Haarlem is a city in the Netherlands located in the province of North Holland, situated near the coast, about 15 kilometres west of Amsterdam, and dates back to the 10th century. Along with its location, its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and cultural heritage make it a great tourist destination.
Embarking on this 2-day Itinerary for Haarlem will see you taking in the city’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is home to many notable landmarks that showcase the city’s rich history, including many of the city’s original medieval buildings.
Haarlem city is also known for its cultural and artistic heritage and long textile manufacturing tradition. It is home to many museums and galleries that showcase the work of local artists.
For example, the Teylers Museum is one of the most famous in Haarlem, the oldest Museum in the Netherlands, and it houses a collection of scientific and artistic artifacts. The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife and is a popular destination for those looking to experience Dutch culture and history.
Haarlem is, therefore, an excellent short break destination for those who want to explore the Netherlands while also being close to the bustling city of Amsterdam.
Visitors can take a stroll through the city’s picturesque streets, enjoy a drink or a meal in one of the many charming cafes and restaurants, or shop for souvenirs in the city’s many boutique shops.
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How to get to Haarlem
There are several ways to get to Haarlem in the Netherlands, depending on your location and preferred mode of transportation, demonstrating just how accessible the city is.
The nearest airport to Haarlem is Schiphol Airport, located 9 km southwest of Amsterdam and was the third busiest airport for international passengers in 2021. Once you arrive at Schiphol Airport, you can take the train or bus to Haarlem station.
Look for a red bus with the number 300 on the front. The journey will take between 35 minutes to an hour and cost between £4-£7. In comparison, a taxi ride from Schiphol to Haarlem will take around 20 minutes and charge between £50 – £60 for a one-way trip.
If you are already in the Netherlands, the train is a convenient and efficient way to get to Haarlem from other cities in the Netherlands and costs roughly £11 – £27. The train from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Haarlem takes about 25 minutes. While from Amsterdam Centraal Station, the journey takes just 15 minutes.
Bus lines such as Connexxion and Arriva also run frequent services to and from Haarlem. The bus station is near the train station providing an excellent hub for visiting other cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, for a day trip.
If you are travelling from the UK, then IJmuiden Harbour is only 15 minutes away; you can catch the DFDS Seaways ferry from Newcastle and then jump on the number 75 bus from IJmuiden to Haarlem Station or take the N208 in your own vehicle in the city centre.
Getting Around Haarlem
One of the best ways to explore Haarlem by bike is to rent a bicycle from one of the many bike rental companies in the city.
These companies often offer a variety of bike types, including city bikes, touring bikes, and electric bikes, to suit different needs and preferences. Once you have chosen your bike, you can explore the city at your own pace, follow your own itinerary, or take a guided bike tour.
Cycling is also a great way to explore the surrounding areas of Haarlem. The Dutch countryside is renowned for its flat terrain, scenic routes, and picturesque villages, and it’s easy to hop on a bike and explore the surrounding areas.
It’s worth noting that cycling in the Netherlands is considered one of the safest and is the most common form of transportation. Bikes can also be parked for free in designated bike parking areas throughout the city.
Walking through the city centre of Haarlem is also a great way to discover the city’s charming architecture, picturesque canals, and historic streets.
The city centre is compact and easy to navigate, and many of the city’s main attractions are within walking distance of each other. Walking along the Spaarne River is also a great way to see the city from a different perspective and passes through the city centre.
You can also take one of the many canal cruises that run along the Spaarne River.
A canal cruise is a convenient way to explore the city, as it allows visitors to see many of Haarlem’s main attractions in a relatively short amount of time, with tours lasting approximately an hour, which can be especially useful for visitors with limited time in the city.
Many canal cruises in Haarlem offer audio or live guides which provide information about the city’s history, architecture, and culture. This way, visitors can learn about the city’s past and present while enjoying the sights.
The Best time of year to visit Haarlem
Haarlem is a charming city in the Netherlands, but when is the best time to visit? The answer depends on your personal preferences and interests, but here are a few factors to consider when planning your trip.
