Amsterdam is a well-known tourist destination, but for someone who has never been in the Netherlands and even in Europe everything is new. A few days ago I was asked a funny question: Is Haarlem in Amsterdam? I’ve been living in Haarlem for 5 years, so surely I can answer this question.
Haarlem is a city close to Amsterdam, but it is not in Amsterdam. Haarlem is the capital of the Dutch province called Noord Holland. It takes 20 minutes to get from Amsterdam to Haarlem by train. Haarlem is not a part of Amsterdam but it makes a great day trip from Amsterdam.
So if you ask me what is better? Haarlem or Amsterdam? I can’t give you a clear answer because it depends. It depends on what do we compare between those two cities. Is it better to stay or to live? Is it better when it comes to prices, entertainment, vibe? Definitely both of these places are outstanding. If you haven’t been to any of these cities, there is a big chance you will like both of them!
Haarlem is a medieval city, with a long history and a magical vibe. Its narrow streets become breathtaking in the evenings when there are plenty of lights. Haarlem is like a little Amsterdam without dozens of tourists. If you are a kind of calm, laid-back person or you want to spend a romantic time with your spouse, Haarlem is definitely a place to be. When I write about Haarlem I have this deep nostalgic feeling and I would like to get there for a while and just walk to my favorite spots. There are hidden little streets and courtyards that I have special memories with.
I’ve heard people saying that the bigger the city the more lonely you feel. People say that Amsterdam is full of individuals and people chasing their goals. That’s somehow true because big cities work like magnets for hardworking, ambitious people. I am not judging anyone, each person chooses how they want to live their own life and I don’t think there is a better or worst way of doing that.
But surely it’s not true that you don’t socialize and bond with people in a big city. I actually find Amsterdam a place where for the first time in my life I met that many like-minded people. Amsterdam is a dot the map which brings towards itself high-value people and I love it. Maybe that’s true that everyone is busy but if relationships with people are important for you, there are people who will be willing to be around you.
If you are an adventurous person, who likes being in the center of the action, Amsterdam is definitely for you. Amsterdam is for proactive people who like doing things. There is no time to be bored because there is plenty of things happing in the city all the time.
Are both of these cities safe?
The short answer is yes. Both of these cities are safe. Amsterdam was again voted as one of the safest cities in the world. It was in the 4th position in The Economist Safe City Index 2019. Imagine that Haarlem is even more peaceful and calm then Amsterdam. I would say that the Netherlands is a very safe country in general. If you’ve traveled before you know that safety is very diverse in this world, but in Amsterdam nor in Haarlem you don’t have to worry.
The only thing I would like to mention is to lock your bicycle properly. If you rent a bike you should really lock it well, because bike theft is very common and if you don’t lock it you won’t see your bike again. Especially when you are a tourist and a thief see that you cycle on the rented bike they can give it a try.
Where to Stay in Haarlem?
So based on the accommodation you prefer you will choose a different place. When I travel I live small hotels where I am not treated just like a number. I also like when breakfast is included, so I can eat something and drink my coffee before I go out. In Haarlem, I often recommend this B&B.
Where To Stay in Amsterdam?
So in a similar approach as in Haarlem, in Amsterdam, I can recommend two spots. One is called Raam Residence and another one is called B&B by Waterloo. Both of these places are B&B within walking distance to the city center and at a decent price. Can you find something cheaper? These places aren’t as expensive when you consider that’s Amsterdam and I recommend only places that I really like.
Should I Stay in Haarlem when visiting Amsterdam?
If you plan to visit many places in Amsterdam you shouldn’t stay in Haarlem. It’s good to be somewhere close to your accommodation so you can always pick something up or just have a short nap in the middle of the day. But if you just plan to chill, relax and you are not going to run from one museum to another Haarlem may be a great choice. Also if you plan to party and come back home late in the night you will be better in Amsterdam. Connection with Haarlem in the night is bad.
Things to do in Amsterdam
Often people ask me “what can I do in Amsterdam?” It’s a funny question because of how the hell can I know what do you like to do. There is plenty to do and each person is interested in different things. They say “tell me what local people do” So basically local people do what they do in any other place in the world. They meet with their friends, do sports and watch Netflix. Local people don’t go to Rijksmuseum or for a Canal Cruise. Do you know what I mean? So here I will mention a few things that I like to do 😉
- Partying – I like to go out with my friends and we just crawl from one place to another. Sometimes we go for a storytelling night and then we visit some clubs. These are not always the same clubs. It depends more on the vibe, music they play on a particular day or if the club is full or empty. Basically we stick to Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein.
- Storytelling/comedy clubs – My favorite place when it comes to storytelling and standup is… wait for it… Mezrab. I’ve been to many places of that kind and I must admit that Mezrab is a gem. Mainly because of the vibe in this club, “extended living room” how they like to call it. When you visit Mezrab more often you meet the same people and you feel like at home. It is definitely a place worth visiting. Check their agenda. Every day of the week there is something different happening. Sometimes there is open mic storytelling, sometimes a standup night.
- 9 Streets and Jordaan in the night – 9 Streets and Jordaan are a part of a Canal Belt – world UNESCO Heritage in the evening this area is breathtaking. If you visit Amsterdam with your girlfriend that’s where you want to take her. There are many bars and restaurants, just walk around and find your own special place.
If you would like to find some more things to do in Amsterdam you should read 76 things to do in Amsterdam.
Things to do in Haarlem
Haarlem isn’t as international as Amsterdam and I’ve been spending time there quite differently. There is not that much clubbing, so often we would just go to bar play darts or billiard. If you want to go to the party you should check out Patronaat. They organize some good parties.
Sports – In the winter you must go to Haarlem Ice Rink and drink a Gluhwein. If you visit Haarlem in the summer you can do different things such as squash, swimming pool or you can just rent a bike. Renting a bike is a great way to discover the city.
Windmill Adriaan – One of the most beautiful spots of Haarlem is the famous Windmill Adriaan. You can climb to the top and from there you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city. They run some guided tour and you can learn more about it here.
Canal cruise – If you have never done it in the Netherlands you should consider going for a canal cruise. You can find some activities like this here.
If you are interested in some more things to do in Haarlem here you can read another article where I describe the best things to do in this medieval city.
How Far Is Haarlem From Amsterdam?
Haarlem is only 20 minutes away from Amsterdam. The easiest way to get there is by train and the return ticket costs 9 euros. During the day there are many connections between these two cities. However, at night, it is a headache. There are night buses and trains but they are not as regular as during the day.
So to sum it up, you see that it depends on what is your plan and what kind of holiday you enjoy the most. Both cities are beautiful and there is plenty to do and see. However if one day I move abroad and I will like to come here just for a few days I will go to Amsterdam. Let me know what is your experience! Yo