Nothing to do with NYC, Haarlem is a charming medieval town located about ten miles east from Amsterdam. With an abundance of historical sights, cultural attractions and hidden gems, Haarlem has plenty to offer.
Haarlem boasts a magnificent old centre with plenty of historical buildings. As the city was home to several finest Dutch painters, including Frans Hals, there’s a lot of art to go around.
The heart of the old city is Grote Markt, a wide open space flanked by an appealing ensemble of Gothic and Renaissance architecture with the huge Saint-Bavokerk church on it. The square is very lively specially in summer with many bars and restaurants around. A colourful market is held here on Mondays and Saturdays.
Molen de Adriaan has been a distinctive part of the skyline of Haarlem for centuries. Rebuilt in 2002 after 70 years that a fire burnt it down, the windmill hosts a small museum inside. However is not often in use, the windmill is fully functional and is capable of grinding grain.
There are some coffeshops spread all over the city. My favorite is High Times due to its familiar and chilled out vibe. The coffeshop is just 5 minutes walking from Grote Markt and offers a wide variety of weed and hash cheaper than in Amsterdam.
The surroundings of Overveen, west of Haarlem, offer lots of hiking trails for those who love nature. Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is an idyllic place to take a hiking tour due to its pristine woods, lagoons and dunes. You can even easily reach Bloemendaal’s beach as well as the coastal town of Zandvoort by bike from there.
Only 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam, Haarlem has a very different pace and feel from its big-city neighbour. An alternative place to get involved in the real dutch lifestyle.