Haarlem Highlights: Top Attractions and Things to Do

With a population of about 160,000 people, Haarlem is the capital city of the Dutch province of North Holland. The city is located on the banks of the river Spaarne – hence its nickname, “Spaarnestad”. It’s also known as a centre of the tulip-bulb growing area, encouraging the city’s other nickname, “Bloemenstad“, and providing a beautiful backdrop for photographs.

A double-beam white drawbridge for pedestrians over a river in a city with stepped-gables houses on the river bank; Gravestenenbrug in Haarlem

Haarlem boasts a fascinating and rich history that dates back to before medieval times, and many of the city’s old medieval buildings are still standing today. Protected by the Dutch Heritage Register, these cultural and historic gems have been expertly preserved and you can visit many of the city’s buildings during your Haarlem sightseeing.

a cute street with lots o sunshine and greenery and a bike in front of a house; a street in Haarlem

Haarlem is a magnificent old city with so much to do and see. From the majestic historic buildings to the traditional old hofjes (courtyards) and the Spaarne’s gorgeous canals, there’s no shortage of places to visit in Haarlem.

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How to get to Haarlem

Located at only 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam, Haarlem makes it for the perfect day trip from the Dutch capital. Haarlem is also at less than an hour from larger cities like Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam. The best way to travel to Haarlem is by train.

Pro tip: Buy your train tickets online with the Dutch Railways (NS) for hassle-free travel. On the website of NS you can also check for any discounts.

a large building with 2 square towers at the facade and other rounded towers at the corners, at one corner a clock; lots of bicycles parked in front of the building; the Haarlem Train Station

Tip: Read this post about using the public transport in the Netherlands. It’s packed with tips that only a local knows!

Here are some distances from other major cities in the Netherlands to Haarlem by car and the time it takes both by car and by train:

  • Amsterdam – Haarlem: 22 km/30 min; by train: 13 min
  • Schiphol – Haarlem: 20 km/22 min; by train: 25 min
  • Groningen – Haarlem: 205 km/2 hr 5 min; by train: 2 hrs 35 min
  • Utrecht – Haarlem: 65 km/50 min; by train: 50 min
  • The Hague – Haarlem: 60 km/50 min; by train: 35 min
  • Rotterdam – Haarlem: 75 km/55 min; by train: 55 min
  • Eindhoven – Haarlem: 140 km/1 hr 35 min; by train: 1 hr 35 min
  • Maastricht – Haarlem: 275 km/2 hrs 50 min; by train: 2 hrs 50 min

The best way to find out how to travel from A to B in the Netherlands is to use the Glimble app. You can buy your tickets in the app and travel hassle-free. The app is absolutely free to download.

For international travel options, check out Omio, where you can also buy train and bus tickets.

a canal in a city with bridges and flowers hanging o n the bridges, and one lamp post to the left; canal view of Haarlem

Top Things to do in Haarlem, Netherlands

Read further to find out which are the best things to do in Haarlem. On the handy map below I’ve marked all tourist attractions in Haarlem. You can add the map to your Google Maps and use it even if you are offline.

1. Frans Hals Museum

Visit the Frans Hals Museum for a truly unique day filled with art and history. The museum is comprised of two different buildings, the Hof and the Hal.

a picturesque street lined up by the same-looking low stepped-gable houses; Frans Hals museum, one of the best things to do in Haarlem

The Hof is a gorgeous old courtyard building that exhibits the city’s municipal art collection and has done so since 1913. In the 17th century, however, the building was utilized as a location for older men to relax and unwind.

Besides a large collection of the works of the famous Dutch artist Frans Hals, the museum exhibits also other works from Hals’ contemporaries from the Dutch Golden Age.

paintings hanging on a dark grey wall in a museum with a rusted orange couch in front and a girl sitting and reading; Frans Hals Hof Museum in Haarlem
Frans Hals Hof Museum in Haarlem, photo by G.J. van Rooij, courtesy of Frans Hals Museum

The Hal is made up of three different buildings and offers visitors modern and contemporary exhibitions to view and enjoy. The structures themselves demonstrate incredible historic significance, and some of them were built as far back as the 17th century.

a building in neoclassical style with large posters on the windows for exhibitions; the Verweyhal Museum in Haarlem
Frans Hals Hal Museum in Haarlem, photo by G.J. van Rooij, courtesy of Frans Hals Museum

Both the Hof and the Hal are situated in the historic center of Haarlem just a 7-minutes walk from each other.

