Affectionately regarded as a “miniature Amsterdam,” the city of Haarlem makes a rewarding destination for a break from the Netherlands’ capital, combining a friendly village vibe with beautiful architecture and exemplary cultural, dining and retail opportunities.
Flanked by the scenic coastline and situated west of Amsterdam, this welcoming municipality can be reached through a fifteen minute train journey from Central Station and comes highly recommended for visitors seeking an authentic glimpse into typical Dutch life. Steeped in history and dating back to pre-medieval times, this charismatic locale boasts numerous buildings showcasing its rich heritage, which line a series of quaint cobbled streets oozing with charm and character. Two such significant structures overlook Haarlem’s primary square, the 14th century City Hall and the iconic landmark of the Grote Kerk, otherwise known as the Church of Saint Bavo. Dominating the skyline for centuries, the city’s largest religious edifice features a Gothic style and a stunning and immaculately preserved interior that evokes a true sense of history. Original tombstones secreting celebrated figures carpet the floor, whilst the prestigious organ delights guests with rousing concerts throughout the week, made famous for accommodating such talented players as Handel, Mendelssohn and Mozart.
The surrounding plaza, the Grote Markt, presents a picturesque setting for watching the world go by, with several terraces on hand for enjoying respite and refreshment. Mondays and Saturdays witness a surge in activity as a result of the animated market, perfect for sampling traditional delicacies, such as the inimitable herring or the festive oliebollen, or purchasing authentic souvenirs and gifts. Shopping enthusiasts will be delighted by the variety of stores available in the adjacent thoroughfares, which provide a much more pleasurable experience than the chaos of Amsterdam’s retail avenues, complimented by a marked improvement in customer service. This warmth and hospitality can be found across the wealth of public amenities, with numerous bars, cafes and restaurants at your disposal for indulging in a memorable evening of culinary delight or jovial entertainment.
Cultural options are also in abundance within the vicinity, ranging from the wonderful Teylers Museum to the inspirational Corrie Ten Boom House, with arguably the city’s most treasured establishment, Frans Hals Museum, coming highly recommended for an enriching outing. Petite yet beautifully curated, this endearing venue instantly captivates with its relaxed, cosy atmosphere and fantastic array of artworks from the Golden Age master and his contemporaries. Blending a pictorial aesthetic with a multitude of attractions and a convivial ambience, Haarlem grants a refreshing alternative for a fulfilling Dutch encounter, completing an unforgettable day out from your Amsterdam rental apartment, the best selection of which can be found here.