Haarlem combines historic charm with a cultural edge and a food and drink scene that rivals any big city. And of course, its location on the edge of the dunes means that the lure of the coast is never far away. With many families moving from Amsterdam to Haarlem for more space, it’s no wonder that the city has such a child-friendly feel. Here's our pick of some of the best things to do in Haarlem with children.
For every kid that loves to climb and run, build, and get dirty, there’s Natuur Speeleiland - ‘nature play island’ - in the Veerplas. Go for a full afternoon so there’s enough time to build endless huts, climb in the jungle gyms, discover the barefoot path, play minigolf, jump and look for insects. Not unimportant: they serve good coffee as well.
Natuurspeeleiland, A. Hofmanweg 62a
If you’re in the city centre, take a pitstop at half-toystore-half-café Meneer Paprika, where tables are arranged around a huge toddler-height train set, so you can keep an eye on your little ones wherever you’re sat. Tante Steef (Aunty Steef) and Krokodil(Crocodile), within a few minutes’ walk, offer an great selection of kids’ toys big and small, with a see-saw outside Tante Steef and a fun slide inside Krokodil.
Have you ever seen 60,000 LEGO bricks in one space? That’s the amount of bricks Haarlem’s architecture centre ABC Architectuurcentrum has in its LEGO room. With so many bricks, sorted by color, kids can play and build to their heart’s content. But don’t forget the expositions about the architecture of Haarlem and surroundings. In the Haarlemzaal you will find scale models, construction drawings and 3D-printed buildings.
ABC Architectuurcentrum, Groot Heiligland 47
Just outside the centre of Haarlem, the lovely Kweekcafe at the Haarlemmer Kweektuin is a huge glasshouse café with a large play area, lots of space to run around, and a speeltuin, adventure playground and petting zoo.
Haarlemmer Kweektuin, Kleverlaan 9
What does an archaeologist do? And what treasures do archaeologists find in the ground? Kids will find out everything about old and ancient Haarlem at the a rchaeological museum. A true hidden gem, Archaeologisch Museum Haarlem is situated in a beautiful historical building and is free to visit. Don’t miss out on the treasure hunt!
Archeologisch Museum, Grote Markt 18k
Kraantje Lek is a unique place in the dunes just outside Haarlem. At the foot of a high dune, near a hollow tree, there’s a fabulous wooden playground where children can play for hours on end. For many from the region this is also a nostalgic place where they used to come as a child.
Kraantje Lek, Overveen
According to Unicef, Dutch kids are officially the happiest in the world, and perhaps the quality of their playgrounds plays a part in that. Haarlem is overflowing with beautiful ‘speeltuins’ (literally, ‘play gardens’) where parents can relax in quaint surroundings while the kids blow off some steam. Nestled in the heart of the city, the community Speeltuin het Paradijsje (the little paradise) is a secret courtyard of wonder aimed at younger children. With a large sandpit, swings, little cars and tricycles and lots to explore, tots can be entertained for hours while parents enjoy a coffee surrounded by cute Dutch houses. Another notable speeltuin is de Glasblazers on the River Spaarne, which boasts its own wooden pirate ship and outdoor trampoline. Most speeltuinen understandably ask for a small entry fee towards the upkeep of the facilities.
Go fossil hunting in the oldest museum of the Netherlands! Slightly older kids will love the Teylers Museum of Wonder. Fantastic fossils, preserved beasts, sparkling minerals and impressive gadgets are just some of the weird and wonderful items on display at this beautiful museum, which combines art and science under one roof and is worth a visit for the building in itself. Kids up to 12 years old can take a free treasure hunt through the collection, whilst the museum organises regular workshops.
Teylers Museum, Spaarne 16
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
Haarlem doesn’t have as many canals as Amsterdam, but there are still enough waterways to make for an enjoyable cruise with the family. Take a guided boat tour to see the city from the water and learn interesting facts about its history and development along the way. If younger children would struggle to sit still for the duration, hiring your own boat offers more freedom for young skippers and allows you to set your own pace as you explore Haarlem. Sloepdelen Haarlem offers comfortable, self-drive electric boats for up to 12 people.
Still looking for things to do in Haarlem? Check out our tips of the best things to do in the city.