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17 things to do in Haarlem

Amsterdam canals in the evening light, Dutch canals in Amsterdam Holland Netherlands during winter time in the Netherlands. Europe

Haarlem is a small city in the Netherlands near the capital city of Amsterdam in the west of the country. Though it sits inland, the canal networks made this walled city once a sea trading port.

Like a miniature Amsterdam, the streets of Haarlem are cobblestone and it is almost entirely surrounded by water so there are lots of picturesque bridges and historical buildings too. You might wonder, exactly what are the top things to do in Haarlem besides look at how pretty it is? Is it even worth visiting?

Absolutely! If you’re looking for day trips from Amsterdam, Haarlem is an excellent choice. It’s only a 20-minute train ride away or you could even do as the Dutch do and cycle the distance.

There are also tons of Haarlem attractions that could fill an entire city break if you want to explore a quieter, smaller city than Amsterdam. There are still lots of museums, parks, entertainment options and guided tours to join.

Here are all the top things to do in Haarlem, Netherlands to ensure you have a fantastic trip no matter whether you are staying for one day or more!

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Frans Hals Museum

Amsterdam boasts the Anne Frank House, the Van Goth Museum, the Rijksmuseum and so many other world-class museums. The Frans Hals Museum might seem a little too quaint standing beside those giants but it is absolutely worth a visit.

Frans Hals was a painter born at the end of the 16th century and he contributed to the Dutch Golden Age of artists as well as the Baroque period.

Though he was born in Antwerp, Belgium (the Flemish/Dutch side of the country), he died in Haarlem in 1666. He was a master portrait painter and you can see all of his best works when visiting Haarlem.

At the Frans Hals Museum, you can see his famous civic guard paintings plus works by other Dutch Masters from a similar time period. If you knew nothing about Frans Hals when you arrived in Haarlem, you’ll be an expert when you leave!

Haarlem, The Netherlands - Entrance Frans Hals museum a famous Dutch Golden Age painter who lived in Haarlem.

Grote Markt Square

One of the must-see places to visit in Haarlem, Netherlands is the Grote Markt Square. This is Haarlem’s equivalent of an old town square and it is postcard-perfect as well as where you will find some of Haarlem’s most historic buildings.

If you decide to join a walking tour of all the top Haarlem sights (and you should, especially if you are short on time!) then you will probably spend a bit of time here.

First, there is the Grote Kerk which is otherwise known as The St. Bavo Church in Haarlem. This Gothic church is practically an art museum too! There are lots of beautiful sculptures but the pièce de résistance is the impressive Muller organ. Both Handel and Mozart have played this organ!

Other cool buildings in Grote Markt include Archeological Museum Haarlem, De Hallen Haarlem contemporary art museum, and Town Hall Haarlem which dates back to the 14th century. You’ll also find the Hoofdwacht here which is the oldest house in Haarlem plus there is a weekend market held here every Saturday, unsurprisingly named the Zaterdagmarkt Haarlem.

It’s also just a beautiful place to stroll through and perhaps stop at a cafe or restaurant with an outside terrace and just watch the world go by.

The Grote Markt in Haarlem with Church of Saint Bavo, Netherlands

Teylers Museum

Did you know that the oldest museum in the Netherlands is in Haarlem? Did you know that it is the Teylers Museum? You do now!

Yes, this riverside museum opened in 1784 and it’s continued ever since. It displays all kinds of exhibits and artifacts on ‘cultural history’ including scientific instruments, paintings, fossils, and more.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this museum is going to resemble your Grandmother’s attic with a mess of things from different eras strewn cohesively, but that’s not the case.

Teylers Museum is housed in an utterly gorgeous period building and the displays are thoughtful and fascinating. 

HAARLEM, NETHERLANDS - Canal with boats and old houses at the Spaarne in Haarlem Netherlands

Amsterdamse Poort

Do not confuse the Amsterdamse Poort in Haarlem with the shopping centre in Amsterdam! One is a city gate dating back to 1355, and the other is covered in street art murals and only dates back to 1987.

