When planning a trip to the Netherlands, Haarlem might not be the first city that comes to mind. Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Amsterdam, Haarlem is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
It has a rich history, charming architecture, beautiful canals and there are lots and lots of things to do here. Haarlem definitely offers a more authentic Dutch experience. So, what should you do here?
After living in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, I know quite some hidden spots!
In this article we will explore the best things to do in Haarlem, ensuring you will have a great time when visiting this local city.
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Is Haarlem worth visiting?
Haarlem is definitely worth visiting. It’s almost like a calmer, smaller version of Amsterdam. Even though it’s smaller than the capital city, there is enough to do here.
It’s also very easily accessible, as it’s only half an hour away from Amsterdam. There are several convenient ways to travel from Amsterdam to Haarlem. This makes it an ideal day trip from Amsterdam. You can also reach Haarlem in half an hour from Castricum.
Besides, Haarlem is a very pretty city. Especially if you like the combination of a place which feels both like a village and a city, Haarlem is the perfect place for you to visit.
The best things to do in Haarlem
As there are many things to do in Haarlem, it can be hard to choose what to do! That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the best things to do in Haarlem. Read on to find out.
1. Visit the Plukweide
One of the best ways to see Haarlem’s natural beauty is by visiting the Plukweide. This is a lovely flower picking garden located just outside the city center.
You can handpick your own bouquet of 20-30 flowers for 9 euros in total. You can either pay in cash or transfer money to the number written on the wall.
If you’ve always wanted to create a truly personalized bouquet, then this is the perfect place to visit. Don’t expect huge flowers though, the flowers are quite small, yet they do make a pretty bouquet.
Visting the Plukweide is a very good way to spend your time in Haarlem. Especially if you love flowers.
2. Visit Bookstore H. de Vries
Book lovers should not miss the opportunity to explore Bookstore H. de Vries, one of the oldest bookstores in the Netherlands. Established in 1910, this literary haven has an impressive collection of books across different genres.
The bookstore is very charming. It has a classical kind of atmosphere. The staff is really friendly and the cafe next to it is really lovely as well. You really have to experience this place when visiting Haarlem.
This cosy bookstore is very conveniently located, as it’s only a 10-minute walk from Haarlem’s trainstation.
3. Relax at the Dakkas
One of the best places to visit in Haarlem is the Dakkas. Dakkas is a rooftop oasis that offers stunning panoramic views of Haarlem.
This rooftop garden and restaurant is located on top of a car park and has been transformed into a terrace haven.
To be honest, I don’t really like the food here too much, BUT still it’s one of my favorite places in Haarlem.
If you’re looking for a restaurant in Haarlem with lots of vegan and vegetarian options, then you might like the food here though.
Especially if you want to enjoy a great view while enjoying some drinks (such as local craft beers), this is one of the best things to do in Haarlem.
4. Picnic at de Bolwerken
A lesser-known but equally enchanting spot in Haarlem is de Bolwerken. This is a park located on the other side of Haarlem station. This peaceful haven is perfect for a relaxing picnic between lush greenery.
Go for a walk, find a cosy spot under a tree, and enjoy a lovely picnic with friends, yourself or loved ones. De Bolwerken has beautiful views of the canals and has a really serene atmosphere, making it an ideal retreat for someone looking for a safe space.
5. Tap Wines at the Harlem Social Club
Wine enthusiasts will find their haven at the Harlem Social Club. This is a stylish wine bar that offers an extensive selection of wines from around the world. The knowledgeable staff will guide you through their impressive collection, ensuring you find the perfect wine to suit your preference.
You can tap your own wine and choose how much you want to drink of it. Do you want a whole glass or just one sip? You can decide and you only pay for the amount that you want to drink. If you’ve ever wanted to have a sip of a 120 euro wine, then this is the spot for you.
6. Sup on the canals
Stand-up paddleboarding, commonly known as SUP, has gained popularity throughout the years. One of the most memorable experiences you can have in Haarlem is to sup on the canals. Especially if you’re a water enthusiast.
In this way, you can explore Haarlem and enjoy the views of the city’s picturesque canals while paddling. You can even have a lesson in ”supping” at Sup Flow.
7. Relax at the Egelantierstuin
Once I was strolling through the streets of Haarlem when I stumbled upon this garden. Tuin means garden in Dutch. It’s not like a botanical garden, but it’s more a serene place to take a deep breath. Sitting here really gives you a sense of peace.
In the pictures you’ll see some fallen trees as there had been a storm recently. I highly recommend visiting the Egelantierstuin If you’re looking for a quiet green place to escape to.
8. Visit the Grote Markt
No visit to Haarlem is complete without exploring the Grote Markt. This is the city’s central square. Surrounded by beautiful historic buildings, the Grote Markt is the cultural hub of Haarlem.
Enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the many cafes, feel the atmosphere and admire the stunning architecture of Haarlem. The Grote Markt is also home to the impressive St. Bavokerk, a magnificent Gothic church that is definitely worth a visit.
