Plan your Haarlem day trip from Amsterdam with this guide to why, when, & how to do it. Plus information on the best sites to see on your one day in Haarlem.
Is Haarlem Worth Visiting?
The idea of a day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem may be overlooked because Haarlem is a relatively small city. But in fact, Haarlem’s combination of amazingly fast and easy access from Amsterdam, historic sites, festivals, and top-rated shopping make it an excellent choice.
Haarlem is also the center of the flower-growing district in the Netherlands and hosts the culmination of a Spring flower parade. Tourists are only beginning to discover this delightful town just a quick hop away from Amsterdam. Spend one day in Haarlem take in much of what the town has to offer.
When is the Best Time to visit Haarlem?
There are a lot of factors that impact this answer, so I’ll do my best here. I’m sharing the things I look at, and honestly the scheduling mistakes that have tripped me up on day trips in the past.
Best Days of the Week to Visit Haarlem:
- Tuesday-Saturday most sites are open for the longest hours
- Monday: Frans Hals Museum, Corrie ten Boom House, Teylers Museum are closed
- Sunday: Corrie ten Boom House closed, some shops closed and many have reduced hours.
Best Time of the Year to Visit Haarlem:
- Warmest time (high 65-70°F, low 53-58°F): June, July, August
- Coldest time (high 42-48°F, low 35-38°F): Dec to mid-March
- Most crowded time: June, July, August (this is not coincidence)
Haarlem Annual Festivals & Celebrations
There are a LOT of annual festivals in Haarlem every year. When I was compiling a list I pretty quickly decided there was no way I could include them all. Here’s a sampling of the most popular festivals & events, but there are more so be sure to investigate.
- Museum Week – one week in April – discounted admissions & specials.
- Bloemencorso Flower Parade – weekend in April – most famous parade in Netherlands! Colorful floats & floral decorations parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem.
- National Mill Day – 2nd Saturday & Sunday in May, all water- and windmills open for free country-wide
- Haarlem Shopping Night – One evening in June – Shops, musicians, & cafes/restaurants work together to create one evening of special offers, fashion shows and music.
- Food Truck Festival – Last weekend in August, recently held in Kenaupark with food trucks, central bar, music.
- Culinary Fesival “Haarlem Culinair” – One weekend in August – taste small drinks & bites made by local restaurants on Grote Markt.
- National Heritage Days – 2nd weekend of September – most historic buildings & monuments normally closed to the public are open, free of charge.
What is the Best Way to Get to Haarlem from Amsterdam
The simplest and cheapest way to do a Haarlem day trip from Amsterdam is by train. Trains between Amsterdam Centraal Station and Haarlem Station run roughly every 7 minutes, and the trip only takes 15-18 minutes. It really can’t get much easier than this.
You can also reach Haarlem via highway N200. It is about 20km, and will take approximately 25 minutes. However, parking in Haarlem will likely cost upwards of €10 for 6 hours and €20+ for a full day, so the train really makes much more sense.
How to get to Haarlem from Amsterdam by Train
Amsterdam Centraal Station is easily reach on foot, or by tram, bus, or subway. Train tickets can be purchased ahead, but given the number of trains throughout the day it is not necessary unless there is something causing a huge amount of traffic. Trains also run between the city 24 hours a day, though the frequency is slightly less overnight.
- Frequency: roughly every 15 minutes, sometimes less
- Transfers: most trains are direct, a few have transfers so double check your choice
- Trip Duration: 15 minutes for direct
- Dutch Railways website
Getting Around Haarlem
Haarlem is a very walkable city. Most of the main sites are in an area that can be easily walked in one day. From the Haarlem station to the central Grote Markt is only a 10 minute walk. Bus 300 will take you from the train station to Grote Markt, but if all the timing aligns perfectly it will only save you a minute or two. It’s best to wear your walking shoes and enjoy the beautiful streets.
Haarlem Food to Try on your One Day in Haarlem
I’m always looking at what foods to be trying as I travel. I loved Amsterdam’s FoodHallen street food market, and Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel and Barcelona’s La Boqueria. Sadly my Haarlem day trip from Amsterdam didn’t coincide with the food truck festival, because I would have been really excited about that. But I could still taste my away the city! Try these traditional, local foods when you visit:
- Beer – See below, Haarlem was a strong beer exporter in the 15th-17th centuries and it’s now experiencing a revival. Definitely try the Koyt beer from a 14th century recipe.
