Haarlem is a small, historic city about 20km west of Amsterdam and can be easily reached by train.
It has a picturesque centre with good shopping/eating and is also home to a number of renowned museums including the Frans Hals collection. Haarlem makes for an interesting day out and can also be combined with a visit to the nearby beach at Zandvoort-aan-Zee
Arriving by train, the art nouveau-styled Haarlem railway station is around 600m north of the city centre. The station was built in the early 20th century to replace the original station. Amsterdam-Haarlem was the first railway in the Netherlands, opening in 1839.
To reach the heart of town walk down either Jansweg or Kruisweg which will bring you to the Grote Markt, the city’s main square.
Grote Kerk (Sint Bavokerk) Haarlem
The imposing gothic church known as the Grote Kerk or Sint Bavokerk dominates the square. It dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries and has a 78m lead-covered wooden tower.
The church houses one of the largest Christian Müller pipe organs (1738) in the world, said to have been played by both Handel and a 10 year old Mozart. The organ has 5,068 pipes and the longest pipe is 10m.
The cross-shape floor of the church consists entirely of gravestones (1,500 altogether) including that of artist Frans Hals – which is located in the Choir section.
The church is open to the public 1000-1700 Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) and entry costs €3, children 12-16 pay €1.50. Weekly organ concerts are held between mid-May and mid-October.
St. Bavo’s, Grote Markt 22, 2011 RD Haarlem
On the western side of the Grote Markt square lies the Stadhuis (City Hall), part of which used to be a monastery. The VVV Haarlem tourist office is found at the Stadhuis (Grote Markt 2) and is open 1000-1700 Mon-Sat (closed Sundays).
Frans Hals Museum
A further 7-10 minute walk south from the Grote Markt is Haarlem’s foremost attraction – the Frans Hals Museum on Groot Heiligland. It houses a fine collection of paintings by 17th century Haarlem portrait artist Frans Hals (c1582-1666) as well as many other Dutch Masters of the time.
Frans Hals was particularly renowned for his exceptional civic guards portraits and the museum has a large room with the 8 works on show. You can sit on comfy sofas to study the paintings.
The museum building is a hofje – an old almshouse with an inner courtyard – and Hals himself spent the final years of his life here. The lovely courtyard is accessible to museum visitors and has a number of benches.
Admission costs €16, free for children 0-18, Iamsterdam City Card and Museumkaart holders. Special exhibitions can attract a supplement. It is open 1100-1700 Tue-Sun (closed Mondays).
Frans Hals Museum (HOF), Groot Heiligland 62, 2011 ES Haarlem
Frans Hals museum also has a modern art exhibition space – known as HAL – housed in 3 old buildings: Verweijhal (Verwey Hall), Vishuisje (fish house) and Vleeshal (meat hall) next to the Grote Kerk at Grote Markt 16.
Nearby the Frans Hal HOF locaton is the Museum Haarlem with a permanent collection of historical city paintings and artefacts. It also holds various temporary exhibitions.
Admission is €10.50 for adults, €5.50 for children 13-18, free for children 0-12 and Museumkaart holders. Free entrance is available on the first Sunday of each month. Open 1100-1700 Tue-Sat, 1200-1700 Sun-Mon.
Museum Haarlem, Groot Heiligland 47, 2011 EP Haarlem
Just east of the Grote Markt is the Teylers Museum, an art, natural history and science museum in a large riverside merchant house. It is the oldest museum in the Netherlands originally opened in 1784.
It contains a eclectic collection of art and scientific items from the 18th and 19th century. This includes electrical machinery, fossils, coins and Dutch Masters art.
Perhaps the highlight of the museum is the magnificent neo-classical Oval Room with its authentic 18th century interior.
The Pieter Teyler House is a new wing of the museum (opened 2021). It is the house of museum founder Pieter Teyler (1702-1778) featuring fully restored period rooms. His Enlightenment ideals bequeathed the museum to the city.
Entry is €15 for adults, €2.50 for children 6-17, free entry to children 0-5, Iamsterdam City Card and Museumkaart holders. Open 1000-1700 Tue-Sun, closed Mondays. An audio tour is included.
Teylers Museum, Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem
Museum Van De Geest (Museum of the Mind)
Just north of Haarlem station is the Dolhuys, a former lepers/plague hospice and madhouse which was isolated from the city. It now houses the Museum of the Mind, which explores people’s state of mind through its historical collection and personal stories.
Entrance is €20 for adults, €15 for children 13-17, €10 for children 8-12, free entry to children 0-7 and Museumkaart holders. Open 1100-1700 Wed-Sun, closed Monday and Tuesday.
The museum has a sister location (Outsider Art) at the Amsterdam Hermitage.
Museum van de Geest | Dolhuys, Schotersingel 2, 2021 GE Haarlem
Haarlem Canal Cruise
From the other side of the Spaarne river opposite the Teylers Museum, you can take a cruise around Haarlem’s canals from local outfit Smidje’s Canal Cruises.
The cruises last about 50 minutes and you can see various landmarks including the Adriaan windmill.
Tickets are from €16 for adults, €8 for children 2-11 and the trip takes about 50 minutes. Book Haarlem cruise tickets here
Haarlemerhoutpark / Paviljoen Welgelegen
This is a 60 acre park on the south side of the city. It has a deer park, tea house, petting zoo and pancake restaurant.
Paviljoen Welgelegen is the North Holland provincial hall and in the past was a retreat for both Louis Napoleon and Princess Wilhelmina. It hosts exhibitions and is open 0900-1700 (Mon-Fri) with free entrance.
Paviljoen Welgelegen, Dreef 3, 2012 HR Haarlem
Getting to Haarlem from Amsterdam
The regular NS train service from Amsterdam Central (usually platforms 1 or 2) to Haarlem takes just over 15 mins.
The trains are either Intercity services (directions Den Haag Centraal or Vlissingen) or Sprinters (directions Hoorn or Zandvoort-aan-Zee). A day return costs €9.40 (2nd class) or €15.70 (1st class) – 2022 prices. There is a €1 surcharge for disposable tickets.
The 1-3 day Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket is valid for Amsterdam-Haarlem-Zandvoort train travel. You can buy the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket online here. It includes NS trains in the Amsterdam region, all regional buses (Connexxion, EBS and Arriva Keukenhof services) and all GVB Amsterdam buses, metro and trams.
This article was originally published in 2011. Last updated 23 September 2022.