To help you plan your Christmas trip to Haarlem, here are experiences that are guaranteed to leave you with a smile bigger than Santa’s belly:

Visit Haarlem’s Christmas Market

Haarlem Christmas market

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the market features everything you would want for Christmas and more, with around 300 stalls offering all manner of goods, including artisan foods, handcrafted gifts, artwork and decorations. This traditional market offers something for children and adults alike and is a great place to stock up on handmade goodies while shopping to the soundtrack of a live choir under the fairy lights.

Go Christmas shopping

Haarlem shopping street Cris Toala Olivares

Haarlem has been voted as the best shopping city in the Netherlands, so if you’re looking to find someone the perfect Christmas present, you’re likely to find it here. Your first stop should be the city’s ‘Gouden Straatjes’ (streets of gold), where you’ll find everything from cool concept stores to independent boutiques and big brands. Head for Grote Houtstraat, the Barteljorisstraat and the Zijlstraat. After that take some time to head off the beaten path and explore smaller streets such as the Schagchelstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Warmoesstraat and Gierstraat: all of which feature a selection of fashion, homeware and gift stores.

Explore Frans Hal Museum

The end of the year is often the time we contemplate past and future, so revel in the juxtapositions at Frans Hal Museum. This gallery is all about the marriage of old and new, displaying Golden Age classics alongside and their more modern counterparts. The museum has two locations, Hof and Hal, just a short walk from one another, giving you an excuse to stroll through Haarlem's lovely lanes. At the historic Hof location, the exhibition 'Frans Hals and the Moderns' displays Frans Hal's 17th-century portraits as well as artworks by the artists who he inspired. It is a wonderful visual journey showing the impact Hals had on the next generations of painters.

Frans Hals and the Moderns // 13 October 2018 – 24 February 2019// Tickets and info

Try some Dutch delicacies

Oliebollen CC BY 20 Franklin Heijnen via Flickr

As well as the picturesque sights that you see as you wander around Haarlem during the festive period, you’ll likely also be amazed at the glorious smells that linger in the air. That’s because food vendors and stalls pop-up all around during Christmas time, offering Dutch treats at every turn. Make sure to try oliebollen, little spheres of pure pleasure - fried dough, often with currants, raisins or sultanas inside - all dipped in powdered sugar. And save some room for pepernoten and speculaas, crispy cinnamon-infused biscuits that go well with a steaming cup of hot Chocomel (chocolate milk).