- Potatoes – De Meerlander and Opperdoezer Ronde are both native to the area and commonly used in traditional foods
- Cheese – Nood-Hollandse Gouda and Noord-Hollandse Edammer are made from cow’s milk 100% from north Holland.
- Herring – This is true of Amsterdam, too! Stop at one of the food stands and eat it like a local: hold it up by the tail & bite upward. Go for it!
- Stroopwafels – Because they are wonderful and you should have one at every stop in this region of the Netherlands.
What to see on your Haarlem Day Trip from Amsterdam
The Tourist Information Office in Haarlem is located in the Stadhuis/City Hall, right in the Grote Markt. Sadly you can’t see the cool paintings and historical items in that part of the Stadhuis, but the office is very helpful with maps and walks and answers for your questions!
Grote Markt – Central Market Square
The Grote Mart is the main square of Haarlem and is only 800 meters, or a 10-minute walk from the train station. It is quite a large, wide-open space surrounded by cafés, beautiful old buildings, and the city hall. Haarlem’s Grote Kerk, Stadhuis, one building of the Frans Hals museum are right on the Grote Markt also.
On Monday and Saturday a large market is here in what, after all, translates to “large market.” Monday’s market is more sewing accessories, cloth, and clothing. Saturday you will find flowers, household goods, and foods. And both times you can find some souvenirs to take home with you.
Stadhuis – City Hall
Haarlem’s City Hall, or Stadhuis, stands on the western side of the Grote Markt. Originally William I, Duke of Bavaria and Count of Holland had a castle on this site. However, that burned down, and the Duke gifted the remaining structure to the city. In its place was built the Haarlem Stadhuis.
When it was first built, the back of the building was a Dominican brotherhood cloister and only the front was the city hall. But with the Protestant Reformation the city council took control of the whole building. Today the building is used for civil weddings and on Fridays in the Spring you can grab a seat at a table in the Grote Markt and watch brides and grooms arrive and depart to celebration.
Inside the Stadhuis hang paintings of the counts of Holland, a Finnish giant who stood over eight feet in the early 1700s, and one of Kenau. Kenau was a woman specifically named in documents of the time as working tirelessly defend the Haarlem against Spanish invaders in 1573. There are also historic tapestries, and a whalebone gifted to the city from the expedition of Arctic explorer Willem Barentsz.
Unfortunately, the only way to see these things is to get married inside the Stadhuis (which seems like a pretty big commitment to see some tapestries), or visit on Heritage Days/Open Monumentendag, the 2nd week of September.
Sint Bavokerk – Grote Kerk
If you have traveled around Europe at all, you know that every town and city of any size has its historic church. Here in Haarlem, that is the Grote Kerk.
There was a church on this spot since at least 1307, and it was dedicated to Saint Bavo sometime before 1500, and became Sint Bavokerk. It was known by this name until the Protestant Reformation when the Catholic church name was out – except no new name was chosen. Eventually, it became known as the Grote Kerk, or “Big Church,” which is now the official name.
While most of the stained-glass windows have not survived time, the Damiaatjes window still commemorates the famous Haarlem legend. (Look for the window with what looks like a red shield in the center.) According to legend in the city, the two upper bells of the church tower were brought back by Haarlem knights during the 5th crusade. They were taken from the Egyptian city of Damiette when it fell.
In memory of that victory – and to signal the close of the city gates when they were still there to close – the bells rang daily between 9:00 and 9:30pm. They still do, every evening. The city carillonneur plays the bells on market days and there is a concert on Tuesdays before the organ concert.
Haarlem’s Müller Organ
The Müller Organ inside the Grote Kerk is considered one of the world’s historically most important organs. It was built from 1735-1738 and was the largest in the world at that time. In fact Herman Melville describes the enormity of the whale’s mouth in Moby Dick by comparing it to this Haarlem organ! The instrument is also famous for the famous people who have played it. The list includes Händel, Mendelssohn, and in 1766 the then 10-year-old Mozart. Organ Concerts are still regularly held at the church.
