What to do in Haarlem, the Netherlands

If you’ve read any of my other posts about visiting the Netherlands, you’ll know by now that I’m a huge fan of getting outside of Amsterdam to see more of the country. While there are plenty of cool things to do in Amsterdam, there are tons of great things to do outside of the city as well that are definitely worth a visit!

Located just 17km (10m) away from Amsterdam is the city of Haarlem – an almost miniature version of Amsterdam itself dating back to 1245. A day trip to Haarlem from Amsterdam is one of the best things to do on a trip to Holland and one of the best places to see in the Netherlands.

Whether you’re visiting Haarlem on a day trip from Amsterdam, or plan to spend a few nights in Haarlem, this is a list of the best things to do in Haarlem to make a perfect itinerary for Haarlem, even if you spend just one day in Haarlem.

If you’re not sure who the Dutch are, or the difference between Holland and the Netherlands, you’ll want to read this post on where Holland is.


1. Visit the impressive Grote Kerk

Grote kerk haarlem The ceiling of the Grote Kerk[/caption]

From Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear

Like many churches in the Netherlands, Grote Kerk was originally a 15th century Catholic cathedral built during Spanish rule. However after the Dutch gained independence from Spain, all cathedrals throughout the country were converted to Protestant churches stripping all decorations and statues from the buildings.

Fun Fact: This church was also mentioned in the biography of Corrie Ten Boom (we’ll get to her soon!).

From the outside, the church looks similar to any other Protestant church in the Netherlands, built in Gothic style with grayish stone walls, stained glass windows, and a single tower rising up towards the sky. However the true beauty of the church lies within, the gorgeous ceilings and the enormous pipe organ are a sight to be seen so don’t forget to look up!

The vaulted wooden ceilings of Grote Kerk are amazingly beautiful. The woodwork is so intricately detailed and adds warmth to the drab grays of the stone walls. Towards the middle of the church is an area in the middle of the church where a pendulum once hung. Here, the ceiling turns white and you see a beautifully painted organic design reminiscent of green and golden ivy leaves sprawling across the ceiling.

The interior decor is a bit quirky as well, with a wooden cabinet full of keys, a 400-year-old cannonball sticking outside of the wall, and a few old Dutch warship models sailing through the air. Like most churches in Europe, the rich and famous lay within these walls; keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find the gravestone of Dutch Master painter Frans Hals on the floor.

Constance blogs on The Adventures of Panda Bear, along with her boyfriend Jimmy, where they share their travels around the world in experiencing new foods, learning about cultures, and discovering architectural feats.

2. Have a coffee in Grote Markt

Grote Markt haarlem
Grote Markt in Haarlem, one of the best places to visit

While this is maybe an obvious one on the list, it still deserves a spot! Grote Markt is the center of the city and is located next to Grote Kerk, and a short walk from nearly all attractions in Haarlem. Grote Markt is the perfect place for you to enjoy a coffee in the sun (if you are lucky enough to have a sunny day when you visit Haarlem). Sit on a terrace, soak up some rays and people watch!

3. Visit Haarlem’s Hofjes

haarlem hofje
Inside the entry of one of Haarlem’s many hofjes

One thing that Haarlem is famous for, is actually a feature that is hidden in plain sight. Haarlem is home to dozens of hofjes which are hidden courtyards located all around the city. Hofje courtyards are lined with houses, where typically elderly women used to live – this was a sort of social security to ensure that there women had a place to live as they aged. Today the hofjes are still around in all of their glory, and you can go on a hofje hunt to discover these hidden gems all around the city, and makes for great sightseeing in Haarlem. Head to the VVV (tourist office, #3 on the map above) in Grote Markt when you arrive in Haarlem to pick up a map of the Hofjes, or visit  here  for more tips.

Looking for a real adventure in the Netherlands? Try Wadlopen!

4. Frans Hals Museum

Frans hals museum
Frans Hals Museum, one of the best things to do in Haarlem

Frans Hals Museum is the oldest art museum in the Netherlands, and the main collection of artwork in the Frans Hals museum is from, you guessed it, the Golden Age Dutch artist Frans Hals. Besides the work of Frans Hals, most of the artwork in the museum somehow relates to the history of Haarlem. It also houses the works of Pieter Bruegel the younger and Jacob van Ruisdael. The Frans Hals museum is located in an old  men’s hofje (more on hofjes below) where Frans Hals himself spent the last years of his life, giving you plenty of photo opps outside the museum as well. Entry into the Frans Hals Museum is €15 for adults, and €12 for children.

Groot Heiligland 62 2011 ES Haarlem | Frans Hals Museum

5. Corrie ten Boom house

corrie ten boom house
The actual hiding place in the Corrie ten Boom house

Located in the heart of Haarlem’s city center is the Corrie ten Boom house, where the Ten Boom family lived from 1837-1945. During WWII, the Ten Boom family courageously offered their house as a hiding place for those hunted by the Nazis. The family used non-violence to resist the Nazis and temporarily hid 5-6 people in their house at a time while others in their network looked for safe houses. It is estimated that the Ten Boom’s were responsible for saving the lives of 800 Jews and refugees. Sadly, while the father and sister died during the war, Corrie ten Boom survived, and lived to spread her message of forgiveness all around the world and penned the book The Hiding Place telling the story of their truly heroic deeds.

