Home Day Trips 18 Best and Unusual Things to do in Haarlem

18 Best and Unusual Things to do in Haarlem

by Rafal Sulowski

Haarlem is such a lovely city. I’ve been living here for the last 6 years and I must admit that I will miss this place. I am saying that I will miss it because the next month I am moving to Amsterdam. I have a lot of beautiful memories of this place. This medieval, charming town has a very special vibe. It’s not as overcrowded as Amsterdam and you can feel there are not that many internationals here. Before I move to Amsterdam I would like to put together a list of my favorite things to do in Haarlem. This list won’t be the same as the other lists on the Internet. I won’t share with you the most beautiful museums and stuff like that but I will show you my view on Haarlem, places I like the most and I would recommend to you.

Things to do in Haarlem:

  1. Restaurant Zuidam
  2. Walk along Spaarne
  3. Visit Botermarkt
  4. Get a drink in Jopenkerk
  5. Canal cruise
  6. Visit museums
  7. Ice rink
  8. Woodstone
  9. Discover little cafes
  10. Foodie delight
  11. Zuid-Kennemerland National Park
  12. Visit Haarlem Hofjes
  13. Go to the beach!!
  14. Landgoed Elswout
  15. Things to do at night
  16. Kattencafe Jippies
  17. Harlemmerhout
  18. Visit cool places nearby Haarlem

When you compare Haarlem to Amsterdam, it’s quite a dull town, but if you are a quiet person you’ll love it. It’s also a great place for a one day trip. If you are planning a one day trip from Amsterdam this is one of the places I would recommend. On this blog, you’ll also find other cool Dutch towns. Keep on reading this article and you will learn about the best things you can do in Haarlem.

1. Restaurant Zuidam

Photo courtesy of Otd 7 // Photography|| Flickr

This restaurant is just next to the Windmill Adriaan. If you were searching for information about Haarlem, I am sure you’ve seen photos of this medieval spot. When it comes to windmill Adriaan you should go for a tour. It’s guided by volunteers and you can learn about the history of windmills. I mention this because this tour is really interesting. A tour in this windmill is organized by volunteers and they have a very detailed answer to all your questions. This tour is worth it, especially because when you go all the way up to the top of the windmill you can see a whole Haarlem from above. It’s a beautiful view. Be aware that this spot is open only for a few hours every day. You can visit windmill from 1 pm to 5 pm daily and on weekends it opens earlier – 10:30

Coming back to Restaurant Zuidam. It’s an amazing spot where I enjoy writing and working on my internet things. You can sit inside and they also have some tables outside. On a sunny day, it feels great to sit close to the canal, windmill and enjoy a piece of cheesecake with whipped cream. This is a place a can definitely recommend.

2. Walk along Spaarne

Photo courtesy of Paul van de Velde|| Flickr

Walk or ride a bike. Choose what do you like the most. If you have all day, you can go for a walking tour but if you have only 3 hours you may consider renting a bike. There is a cool bike tour organized in Haarlem. Definitely worth it.

Along the Spaarne Canal, there are always some medieval ships and this area is just beautiful. I would start from Spaarne 66 restaurant and walk by the canal, up to the centrum and all the way to City Beach the Oerkap.

There are many little shops and cafes along the Spaarne and if you like that kind of things you’ll enjoy this walk. I would stop for a while by the Amsterdamse Poort. It’s a cool place for taking some photos. It used to be a gate to the town in the past and it really looks medieval.

3. Visit Botermarkt

Photo courtesy of Paul2 || wikimedia.org

During 4 days a week, there is a market in Botermarkt. On Friday, there is an organic food market, on Saturday you can get there some fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, cheese, and flower. Tuesday is a day of second-hand clothes market and on Wednesday there is a book market. Check this website for more details – Link Here.

Botermarkt is one of my favorite spots in Haarlem. It’s a charming place in the middle of this beautiful town. From Botermarkt you can get to gorgeous little streets, market square or the main street in Haarlem, De Grote Houtstraat. From Botermarkt is very close to the cat cafe I’ll mention later on.