Amsterdamse Poort in Haarlem is a turreted, brick gate that sits between two canals and marks the end of the old route from Amsterdam to Haarlem. There originally were 12 that acted as security barriers along this popular trade route but this is the only one that remains. 

Considering the city government wanted to demolish the gate in 1865, it’s amazing the gate is still standing in such good condition. Today, it is simply a wonderful historic landmark that you are free to walk through and explore to your heart’s content.

HAARLEM, NETHERLANDS - Old city gate Amsterdamse Poort in Haarlem Netherlands

Adriaan Windmill

The Netherlands is traditionally known for tulips, clogs, windmills, and Delft pottery. It won’t be difficult to tick off one of those great icons of Dutch culture by visiting the Adriaan Windmill. Dating back to 1779, this huge black windmill sits on the edge of one of Haarlem’s rivers to the north of the city.

You would think a massive, old windmill would look out of place in a bustling city but it absolutely doesn’t. Haarlem’s architecture is a skillful blend of old buildings with modern touches. 

You can take a guided tour inside the windmill or walk around the museum at your own pace to learn about the role of windmills in the Netherlands’ industrial past. You can also walk up to the top of the mill for lovely views across the city. This is one of the best places to visit in Haarlem at sunset!

Haarlem, The Netherlands - Typical windmill and medieval architecture in the port. The windmill, known as De Adriaan, is still working and

Schuur Theatre

Haarlem is a fantastic liveable city which means there are lots for locals to do here, like go to the theatre.

The Schuur Theatre is a performing arts theatre where you can watch plays, museums, dances and other performances. It’s housed in a contemporary building that also has a cafe.

Be mindful to check the language of the performances is one you understand before you book tickets! 

Corrie Ten Boom Museum

If you’re wondering what to do in Haarlem to learn more about the city’s Jewish history, then head to the Corrie Ten Boom Museum.

It’s just off Grote Markt so it’s in a central location and should be easy to find. This building, like the Anne Frank House, was used to hide Jewish people during WWII so that they wouldn’t get shipped off to concentration camps. 

It looks like any other period building with a stepped gable roof in Haarlem from the outside but inside it has a wonderful exhibition.

This exhibition details how the people were hidden and how the house would have looked almost a century ago.


The Netherlands is known for its open green spaces and Haarlem is no different. If you are visiting Haarlem with your kids or pets, or simply fancy a stroll through the park then you should head to Frederikspark. It’s one of the largest parks in the city and the perfect place to enjoy a picnic. 

Plus, there are ponds, cafes, and a section of the park that is just for dogs to play in. Pavilion Welgelegen is an 18th-century neoclassical government building that is also partly open for tours if you’re interested in wandering around inside.

Orangerie Elswout Haarlem Netherlands. The main entrance road of the Elswout park between Haarlem and the beach of Zaandvoort.

Hidden Courtyards

One of Haarlem’s best-kept secrets is its hofjes, otherwise known as courtyards. These gardens date back to medieval times and they are almost completely surrounded by almshouses and you would never know they were there.

Hundreds of years ago, they were used to hide unmarried women, poor women, and widows. 

There are currently 21 public courtyards that you can visit and they are some of the best Haarlem hidden gems. Literally hidden!

One of the courtyards dates back to 1395 but some are only a few years old. You might stumble across some at the end of a nondescript alleyway but others are behind doorways. 

The entrance of the almshouse the green garden in the old center of Haarlem in the Netherlands

De Jopenkerk Brewery

Germany and Belgium might be more synonymous with beer than the Netherlands, but Haarlem has a couple of exceptional breweries that you need to visit.

The first is De Jopenkerk, a brewery that is actually located inside a former church! They brew beer using old recipes as well as modern inventions and there is a large taproom so you can enjoy their creations onsite.

If you have contemporary tastes, head to Uiltje Bar which was Haarlem’s first craft beer bar. They always have around 30 beers on draft and over 100 bottles to choose from.