Practical info

Address: HOF, Groot Heiligland 62, 2011 ES Haarlem

Address: HAL, Grote Markt 16, 2011 RD Haarlem
Opening times: Wednesday-Sunday, from 11:00 till 17:00

Admission fee: adults – 17,50 EUR, kids under 18 yoa – free of charge; 19-24 yoa – 9 EUR
Website: www.franshalsmuseum.nl

2. Verwey Museum Haarlem

Celebrating more than 1,000 years of history and heritage, the Verwey Museum Haarlem invites visitors to hear the stories of locals and historic figures who have called Haarlem home throughout different eras of the city’s existence.

The Verwey Museum Haarlem boasts exhibits that will teach you all about what life was like for Haarlemers in the past. Best of all, the museum offers exhibitions and activities for children, making this one of the best educational things to do in Haarlem with kids.

Address: Groot Heiligland 47, 2011 EP Haarlem
Admission fee: adults – 12,50 EUR, kids (13-18 yoa) – 7,50 EUR; first Sunday in the month – free admission
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday, from 11:00 till 17:00; Sunday-Monday, from 12:00 till 17:00
Website: verweymuseumhaarlem.nl

3. Barrel Organ Museum

Officially opened in 1969, the Barrel Organ Museum (Draaiorgelmuseum) is probably one of the most unique things to see in Haarlem. The museum was established by the Het Kunkels Orgel Foundation who aimed to look after and preserve the integrity of several unique old organs, the first of which was donated to the cause in 1958.

Today, visitors can view an incredible variety of barrel organs and other fascinating musical accessories and documentation, as well as listen to the organs’ music next door in the ball room.

Address: Kuppersweg 3, 2031 EA Haarlem
Admission fee: free admission
Opening times: Sundays, from 12:00 till 18:00
Website: draaiorgelmuseum.org (in Dutch only)

the bank of a canal with some buildings and boat in water, in the sky a bird flying; Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands

4. Teylers Museum

Initially founded as a contemporary center for Dutch art and sciences, the Teylers Museum was established back in 1778, and it was the first museum to be opened in the country. The museum exhibits display art, science, and history, making it an awesome “one-stop-shop” if you have limited time in the city.

At one of the wings of the beautiful building, you can also visit the House of Pieter Teyler. The entry is included in the ticket price.

Practical info

Address: Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem
Admission fee: adults – 16,50 EUR, kids (6-17 yoa) – 2,50 EUR
Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday, from 10:00 till 17:00
Website: www.teylersmuseum.nl

a bank of a river with beautiful houses and two boats in the water, at the background a church tower; Haarlem and the Spaarne River

5. Haarlem Canal Cruise

Enjoy some fresh air as you get to see Haarlem from an entirely different vantage point during a cruise down the Spaarne River’s canals. Keep your eyes open as you pass by many beautiful and interesting sights and Haarlem tourist attractions.

Click here to book a canal cruise in Haarlem.

6. Windmill De Adriaan

Located on the banks of the River Spaarne, the Windmill De Adriaan (Molen De Adriaan) has become a significant part of Haarlem’s skyline. The foundation of the mill was part of the old city defense wall, but the mill was built in 1778. It was originally used to produce cement from tuff stone and sea shells. Later it was used for the production of tobacco.

a black wooden windmill with some old houses on a wharf and a red barge in the water, Haarlem

In 1932 the icon of Haarlem burnt down in a fire and it took 70 years to restore it in its complete glory. The windmill was open again in 2002. Today there’s a museum in the windmill and you can visit it with a guided tour.

Practical info

Address: Papentorenvest 1-A, 2011 AV Haarlem
Admission fee: adults: 7,50 EUR; children (5-12 yoa): 3,50 EUR
Opening times: March – November: Monday-Friday, from 13:00 till 17:00, Saturday-Sunday, from 10:30 till 17:00; November – March: Monday-Friday, from 13:00 till 16:30, Saturday-Sunday, from 10:30 till 16:30
Website: www.molenadriaan.nl

a street lined up with tall buildings with the sun shining on one part of the buildings; and a church belfry at the end of the street; a group of people walking and a man on a bicycle coming towards us; a street in Haarlem, the Netherlands

7. Gouden Straatjes (Golden Streets)

Enjoy a different side of Haarlem and hit the Gouden Straatjes for some shopping – or even just window shopping! Peruse the area’s seven quaint streets, filled with Dutch boutiques, designer stores, and vintage shops.

8. Grote Kerk or St. Bavokerk

If you’re looking for the top things to see in Haarlem, look no further than the Grote Kerk. Found in the city’s Central Market Square (Grote Markt), this church is a Reformed Protestant church and a former Catholic cathedral.

a large church on a square with a monument next to it; Groete Kerk in Haarlem

Commonly known as St. Bavo Church (Sint-Bavokerk), this church boasts a distinct Gothic architectural style and was constructed some time between 1370 and 1520. The imposing organ of the church is a real masterpiece, and no other than Mendelssohn, Handel and even Mozart had once played on it.

