Haarlem is the capital of North Holland and has a population of just over 150,000 people. It is a very historical city, with lots of picturesque old buildings to see. Indeed tourism is making up an ever increasing amount of Haarlem’s income, (it is also one of the main flower growing regions). It is also popular with day trippers from Amsterdam due to it close proximity, (it is only 20 km away) to the capital.

History of Haarlem

Haarlem first became a city in the mid 13th century although the city walls were not built until some 30 years later. A city mainly constructed from wood was always a risk and the inevitable happened and a great fire almost burned the city to the ground. Rebuilding was started immediately but there were 2 more city wide fires in 1347 and 1351 which burned the Counts castle to the ground and he donated the land to build a new town hall. But the city had not yet had its share of disaster and the plague or “The Black Death” killed approximately half the inhabitants in 1381

Occupation And Reformation

In July of 1573 the Spanish Army took control of Haarlem after a 7 month siege, but the inhabitants were allowed to buy their freedom provided they hosted a small contingent of Spanish soldiers. Unfortunately the Governor , his lieutenant and most of the soldiers that had defended the city for so long were executed by the victors. Another fire broke out in the city in 1576. It was started accidentally by some German mercenaries who were employed as guards in the city.

In 1577 the Spanish army left Haarlem once again to its own devices and this brought about a time of tolerance where Catholics and Protestants were treated, for the most part, equally. This in its turn brought about an influx of refugees to the city, of Huguenots and Catholics, many of them skilled artisans and craftsmen

In the late 16th and early17th century the population increased by over 100% and the area built up a good reputation for its fine cotton and silk, the city also had over 100 breweries. But the black death again devastated the city in 1657 and this brought about the start of a downward spiral in the fortunes of Haarlem, which lasted until the French arrived in the city at the end of the 18th century. the government signed and accord with France and as new steam driven cotton mills were brought in the economy started to prosper again.

In 1839 a new train service was established to Amsterdam and this further boosted the economy which prospered through out the 19th and early 20th century. In the Second World war Haarlem fared badly and the economy never really reached the same level after losing much of its industry. In the 1960’s another set of immigrants arrived in the city, this time from Indonesia and this brought about a large amount of new housing to be built.

"Grote Markt" - City square Haarlem
“Grote Markt” – City square Haarlem

Transport in Haarlem

The city of Haarlem always had good transport links even when it received its charter as a city in 1245 as it was situated on a busy route from the north to the south and also was near to the prosperous area of Amsterdam.

Getting to Haarlem


Central Station in Haarlem
Central Station in Haarlem

If you are travelling by air to the Netherlands you will have an easy journey from Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport to Haarlem. As you arrive in the airport you should look for signs to the train station that is below the main concourse. After you have bought your ticket, you will need to go to the platform and get on the train. But you need to change at Amsterdam Sloterdijk for the train to Haarlem.

Going from central Amsterdam to Haarlem by train is a very short journey of only about 15 minutes so be sure to watch out so that you do not miss the station. When you arrive at the station it is worthwhile looking around as it was built in the “Art Nouveau” style and is very interesting. There is also a bus from the airport to Haarlem every 10 minutes or so, it is the R-net 300.

Getting around Haarlem

Probably the best way to get around Haarlem is by bicycle. As in most places in Holland there is very little in the way of hills and there are a lot of very good cycle ways. There are plenty of places to hire bicycles from and they are usually quite cheap. If you do not wish to cycle there are plenty of buses in the city and they are very easy to get around on.

As the centre of Haarlem is not a very large area it is quite easy to walk around the old town, where most of the tourist sights are. There are plenty of taxis in Haarlem. The main taxi rank is at the train station and there are plenty of others in the town. If you would like to book a taxi, you are able to do so by phone, Taxi Haarlem +31 23 545 0005 or, Kennemer taxi, +31 23 844 3322.

Haarlem Tourism

Haarlem is a very good city to visit as a tourist. It is the fourth most visited city in the Netherlands and there is plenty to see and do with good shopping and many architecturally interesting buildings.

Museums And Buildings

The Teylers Museum opened its doors in the late 18th century and is the oldest in Holland. The museum has a very wide ranging collection from paintings and drawing by Michelangelo and Rembrandt, to fossils and old scientific apparatus. The Ten Boom Museum is a museum dedicated to the Ten Boom family and the part that they played in the 2nd world war by hiding Jews and others from the Nazis.

The City Hall is a wonderful building that is built by the local count after his castle burnt down in the 1300’s, although the frontage of the building is from the 1600’s. The Windmill De Adrian is a recently restored traditional wind mill set on the banks of the river Spaarne.

Eating And Shopping

There is very good shopping in Haarlem, indeed it is thought be some of the best in the country. The Grote Houtstraat is the major shopping area with all of the recognisable shops, but if you go to Gierstraat, Kleine Houtstraat has a wide range of smaller and more eclectic shops.

The Restaurant Het Pakhuis sell very cheap and homely food that is also very well made from good wholesome produce. If you want to go for something slightly more upmarket there is the restaurant, Noor. They have a good range of slightly more expensive but well cooked meals in a modern restaurant surrounding,

Haarlem is a great place to go as a tourist, there are many museums and attractions to visit and many different things to see and do and many historical places and buildings to see.