Haarlem combines historic charm with a cultural edge and a food and drink scene to rival any big city. And, of course, its location on the edge of the coastal dunes means that the lure of the sea 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 kid-friendly feel.
For every kid that loves to climb, run, build and get dirty, there’s Natuur Speeleiland (nature play island) in the Veerplas. Here you can let youngsters spend hours to building huts, climbing in the jungle gyms, playing minigolf and looking for insects. Not unimportant: it serves good coffee as well.
Natuurspeeleiland, A. Hofmanweg 62a
If you’re in the city centre, take a pit stop at Meneer Paprika, a cafe and toy shop in one. 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) also offer a 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 what you'll discover at Haarlem’s ABC Architectuurcentrum, an cenre for architecture with its very own LEGO room. With so many bricks, kids can play and build to their heart’s content. But don’t forget the exhibitions about the architecture of Haarlem and surroundings: In the Haarlemzaal you'll even 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 an extensive play area, lots of space to run around, an adventure playground and petting zoo.
Haarlemmer Kweektuin, Kleverlaan 9
What does an archaeologist do? And what treasures do archaeologists find in the ground? children can discover Haarlem's ancient secrets at the archaeological museum. A true hidden gem, Archaeologisch Museum Haarlem is situated in a beautiful historical building and is free to visit. Make sure to take part in the regular 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 you will find its spectacular wooden playground, the perfect place for children to play for hours on end.
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 offers a large sandpit, swings, little cars and tricycles. It will keep younger children 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 and is worth a visit just to admire the magnificent building. Kids up to 12 years old can even take a free treasure hunt through the collection.
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.