4. Get a drink in Jopenkerk

Photo courtesy of Graeme Anderson || Flickr

In English, it would be “get a drink in the Jopen church” but wait a minute… what is Jopen? Jopen is a brand of Dutch beer! hmmm, beer church? Yeah, that’s right. Jopenkerk, in fact, is a former church, so if you’ve never got drunk in a church now you have occasion. Now it’s transformed into a little modern brewery and it’s quite a cool place to visit if you like beer. You can also book a brewery tour. They have many kinds of beer, so if you plan to try them all better visit Haarlem by train, definitely not by car. In the summertime, they put some tables outside and there are several food trucks.

5. Canal Cruise

Photo courtesy of Rob Plasschaert || Flickr

Haarlem is the capital of the North Holland province and it’s one of the most beautiful towns in the Netherlands. It’s a great idea to discover this city from the water.

If you want to go for a canal cruise I would like to recommend this tour. With this company, you can go for a 50-minute canal cruise. Cruises are organized both in Dutch and in English. There is free wifi and you pay 14 Euro per person.

6. Visit Museums

Photo courtesy of Rowan Collins || Flickr

Haarlem is home to 14 museums and among them, there is Teyler’s museum – the oldest museum in the Netherlands. It’s open since 1784. If you enjoy paintings of Frans Hals you should give a try to this tour.

Don’t forget about the breathtaking gothic style church. It’s open for sightseeing and inside there are organs, on which Mozart himself was playing when he was 10 years old. If you visit Haarlem, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to hear these organs during the live performance, which takes place a few times a week.

Jopenkerk is a place I would recommend to you. It’s a former church transformed into a small brewery. They offer different kinds of beer and I must admit they brew very good beer. If you are a beer lover that’s definitely a place to be. In 2013 Jopenkerk was voted the best looking bar in the Netherlands.

7. Ice rink – Ijsbaan

Photo courtesy of Ijsbaan Haarlem || Facebook Profile

The ice rink is open only in the winter season, but it’s a cool spot and definitely a place that I can recommend. After you are done with skating you can have some warm chocolate with whipped cream in the Ice rink restaurant. Don’t worry if you don’t have ice skates. That’s not a big deal because you can rent them over there. You can skate, play ice hockey or even curling. The entrance cost 4 Euro and a pair of skates cost 6 Euro.

Ice quality is great and they take care of it consistently throughout the day. That’s why it’s also great for speed skating. This Ice rink has one of the best ice quality in the Netherlands. Thanks to specially purified (osmosis) water there is fast ice, great for speed skating. There is also a lot of space so it’s perfect for beginners. Professional or first-timer you will have fun in the ice rink Haarlem.

There is a 400-meter long oval rink and in the middle, you can find 30×60 meters rectangular ice floor.

8. WOODSTONE Pizza and Wine Haarlem

When you get hungry go for Woodstone Pizza and Wine Haarlem. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Haarlem. They have great pizza, salads, and pasta. However, you must be aware that most of the time it’s packed so you do a reservation in advance. Woodstone is located close to the Botermarkt, just next to the Jopenkerk. You can visit both these places at once. Eat something tasty in a restaurant and then go for a beer tasting in Jopenkerk. If you like burgers there is a very good burger place nearby. It’s called Rubens Burger and they have very fancy burgers and fresh fries.

9. Discover little cafes

Photo courtesy of Cafe de Zwaan || Facebook Profile

Haarlem is full of little cafes and lovely shops. I mean shops that sell unusual things. Anyway, let’s get back to cafes. In the city of Haarlem, there are many cozy, lovely cafes and you can visit another one every time you go out. Among my favorite ones are Spaarn 66, The Coffee Bakery, Harting & Zoet, City Beach the Oerkap and Restaurant Zuidam. I would almost forget about organic cafe Blender. You can get their delicious food and amazing coffee 😉 I wanted to tell you, just go around the city and you’ll find a cafe you like, but I must say that the ones I mentioned above are exceptional.

