The canals and houses of Haarlem

What to Do in Haarlem: Unleashing the Magic with 9 Must-Do Experiences

Welcome to Haarlem, a city of wonders. Located in the Netherlands, just a stone’s throw away from Amsterdam. It is the capital of the province North Holland and is known as the city of many faces. It retains its medieval character to date with its churches and architecture. 

So if you’re planning a day in Haarlem, there’s much to do. Will you explore the city’s history? Or will you go and check out the arts and culture scene in the city? Or will you go to the trendy concept stores, or antique markets, or eat at one of the waterfront cafés? As I said, you won’t be wondering about what to do in Haarlem. You simply cannot get bored here. 

Let’s go on a whimsical journey as we explore the top 9 things to do in Haarlem. 

1. Explore the Grote Markt

Start your Haarlem adventure at the bustling Grote Markt, the city’s medieval central market square. It is surrounded by bars and cafes. Admire the stunning architecture of the Grote Kerk (Great Church) and the iconic City Hall, which dates back to the 14th century. Grab a seat at one of the charming cafés that line the square, soak up the lively atmosphere, and indulge in some people-watching. There is also an open market on Mondays and Saturdays, so if you’re in the city on those days, go ahead and shop! 

This square also has a statue of Laurens Janszoon Coster. He is the alleged inventor of the printing press and was a Haarlem native. 

2. Visit the Teylers Museum

Netherlands is the land of museums. So when you’re there, you have to visit the oldest museum there. That is Teylers Museum for you. This extraordinary museum houses an impressive collection of art, natural history exhibits, and scientific instruments. You will find intricate drawings by master artists, geological and mineralogical displays, and the history of scientific discovery here. 

3. Wander through the Frans Hals Museum

Are you an art aficionado? Then you can’t leave without visiting The Frans Hals Museum. You will find the Dutch Golden Age paintings here. Discover the works of the renowned Haarlem-born painter Frans Hals, as well as other celebrated artists from the same era. You will need some time to admire the colors, masterful brushstrokes, and captivating portraits that bring the past to life. Be prepared to immerse yourself in this museum for a couple of hours. 

4. Take a Canal Cruise

A canal cruise is necessary. You get to experience the beauty of Haarlem from a different perspective by taking a relaxing canal cruise. You can learn about the city’s history and architecture from the knowledgeable guides. Honestly, they bring their own jokes for the ride, and you will be laughing, enjoying, and learning all together. Plus, the scenery just makes the entire journey even more special with cute boat houses, charming bridges, and wonderful architecture. 

5. Climb the Grote Kerk Tower

Want a bit of a challenge? Climb 275 steps to conquer the Grote Kerk Tower. Ascend the winding staircase, feel your heart race with excitement, and reach the top to be rewarded with breathtaking vistas. Once at the top, you will fall in love with the city’s rooftops, the winding canals, and the lush greenery that stretches into the distance. However, climbing the tower is only allowed from April to October. 

6. Stroll along Spaarne River 

Just like many cities in the Netherlands, Haarlem is on a river. This river is the ‘Spaarne’. It is a charming waterway where you will see yachts and other pleasure crafts, plus many restaurants and cafes on the embankment. Their outdoor seating areas on the river are a great spot to have a drink or a meal. You can take a walk along the river or have food by the river. 

7. Explore Haarlem’s Food 

Haarlem is a foodie’s paradise, with a wide range of culinary delights to savor. Visit local restaurants and cafés to sample traditional Dutch dishes, such as haring (herring), kroketten (croquettes), and poffertjes (mini pancakes). Don’t forget to pair your meal with a locally brewed beer or a refreshing gin from one of the city’s distilleries. I am drooling just thinking about all this! 

8. Shop at the Haarlem Market

Feel like shopping? The city is full of antique stores. Koperboutique Yvonne is there for the past 38 years. You can go and explore it. Who knows what cool pieces you might find? Plus the Haarlem Market is held every Monday and Saturday. Explore the stalls filled with fresh produce, artisanal products, and unique crafts. Talk to friendly vendors, sample local delicacies, and soak up the vibrant energy of this bustling marketplace.

9. Visit the Corrie ten Boom House

Would you like to step into history next? Then head on over to the Corrie ten Boom House, a museum dedicated to the heroic actions of the ten Boom family during World War II. Learn about their efforts to save Jewish people from Nazi persecution and gain insights into the courage and resilience that defined this tumultuous period. They truly showed their love and commitment to the Jew people. You can even book a guided tour between Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Why you should visit Haarlem!

Haarlem is a city that will steal your heart with its charm, history, and cultural treasures. The city has such a rich history, you won’t have a dull moment. From exploring historic landmarks to indulging in culinary delights, you will feel like you don’t have enough time. Ready to let Haarlem work its magic on you? Let’s go then! 


Aemilius Dost is originally from the Netherlands but moved to Mexico more than two years ago. He started traveling when he was 19 and visited over 20 countries spread over North, and Central America, Europe and Asia. He currently works as a freelance SEO specialist and has worked with companies such as Surfshark, SafetyWing, and BP.

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