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Image from Koen Smilde

Things to do in Haarlem

Haarlem has been a hub of art and culture for centuries, from works by master painter Frans Hals and historic architecture to modern galleries and quirky museums. Grab some retail therapy at the concept stores and vintage shops that line the Gouden Straatjes (Golden Streets). Explore the local craft ateliers or relax in the city’s lush green areas. When the sun sets, head out for a lively evening at one of Haarlem’s Michelin-starred restaurants, friendly cafés, world-class concert venues or cutting-edge theatres.

Experience art and science at the country's oldest museum

Image from Teylers museum Haarlem

The oldest museum in the Netherlands, a trip to the Teylers Museum is like venturing through the back of a cupboard and into a strange new land. Whether delving into art or science, the museum’s extensive collection includes masterful paintings and drawings (many of which are by artists from The Hague School or the Dutch Romantics), ancient fossils and minerals, and instruments and books. It also hosts a changing line-up of fascinating exhibitions showcasing awe-inspiring science and art, and the building’s magnificent 200-year-old Oval Hall is an attraction in itself.

Don't forget that this museum is free to visit with a City Card!

Step back in time at Grote Markt

Image from Marie Charlotte Peze

Flanked by convivial cafés and restaurants – plus plenty of historic buildings – Grote Markt is the historic centre of Haarlem and is considered by many to be the most beautiful urban square in the country. Opposite the City Hall (which also houses the Visitor Information Centre) looms the Gothic Grote Kerk, or St. Bavokerk, whose 50-metre steeple has dominated Haarlem’s skyline for centuries. Built between 1370 and 1520, the church is UNESCO-protected and contains beautiful Renaissance artworks. Famous painters Frans Hals and Pieter Saenredam are buried here, and the renowned Müller organ – one of the finest in the world, standing 30 metres high with about 5,000 pipes – was once played by Mozart at the age of ten. In August, the annual culinary festival, Haarlem Culinair, takes over the market square, serving up an array of delicious (and affordable) dishes made with local produce. Visitors can also enjoy speciality beers, wines, and a whole load of live music.

Find your favourite local beers

Beer is definitely a religion for some, but former church-turned-brewery De Jopenkerk takes this concept to extremes—Brewing craft beers onsite according to old recipes and modern innovations. Find your favourite tipple amidst the beautifully restored surroundings – with vaulted ceilings and the original stained glass windows left intact. Nearby, hidden amongst the city’s 17th-century brick interior, is the nifty little Uiltje Bar. This hoppy paradise is the city’s first craft beer bar, with a constant carousel of 30 draught beers and more than 120 bottles.

Visit Haarlem’s unique concert hall

Couple walking past the exterior of PHIL Haarlem concert hall at night
Image from Olaf Kramer

Haarlem’s main concert hall, PHIL Haarlem, has hosted everyone from Art Garfunkel to 10cc in recent years. The stunning 19th-century venue comprises five different halls, each with its own individual character. That includes the ‘Great Room’, boasting a moving floor and bespoke seating design, and the ‘Little Room’ – entirely made of wood, making it one of the best acoustic halls in Europe. For a truly authentic experience, why not try to catch a performance by the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra or the Dutch Chamber Orchestra, both of whom regularly give concerts here? 

Explore the history of windmills

Image from Koen Smilde

No visit to Haarlem is complete without a guided tour of the Molen de Adriaan, a windmill close to the town centre. Set in a picturesque location alongside the Spaarne River, this tower mill has been one of the most striking features of the Haarlem skyline for centuries. A museum inside uses models and visual installations to explore the history of Molen Adriaan and other Dutch windmills. For the whole experience, you can take a guided tour. Soak up the stunning views of Haarlem from the windmill’s deck.

Discover Haarlem's most famous native

Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
Image from koen smilde

17th-century portrait painter Frans Hals is one of Haarlem’s most famous sons, and his legacy can be seen all over the city, nowhere more so than at the Frans Hals Museum, a large gallery dedicated to 17th-century art and Hals’ portraiture, and home to the most extensive collection of Frans Hals portraits worldwide. Offering a stimulating mixture of Haarlem’s 16th and 17th-century, modern and contemporary art, the museum is split between two locations—Groot Heiligland and HAL— a seven-minute walk apart through a beautiful section of Haarlem.

Shop your way through the Gouden Straatjes

Woman with shopping bags looking in the window of Sjakies gift and concept store on shopping street. Haarlem Content Creation Day March 2024
Image from Verity Seward

Haarlem has been voted the Netherlands’ best shopping destination on several occasions, and a quick look around the boutique-lined streets will reveal precisely why. With everything from achingly cool concept stores to traditional markets and big brands to independent labels, as well as charming antique and curiosity shops around every corner, it’s no wonder that Haarlemmers call their shopping district ‘de Gouden Straatjes’ (the streets of gold). Perhaps the best-known streets in Haarlem are the Grote Houtstraat, the Barteljorisstraat and the Zijlstraat. But don’t miss the chance to explore the smaller streets characteristic of this historic city, such as the Schagchelstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Anegang, Warmoesstraat, Koningstraat and Gierstraat, all of which feature a selection of unique shops and specialist stores.

Explore Haarlem’s hidden courtyards

Haarlem is a city known for its hofjes (enclosed courtyard gardens), and there are beautiful green spaces tucked away behind many unassuming streets – most dating back to medieval times. The gardens are surrounded by charitable almshouses that were used to house poor, unmarried, or widowed women. There are 21 main public hofjes in Haarlem, spanning from the ancient (the oldest was founded in 1395) to the very modern. But with the entrances to many hofjes being concealed behind modest doorways or down seemingly simple alleyways, these city oases are not always easy to find.

Experience Haarlem from the water

The picturesque River Spaarne winds its way through the historic city of Haarlem, and on a sunny day, it brims with sailing and boating enthusiasts bobbing along its waters. If you fancy setting sail yourself, take a cruise along the historic canals and River Spaarne with an experienced skipper, leaving plenty of room for explanations about the city's history, art and important landmarks. The various tour operators - including Smidtje Canal Cruises, Haarlem Canal Tours and Luxe Sloepen Haarlem - offer boats in different styles with optional refreshments packages. It’s a beautifully relaxed way to explore the city and a great way to orientate before exploring all the sights in more detail. 

Relax at Sauna van Egmond

Sauna Van Egmond
Image from Sauna Van Egmond

Health and beauty spa Sauna van Egmond has been top of the list for wellness across the Netherlands for almost 40 years. Housed in a large, stately building with oh-so-stylish art deco furnishings, the spa retreat offers indulgent pampering in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The extensive spa facilities include sauna cabins, a Roman pool, a Turkish steam bath and the country’s only Caldarium Maximus – a natural stone room heated to around 60 degrees. Tucked away in a quiet Haarlem neighbourhood, the spa offers luxury beauty treatments and massages, delicious and healthy meals, and films at the onsite cinema.