Haarlem is truly a city for fans of all things cultural. It has a rich history with large churches, a cathedral, the windmills, the city hall and the famous Haarlem ‘hofjes’ (courtyards) – cosy, calming paradises in the middle of the city. And don’t forget the panoply of museums! Go on a journey of discovery through this beautiful and characterful city.
If you take the train to Haarlem, then you’ll be in for a treat the moment you arrive. For you’ll arrive at the only Dutch railway station in the Jugendstil (art nouveau) style. Characteristic of this station, which is over one hundred years old, is the many tile pictures and the various entrance and exit buildings. A popular spot for film recording, including for the box office hit Ocean’s Twelve and Paul Verhoeven’s Zwartboek (‘Black Book’).
The Amsterdamse Poort, a city gate from 1355, is still a magnificent monument. Just imagine how many battles and wars this structure has withstood! Just like the buildings on the Grote Markt, including the city hall from 1250 and the Sint-Bavokerk, Haarlem’s largest church with a spire that you can see from miles away. This is not to be confused with the Cathedral of Saint Bavo, the primary church of the diocese of Haarlem, built between 1895 and 1930 and open on some days for an exciting tour of the vaults. Another extraordinary building is the panopticon, built in 1901. In this round space all fours levels of cells can be seen at a single glance. Ideal for maximum security.
Since time immemorial, Haarlem has been a city of art and culture. For centuries it has been a leading city of artists. Frans Hals created his most famous works here. You will no doubt recognize them - group portraits of riflemen making merry and regent colleagues assembling, the originals of which can be seen in the Frans Hals Museum. The oldest museum in the Netherlands is Het Teylers Museum, which houses fossils that are millions of years old, scientific instruments and coins, pictures and paintings. Curious as to how the ‘mad’ and mentally ill folk of Haarlem were handled in the past? Visit Het Dolhuys from 1320, now a museum of psychiatry. See and feel what madness means and ask yourself what is in fact normal? On the River Spaarne, which winds its way through Haarlem, is the Waag (‘Weighing House’) from 1599, where traders weighed cheese and butter. The striking Molen de Adriaan towers twelve metres above the Spaarne. In this museum windmill you will see how the turning sail arms set the ingenious wooden interior mechanisms in motion. That’s how it works, then! Seen enough culture? Head into the congenial shopping streets and give your feet a rest at one of the cafés and restaurants. That’s Haarlem too.