Spring (April-May) is a great time to visit when the weather is mild, usually at its driest, and the city’s parks and gardens come to life with blooming flowers. This season is also ideal for activities, such as biking and walking tours, and it is a popular time for cultural events and festivals.
One of the most popular events during this time is the annual tulip festival towards the end of April, where visitors can see the tulip fields in full bloom in nearby towns and floats decorated with tulips making their way through the streets of the city.
Another popular event during this time is Kings Day, a national holiday on the 27th of April, where the Dutch celebrate King Willem Alexander’s birthday.
Street parties are held with orange-clad revellers drinking Orange Bitter, eating food, and listening to music. Many people also set up Flea Markets during this time, offering unwanted possessions, including clothes and toys, as it’s the only time of the year you don’t need a permit to do so.
Summer (June-September) is also a great time to visit, as the weather is warm and sunny. This is the perfect time to take a stroll along the Spaarne River or relax on the beach in nearby towns like Zandvoort and Bloemendaal aan Zee. During this time of year, you can enjoy the sunshine with picnics in the park while enjoying festivals, music events, and other cultural activities.
The Haarlem Jazz & More Festival, founded in 2012, takes place in July and is one of the most popular events, attracting jazz enthusiasts worldwide. Stages are set up in various locations throughout the city for blues, jazz, and even more modern music and are free for everyone to enjoy.
With the summer season, the visitors to the city increase, although it still remains quieter than Amsterdam, and while prices do increase, it is during this time that the weather will be at its finest.
The Haarlem Culinair, a food festival in August featuring local cuisine showcased in the Grote Markt, with dozens of stalls offering tastings from a wide variety of regional restaurants.
Overall, the best time to visit Haarlem depends on your personal preferences, interests, and the type of activities you want to do. Whether you visit in the spring, summer, or autumn, there is always plenty to see and enjoy.
Where to stay in Haarlem for two days
You can find various hotels, from budget-friendly options to luxury ones such as the MAF Haarlem or the Carlton Square. For a more personal experience there are bed and breakfasts, which offer a more personal and intimate experience than traditional hotels.
Holiday rentals such as apartments and houses can be rented on a short-term basis through sites like Airbnb, which is a good option for families or groups of friends who want to eat in and have a more relaxed stay without any of the fuss of more traditional accommodation in Haarlem.
Hostels are a great budget-friendly option for solo travellers or backpackers looking to save money on accommodation and enjoy a more social stay with the opportunity of meeting new people.
There are also a few campsites located around Haarlem for those who might visit in a motorhome or campervan. It is a small city; therefore, regardless of which area you decide to stay in, you would be conveniently situated for exploring and accessing other points of interest during your 48 hours in Haarlem.
48 hours in Haarlem Itinerary
Day 1 – Haarlem itinerary
Before beginning your day of sightseeing, why not treat yourself to breakfast at one of the many cafes surrounding the Grote Markt, the large medieval square in the heart of Haarlem? A few recommendations include Barista Cafe, Grand Cafe Brinkmann, The Hive, or Anne and Max Haarlem.
After breakfast, start by exploring the Grote Markt, also known as the central square in Haarlem, which is a great place to get a sense of the city’s history and charm.
The Grote Markt is also home to the town hall, The Gravenzala, which dates back to the middle ages. It was, however, rebuilt in the 14th century after being destroyed by fire. Today the building is still used for civic weddings, where blushing brides are seen coming and going most Fridays during the spring.
Another important building that can be found in the main square is The Grote Kerk, also known as the St. Bavo Church, a Gothic-style church, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, that dates back to the 13th century.
The church is known for its impressive architecture and features many beautiful works of art, including the organ of Sint-Bavokerk, one of the world’s most historic pipe organs. When completed in 1738, it was the world’s largest organ. The Grote Kerk also has a tower, which offers a great view of the city.
