Haarlem is Amsterdam’s little sister. Located about 30 kilometers west of Amsterdam and and an easy 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam, Haarlem is a charming city for a day trip visit from Amsterdam.
The heart of Haarlem is the enormous St. Bavo Church located on the grand square Grote Markt. Haarlem is even older than Amsterdam but much more quiet, while its many small fashion boutiques and sunny terraces make it a great tourist destination for culture, shopping and dining.
Here are 5 reasons to visit Haarlem from Amsterdam
1. The beautiful Art Nouveau train station of Haarlem
From Amsterdam, Haarlem is only a 20 minute train ride away. Trains from Amsterdam Central Station leave about every 15 minute to Haarlem. You arrive on one of the most charming train stations of The Netherlands. Haarlem railway station is an official monument, dating back to the 1908.
The Haarlem train station is the only train station in The Netherland built in the Art Nouveau architectural style. It’s heavily decorated with many colourful tiles.
2. Haarlem’s cobbled streets, church and historical buildings
From Haarlem station, you walk right into the historical inner city of Haarlem. Haarlem is similar to Amsterdam because it also has many canals, small cobbled streets, many churches and monumental houses. Basically the entire centre of Haarlem is one big monument. The buildings in Haarlem date back to the 16th to the 19th century.
Haarlem was one of the most important cities during the end of the Middle Ages. Its history goes back further than Amsterdam’s. The city was well known for its textile industry and for the many painters.
Haarlem’s Court Yards
Wandering around Haarlem, don’t be afraid to take the small streets, you might end up in one of the many court yards. Just like in Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter, Haarlem is full of these quiet, secluded gardens which were once the homes of single women, paid for by a benefactor.
Below are some guided tours I recommend in Haarlem. It’s the best way to understand the history of the city.
3. Haarlem’s famous shopping streets
Haarlem is considered one of the best places in The Netherlands for shopping. The main shopping area is called The Golden Streets, around the central square Grote Markt, in the heart of the old centre.
Along with well known international chain shops such as Zara, H&M and Mango, in the little side streets you find smaller boutiques full of design, vintage, concept stores, delicacies and stylish toy shops, antiques, food and fashion boutiques.
4. The best museums of Haarlem
For a visit to Haarlem, you have good choice of museums. Some of the best museums are located in Haarlem. The most famous museum is the Frans Hals Museum. Frans Hals is one of Holland’s most famous painters from the 17th century. He lived in the same time as Rembrandt and Vermeer.
The Tylers Museum is the oldest museum of The Netherlands and worth a visit, if only for the building itself. From 1784 onwards visitors have enjoyed artefacts from art and science.
The Dolhuys is also interesting for a visit. A ‘dolhuys’ was the name for a home for psychiatric patients, lepers and people suffering from the plague. Since 1900 is a museum for psychiatry. You can learn about the history of treatment of psychiatric diseases and get a grips on ‘crazy’ vs ‘normal’.
5. See Haarlem by canal boat trip
Like Amsterdam, Haarlem has many canals. You can see the city from a different angle by taking a canal boat tour. A canal boat tour is a great idea for a day trip visit to Haarlem.