I’ve been living in Haarlem for 5 years. Now I live in Amsterdam and I must admit that I have a love affair with both of these cities. They are similar, yet different in their vibe. As I’ve been living in both of them, people tend to ask me what is better, Haarlem or Amsterdam?
Haarlem and Amsterdam are two different cities with their individual vibe. Amsterdam is international, more expensive and vibrant. Haarlem is a quiet city with a long history, tradition. Amsterdam is more for active and energetic people. Haarlem is a great place for a calm and laid-back person.
In this article, I will compare both of these cities so you can have a general overview of which one is better for you. What about prices? Which one is more expensive? Is Haarlem worth visiting? What should I see in Haarlem? How to get from Haarlem to Amsterdam and is it worth to stay in Haarlem when visiting Amsterdam? I will try to answer all of these questions.
Is Haarlem Better Than Amsterdam?
I wouldn’t say that any of these cities is better than another. They are just different, but with very similar architecture and culture. Haarlem is like a little Amsterdam without swarms of tourists. If you don’t like crowds you will like Haarlem much more. On the other hand, if you are active, you like meeting new people from all over the world, don’t read further, because you can already book your stay in Amsterdam.
I would risk saying that Haarlem is Dutch and Amsterdam is a city on its own. In Haarlem, you can see real Dutch culture.
Is Haarlem Worth Visiting?
Definitely it is worth visiting. Haarlem is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and it still keeps its medieval vibe. Narrow streets, beautiful canals, and ginger houses create together a breathtaking atmosphere. Haarlem is smaller than Amsterdam and it’s less crowded. It’s word mentioning that Amsterdam is much more international, while in Haarlem you mostly meet Dutch people.
Things to Do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city where you don’t get bored. I am often asked what would you recommend to do in Amsterdam? It’s a funny question because how the hell can I know what you want to do. There are thousands of things that you can. Then they say: “Tell me what locals do” Basically locals never do things that tourists do. Locals do everywhere the same, they work, hang out with their friends, watch Netflix and go to the gym. So I won’t tell you about Rijksmeum and madame Tussauds. But I must tell you that among all these tourists attraction I like Amsterdam Dungeons. That’s really worth visiting. I will tell you what I do ok?
Party – When I do not work and when I am not in the gym I spent most of my free time with friends. We meet on Fridays and Saturdays and we crawl from one bar to another. I won’t mention any specific place but I can tell you that we gather in Rembrandtplein or Leidseplein. From there we go to different bars and clubs. It all depends on the mood. There are bars where every day is a different kind of music.
Sports – That’s a big part of my life and I do my best to exercise every day. If you are traveller you should check GymNomad. It’s an app where you can find some closest free outdoor gyms and regular gyms with short term memberships. In Amsterdam, you can get a week membership for around 30 euros. Another thing you may want to check out is Meetup. There you can also find many sports events organized by locals. Most of them are free, some are paid.
Here I crafted another article with things you can do in Amsterdam.
Things to Do in Haarlem
When I’ve been living in Haarlem I was having a little bit of different life. I was spending most of my time working. In my free time, I was going to the gym, squash. Most of the time I was doing some sport, hang out with a little group of friends and my girlfriend.
Sport – In Haarlem, you have a lot of different options when it comes to sport. If you come here in wintertime you should go to Ice Rink – there is a huge one in Haarlem. In Haarlem Ice Rink is a little restaurant and they serve Gluhwein and amazing cheesecake. In the summer you can just ride a bike, go to the swimming pool, or exercise in one of many outdoor gyms.
Windmill De Adriaan – Windmill De Adriaan is one of the most popular Haarlem’s attractions! You can climb all the way up and see Haarlem from the top. They also organize guided tours so you can join one of them but it’s better to check availability online. I like a restaurant that is just next to the windmill. It’s called the restaurant Zuidam and especially during the summer, it’s great because it’s built on the canal and you can seat outside.
Jopenkerk – Before I moved to Haarlem I haven’t been drinking beer in any other church. Yeah… “Kerk” in dutch means church and Jopenkerk is a brewery built in an old church. It’s located in area where you can also find some good restaurants. I recommend you Woodstone! They have great pizza. There is also a very good burger bar called Rubens Burger!
Canal Cruise – Haarlem is a beautiful city and everyone who has ever been here can confirm that. I recommend you to go for a canal cruise. It takes around 50 minutes and you can see the whole city from the water perspective.
If you want to learn about some more things to do in Haarlem, here is another article.
Place To Visit Close to Haarlem
Zandvoort and Bloemendaal – These are two coastal cities next to Haarlem. It takes 20 minutes to get there from Haarlem. If you like the beach, there is a beautiful one and it’s a must go. But if you are not the biggest fan of the beach, just don’t go. It’s not a beach like you can find in Greece or Spain. Water is cold and it isn’t clear. I prefer to go to one of the many lakes in the area. Often there is also a strong wind in these coastal cities.
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park – This is one of a few places in the Netherlands where you can actually see wildlife. There are wild horses and buffalos. If you like hiking this is a place for you. There are not many hills but it’s a lot of walking so hiking shoes would be helpful.
Tulips – There is a very short period when you can see the colorful fields in the Netherlands but if you come here between the end of March and the beginning of May then you can surely search for tulip fields.
Places To Stay in Haarlem
There is this B&B in Haarlem that I really like. It’s called B&B Het Hart van Haarlem. I like bed and breakfast in general. They have a different vibe than big hotels and I like more personal moods. It’s also important to me that breakfast is included in the accommodation. It’s better to eat something and grab a coffee before you go to the city.
Places To Stay in Amsterdam
Prices, Haarlem vs Amsterdam
Haarlem is like a little Amsterdam and when it comes to prices it’s also very similar. Prices are almost the same. Accommodation may be a little cheaper but in general it is expensive.
Living in Haarlem vs Amsterdam
I enjoyed living in Haarlem. There is everything one may need for living. I was renting my house in Schalkwijk – most people from Haarlem would say that this is a Haarlem ghetto, but that’s not true. In fact, it’s very safe. I’ve been living there for 5 years and I’ve never had any dangerous situations. It’s also one of the cheapest areas of Haarlem. Parkings are free, and it’s close to the highway. You can quickly get anywhere you want. Amsterdam is only 15 minutes away.
Is there a difference in living in Haarlem vs Amsterdam? Haarlem is a much more quiet city. When it comes to partying there are not that many options and it’s not as crowded. I prefer living in Amsterdam because I like to go out a lot. The only time I spend at home is when I work and sleep. Haarlem was a little bit boring for me but when I write about this city I miss it somehow. I have this nostalgic feeling and I would love to get there now for a moment.
How To Get From Haarlem To Amsterdam?
It’s very easy to get from Haarlem To Amsterdam. Your first and best option is by train. It takes only 20 minutes and a return ticket costs 9 euros. Another way is by car, but if you go to Amsterdam by car you should park in one of P+R parking. If you follow the rules you can park there for 1 euro a day + public transport ticket (5,50 euros)
The only problem with transport between these two cities occurs at night. After 1:30 am it’s difficult to come back to Haarlem.
Staying in Haarlem When Visiting Amsterdam?
I think that can be a good option if you are a calm, laid-back person. If you plan to party, forget about it. You will have problems coming back home in the middle of the night. If your main plan is to visit Amsterdam I would stay in Amsterdam. It’s always better to be somewhere around your accommodation so you can come back home for a moment, take a shower or have a short nap during the day. On the other hand, if you want to see both Amsterdam and Haarlem, and you focus most on relaxing, I would choose Haarlem.