Welcome to Haarlem
Centuries ago, the delightful city of Haarlem was larger than Amsterdam. In the 15th century, its river-bound streets were a jumble of textile merchants, shipyards and breweries, and when 'Tulip Mania’ hit in the 1630s, speculators poured into the town, as eager to make their fortunes as the dot.com hopefuls of the Nineties. But all bubbles burst- tulips are no longer gold dust, there’s only one brewery left now, and the textiles are largely to be found in the pretty and pricey boutiques of the Old Town.
Still, many Medieval buildings remain, now hung with bright flowers, and old wooden bridges still crisscross the sparkling Spaarne river. Nowadays, it’s a calm, cultured city of cobbles and gables, shadowed by the vast loftiness of St Bavo Cathedral, in the beautiful Grotemarkt.
And although it’s a thriving city, fully immersed in the 21st century, there’s something profoundly peaceful about Haarlem- something that conjures up Vermeer paintings of girls by windows, blue and white crockery, chiming clocks, and centuries of townspeople strolling amongst the cobbled streets, passing the time of day as sunlit, painted boats sail by.
Visit the Adriaan Windmill, a once-working windmill which is now a museum. Its viewing platform offers lovely views over the town.
Markets have been held in Grotemarket since the middle ages- currently, there is an excellent food market there on Mondays and Saturdays.
Be warned, most shops don’t open till 1 pm on Monday- so don’t extend your weekend assuming you can spend the last day shopping. Opening hours are usually 9-5, Monday-Saturday.
If you do want to visit St Bavo, there is a 3€ charge to see inside, and you enter through the gift shop.
The centre of Haarlem has four car parks, in which you can park your car safely and inexpensively. The car parks are open 24 hours a day. You will see signs to the car parks as you drive into Haarlem. The rate is between €1-2 per hour.
Hire a bike. Haarlem is very easy to get around by cycling, and there are cycle paths on most roads. There is bike rental available at the back of Central station.
Rent a Bike Haarlem has an English language website.
http://www.rentabikehaarlem.nl Bikes from 10€
Buses run frequently- the main bus station is outside Central station. Bus lines 2, 73 and 300 will take you from the central train to the centre in around 5 minutes.
The main taxi rank is outside the main station.
In Haarlem, however, it’s easiest to walk- it’s a very compact city, with so much to see that can most easily be enjoyed on foot.
If you are travelling to the Netherlands from Newcastle (England) by DFDS Seaways ferry then take Connexxion Bus 75 directly from IJmuiden harbour to Haarlem Station from the harbour.
There are frequent trains from Amsterdam Centraal and the journey takes around 10 minutes.