Most cafes are open only until 6 pm so it’s already late you may want to go to La Place. They have very good food and often there are some special deals. In fact, I am sitting now in La Place and the deal of the day is a piece of cake and a warm drink for 1 Euro ^^ To me it sounds great. I recommend you ‘appeltaart’ which means apple pie. By the way, they close at 9 pm.

10. Foodie Delight

Photo courtesy of piviso || Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but I am in love with great food. Here you can find a 3,5-hour food tour. Haarlem is, indeed, a town of great food. Even fries are top notch and when I am saying about fries, my favorite chipper is Frietkamer located on Zijlstraat 31.

For ice creams and waffles, you should go to IJssalon Gelateria Bartoli. They serve great waffles and they import dough from Belgium. As we all know Belgian is a world known for its delicious waffles.

I would like to recommend to you some good and affordable Mexican restaurant – Popocatepetl The Mexican Haarlem. For a decent price, you’ll get a very good lunch.

11. Zuid-Kennemerland National Park

Photo courtesy of Marco Verch|| Flickr

When you visit Haarlem you must go to National Park Kennemerland. It’s an amazing place and I would recommend you to visit it on bikes. It’s 13 minutes biking from Haarlem central station. What’s interesting, you can ride a bike in this park and this is really fun.

You can see there wild horses and bison. Whenever you need a break from a noisy town this is a place to go. You can really rest there in the surrounding of wilderness. This park is close to the sea and if you go there by bike you can cycle through the park and eventually get to the city, where you can rest and enjoy lunch. I would recommend to have a break in Parnassia, have a coffee and then enjoy a walk through dunes. If you like trekking as I do, unfortunately, there are not many trekking spots in the Netherlands but definitely, one of the best ones is Zuid-Kennemerland National Park.

12. Visit Haarlem Hofjes

Photo courtesy of Sjaak Kempe || Flickr

What is Hofje? Hofje is a courtyard surrounded by little houses. This is a place where old people used to live in the past. Today only old people live there because only they have enough money 😀 Hofjes are beautiful, especially at night. They are hidden gems of Haarlem. At once you are in the center of a busy town and a few minutes later you are in a quiet garden. Most of the time you don’t see hofjes from the main street so you must know where they are located. Among the most famous hofjes in Haarlem, there are Frans Loenenhofje, Lutherse Hofje, ProveniershuisHofje van Staats, Zuiderhofje, Teylers Hofje.

13. Go to the beach!!

Things to do in Amsterdam

There are two beaches very close to Haarlem. One of them is Zandvoort and another one is Bloemendaal aan Zee. Both of them are wide, clean, not so busy. These beaches aren’t located in Haarlem, but it is so close, that I think it’s worth mentioning. You can get from Haarlem to Zandvoort in 15 minutes and in half an hour you can put your feet on the sand in Bloemendaal aan Zee. To Zaandvort you go by train from central station, and to Bloemendaal aan Zee you can get by bus 81. If you like cycling, you can also rent a bike and in 30 – 40 minutes you easily reach coastal towns of North Holland.

14. Landgoed Elswout

Photo courtesy of Daviddje || Flickr

This is such a beautiful place in Haarlem. It’s a park with some historic buildings, charming bridges. It’s an amazing place for a sunny day to take a walk in nature. There are deers, which love leaves, but they are out of their range. These lovely animals will love you if you pick some leaves and feed them 😉 That’s what I have done and we were the best friends. Landgoed Elswout looks like from fairy tale and entrance is free. You can find there a restaurant called Orangerie-Elswout and it’s very fancy, for me maybe a little bit too fancy.

15. Things to do at night

Photo courtesy of Dan Kamminga|| Flickr

If you want to dance I can recommend one of the following clubs: Club XO, Studio or Patronaat. When it comes to bars there are also few cool ones. My favorites is Uitje bar – they have a wide variety of beer ( it’s a little brewery – they have their own beer). Haarlem isn’t a party town, it’s much quieter than Amsterdam, but if you want to have some drinks you’ll enjoy the above spots. You can also go to the cinema – Pathe – it’s located in front of Patronaat.