Address: Grote Markt 22, 2011 RD Haarlem
Admission fee: adults – 4 EUR, kids (13-16 yoa) – 2 EUR
Opening times: Monday-Saturday, from 10:00 till 17:00
Website: www.bavo.nl

9. Grote Markt with the Vleeshal and the Hoofdwacht

The center of sightseeing in Haarlem, the Grote Markt is a vibrant square that is home to many restaurants, bars, and several other Haarlem tourist attractions worth visiting.

a large medieval building with stepped gable and walls of red bricks; the Vleeshal in Haarlem
The Vleeshal

The Vleeshal is a 16th-century building. From 1604 until some point in the 18th century, it was the only place in the city that was permitted to sell meat. The building boasts a unique renaissance architectural style, and today, it is one of the three buildings that make up the Hal, a component of the Frans Hals Museum.

De Hoofdwacht (or the Guard House) is another notable building on Grote Markt square – it’s generally considered the oldest stone building in Haarlem and was built during the 13th century. It was used as a city hall and served a long time as a ton jail. Today, De Hoofdwacht is home to the historical association Historische Vereniging Haerlem and can be visited during exhibitions held by the association. It’s open Friday-Sunday, from 1 pm to 5 pm.

10. City Hall

Haarlem’s City Hall is both the city’s seat of government as well as a beautiful and majestic historic building. It was constructed during the 14th century but has been modified several times since then. The City Hall was built on the foundations of a Dominican cloister, built by Floris V in 1296.

red buildings with stepped gables and a tower in the middle at one side of a market square with some trimmed green trees to the right; the City Hall in Haarlem

The City Hall itself is not publicly open, but you can visit the small museum Anno Haarlem located in the cellars of the City Hall, where you can learn more about Haarlem’s history. Next to Anno Haarlem, you can find the local tourist office, where they can help you with information about the city.

11. Barnaart House

One of many heritage buildings in Haarlem, the Barnaart House (Huis Barnaart) is a beautiful canal house boasting a striking architectural design. Its gold and purple interior has been incredibly preserved and is quite unlike traditional Dutch style.

a beautifully decorated drawing room with golden details and a large chandelier; Barnaart House in Haarlem
The Golden Drawing Room at Barnaart House, photo courtesy of Barnaart House

Visiting the house goes together with an audio tour, which makes step back in time in the beginning of the 19th century and feel as if you’ve been invited as guest in this amazing house.

Barnaart House is one of the newest museums in Haarlem, as it was open in July 2020.

Address: Nieuwe Gracht 7, 2011 NB Haarlem
Admission fee: adults: 9 EUR; kids (0-18 yoa): free of charge
Opening times: Wednesday-Thursday, from 13:00 till 17:00, Friday-Sunday, from 11:00 till 17:00
Website: www.hendrickdekeyser.nl (only in Dutch)

12. Cathedral of St. Bavo

Quite interestingly, Haarlem has not one, but two churches devoted to Saint Bavo of Ghent. A long time the Catholics in Haarlem didn’t have their own place of worship and were forced to gather in clandestine churches. The building of the new catholic church started at the end of the 19th century and was finished in 1930. It is the second biggest cathedral in the Netherlands, after St. John Cathedral in Den Bosch.

a large cathedral with lots of rounded towers and turrets; the Cathedral of Saint Bavo, one of the attractions in Haarlem, the Netherlands

As it can be confusing to have two churches named St. Bavo in the city, the Cathedral of St. Bavo started been referred to as the Dome Cathedral (Koepelkatedraal).

From the church tower, there’s a breathtaking view of the city and the sea. They say that on a clear day you can see even Amsterdam from the top of the 60m high tower.

Address: Leidsevaart 146, 2014 HE Haarlem
Admission fee: adults – 7,50 EUR (with climbing the tour), kids (5-12 yoa) – 4 EUR; only church: adults – 4,50 EUR, kids (5-12 yoa) – 3 EUR
Opening times: daily, from 13:00 till 17:00

13. Haarlemmerhout Park

Haarlem’s very own little city oasis, Haarlemmerhout Park, is a centuries-old forest that was refurbished during the early 19th century. The park is quiet and peaceful and makes for a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Visitors can enjoy a tea house, music chapel, a deer farm, a pancake restaurant, and a petting farm – perfect for the whole family!

