Top 10 cultural experiences in Haarlem

A city that’s inspired a thousand paintings, Haarlem’s remarkable history and charm make it one of the most popular destinations in the Amsterdam Area. Boasting spectacular buildings and monuments – some dating back almost 800 years – and a multitude of museums which beg to be explored fully, there’s almost too much to see and do in this magical city. But fear not, as here we’ve collated the very best cultural experiences, events and places to see and do when you’re in Haarlem. To make your visit even easier, grab an Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket, which allows you to explore all the iconic sights and scenery of the Amsterdam Area for one, two or three consecutive days.

See something new at the Toneelschuur

Whether you’re looking for contemporary dance, cutting-edge theatre or an arthouse flick, Haarlem’s Toneelschuur does it all. Housing two theatre halls and two movie screens, the venue has been hosting a unique programme of performances, dance shows and its own productions for the past 40 years. And as well as welcoming touring companies, Toneelschuur 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. 

The Toneelschuur, Long Begijnestraat 9

Haarlem nightlife Toneelschuur Hans Guldemond

Explore art and science at Teylers Museum

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 from The Hague School and 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.

Teylers Museum, Spaarne 16

Teylers Museum Haarlem Geert Snoeijer

Visit a venue unlike any other

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

The Philharmonie, Long Begijnestraat 11

Get acquainted with a Dutch Golden Age Master

Situated in a picturesque listed building, the museum exhibits the largest number of portraits by Frans Hals, one of the most innovative and famous painters of the Golden Age. A walk around the breath-taking building – built in 1609 – is the perfect way to step back in time and discover his unique talent, and artworks that influenced the styles of Monet to Manet. As well as Hals’ world-famous portraits of the Dutch civic guard and regents, you’ll find amazing artworks by other renowned Haarlem artists such as Goltzius, Ruisdael and Saenredam. And don’t miss the chance to stroll around the regents’ stunning rooms, admire the museum’s characteristic dining room, or take some time to relax in the delightful courtyard garden. 

Frans Hals Museum, Groot Heiligland 62

Frans Hals Museum Haarlem

Marvel at Haarlem's magnificent church

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, with some even featuring the church’s gigantic organ, which was once played by a young Mozart.

Grote Kerk, Grote Markt 22

Discover one of the Netherland's most beautiful theatres

One of the most beautiful theatres in the Netherlands, Haarlem’s Stadsschouwburg does it all: plays, dance productions, and music and cabaret 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 renovation has continued to help the Stadsschouwburg shine more brightly than ever.

Stadsschouwburg, Wilsonsplein 23

Haarlem schouwburg sunset CC BY 2.0 Daviddje via Flickr

See a show under the stars at the open-air Caprera

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 a bountiful programme of pop, dance, theatre, cabaret and children's shows.

Caprera, Hoge Duin en Daalseweg 2

Get down with the kids at the Kindertheater De Toverknol

If you were to build a theatre out of the dreams of children, it would probably look something like the Kindertheater De Toverknol. As well as offering a magical new show each month, before each performance kids get to transform into princesses, pirates or whatever character they might like to become for the day from the theatre’s special racks of dressing up outfits. On top of that, Kindertheater de Toverknol hosts birthday parties, and offers acting workshops and dance and music lessons.

Kindertheater De Toverknol, Spiegelstraat 8

Tour a moving memorial at the Corrie ten Boom house 

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 step back in time to the 1940s and experience the fear and claustrophobia that suffused the streets. While there make sure to check out the hiding place still located behind a fake wall in her bedroom, which was used to conceal Jewish people in hiding and others on the run from the Nazi occupying forces.

The Corrie ten Boom house, Barteljorisstraat 19

Climb a landmark windmill in the Netherlands

There are few sights more quintessentially Dutch than that of a windmill looming over a river, and the Molen (windmill) de Adriaan is one of the finest examples in the region. The imposing wooden tower has been a definitive feature on Haarlem’s skyline since the 18th century, although the existing windmill is actually a reconstruction (the original sadly burnt down in 1932). The mill is open for guided tours that include spectacular views across Haarlem’s rooftops from its riverside platform. 

Molen de Adriaan, Papentorenvest 1A

Haarlem molen Adriaan Geert Snoeijer