"With you I want to swim in the Spaarne, enjoy the sea breeze in Bloemendaal, picnic in a Hofje, look for deer in Haarlemmerhout and bet how high the Sint Bavo church is". This saying (translated from Dutch) on the window of a cafe in Haarlem describes quite aptly what makes the city on the river Spaarne so appealing. My home for more than 8 years.
Haarlem is located halfway between Amsterdam and the sea, combining the advantages of a larger city with proximity to the beach. Other assets of Haarlem are:
Haarlem is green . Framed by a national park on one side, the tulip fields on the other and numerous city parks, it is a wonderful place to relax in the green or to get active.
Haarlem is worth living . The beautiful city center with its cozy cafes, the varied shopping offer (which makes Haarlem a shopping city Nr. 1 of the Netherlands) as well as the numerous cultural events make life in Haarlem extremely pleasant and varied.
Haarlem is relaxed. Whether it's the proximity to the sea or the location on the river Spaarne, there's a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere here, even on weekends.
Haarlem is culture . As the former seat of the Counts of Holland, the city received city rights as early as 1240 and looks back on a long history with, among other things, flourishing trade and Spanish siege. If you wander through the historic city center with its listed buildings and museums, you will discover witnesses of this time at every corner, such as the hidden courtyards ("Hofjes" ).
Haarlem is pleasure . The inhabitants of Haarlem know how to enjoy life and good food. Due to the wide range of high-quality restaurants, culinary events and local products, Haarlem was even named the first gastronomic capital of the Netherlands in 2019.
Enough rambling, so here comes the first part of my insider tips for Haarlem:
Places of interest – insider tips for Haarlem
If you arrive in Haarlem by train, you are immediately treated to a feast for the eyes: the historic 1908 Haarlem Art Nouveau train station, considered one of the most beautiful in the Netherlands. It has been used as a film set several times, for example in "Ocean's Twelve", where it was supposed to represent the Amsterdam train station. Next to the waiting room for the first and second class, you can also discover some painted tiles. So before you leave the station, it's worth taking a look around.
Grote Markt, Sint Bavo Kerk and City Hall
The Grote Markt (big market) is the heart and central square of Haarlem and is dominated by the 78 m high church Sint Bavokerk on one side and the stately city hall on the other side.
The St. Bavokerk is a three-nave cruciform church and was built between 1370 and 1520. The magnificent tower of the church served for a long time as an observation tower for the fire department. The painter Frans Hals found his final resting place in the church. Because of the great acoustics, the church – besides church services – is often used for events and concerts. The church can be visited from monthday to saturday from 10:00 – 17:00, the entrance fee is € 2,50. Every Saturday at 14:00 there is a guided tour (German or English) for 5,- € per person.
Today's city hall is located on the site of a former hunting lodge of the Counts of Holland and a Dominican convent. The Jagschloss fell in the 14. The building was destroyed by fire in the seventeenth century and was replaced by the town hall in 1370. After the abolition of the Dominican monastery in 1578, the monastery complex was integrated into the town hall. Only the church was demolished in 1579. The historic "Gravenzaal" of the city hall is nowadays used as a wedding location. In addition, in the basement of the town hall there is a tourist information office ( VVV ).
Every Monday and Saturday the Grote Markt is a hive of market activity. In addition, events such as the Haarlem Jazz Festival, funfairs and the Christmas market take place here regularly.
Corrie ten Boom house
Almost everyone knows the "Anne Frank House", the house in Amsterdam where the Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis from 1942 to 1944. But hardly anyone has ever heard of the Corrie ten Boom House in Haarlem. Between 1943 and 1944, the Christian ten Boom family constantly sheltered 5-6 people persecuted by the Nazis in their apartment above the watch store, helping them to hide or escape through their network. For emergencies, an extra wall was built into the bedroom of Corrie, one of the two daughters of the family, in which up to 6 people could hide standing up. On 28. February 1944, the family was betrayed, arrested and – together with other participants of the underground network – taken away to various concentration camps. Despite a thorough search, the Nazis could not find the 6 people who were in hiding at that time. In a daring action, they were freed from hiding after 47 hours. Of the ten Boom family only the daughter Corrie survived the concentration camp. After her release, Corrie saw it as her mission to take the Word of God out into the world and in 30 years visited over 60 countries on Christian missions. She died at the age of 91 on 15. April 1983. Since 1988, the house named in her honor "Corrie ten Boom huis" its doors as a museum. It is believed that through the efforts of the ten Boom family, up to 800 Jews and other persecuted people were saved.
The Corrie ten Boom House is located at Barteljorisstraat 19, is open Tuesdays to Saturdays and can only be visited on a guided tour. Guided tours are offered daily in English and regularly in German. As only 20 people are admitted per tour, it is worth booking in advance. This is possible by clicking on the calendar on this website. The tour is free of charge. Donations benefit the Corrie ten Boomhuis Foundation. Due to the nature of the building, the tour is not possible for wheelchair users.
Historic drugstore Van der Pigge
Anyone who opens the doors of Gierstraat 3 takes a short trip back in time. For the Van der Pigge drugstore is a traditional business whose interior has been deliberately little changed since it opened in 1849. Wooden barrels, carved heads, a snake and a stuffed crocodile can be admired on and above the wooden shelves and remind us of the time when the goods (exotic herbs and spices) arrived here by ship. Only the original assortment – herbs, spices, chemicals and paints – has changed over the years. In the 5. Van der Pigge, in the second generation of the family, has today successfully specialized in natural remedies and food supplements. From the outside, the building is enclosed on 3 sides by a department store. This testifies to the sense of tradition of the family, who refused to sell their building when the department store was built in 1929. Funnily enough, the department store has meanwhile pursued many different concepts, all of which failed sooner or later, while Van der Pigge has always remained true to itself. Today the drugstore is a monument and the special interior is included in the list of cultural heritage (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed).