Art and culture in Haarlem
A city that’s inspired 1,000 paintings Haarlem boasts spectacular buildings, monuments charming venues, and fascinating museums. With an abundance of options for adventurers looking to discover some real Dutch culture, we’ve collated the very best experiences, events and places to explore when you’re there.
Frans Hals Museum
A must-see for anyone interested in the Dutch Masters, the Frans Hals Museum celebrates Haarlem’s most famous native. Situated in the almshouse where Hals spent his final years, the museum focuses on the 17th-century Haarlem School and boasts the world’s largest collection of his paintings. The jewels in the crown are the eight group portraits of the Civic Guard that reveal Hals’ exceptional attention to each figure’s character and political positioning. Also, look out for paintings by other contemporary artists, including Hendrick Goltzius, Jacob van Ruisdael, Pieter Saenredam and Jan Steen. The collection is spread across two locations, Hal at Grote Markt and Hof, just a seven-minute walk away. You’ll find art from the 16th and 17th centuries and a stimulating mix of modern and contemporary pieces at both.
This unique dome cathedral is listed in the top five most important churches in the world built between 1850 and 1950, which also includes the Sagrada Familia and the Sacré-Coeur. The mighty monument, designed by Joseph Cuypers, has 12 large and small towers and a 65-meter-tall dome. The cathedral mixes a range of architectural styles. Explore it fully by taking a guided tour or admire at all the artefacts at the church’s museum.
Whether you’re looking for contemporary dance, cutting-edge theatre or an arthouse flick, Haarlem’s Schuur does it all. Housing two theatre halls and two film screens, the venue has been hosting a unique programme of performances and its own productions for the past 40 years. It also invests in local artists and writers to help develop and nurture local talent. So if you’re looking to discover something new or find a real hidden gem, this wonderful venue is the perfect place to start.
Dating back to 1784, the Teylers Museum, (free entrance with your I amsterdam City Card) is the Netherlands' oldest museum, which feels like leafing through an antique encyclopedia. Enjoy taking in its extensive collection of paintings, drawings, fossils, minerals, instruments and books. Make sure to visit the museum’s monumental Oval Room is more than two centuries old and an attraction in itself. The museum hosts regular exhibitions dedicated to everything from history to science.
Located at the heart of old Haarlem, the Philharmonie is the city’s finest concert hall and home to the perfectly preserved late Romantic Cavaillé-Coll organ. This striking 19th-century building features numerous galleries with high ceilings which provide outstanding acoustics. The language-no-problem programme includes dance performances, pop concerts, classical music, and plays in English or without any speech. For a truly authentic experience, why not try and catch a performance by the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra or the Dutch Chamber Orchestra, which both regularly give concerts here.
Dolhuys Museum of the Mind
Voted European Museum of the Year 2022, Museum van de Geest (Museum of the Mind) is a former mental health institute and sick house now transformed into a fascinating museum. The exhibitions explore the mind and motivations of people who lived on the fringes of society, whether they wanted to or not. Discover works by thinkers and scientists who dealt with disabilities or mental illness, including artists like Edvard Munch, best-known for painting ‘The Scream’, and Vincent van Gogh. Audio tours in English are available.
It’s almost impossible to miss the 16th-century Grote Kerk when you’re in Haarlem, as the building towers above the city centre. A visit to this spectacular building is an unmissable cultural experience. Step into the church’s gothic interior and you’ll see why. The church is also the resting place of several famous Haarlemmers, including Frans Hals and Willem Bilderdijk. The venue also plays host to a number of choirs, orchestras and musical performances throughout the year. Some even feature the church’s gigantic organ, which was once played by a young Mozart.
One of the most beautiful theatres in the Netherlands, Haarlem’s Stadsschouwburg does it all: plays, dance and musical shows. The charming classic theatre hall – originally opened in 1918 - boasts golden walls, colourful mosaics, red-plush interiors, ornate ceilings and an eye-catching chandelier. The theatre was reopened in 2008 after a huge renovation, and since then the Stadsschouwburg has shone more brightly than ever.
You'll find the museum Anno Haarlem in the cellars of the City Hall. Explore the city's remarkable history as you watch the animated film A spin around Haarlem, or see how the imposing Grote or St.-Bavokerk was built. The perfect way to learn about the development of one of the Netherland's most charming cities.
Nestled in between the dunes and the forest at Bloemendaal you will find one of the most beautiful open-air theatres in the Netherlands: the intimate Caprera. This unique place, built against a sand dune and just a stone’s throw from Haarlem, boasts space for more than 1,100 guests and an always enticing programme of pop, dance, theatre, cabaret and shows for children.
Verwey Museum Haarlem
Verwey Museum Haarlem explores the history of Haarlem and its surroundings, showcasing objects of historical value from the surrounding region. The permanent exhibition allows you to see Haarlem throughout the centuries, while the temporary exhibitions tell fascinating stories about the people who helped make the city what it is today.
Corrie ten Boomhuis
During World War II, the Ten Boom family provided a hiding place for Jewish people and members of the resistance in their home on Haarlem’s Barteljorisstraat. The family was betrayed, imprisoned and deported to concentration camps – only Corrie survived the ordeal. Her house has now been transformed into this museum, in which you can step back in time to the 1940s and experience the fear and claustrophobia of that period. While there, make sure to check out the hiding place behind a fake wall in Corrie's bedroom. It was used to conceal people in hiding from the Nazi forces.
This newly-opened cinema in Haarlem is housed in a national monument that was once, of all things, a prison. Constructed at the end of the 19th century, the design of this stunning building was based upon panopticon principles and features a mesmerising free-standing domed ceiling. Nowadays, De Filmkoepel - with a total of 600 seats spread across six halls - is the place to catch beautiful arthouse films, the best of Hollywood and everything in between. There are also regular film festivals and premieres with special guests.