Visitors who climb the tower will be rewarded at the top with a panoramic view of Haarlem, ideal for photographers wanting to capture some bird-eye view images or for those wanting a different perspective of the city. Overall, every aspect of the church is a must-see for anyone visiting the city and is an excellent example of Gothic architecture.
Additionally, the square is surrounded by many other historical buildings, such as the Oude Raadhuis (Old City Hall) and the Waag (Weigh House), a unique building designed to assist in the measuring of grain shipped into the city.
For all of these reasons, Grote Markt is a great place to start your 2 days in Haarlem, as it gives you a sense of the city’s history and charm and is also a great place to relax and people-watch.
The Teylers Museum
Next, why not visit The Teylers Museum, the oldest Museum in the Netherlands and was founded in 1778 by Pieter Teyler van der Hulst, a wealthy textile artist.
The Museum has a diverse collection of art, fossils, and scientific instruments, which spans from the 18th century to the present day. The Museum also has a significant collection of drawings by Dutch Masters, including Rembrandt and Jan Steen.
At the same time, one of the Museum’s main attractions is the Oval Room, a beautiful neoclassical hall built in the late 18th century, considered to be one of the most beautiful rooms in the Netherlands.
The Museum also houses one of the oldest public libraries in the Netherlands and has a collection of over 150,000 books, journals, and manuscripts.
The Teylers Museum is a unique and fascinating place that offers an in-depth look at the history of the Netherlands and its culture.
The Spaarne River
After the Museum, take a stroll along the Spaarne River and admire the historic houses along the route before stopping for lunch to enjoy some traditional Dutch food at one of the many cafes or restaurants.
For those looking for a traditional Dutch seafood snack, why not try Balk Visch aan’t Spaarne, a food truck offering classic dishes, including herring and kibbling.
Molen De Adriaan
During your time along the Spaarne River, also make sure to seek out the Molen de Adriaan, probably the most iconic windmill in the city.
The original windmill, dating back to the 18th century, was unfortunately burnt down during a fire and has had to be rebuilt, although it remains in the same spot.
Most will admire it from afar, but if you are interested, you do also have the ability to take a tour of the inside.
Frans Hals Museum
In the afternoon, visit the Frans Hals Museum, dedicated to the work of the famous Dutch painter Frans Hals and other Dutch Masters of the 17th century.
The Museum is housed in the Oude Mannenhuis, a beautiful 17th-century building that was used as a retirement home for elderly men. The building was converted into a museum in 1913 and is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Dutch Renaissance architecture.
The Museum’s collection includes many of Frans Hals’ most famous works, such as “The Laughing Cavalier” and “The Officers of the St. George Militia Company.” The collection also includes works by other artists, such as Jan Steen, Jan van Goyen, and Jacob van Ruisdael.
Finally, it holds a collection of decorative art, including ceramics, glass, and furniture, which provide an insight into the lifestyle of the Dutch elite in the 17th century and are a must-see for art lovers visiting Haarlem. From here, consider heading back to your accommodation to freshen up before hitting the streets again.
Enjoy a beer at De Jopenkerk
Before dinner, head to De Jopenkerk, a must during your 48hrs in Haarlem. Housed in an old church, this modern brewery is home to one of the largest beer selections in the city, including Jopen beer, freshly brewed from a recipe that dates back to medieval times and is therefore popular with beer enthusiasts.
The Jopenkerk architecture is also to be admired. With its gothic stone arches, high vaulted ceilings, and large stained-glass windows, the interiors have been restored and renovated to highlight its historical features while incorporating modern amenities such as a state-of-the-art brewing facility and a full-service restaurant.
Enjoy Cheese Fondue
For your first meal in the city, head to In’t Goede Uur, one of the oldest restaurants in Haarlem, known for its cheese fondue and wine selection. There are many fondues to choose from and other hearty dishes, including stew and venison.
From here, there are many cafes and bars, some offering live music, should you wish to extend your Haarlem itinerary into the early hours of the following morning.