Philharmonie Haarlem

Philharmonie Haarlem programmes more than orchestral music and performances here, lots of international musicians perform here as it’s the city’s main live music venue.

The building has five different performance venues for acts of all sizes. Plus, the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dutch Chamber Orchestra often perform here.

Some of Haarlem’s other great performance venues include Cafe Stiels for smaller bands and Theater De Liefde for more casual productions.

Gouden Straatjes Stores

If you love shopping in the local independent stores and boutiques when you travel, then you need to hit up Gouden Straatjes.

This translates to ‘streets of gold and it is Haarlem’s picturesque, pedestrianised commercial district full of local Dutch fashion and artisanal shops. You’ll also find antique shops, markets, and big-name brands too. 

Some of the streets you should walk down and explore include Grote Houtstraat, the Zijlstraat, and the Barteljorisstraat.

Haarlem, Netherlands - Street of old Town. Haarlem is a city and municipality in the Netherlands

Canal Boat Cruise

Haarlem is a much bigger city than you might think because it has a population of around 162,500. It only looks small compared to Amsterdam’s 822,000 but it’s a decent size and there’s a lot to see. If you’re only visiting for a short time, you may only explore a small fraction.

That’s why hopping on a canal cruise is a fantastic way to see more of the city than you would on foot. Haarlem is almost completely surrounded by water and has lots of waterways cutting through, so it’s an efficient as well as a fun way of viewing the city. Plus, you’ll learn a little about its history from an informative guide too!

Haarlem, The Netherlands - Cityscape Haarlem with gable hosues, bridge, canal and canala cruise boat in the Netherlands

Sauna van Egmond Spa

Booking a spa day in Haarlem might sound a little random, but not when you learn more about the Sauna van Egmond health and beauty spa.

From the outside, it looks like a hobbit house dropped in the middle of a Suburban neighbourhood. On the inside, it looks like a cosy wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere.

The spa itself is an art deco masterpiece with iron-wrought embellishments, marble sculptures, and a Moroccan/hammam touch. It’s a truly special, relaxing place and you won’t regret putting aside an afternoon to chill out here.

Cycle to the Seaside

Haarlem is less than 8 km from the coastline, so the beach is only an 11-minute drive away. If it’s a sunny day, you should do as the Dutch do and hire bikes and cycle to the coast.

Bloemendaal’s beaches and the larger seaside town of Zandvoort are incredibly easy to reach by bike.

Both of them are popular but have lots of amenities you’d expect to find in busy beach towns like casual restaurants and bathroom facilities. Perfect if you have kids or need a break from the city!

The North Sea beach between Ijmuiden and Bloemendaal in the Netherlands

Taste the Local Cuisine

How much do you know about Dutch cuisine or, more specifically, Haarlem’s cuisine? Probably not a lot beyond pancakes and stroopwafels. 

Restaurant De Zeeuw is a Michelin-starred Dutch restaurant that you cannot miss if you have the cash to splash. Chez Bastijan is a fantastic, more affordable alternative.

Or, you can join a food tour with a local foodie who will take you around to all the best spots. You can get a taster of lots of different treats and you can meet fellow travellers, too!

Women holds fresh baked waffles and tea mugs for breakfast. Morning coffee with homemade cakes. Toned photo. Cozy atmosphere at home and flowers on the table

Zuid-Kennemerland National Park Day Trip

If you’re staying in Haarlem for at least three or four days then consider taking a day trip to the nearby Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. There are 20 national parks in the Netherlands but this one is right next door to Haarlem.

You can drive, take the bus, or cycle to one of their visitor centres before setting off into the sandy dunes for a day hike. You can also go horse riding here and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some wild deer and ponies!

Dune fen with a couple of Highlanders in the background in the national park Zuid Kennemerland in The Netherlands

Recommended tours in Haarlem

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17 things to do in Haarlem
17 things to do in Haarlem
17 things to do in Haarlem

Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious! With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!