Haarlem is the best! In 2016 I moved to this city from a small rural town and I have never had any regrets. Haarlem is compact, full of life and history. Now my big overland adventure is about to start and I am leaving my home town Haarlem, it is time to bundle my best photos and favorite addresses. In this blog post I am sharing 20 best things to do and best places to eat. If you are going to Haarlem for a day or a weekend, you may find my collection useful for your trip. Have fun!
Also read: things to do in historical Goes.
What do I like to see in Haarlem?
1. Grote Markt & Grote Kerk
The beating heart of Haarlem is the Grote Markt, the place where all the streets come together. There is always something going on the Grote Markt, from the Saturday market to events such as Kings Fair and Haarlem Culinary Festival. A good place to start any self-guided walking tour through Haarlem. On the Grote Markt you will also find the impressive Grote Kerk (also known as the Church of Saint Bavo). This is one of the largest medieval churches in the Netherlands. The tower can be seen from everywhere in the center and is therefore always a good landmark. Are you lost? Spot the church tower and you know which way to go. Occasionally, cool events take place in the church. When we visited the church, there was a book market. Nice to browse around!
2. Along the Spaarne
If you are on the Grote Markt, then you are also close to the Spaarne. The city river of Haarlem. This river played an important role in Haarlem at the end of the nineteenth century. For example, chocolate producer Droste received the raw materials for their products by boat via this river. The Droste factory is within walking distance of my house and is a great eye-catcher on the Spaarne! Another highlight on the Spaarne is the Gravensteen Bridge. A nineteenth-century double drawbridge between Hoogstraat and Korte Veerstraat. A truly characteristic bridge, good point to start exploring both sides of the Spaarne.
3. Molen De Adriaan (windmill)
We continue with the sights around the Spaarne, because a little further down the river you will find the Molen de Adriaan (De Adriaan windmill). Built in the eighteenth century and used for a long time for grinding shells, tuff, oak bark and later grain. In 1932 the mill burned down. What you see now is a replica from 2002. Walk around the mill, sign up for a tour or have a drink on the terrace at Cafe Zuidam: your visit to Haarlem is not complete without seeing the windmill.
Address: Papentorenvest 1A
4. Amsterdamse Poort
Near the windmill you will find another characteristic monument: the Amsterdamse Poort (Amsterdam City Gate). The name already explains the function. This was the starting point for people who used to travel to Amsterdam. There were twelve Haarlem gates in total, connected by a city wall. Only this city gate is left. The Amsterdamse Poort played an important role during the Spanish attack in the Eighty Years’ War. Local resistance leader Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer stood on the walls to stop the attack along with hundreds of women. They threw hot pitch and boiling water over the wall. Haarlem was able to stand for seven months against the Spanish, but finally had to surrender in 1573.
5. Seven Golden Streets
Have you heard of the ‘nine streets’ in Amsterdam ? Haarlem has its own version: the seven Golden Streets. Because I have been living in Haarlem for a while, I have been to all Golden Streets. Not all at once, but spread out over the years at different times. Where does the name come from? Haarlem played an important role in trade in the Golden Age and the Golden Streets show this characteristic trade spirit. Here you will not find big chain stores, but small boutique shops and trendy restaurants. My personal favorites:
- Zijlstraat (because you can find By Lima here)
- Schagchelstraat (because you can find Micky’s and Brownies & Downies here)
- Kleine Houtstraat (because you can find Mica and TexMex Cantina here)
- Warmoestraat (perhaps the most beautiful street in Haarlem)
I love to grab a bite to eat at these places
6. Bij Babette
Do you have a sweet tooth? Go to Bij Babette. This proper British cafe serves scones, fudge and delicious cakes. The owner is from England and the cafe has an international team on hand. English seems to be the working language, but they also understand Dutch. Both vegetarians and vegans can go here.
Address: Kruisstraat 31
7. Meneer Frans
Meneer Frans is a bit hidden. There are two entrances, one through a furniture store and another one in a side alley. The lunchroom is part of a co-working building that also houses three other companies. Hence the different entrances. The nice thing about Meneer Frans: the design and the courtyard garden. Perfect to get away from the busy city center and relax with some coffee or lunch. Also great options for vegetarians and vegans.
Address: Klein Heiligland 8
Nearby Bij Babette you will also find Jetties, an organic cafe and an ideal pit stop between the city center and train station. I have tried several dishes here and it was always good. Both vegetarians and vegans can go here. Good to know: you have to order at the bar.
Address: Kruisweg 57
9. By Lima
By Lima is the coolest place in Haarlem. I love the interior design: fresh colors, Mediterranean floor tiles and a large chalkboard. The menu offers something for everyone. Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free eaters are welcome. Everything is sugar-free and without E numbers. By Lima is very popular, so plan your visit on a weekday or arrive on time at the weekend.