14. Villa Welgelegen

Hidden at one corner of Haarlemmerhout Park is the imposing Villa Welgelegen (Paviljoen Welgelegen) – a beautiful neoclassical building that’s serving as the seat of the government of the Province of North Holland. The huge villa which is second to none in the Netherlands and was built at the end of the 18th century as a summer house for the banker from Amsterdam Henry Hope.

a large white building with columns on two floors in neoclassical style in the middle of a park with a large green lawn in front and large green trees on both sides; Villa Welgelegen in Haarlem
Villa Welgelegen, photo by Jane023, Wikipedia under CC-BY-SA-3.0-NL

Although the villa is not officially a museum, it’s open for visitors during office hours, and you can visit some of the rooms and admire the art hanging on the walls. A visit to the villa is absolutely free of charge.

Address: Dreef 3, 2012 HR Haarlem
Admission fee: free of charge
Opening times: Monday-Friday, from 9:00 till 17:00

15. Museum of the Mind

Take a look inside the minds of artists, scientists, and writers and enjoy an interactive experience suitable for the whole family. Celebrating and providing information on mental health and neurodiversity, the Museum of the Mind (Het Dolhuys – Museum van de Geest) of one of many unique Haarlem tourist attractions. It challenges ideas on what is and isn’t normal, and allows you explore the possibilities of the versatility of the human mind.

a small church surrounded by trees; the Dolhuys Museum - Museum of the Mind in Haarlem
Museum of the Mind, photo courtesy of Museum van de Geest

Museum of the Mind actually has two locations, one in Haarlem and one Amsterdam.

Address: Schotersingel 2, 2021 GE Haarlem
Admission fee: adults: 20 EUR; kids (8-12 yoa): 10 EUR; kids (13-17 yoa): 15 EUR
Opening times: Wednesday-Sunday, from 11:00 till 17:00
Website: museumvandegeest.nl

16. Corrie Ten Boom House

Visit this 17th-century house and learn all about its history and involvement in the Holocaust during the mid-1900s. The house was used as a safe haven for Jews and other refugees during the Second World War, with the Ten Boom family hiding them in a special room upstairs.

Walking through the Corrie Ten Boom House is a somber and deeply moving experience, making it one of the most important things to do in Haarlem.

Address: Barteljorisstraat 19, 2011 RA Haarlem
Admission fee: free of charge for individuals and families, voluntary contribution is appreciated, as museum is run by volunteers
Opening times: check the website for visiting slots with a guide (available in Dutch, German and English)
Website: www.corrietenboom.com

a city gatehouse with round and hexagonal towers; the Amsterdamse Poort, a famouse Haarlem attraction

17. Amsterdamse Poort

Visit the original gateway to Haarlem from the country’s capital city, Amsterdam, and marvel at its sheer size and aesthetic. The Amsterdamse Poort in Haarlem is the last of what was originally twelve city gateways, making it a special historical monument.

The gatehouse was built between 1245 and 1428 and originally was called Spaarnwouderpoort.

18. Hidden Courtyards (Hofjes)

Holland is known for its unique style of city planning that historically involved many hofjes – hidden courtyards – that were surrounded by residences. Haarlem is home to the oldest one in the country – the Hofje Van Bakenes. The city center of Haarlem has 21 different hofjes, most of which were built during the period 14th-17th centuries.

a courtyard with a green lawn and a kitchen garden surrounded by detached houses forming a wing with yellow and black shutters; the Hofje van Staats in Haarlem
Hofje van Staats

19. Jopenkerk

Treat yourself to a taste of Dutch culture when you visit Jopenkerk. One of the most fun things to do in Haarlem, Jopenkerk is a traditional Dutch brewery based in an old church building.

The name ‘Jopen’ comes from the name of the large barrels (112 l), called ‘jopen‘, in which the malt was transported over the Spaarne River. Haarlem has a long-standing tradition in beer brewing and the earliest beer recipe from Haarlem dates back to 1407.

The production of the Jopen beer started in 1994 to commemorate the 750-anniversary of Haarlem as a city and since 2010 is the brewery housed in the old church in Haarlem.

Another fun thing to do in Haarlem is combining a canal cruise with Jopen beer tasting. Enjoy to beautiful cityscape and learn more about the different beer sorts with the Jopen Beer Cruise in Haarlem.

Adress: Gedempte Voldersgracht 2, 2011 WD Haarlem

Final words

Haarlem is a fascinating Dutch city, just teeming with incredible things to do and interesting sights and attractions. Boasting a plethora of extraordinary historical buildings, visiting Haarlem will allow you to experience a great depth of Dutch culture and some of the most unique historical attractions you can think of!

Do you need some extra help to plan your trip to the Netherlands? Join the dedicated Exploring the Netherlands Facebook Group, where you can get tips from other travellers and locals. Or perhaps you have questions or comments? Join the group and I’ll be happy to answer them.

About Daniela

Daniela has been living and travelling in the Netherlands since 2009. She has actually been to all the places she writes about. A linguist by education and a writer by profession, Daniela is on a mission to help you plan the perfect trip to her home country - the Netherlands.