16. Kattencafe Jippies

Photo courtesy of Jippies kattencafe || Facebook profile

Kattencafe Jippies is a small cafe where you can meet 7 cat residents. It’s a pretty cool idea to have a coffee in animal companionship. Keep in mind that you should do a reservation in advance so you won’t be surprised that there is no space. This cat cafe isn’t located in the city center, but I would say it’s even better. You can get there withing 15 minutes walk from the market square. You should follow a way to Botermarkt and from there it is 5 minutes walk. They serve some good food and drinks. It’s really a cool place 😉

17. Harlemmerhout

Harlemmerhout is also a nice little park. You can relax there after a busy day and what I like the most there is a little zoo. You can pet goats and pigs, and there are also some deers. There is also a little restaurant where you can eat some delicious pancakes. From the market square, it is a 20 minutes walk.

18. Visit cool spots nearby Haarlem

Photo courtesy of Daviddje || Flickr

If I were you, I would visit a few spots close to Haarlem. This city is beautiful but you have no idea how charming places are no further than half an hour by bike. Among them, I must mention Spaarndam. It’s a very little city and you can get there in 15 minutes. There is also Santpoort, Aerdenhout, Overveen, Bloemendaal, Heemstede. Actually, I would rent a car and go on a road trip. Sometimes I like just riding around and listening to music. This part of Holland is one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. I love it. There is also a park called Spaarnwoude. It’s also a place worth recommending. You can get there by car in a few minutes and then have a walk.

Where to rent a bike in Haarlem?

When you want to rent a bike in Haarlem, there is this little rental company called ‘Green Bikes’. It’s located close to the central station. As far as I know, it’s the closest rental company to the train station. You can get more details on their website – Link Here
It’s open from Monday till Friday 9 am to 6 pm, on Saturday it’s closed and on Sunday it’s open from 10 am to 6 pm.

For a standard bike, you pay as little as 9 Euro per day. Additional insurance is 3 Euros. If you get extra insurance you won’t be charged when a bike is stolen. You may be surprised but for example in Amsterdam, bike theft is the most common crime 😀 However, if you lock your bike properly, there shouldn’t be any problem. You have to use always both locks. One lock is connected permanently to the back wheel and the second one is a chain lock. You should always connect your bike with something firm, such as metal bike parking stand. If you have more than one bike you can lock them to each other.

Free working spots for travelers

If you are like me and you travel a lot, I believe that you know the value of a cozy cafe where you can work on your laptop for few hours. I think that I have visited almost each and every spot in Haarlem where I could stay for few hours with my online work. In this paragraph I will share with you a few places I enjoyed the most. One of the is for sure:

Chocolate Company Cafe

I like this place a lot. It’s located on Kruisstraat 14, close to the market square. They serve a great coffee and chocolate which brings a smile on my face 🙂 It’s a cool place for any chocolate lover but also for people who just want to get their things done. Sometimes it can be a little bit overcrowded but you can find some tables in a corner and they are perfect for a long working session. Just put on your headphones and you’ll be fine.

Restaurant Zuidam

I mentioned this restaurant before but I must put it also on the list of cool spots. On warm days all tables outside are taken but you’ll be suprised that inside there is a lot of space. Most of the time you won’t find a table outside, but inside it’s just empty. Enjoy their coffee. Actually, enjoy coffee anywhere and all day long 😀

How to get to Haarlem from Amsterdam?

Haarlem is only 17 km from Amsterdam and you’ll get here in less than 30 minutes. The best way to get to Haarlem is by train. You’ll pay 5 Euro for one ticket and around 9 Euro for a return ticket from Amsterdam. If you come by car I would suggest you underground parking in the city center. It is exactly under the market square, and it is cheaper than parking on the street. Parking fees in the Netherlands are extremely high and last week parking in Amsterdam got even more expensive.

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