- Always verify admission & hours information on Bavo’s Site
- Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-5pm; from June-Sept on Thurs 10am-6pm
- Admission: Adult €3
- Guided tours given on Saturdays
Corrie ten Boom House
I love history, so the Ten Boom House was a big reason for my own Haarlem day trip from Amsterdam. If you are like me and intensely moved by the bravery of the resistance in WWII, this is a must-see.
The Ten Boom’s work during WWII
The Corrie ten Boom House is where the Ten Boom family hid both Jews and members of the Dutch underground from Nazi detection. Casper ten Boom ran his watch repair shop from the ground floor while living above the shop with his two daughters, Betsie and Corrie, during WWII.
As the Nazi persecution intensified, the Ten Boom family used a false wall in one bedroom to hide those on the run. Some would stay for only a matter of hours awaiting transfer to their next stop on this underground out of the country, while others would spend lengthy time with the family. Nazis would come to the shop and question the family, but their refugees were always well hidden and the Ten Boom family had no reason to be suspected.
In 1944, someone betrayed the family and their home was raided. Thanks to the regular practice drills the Ten Booms practiced at home, their refugees were safely hidden behind the false wall. Sadly, the Ten Booms were arrested and interrogated. The Dutch underground was able to break into the guarded home and rescued the two Jewish men, two Jewish women, and two members of the Dutch underground who had been trapped behind the wall. Five of these survived the war.
Casper ten Boom died in Scheveningen prison soon after his arrest. Betsie and Corrie were both taken to Ravensbrück where Betsie later died. Corrie ten Boom managed to survive a year in Ravensbrück. She went on to write The Hiding Place about her family’s experience, and lived until she passed in Orange, California at the age of 91.
Visiting the Corrie Ten Boom House on your Haarlem Day Trip:
Visiting the house you can take a fairly small group tour in either Dutch or English. They do sell out, so I advise booking ahead. The tour only takes about an hour, and you get to actually sit in their sitting room, and stand inside the false-walled space. It is a smaller, more intimate experience than the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
The Ten Boom family were Christians who felt they were called to protect God’s chosen people, the Jewish people, and those fleeing the evil of the Nazis. That influence is brought up in the tour and is prominent in the literature.
- Visit by guided tour only, approximately 1 hour
- Tours given Tues-Sat in Dutch and English
- Schedule your tour at the Corrie Ten Boom House site.
Molen de Adriaan
The Molen de Adriaan is a windmill that has been part of the view in Haarlem since 1779. The original windmill was built atop the northern support of the defenses of the city over the River Spaarne. Eventually these defenses outlived their usefulness as the city expanded and the northern support, called the Goevrouwetoren, or Goodwife Tower, was put to better use as a windmill.
For 25 years, the Molen de Adriaan was the primary producer of cement for Haarlem. Later it milled tobacco until it was damaged in a storm in 1930 and then burned down in 1932. Despite repeated attempts to raise funds and rebuild, it took until April 23, 2002, for Windmill de Adriaan to be restore and reopened.
Today Molen de Adriaan is still fully functional and capable of operating as a mill. However, it is not often in use. When it is, it is for tourists, and usually on Saturdays and holidays. If you visit today a guided tour takes only 45 min to an hour.
- Always verify admission & hours info on Molen de Adriaan site
- Mon-Fri: 1pm-5pm, Sat-Sun: 10:30-5pm (Close at 4:30 Nov-Feb)
- Adult Tour Admission: €7.50, reduced for children & short tours
- Groups of 12+ can arrange tours ahead in English, French, Germany, Spanish, or Italian
Frans Hals Museum
Who was Frans Hals?
Frans Halls was a Dutch Golden Age painter who, though born in Antwerp, lived in Haarlem from the from the time he was a toddler. He started his career working for the town council as an art restorer, and the first work of his own that we know of is a portrait of Jacobus Zaffius from 1611 when Hals would have been in his late 20s.
Unusual for his time, Frans Hals did not travel at the wish of his patron, but always lived in Haarlem and required subjects to come to him. The most famous of his subjects being René Descartes. Hals painted different strata of society, but was often commissioned for wedding portraits of the wealthy.