Visit the Corrie ten Boom house for a guided tour and to hear this gut wrenching story. Click  here to make reservations, or show up at the Corrie ten Boom house and hope for a spot – be sure to get here at least 30 minutes early as spots fill up quickly and they can only accommodate 20 people at a time. This is one of the most impressive things to do in Haarlem. Tours are free.

Barteljorisstraat 19 2011 RA Haarlem | Corrie ten Boom House

6. Get your drink on at the Jopenkerk

jopenkerk haarlem
Jopenkerk Haarlem

Anytime I visit Haarlem, a trip to the Jopenkerk is a must, since I’m a pretty big fan of microbreweries. Jopenkerk is actually located in an old church in Haarlem – how cool is that? Stop by for some brews, and get some lunch or dinner while you’re there. The Jopenkerk is always pretty packed so get there early especially if you plan to visit on the weekend. This is the perfect place to wind down after a day of sightseeing in Haarlem.

Gedempte Voldersgracht 2, 2011 WD Haarlem | www.jopenkerk.nl

If you’re headed to the Netherlands don’t forget to pack an umbrella (it rains a lot there!), and a Lonely Planet travel guide.

7. See the Adrian Windmill (Molen de Adriaan)

Adrian molen
Adrian Molen

If you are wondering what to see in Haarlem and if you didn’t yet visit the Zaanse Schans, have no fear, you can still see a windmill in Haarlem! The Adrian Windmill is actually rebuilt since it sadly burnt down in 1932, but you can still get an authentic tour of the windmill to see how it would have functioned when it was in all its glory. Book a guided tour to learn about how the windmill has contributed to the history of Haarlem, or just admire it at a distance for some great photos. Entry fee for adults is €3.50, and €1 for children 5-12.

Papentorenvest 1a 2011 AV Haarlem | http://www.molenadriaan.nl/en/

8. Teyler’s museum

Teylers museum haarlem
Teyler’s Museum

There’s a reason this place is called the museum of Wonder: the Teyler’s museum combines art and science, displaying fossils, minerals, scientific instruments, and even the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. The museum was founded by Pieter Teyler who was a wealthy cloth merchant and wanted his fortune to be used for advancing knowledge in art, science and religion.

The museum is open from 10am – 5pm Tuesday-Friday and 11am-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem | Teyler’s Museum

9. Head to the beach

Woodstock at Bloemendaal aan Zee

Once you’ve had enough of the city, head over to Bloemendaal aan Zee, one of the closest beaches to Haarlem and one of the country’s hotspots. Bloemendaal is the best place to kick back on the beach, soak up some sun and enjoy a drink. Woodstock beach club (shown above) is one of the hippest places to enjoy Bloemndaal, although there are loads of other beach bars. If you visit during the summer, be sure to check out if there are any beach parties happening where you can dance in the sand to house music all night long! Reach Bloemendaal aan Zee either by renting a bike from Haarlem Central station and biking through the dunes to the beach, or take public transport. By public transport take the train from Haarlem Central Station to Zandvoort aan Zee, then walk to Bloemendaal aan Zee, or take bus 81 to Bloemendaal.

10. Hit up the shops

shopping in haarlem
Shopping in Haarlem, photo borrowed from HipShops.nl

Haarlem is famous within the Netherlands for being one of the best cities to shop in. Haarlem’s chocked full of cute boutiques and concept stores to fill you with inspiration and drain your wallet. The best streets to check out for shopping in Haarlem are Koningstraat, Warmoesstraat and Kleine Houtstraat. For more on shopping routes in Haarlem check out HipShops.

Where to stay in Haarlem

Even if you’re not planning to spend all of your time in Haarlem, it is a great alternative to staying in Amsterdam if you want to beat some of the touristy vibes of Amsterdam, or if you simply can’t find the accommodation you’re looking for in Amsterdam.

Here are some great picks for Haarlem:

Self-catering: P Stuyvesant Suite

where to stay in haarlem
P. Stuyvesant Suite in Haarlem

Located in the heart of the city center, this P Stuyvesant Suite is a self-service accommodation. I love places where I can shop at a local supermarket or bakery and bring my breakfast to my place, so this definitely ticks that box!

A boutique hotel with style: Boutique Hotel Staats

Just looking at the photos of this hotel makes me drool! Boutique Hotel Staats is just a short walk from all the central attractions in Haarlem and is definitely insta-worthy.

How to get from Amsterdam to Haarlem

Trains run from Amsterdam Central Station to Haarlem approximately every 10 minutes, and will cost you €4,30 each way. Check times on ns.nl

A trip to Haarlem from Amsterdam Central Station takes about 15 minutes.

The Haarlem train station is just a short walk to the center of the city, so you’ll be at the heart of Haarlem in just a few minutes when you arrive by train.

When you’re packing for your trip to the Netherlands, don’t forget these items:

Looking for more tips in the area?

Did this post help you plan your visit to one of the best places in the Netherlands? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. I have been to Amsterdam, but not to Haarlem! Next trip I will for sure, it looks great and like a cool daytrip to do! Thanks for sharing!

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