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February 3, 2015 / oneworld82

Haarlem: a hidden gem minutes away from Amsterdam

When I planned our trip to the Netherlands, I wanted to make sure we would not limit our visit to just Amsterdam, That’s not because Amsterdam alone isn’t worth a visit – it surely is; it is because this country has a lot more to offer than just its main drag. After all, the Low Countries have a long and rich history: from religion to art, from trade to war, The Netherlands have seen it all – and some more. Cities like Utrecht, Alkmaar, The Hague, and even Rotterdam have a lot to offer to visitors; and the Dutch countryside – with its picture-perfect windmills and tulip fields – is the perfect place for a summer road trip or, even better, bicycle trip. My point is: as almost everywhere else in Europe, the real beauty of the various countries lie in their smaller, less visited cities – and I definitely wanted to see what this meant here in Holland.

And so, on our last day, we set off to Haarlem. This city of 155,000 souls is a mere 15 minutes train ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station, yet it is a World apart. While Amsterdam is busy and bustling with activity and tourists, Haarlem is quaint and slow-paced. Yet, don’t let this fool you: Haarlem is an incredibly beautiful city.

Haarlem train station

Haarlem train station

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As I mentioned, we got to Haarlem by train – which are the backbone of transportation in Holland. Trains are efficient, frequent, clean, and reliable. They are affordable – a round-trip ticket to Haarlem cost around 11 Euro. Haarlem central station is about ten minutes from the city center. Walking down Kruisstraat you will go through the central and historical part of town, all the way to Grote Markt square. Now, this square houses a big outdoor market six days a week; unfortunately for us, we visited on a Sunday – the only day the market was not held. But it didn’t matter, because the square – right in front of the cathedral – is beautiful and flanked by fine, old buildings. Walking around this part of town was absolutely rewarding, as the architectural wealth of Haarlem is on full display here. Haarlem was (and still is) a rich city, as the numerous boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants demonstrate.

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As we visited on a Sunday morning, and as it was cold, there were not many people on the streets. As it was very cold we took refuge at Stempels, an absolutely adorable café-slash-restaurant-slash-hotel near the church. Here we had some fabulous drinks, and we enjoyed the warmth of a live fireplace for a while. Once we decided to venture out to explore more of the city, it was past noon – and people were starting to go out to shop or just stroll.

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In the main church square, I need to mention, I had the chance to try broodje haring – or raw herring sandwich. Served in a hotdog bun of sort, the meat is sliced and served just with onions and pickles. Let me tell you: it was delicious! Beyond expectations. If you ever go to The Netherlands, make sure you try this incredible treat!

But Haarlem has another special treat for its visitors. Something quintessentially Dutch, that will make you take lots of pictures. I am talking, of course, about the Adriaan Mill. To get there it’s a nice 10-15 minutes walk from Market Square.

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This picture-perfect windmill is a great spot where to take some very “Dutchy” photos to show home. After all, nothing embodies Holland more than windmills!

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We spent only half a day in Haarlem, but that was enough to fall in love with the city. This short day trip anything but reinforced my belief that small-town-Holland is worth a trip on its own merit. Certainly, I suggest anyone visiting Haarlem to spend at least a night here, especially if visiting during the summer months.

But now it was time to move on for us. My parents would go back home, while I would be heading to Dubai.

3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Nikki / Feb 14 2017 4:18 am

    Good day!

    so, how long you spent your day & night in Netherlands?

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