Frans was also unusual in his style. He did not idealize his subjects. Hals portraits were intimately realistic, but he did not smooth his paint and soften his subject. The energy and personality was allowed to come through even in brush strokes. Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, “What a joy it is to see a Frans Hals, how different it is from the paintings – so many of them – where everything is so fearfully smoothed out in the same manner.” His technique has been considered an influence on Monet, Manet, Whistler, and others.
Franz Hals died in 1666 in Haarlem where he lived and painted his whole life. He was buried in the Grote Kerk.
Visiting the Frans Hals Museum:
The Frans Hals Museum was established in 1862. Today the Museum contains both a collection of Hals 17th century paintings and more modern works. The Frans Hals Museum is contained in two locations, but it is only about a seven minute walk between the two buildings and it is a nice area of town.
- See Frans Hals Museum FAQ for specifics costs, hours, & closures
- Hof/Court, Groot Heiligland 62, 2011 ES Haarlem
- Hall/Hal Grote Markt 16, 2011 RD Haarlem
- Closed Mondays
- Tues-Sat: 11am-5pm, Sundays & Public Holidays 12:00-5:00pm
De Gouden Straatjes – The Golden Streets
Maybe one of the more surprising highlights of Haarlem is the shopping! Given the city’s relative size and fame (significantly less on both accounts than Amsterdam) it is probably not expected that Haarlem has been voted Netherlands’ best shopping destination on several occasions.
The streets known for the best shopping have been dubbed “de Gouden Straatjes” or “the Golden Streets.” These are lined with the expected big names, but also concept stores, independent labels, markets, and antique and unique shops, too. If you want to stroll the most popular “Gouden Straatjes,” head to Grote Houstraat, Bareljorisstraat, and Zijlstraat. Exploring on your own will also find more streets with great shops to entice you, too, so don’t feel limited!
Hofjes: Haarlem’s Hidden Gardens
Haarlem is known for its hofjes. They are often called hidden gardens and are private green spaces around which townhomes were built. When first created, these spaces were for a community kitchen garden and perhaps a water pump. It gave private outdoor space for residence. However the term came to refer to the housing and the garden space.
Hofjes were the original social housing with the first built from generous bequests from the wealthy. Most were built in the 14th century. The housing was available to sufficiently pious, widowed, and poor women. Churches would be known by the quality of their hofjes. Guilds got involved and had hofjes for their elderly, and the city council took on the charity work starting the end of the 1300s.
There were not hofjes for men because poor houses already existed for men, but not for women. It was widely acknowledged that men were unable to care for themselves, so society had already provided that help. Yes, when I learned the societal view of men, I absolutely read it out loud to my husband. He didn’t find it as funny as I did.
There are more than 20 Haarlem hofjes, and you can walk a hofjes route of a number of them if you are really interested. The oldest hofje in all of the Netherlands is in Haarlem, and not far from Grote Markt.
- The Oldest Hofje: Wijde Appelaarsteeg 11F, 2011 HB Haarlem
Back in the 14th century, Haarlem became big in brewing in the Netherlands. The city was a powerhouse, shipping its beer across the Spaarne river, throughout the country and beyond. In fact, Haarlem’s Koyt beer was the most popular beer in Antwerp in the 15th century!
The industry thrived through the 1600s, but eventually dropped off. Then last brewery in Haarlem shut down in 1916.
De Jopenkerk takes their name from “Jopen” the 112 liter barrels used to ship the beer across the Spaarne all those centuries ago, and “kerk”… because today they are located in a cathedral!
De Jopenkerk has brought brewing and even some original recipes back to Haarlem. This 14th century cathedral now houses a brewery, restaurant, and café. They serve Hoppen beer, based on a 1501 Haalem recipe, and that Koyt beer so loved in Antwerp. Of course, what’s some excellent Haarlem beer without traditional Dutch foods to go with it?
- Visit De Jopenkerk site for all specifics
- Location: Gedempte Voldersgracht 2, 2011 WD Haarlem
- Hours: Daily 10am-1am
Enjoy planning and your Haarlem day trip from Amsterdam (or wherever you’re coming from)! Enjoy the city and all it has to offer.
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