Day 2 – Haarlem itinerary
Start the day with another hearty breakfast from one of the many cafes in the city. Native Haarlem is a popular spot with outstanding coffee, while the Mica Coffee Bar is a vegan coffee shop offering all your morning favourites, including croissants, banana bread, and a selection of cakes, making it the perfect location to start your day right.
If the weather is fine, take a bike tour through the picturesque countryside around Haarlem, where you can see traditional Dutch windmills, tulip fields, and charming villages.
After your cycle, head back into the city centre for a spot of shopping in the Gouden Straatjes. The Gouden Straatjes (translated as the Golden Streets) is a shopping district located around the central square, known for its wide variety of shops and boutiques.
Many of which are housed in historic buildings. The area is known for its high-end fashion and jewellery stores, as well as its art galleries, home decor shops, and specialty food stores.
If you are a lover of second-hand vintage goods, make sure you check out the Zijlstraat, which is also known for the famous board game Monopoly.
After all that retail therapy, it’s time to have lunch and refuel in one of Harlem’s 200 restaurants and cafes. Consider stopping off at Brownies and Downies, which offers a selection of different lunch options, including salads, sandwiches, and traditional Dutch dishes, or the Jamon Jamon Delicatessen, which offers perhaps the largest selection of sandwiches, both hot and cold, in all of Haarlem.
The Corrie ten Boomhuis Museum
In the afternoon, visit The Corrie ten Boomhuis museum, which is dedicated to the life and legacy of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian woman who, along with her family, helped hide Jewish people from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The Museum is located in the house where Corrie and her family lived and operated their “hiding place” during the Second World War.
The Museum provides an in-depth look into the life of Corrie ten Boom and her family, including the history of their home and the events that took place there during the war. Visitors can see the “hiding place” where Jewish people were hidden and other rooms in the house used for various purposes, such as a workshop and a prayer room.
In addition to the historical exhibits, the Museum also features interactive displays, photographs, and personal items belonging to Corrie and her family.
The Museum also serves as a reminder of the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance and humanity. It is a popular destination for school groups and other visitors interested in the history of the Holocaust and the role of the ten Boom family in the resistance.
Explore the hidden hofjes
Another Haarlem attraction not to be missed is the hofjes, a set of 21 hidden gardens dotted around the city. These gardens are surrounded by old almshouses that would have once been where the poor, unmarried, and widowed women would have lived.
You can pick up information on the hofjes from the Visitor information centre in Grote Markt. If you only have time to visit one, make sure to visit the Hofje van Bakenes, the oldest example of a hofje in the city, dating back to 1395.
A Traditional Dutch Dinner
After a full day of sightseeing, it’s time to head out for dinner and try some traditional Dutch food such as AVG’tje, which is potato, meat, and vegetables.
Or Hachee, which consists of meat, fish, or poultry, and vegetables stewed into a thick gravy with vinegar, cloves, and laurel leaves. Consider visiting Balletje, a restaurant that prides itself on its traditional cooking.
Afterward, wander the streets for a while to see the unique houses lit up at night before ordering a famous Dutch pancake, often served with a wide variety of sweet and savoury fillings, on offer at one of the many cafes or pancake houses found around the city.
While some may question what to do in Haarlem, it is easy to see from this 2 days in Haarlem itinerary that there is plenty to see. It is, after all, a major city in north Holland and is absolutely charming.
Haarlem’s attractions include some of the best museums in the whole of the Netherlands, well-worn cobble streets, historical buildings, and beautiful squares.
Being so close to Amsterdam, it is also a worthwhile consideration for a twin-city break or even a day trip if the 48 hours in Haarlem itinerary does not fit with the time you have.
Recommended tours in Haarlem
- Private walking tour of Haarlem Old Town
- Food tour of Haarlem
- A boat cruise down the canals of Haarlem
- A day exploring the Tulip Fields
- A private boat tour of Haarlem
- A self guided tour of Haarlem with interactive maps
- Kitesurfing throughout the Netherlands