Haarlem is a tiny house of joy in Northern Holland located next to Amsterdam at a distance of about 25 km. Located on the banks of river Spaarne the historical Old town of Haarlem is packed with sites that would easily fill a day or two in your itinerary. Additionally, Haarlem prides itself in being the home of of the Dutch master Frans Hals, whose collection you can admire in the museum of the same name.
How to reach Haarlem
Flight to Haarlem: It takes no more than 30 minutes to ride from Amsterdam or from Schiphol airport to Haarlem.
Train to Haarlem: runs every ten minutes between Amsterdam and Haarlem Central railway station. The 25-30 minutes’ journey costs €5 one way.
Bus to Haarlem: R-net buses from Schiphol airport will get you to bus station near the Haarlem city center in about 30-40 minutes Ticket costs about €4 one way.
Getting around Haarlem
Train station to the Haarlem city center is a mere 10 minutes’ walk. All the important tourist sites are located around the center and you can easily walk between them.
Top Tourist Attraction of Haarlem
The Corrie ten Boom House
Located right in the center of the town is the famous house of Corrie ten Boom. The woman who is forever immortalized for defying the Nazis by helping the Jews and the rebels hide in her home. You can tour around her house (guided) to see the tiny hiding space yourself.
The tour of the well preserved house starts with the guide’s passionate recount of the story of ten Boom family. The story of Corrie of courage and compassion goes on for thirty minutes in the living room. After which you climb the stairs to access the first floor – the bedroom. This is where the Bloom family hid the people, the hiding place is cleverly tucked behind a false wall accessible by removing the bookcase.
At the basement of the house you will find the watch shop where the ten Boom sisters worked with their father. You might find relief in knowing that her story ended positively (as opposed to Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl) with Corrie lived a happy life long past the Nazi regime and passed away peacefully at a very old age.
Entry to the house is only through the guided tour, which is surprisingly good for a free tour. However, at the end of the tour donations are accepted which would help the associated organization in running the tour.
Note: Tours run hourly and only 20 people are allowed in one tour group. You need to pre-book the tour well in time as the seats fills really fast.
Also recommended is the book – The Hiding Place – to know more about the poignant story of the ten Bloom family which had been an inspiration to millions.
Frans Hals Museum
Established in 1862 the museum is dedicated to the legendary Dutch master Frans Hals from 17th-century. Interestingly the collection was largely built by accumulating art works from monasteries and churches, and from abandoned buildings of the area. Earlier the museum also housed modern art collection, but as the collection grew pieces those were moved to the Museum De Hallen.
Entrance fee: students: € 6,00, Adults € 12,50. Audio guide is included in the admission fee.
Tip: Before you go download the smartphone app available from the museum website.
With hoards of restaurants, cafes and souvenirs shops Grote Markt is your typical central square in the Old town of Haarlem.
At the center of the square stands the magnificent green statue of Laurens Jansz Koster erected in mid nineteenth century. Koster was a native of Haarlem and interestingly local consider him to be the first to invent printing press beating Gutenberg. However, there are no evidences to suggest such outrageous claims.
The square where ten streets merge is lined up with a group of magnificent buildings, most impressive of the lot are Stadthuis, Grote Kerk of St Bavo and Vleeshal.
Stadthuis now used as the city hall dates back to the year 1100, though the original building went through several renovations over the centuries. Vleeshal which literally translates to flesh hall was constructed in 1603 and served as a meat market to sell fresh produce. The building is now used as an art gallery and hosts exhibitions throughout the year.
Also, not to miss is the Saturday street market and musical events which takes place around the year.
Sint-Bavokerk (Church of St. Bavo)
Located at Grote Markt square Church of St. Bavo is the icon of the little town of Haarlem. Construction of this Gothic styled church lasted decades and finally finished in the year 1520. Church has an old wooden tower which measures an impressive 75 meters.
Look down and you will realize that the floor of the church is actually all numbered gravestones! Look up and admire the beautiful mosaics done on the wooden ceilings.
However, the star attraction of the church is the 250 years old organ. Richly styled with stucco decorations the enormous organ measures 100 feet and has more than 5000 pipes. The history of the organ is equally fascinating, Mozart played it when he was only 10 years old!
The church boasts of incredible acoustics and hearing the recitals with this giant organ playing is quite an experience. Concerts are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the entrance is free!
Visit the crypt of the church where the remains of the famous artist Frans Hals are buried.
Admission to the cathedral is €2.50 and you are given a small information brochure with detailed information on different sections of the cathedral. Photography is allowed inside and there is also a small café inside the church.
Happy Traveling! Hope you have great fun!