Haarlem Sights, Netherlands

De Olyphant lifting bridge, Haarlem, Netherlands

De Olyphant lifting bridge. Photo by Mycomzx.

Things to see and do in Haarlem

Haarlem is a relaxed, historic, pretty city only 20kms from Amsterdam (15 minutes by train), the capital of North Holland province and adjacent to large and attractive coastal sand dunes around Bloemendaal. The city dates from the 10th century; the origin of its name is a pretty fair description of it’s location, ‘a sandy, high place covered with trees’.
Haarlem has been the focus of Netherlands’ tulip bulb growing industry for many years which is why it’s Dutch nickname is ‘Flower City’.

Sailing though the city on Haarlem

Sailing though the city on Haarlem’s River Spaarne. Photo by Frank Schwichtenberg.

Haarlem has a well-preserved historic centre including the gothic Grote Kerk church (see below), a 14th century city hall and a main square which hosts a lively market. A cluster of fine museums offer brain as well as eye candy. Top of the pile is Teyler’s, the oldest museum in the country with an eclectic mass of displays set in an authentic 18th century building; Frans Hals Museum specialises in Dutch Golden Age paintings; the History Museum depicts Haarlem’s past; Ten Boom Museum does guided tours of this house where Jews on the run from Nazis hid until the operation was discovered in 1944. Entry free.

The Cathedral of Saint Bavo on the Leiden canal, Haarlem, Netherlands

The Cathedral of Saint Bavo on the Leiden canal. Photo by Ludvig14.

Completed in 1930 and officially Haarlem’s boss Catholic institution this cathedral has practically the same name as the previous Protestant cathedral; don’t confuse it with the more touristy and interesting St Bavokerk in Haarlem’s Market Square, see below.

St Bavokerk, also known as Grote Kerk interior and organ, Haarlem, Netherlands

Sint Bavokerk, also known as Grote Kerk. Photo by Johan Bakker

Grote Kerk’s detailed and fascinating interior includes hanging ships (seen on the left) and amusingly carved ‘leaning supports’ to help important members of the church to be apparently standing for long periods.

Mozart (at the age of 10! ), Mendelssohn and Handel have all played the grand organ visible at the end of the nave. It was completed in 1738 and is 30m high (90 ft), gilded and features 25 larger-than-life statues.
In the summertime visitors can attend regular organ recitals on this, the world’s most famous organ.

De Adriaan windmill on the Sparne River, Haarlem, Netherlands

De Adriaan windmill on the Sparne River, burnt to ashes in 1932 but now fully restored – as a tourist attraction. Photo by Frank Schwichtenberg.

Grote Houtstraat, Haarlem, Netherlands

Grote Houtstraat. A water-free street! Photo by Bogdan Migulski.

Schouwburg building, Haarlam, Netherlands

There is, needless to say, a fair amount of dull housing around Haarlem as well as some decent modern structures such as this, the Schouwburg. Photo by Sjaak Kempe

Quirky 17th century detailing on Haarlem houses, Netherlands

Quirky detailing is not uncommon, much of it dating back to the 17thC and found on regular old houses.


Haarlem’s Amsterdamse Poort, the last surviving city gate. Sadly it’s a lot less impressive in the daytime, especially with the appallingly plain structures around it. Photo by DanielvH1986