Step back in time to the Dutch Golden Age in historic Haarlem, only 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam. The capital of the province of North Holland, the city is located on the river Spaarne, giving it its nickname 'Spaarnestad' (Spaarne city).
Haarlem has a rich history, dating back 1245. Located on a thin strip of land just above sea level, in the run-up to the Dutch Golden Age it was an extremely wealthy city. This was partly due to the toll payment that was collected from ships and travellers moving through the city along the busy route that connected the Dutch cities of Leiden and Alkmaar. As the shipping trade waned, Amsterdam became the dominant North Holland city during the Golden Age.
Filled with historical monuments, Haarlem is home to some of the Netherlands' best museums, such as the Teylers Museum, Frans Hals Museum and Dolhuys Museum of the Mind. Churches and cathedrals are dotted across the city, and some of these have been been transformed into trendy hangouts and hidden gems, such as Jopenkerk, which is now a bustling brewery that serves up a range of brilliant beers. The oldest and most modern hofjes in the country are located Haarlem's city centre. The oldest remaining example of these little hidden courtyards is the Hofje van Bakenes, which was founded in 1395. And these hofjes aren't always so old: the Johan Enschedéhofje was opened in 2007.
In addition to all the history and culture on offer, one of the best things to do in Haarlem is to find a table and order something warm and inviting at one of its many quaint cafés and delicious lunch spots. With more than 200 restaurants and 90 bars (which is, per inhabitant, more than any other Dutch city), Haarlem is renowned for its gastronomy.