When you plan a holiday in the Netherlands but there is limited time for sightseeing. So let’s decide which places are the most worthy of your time. The Netherlands is a very interesting country and there is much more to see than Amsterdam. To be honest, most of the Dutch people would tell you to go out of Amsterdam in the first place. There is plenty to see and od in Holland! What about some cities close to Amsterdam? Is Haarlem Worth Visiting?
Haarlem is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands and it’s definitely worth visiting. Its medieval character, narrow streets, and little shops create a phenomenal atmosphere. Haarlem is only 30 minutes away from Amsterdam and it’s one of the best day trip destinations!
I’ve been living in Haarlem for 5 years, and I know this place very well. In this article, I will share with you my experience and I will suggest you some interesting things to do and places to visit. I would like to tell you that if you have a chance to come to Haarlem, you definitely should. I am sure that a day in this city will be an amazing experience for you. As I’ve been living both in Amsterdam and Haarlem I will try also to compare both of them. What is the difference in prices and in a city vibe?
Is Haarlem Worth Visiting?
Haarlem is the capital of province Noord Holland(from the name of this province comes confusion about calling this country the Netherlands or Holland) The city of Haarlem was founded in 1245 and this makes Haarlem one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. You can feel the vibe of medieval times. Haarlem is unique and one of a kind, definitely worth visiting!
Things To Do in Haarlem
Windmill De Adriaan
One of the most breathtaking spots in Haarlem is its famous windmill “Molen de Adriaan”. You can climb this windmill all the way to the top where you will enjoy a view of the Haarlem city. The windmill is open for guided tours. Here you can find their website and more information on these tours. I can recommend a restaurant that’s located just next to the windmill. It’s called the restaurant Zuidam.
The main square in Haarlem is surrounded by nice restaurants, historic buildings, shops, and cafes. In the middle of the Grote Markt, there is a monumental Church. If you are hungry there are plenty of good restaurants with outdoor seatings.
I am not really a big fan of visiting museums and churches, but I definitely like architecture and I love to feel a vibe of new places. For me, the best way to explore a new city is just to get lost. I always try to walk a different way, take a turn in the street I haven’t been to. It’s amazing because you can find a lot of hidden gems that aren’t mentioned in online guides. Haarlem is definitely a place where you should get lost and I advise you to start on Botermarkt and from there on you can walk in the opposite direction to the central station. You will fall in love with these little streets. If feels like a little Amsterdam without tourists swarms. It looks especially breathtaking in the evening and during Christmas time 🙂
I don’t know what about you, but before I moved to Amsterdam I haven’t been jet drinking alcohol in the church. Yeah, “Kerk” in Dutch means a church. Jopenkerk is a brewery that is built in the former church. It’s an interesting place to visit. I like the square where Jopenkerk is located, there are some good restaurants around. I recommend you Woodstone.
Where To Eat in Haarlem?
- Spaarne66 – Restaurant next to the canal Spaarne. One of the famous Haarlem restaurants.
- La Place – If you are not familiar with this place it’s a budget restaurant. I like it and I used to spend there hours writing articles. They have a free parking, so if you come to Haarlem by car it’s a way to go!
- Grab a Burger! – The Best place for a burger in Haarlem is called Rubens Burger! It’s maybe 10 minutes walk from the market square.
- WOODSTONE Pizza and Wine Haarlem – It’s a restaurant just next to the Jopenkerk, they serve a great pizza from an old school stone oven.
Places Close To Haarlem Worth Visiting
Zandvoort and Bloemendaal
Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are both coastal cities. You can get from Amsterdam to the seaside in half an hour. The best way to get to Zandvoort or Bloemendaal is by train. There are wide beaches but the water is cold and most often is windy. It’s not the same as in Greece for example. It’s worth visiting if you like the sea, but if it’s not the most exciting option for you, I would recommend you more Landgoed Elswout and Zuid-Kennemerland National Park.
Landgoed Elswout is a park with some historic buildings and there you can feed deers! You just have to help these lovely animals by bringing them leaves from nearby bushes 😉 The entrance is free and this place looks like from the movie. There is also a restaurant so you can have a short break.
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park
The National Park Kennemerland is one of a few places where you can find a wild nature in the Netherlands. Below you can see a photo of bison… yeah they walk freely all over the place. Once I’ve been there, I’ve seen wild horses, they walked just a few steps away from me and my girlfriend. I’ve never seen wild horses before and it was a cool experience!
How to Get There? You can go by car because there are some parking spots but you can also cycle. It’s only 15 minutes away from Central station.
This park is huge so if you plan to go there you surely need a few hours. Hiking shoes could be also helpful. There are no hills but it’s a lot of walking.
Is Haarlem Cheaper Than Amsterdam?
Haarlem is slightly cheaper than Amsterdam, but it depends on what do you mean. When it comes to prices of food, groceries, and prices in restaurants I would say that it’s the same. Accommodation is a little cheaper but still expensive. Haarlem is an expensive city, but definitely worth visiting.
Is Haarlem Better Than Amsterdam?
Haarlem is different than Amsterdam. Amsterdam is very international and you can hear foreign languages all over the place, while Haarlem is Dutch. Haarlem is a quiet city, definitely, there aren’t that many events as in Amsterdam. From my perspective, Amsterdam is better for expats. Both cities are breathtaking and worth visiting.
- Quiet city
- Most of the residents are Dutch
- Slightly lower prices, but still very expensive
- The city that never sleeps
- International City with over 180 different nationalities
- Very Expensive
Shopping in Haarlem
Haarlem has been many times awarded the best shopping city in the Netherlands. There are such a lot of unique little shops selling various products. I am a guy, totally not into shopping, but these little shops have something special. Many of them sell handmade crafts. If you plan some shopping you must definitely visit Grote Houtstraat – it’s the main street in Haarlem and most of the cool shops are in its surroundings.
On Saturday there is a market in the city center of Haarlem. I used to buy there fresh fish, bread, cheese, and nuts. It takes place from 9 am to 5 pm, but that’s a formal opening hour and stands are often closed earlier.
Hotels in Haarlem
If you plan to stay in Haarlem for a night I recommend this B&B. It’s a charming place with a great location. I always recommend this one. I like it when there is breakfast included, so I can eat in the morning, drink my coffee and then start discovering a new place.
How Does it Feel To Live in Haarlem?
I’ve been living in Haarlem for 5 years and I really liked it. I was living in Schalkwijk, it’s perceived by most Dutch people as a Haarlem ghetto, but to be honest, it’s a great location. First of all, it’s safe, I’ve never had any dangerous situation, nor problems. There is free parking, it’s close to the highway, there are plenty of supermarkets, shopping centers, a gym, swimming pool, squash, park, canals. Long story short I like this place a lot and I spent there a pretty long time, so it will be always in my mind. But because I like going out and I love to be in the international environment, a much better suit for me is Amsterdam.
How to get to Haarlem from Amsterdam?
Haarlem is 20 minutes away from Amsterdam. You can get there by train from Amsterdam Centraal and the return ticket costs 9 euros. The train is by far the best option and from Haarlem central station you can explore the city center. The main square is 10 minutes away from the train station. Dutch cities are small and pretty much you can discover this city by foot. If you have limited time I would also recommend a canal cruise.
From my experience, Haarlem is 100% worth visiting. If you plan on coming to Haarlem you don’t even need a whole day, it’s very close to Amsterdam and within a few hours you will see most of it! Of course, a vacation wouldn’t be complete without some epic photos? My fellow blogger, Rebecca, shares some great tips on how to capture great vacation photos here, if interested.