9. Eat at Little Jamaica Restaurant
For those looking for a taste of the exotic, Little Jamaica Restaurant is a must-visit. This Caribbean-inspired eatery offers a menu filled with delicious dishes, such as jerk chicken and flavorful curries. You can really taste that their food is home made. Especially the jerk chicken is very tender.
The experience is very personal, something which is pretty unique nowadays! Don’t expect your food to be ready quickly, as it’s only a small restaurant. In a way, this adds to the charm of the place.
The owners are really kind and charming and they have a certain kind of style which is very welcoming. They have an inside area and an outside inside area (I hope this makes sense to you).
The outside part is slightly hidden and my favorite part of the restaurant. Here you can really take the time to relax, while waiting for your food. I would especially recommend trying the Jamaica rum punch cocktail, a delicious red cocktail and one of my new personal favorites.
To be honest, I think it’s one of the best restaurants in the Netherlands. If you’re looking for a memorable dining experience, then this is one of the best places to visit in Haarlem.
10. Visit Windmill de Adriaan
A symbol of Haarlem’s rich history and heritage, Windmill de Adriaan is an iconic landmark that should not be missed. This traditional windmill, originally built in the 18th century, stands along the river Spaarne and offers a glimpse into the city’s past.
Take a guided tour to learn about the windmill’s fascinating history or climb to the top for breathtaking views and capture some picture perfect photos.
11. Have craft beers at the Jopenkerk
Beer enthusiasts should definitely visit the Jopenkerk, a local brewery housed within an old church. This is a favorite among locals in Haarlem.
This unique establishment not only serves a fantastic selection of craft beers but also offers an interesting insight into the brewing process.
Immerse yourself in the ambiance of the beautifully restored church, enjoy a refreshing craft beer and try the flavors of Haarlem’s finest brews. There’s even a shop upstairs if you want to bring home some souvenirs.
My personal favorite is the Hypercolour beer.
12. Rent a boat
One of the best ways to explore Haarlem’s canals and waterways is by renting a boat. Cruise along the tranquil waters, admire the stunning architecture from a different perspective, and enjoy a boat ride at your own pace.
Whether you choose a pedal boat or a traditional motorboat, exploring Haarlem’s waterways will undoubtedly be a highlight of your visit.
13. Wander around Haarlem
Haarlem and it’s city center is best explored by foot. With its narrow streets, charming boutiques, canals and historic buildings, walking in Haarlem is a delight for the eye.
Go on a walk through the small lanes, admire the beautifully preserved architecture and soak in the local atmosphere. Along the way, you can stop by the different shops, art galleries and cafes that dot the streets.
Definitely discover the narrow alleyways and hidden streets in Haarlem.
14. Explore hidden courtyards
The Netherlands is known for its unique style of city planning, which historically involved the creation of many hidden courtyards called “hofjes.”
Haarlem is home to the oldest hofje in the country, the Hofje Van Bakenes. Do keep in mind that people actually live here, so do respect people’s privacy when visiting.
The city center has around 21 different hofjes, most of which were built between the 14th and 17th centuries. Discover these hidden treasures, step back in time and appreciate the peacefulness that can be found within these charming courtyards.
15. Play Jeu de Boules at Mooie Boules Haarlem
For a fun and unique experience, head to Mooie Boules Haarlem. This is a vibrant indoor venue offering the traditional French game of jeu de boules.
Gather some friends and enjoy a few rounds of this classic game. A lot of local people visit this place as well.
Mooie Boules also offers drinks and food, which makes it the perfect spot for a playful evening with friends.
16. Go to a museum
Haarlem has a rich cultural heritage and is home to many museums, hence it’s a great place to visit for art enthusiasts. Visit the Frans Hals Museum to see the works of the renowned Dutch Golden Age painter or explore the Teylers Museum.
You can also discover the thought provoking art at the Dolhuys Museum. Whatever art you prefer, Haarlem’s museums are sure to leave you inspired. For the best museums in Haarlem, have a look at this article.
Haarlem may be overshadowed by its larger neighbor, Amsterdam, but it offers a unique and authentic Dutch experience that should not be overlooked.
From visiting pretty parks and historic landmarks to exploring museums and hidden courtyards, there are a lot of things to do in Haarlem.
Walk through its historic streets, admire the beauty of the canals or try some rich craft beers at the Jopenkerk. Haarlem offers a range of experiences to entertain every kind of visitor. Take the time to explore its hidden gems and you won’t be disappointed.
The next time you’re staying in the Netherlands, consider adding Haarlem to your itinerary. With its rich history, culture and natural beauty, this hidden gem is sure to leave a good impression on you.
Whether you want to sup, visit museums or eat good food, Haarlem is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands.
Away with Danae
See more travel content related to the Netherlands:
- Dutch Snacks You Need to Try in the Netherlands
- The Best Food Tours in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- The Best Local Bars in Amsterdam for Drinks
- Castricum Travel Guide: A Hidden Gem in the Netherlands
- 8 Unique Rooftop Bars in Amsterdam
- 9 Amazing Places To Visit On a Day Trip from Amsterdam
- Museums in Haarlem: The Ultimate Guide To Art and Culture