Day Trip Haarlem if Amsterdam is too Crowded for You

A day trip to Haarlem is a day well spent. The city is a miniature version of Amsterdam and much less crowded. Haarlem brims with historic sights, medieval houses and Renaissance architecture. Amble along peaceful canals, through cobbled alleys and laid-back ‘hofjes’ or hidden courtyards. Haarlem is a dynamic city and only fifteen minutes by train from Amsterdam. The city is the perfect escape, if Amsterdam is too crowded for you. Be sure to visit Haarlem in spring when millions of bulbs burst into bloom. The city is the centre of the bulb growing industry. The famous Keukenhof Bloementuin, Flower Gardens, are in the city of Lisse only 15 kilometers from Haarlem.

Haarlem Train Station

Haarlem train station is a sight in its own right. This impressive building with a vaulted ceiling, square towers and Art Nouveau details is worth to look at more closely. Polychrome tiles depicting various means of transport embellish the walls of the entrance hall. The station was the terminus of the first Dutch railway that ran from Amsterdam to Haarlem and was opened in 1842.

St Bavo Cathedral

The fourteenth-century St Bavo Cathedral dominates the lively market square which is surrounded by historic buildings, restaurants and outdoor cafés The entrance to the church is hard to find as it through one of the seventeenth-century shops that cling to the church walls. On a sunny day the church sparkles in the sunlight that shines through the stained-glass windows. Look up high and admire the patterned vaulted ceiling. Smile at funny-looking animals and humans carved in the choir stalls. The flamboyant organ is one of the largest in Europe and played by Mozart and Händel and still used for concerts.

Haarlem Market Square

The statue in front of the cathedral on Market Square is Laurens Janszoon Coster, Haarlem’s most famous citizen after painter Frans Hals. He holds the letter A in his right hand. This is not just an ornament; Coster invented printing several years before Gutenberg claimed the same. The Town Hall next to the cathedral is a jumble of gables and pinnacles in different styles and dates back to mid-thirteenth century. It is open during office hours for a discrete peek.

Frans Hals Museum

The collection in the museum contains works of Frans Hals and other seventeenth-century Dutch masters. Frans Hals was a talented portraitist who captured fleeting expressions of his subjects even more brilliantly than Rembrandt did. The Frans Hals museum shows the works of art as it used to be done in the seventeenth century – above antique oak tables and between cabinets filled with porcelain, silver and glass ware.

Hidden Courtyards

Hofjes, or hidden courtyards, were built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and provided subsidized housing for the poor and elderly women. The cottages were tiny and built around a central courtyard with flower, herb gardens and, very important in those days, a communal water pump. The Hofjes in Haarlem are often difficult to find because the entrance is a front door that is not much different from other doors in the street. Many hofjes have been renovated and are now sought after places to live. All in all, Haarlem has nineteen hofjes. One of the most beautiful is Hofje van Oorschot, at Kruisstraat 44.

Draaiorgel Museum

At the Barrel Organ Museum, Draaiorgel Museum, you learn about the mechanics of mechanical organs and organ books, a set of folded cardboard paper with holes in different places. When air is forced through these holes, you will hear a melody.

Corrie ten Boom Museum

During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a hiding place for Jews and members of the Dutch Underground Resistance Movement. The living room has not changed since the war. In one of the bedrooms is the hiding place, a double sliding door in one of the wardrobes that led to a secret place. Corrie ten Boom wrote ‘A Hiding Place’ which gives a true account of those days.

Taste Beer in a Former Church

Be sure to wind down after your daytrip to Haarlem in the Jopenkerk, a church converted into a brewery, tasting room and grand café. It is famous for its Jopen beer brewed according to local, medieval recipes.


Haarlem is 30 kilometres west of Amsterdam and easily reached by train (only 15 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal station). It is an attractive city with cobbled streets, a maze of narrow alleys and medieval architecture alongside canals. Haarlem is a compact and easy to explore on foot. The city is famous as a shopping destination. Boutique-lined streets from concept stores to big brands and independent labels, shopping in Haarlem is serious business.


Frans Hals Museum, Groot Heiligland 62, Haarlem
Opening Hours: Sundays from 12.00 – 18.00

Draaiorgel Museum, Kuppersweg 3, Haarlem
Opening Hours: Sunday 12.00-18.00

Corrie ten Boom Museum, Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem
Opening Hours: 10.00-15.30 but closed on Sunday and Monday.

Jopenkerk, Gedempte Vo;dersgracht 2, Haarlem
Opening Hours daily 10.00-01.00