursdays as well, the so-called "avondverkoop" ("evening sale") although no special discounts will be given).

On the main square (Grote Markt) there is on Saturdays a General Market and on Mondays a textile market.


Scattered through the inner city, you'll find a large number of restaurants. There's something for everyone and every budget, with many different styles of restaurants and a broad variety of cuisines.





Beerbrewing has been a very important industry for Haarlem. The historical Haarlems beer, recreated in 1995 is Jopenbier or Jopen.

Music venues


Comic convention

In the even years (2000, 2002, 2004, etc.) the biggest Dutch comic book convention 'Stripdagen Haarlem' takes place all over Haarlem. With events on the Grote Markt, in art galleries, Teyler Museum, de Toneelschuur and Patronaat.


Go next

At just 20 kilometers, Amsterdam is an obvious tourist destination nearby. However, there are a number of other interesting options.

Routes through Haarlem

Alkmaar Heemskerk  N  S  Amsterdam

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