Address: Zijlstraat 65
10. De DAKKAS
Want to have lunch with a panorama view on the city? Then head over to De DAKKAS. This is a green restaurant pavilion on the roof of a parking garage. The owners came up with the idea in 2014 and after a successful crowdfunding campaign, the greenhouse doors of this café opened in the summer of 2018. The menu includes organic, local and seasonal food. There are plenty of options for both vegetarians and vegans. A number of the ingredients are even grown on the roof itself.
Address: De Witstraat 1A
If you say Haarlem, you say Jopen beer. This is the beer brand of Haarlem. Where to drink this? At the Jopenkerk (Jopen church). This is a grand café, located in a former church, where you can have a drink and a bite to eat. When you enter, please note the big bronze brewing kettles behind the bar. Instant reminder to let you know where you are!
Address: Gedempte Voldersgracht 2
12. Rubens burger
This is my boyfriend’s favorite burger bar and therefore it cannot miss on this list. This place grills burgers in all varieties. To be fair, the menu is focused on meat-lovers, but there are also vegetarian and vegan options. Take for example the ‘Dopkikkererwten burger’, falafel, various poke bowl and salads. We’re going to miss this place!
Address: Drossestraat 3
13. Micky’s Caucasian Kitchen
In the light of our overland trip I also have to include a Caucasian restaurant on this list. People often rave about the Georgian cuisine and I was therefore very happy to try this restaurant. And with good results! My boyfriend chose the traditional Georgian dish Khachapuri (sandwich filled with cheese and egg yolk) and I opted for the Azerbaijani dish Qutab (pancakes with spinach and onion). Delicious!
Address: Schagchelstraat 28
14. Frisk on the Spaarne
The former Droste factory has been given a second life and is now home to the cool little place called Frisk aan het Spaarne. A cafe with a Scandinavian theme (Frisk is Danish for fresh) and a fantastic view over the Haarlem river. On the menu there are several Scandinavian delicacies, but there is also a number of vegetarian dishes available. Vegan dishes can also be made upon request.
Address: Max Euweplein 1
Time to discover the other side of Haarlem Central Station! Go to the Kleverpark and sit down at café Koffieduss. This place is a coffee bar, hairdresser and beauty salon in one. Nice and handy if you need a haircut, but also want to eat a delicious cake. Great options on the menu for vegetarians and vegans!
Address: Schotersingel 115
16. Cafe Martinus
My most recent discovery in Haarlem: Cafe Martinus. Run by the owners of By Lima and can therefore only be awesome. The design of this place is fantastic: a pink flamingo theme combined with wallpaper with leaf motif. We sat down for breakfast and were surprised by the beautiful presentation of the dishes. Great attention to detail! The location of this place is also not bad: in the city center at the river Spaarne.
Address: Spaarne 94
What else do I like to discover in Haarlem?
17. Browsing at Sjakies
Sjakies is a nice interior shop to browse around. You will find all sorts of things here: furniture for your home, uniqiue books and lovely posters and wall paper. The store is completely fair trade and has two branches, a large and a small Sjakies. Recommended! Another great interior shop is Atelier 8 near the Botermarkt.
Address: Koningstraat 34 and Breestraat 34
18. Play a board game in The Boardroom
Is the weather typically Dutch (grey sky and rain) and are you looking for an indoor activity? Then go play a board game in The Boardroom. This is a board game cafe near the station. Choose a board game (there are different levels), sit down at a table and start playing. It is a cafe, so you can also order a nice drink or snack with it.
Address: Kruisweg 60
19. Learn more about history in Teylers Museum
If you walk along the Spaarne, the Teylers Museum will definitely attract your attention. The eighteenth-century front immediately shows that this is a special building. The Teylers Museum was the very first museum in the Netherlands and opened in 1784. The rooms themselves are already an attraction for the eye, in particular the Oval Hall. In addition to a permanent collection, the museum also has interesting temporary exhibitions.
Address: Spaarne 16
20. Look for the Haarlemse hofjes (hidden courtyards)
Haarlem has a lot of hidden courtyard. There used to be forty courtyards, built by the rich elite to accommodate widows and poor women. Twenty two have remained over the centuries, including two new modern ones. All courtyards are still inhabited. Most of them you will not see directly from the street side: they are hidden in alleys or behind old doors. Please note that most courtyards are closed on Sundays. The residents then have peace in their own garden.
Where to stay in Haarlem?
Haarlem is a popular day trip from Amsterdam, because it is so close. But did you know that Haarlem also offers some great accommodations? Take for example the Stayokay Hostel Haarlem. It’s located in a beautiful historical building, offers good prices, and has a clear focus on sustainability. This means reducing the use of single-use plastic and using more renewable energy. Moreover, this hostel has a lovely terrace where you can meet other travelers.
More photos of Haarlem
As I lived in Haarlem for a couple of years, I have made tons of photos of this beautiful city. It would be a shame not to share them. So here it is, more images of this lovely city. I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t visit Haarlem. I mean, it is gorgeous, right?
Do you want to visit Haarlem?
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