Monday 29 January 2018


A Dutch Person's Guide to... Haarlem, The Netherlands

When I went to the Netherlands to visit my family over Christmas, I wanted to make a few day trips as well and explore the country outside of the north where my parents live. I haven't really done this since my uni days and I had a free nation-wide travel card courtesy of the Dutch government (and even then I didn't take as much advantage of it as I should've) so I was excited to see more of my history-rich and beautiful country again – and first up was picturesque Haarlem.

Haarlem is the capital of the province Noord-Holland, which alongside Zuid-Holland makes up the majority of the west side of the country and the only part that can actually be classified as Holland. The entirety of the country and its twelve provinces is called the Netherlands, though many people do use the two names interchangeably as Holland rolls of the tongue easier (especially in football chants such as Hup Holland Hup).

The city is old, being mentioned as far back as the 10th century and gaining city rights in 1245. And the impressive architecture still shows its medieval roots. Winding cobble-stoned streets, cute little alleyways and beautiful old buildings make up the centre, especially surrounding de Grote Markt (the large market square, which to this day houses the markets on Monday and Saturday, filled with fresh fruit and veg, alongside bread, cheese, meats and a variety of other edible and non-edible products).

Highlights from our recent visit include:

De Gouden Straatjes
Location: Koningstraat, Zijlstraat, Warmoerstraat, Schgagelstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Gierstraat
This area translates to 'the golden streets' and encompasses some of the cutests streets immediately surrounding the Grote Markt. They're filled with independent shops to find beautiful clothes and homeware as well as crafts and knick knacks. A lot of the buildings in these streets are listed also, so make sure you always look up to see some of the oldest and most intricate architecture in Haarlem.

De Grote Markt

Probably the most iconic place in Haarlem, and the one all the roads seem to lead to in the city centre, is the Grote Markt mentioned above. When you're in the middle of the square you're surrounded by gorgeous historic buildings such as the Stadhuis (city hall), the Vleeshal (meat hall) and the Saint Bavo Cathedral. Going on a market day you can not take in all the stunning historic awnings at the same time as the stalls are in the way of your vision, but you can still see them individually and you can grab some yummy lunch on the market at the same time!

The Art of... Tea, Herbs and Spices
Location: Grote Houtstraat 153
This shop was an unexpected discovery and such a delight, easily the best place we visited all day. It's filled from the ground to the ceiling with over 500 types of loose leaf tea in any imaginable flavour (seriously, they even has marzipan tea and special tea for mothers and sisters). I loved that you can smell them all and scoop them yourself and it was so much fun browsing. And they didn't just have tea either, there was also a huge amount of herbs and spices on display, including pre-mixed melanges to help with a whole variety of ailments.

Dille & Kamille
Location: Anegang 46
Dille & Kamille is a chain of cookery, home and garden shops in the Netherlands and one I always make an effort to go to if I'm in a city that has one. The shop is known for its natural materials, basic design and good quality and it's a great place to browse and buy things you don't necessarily need but most definitely want. It always smells great too!

Bagels & Beans
Location: Gierstraat 49

For lunch we wanted something a little different and Bagels & Beans fit the bill. The lunchroom serves (as you may have guessed) bagels, but not just any old ones. The menu was interesting and varied, and provided the option not only for common flavour combinations with the bagel but also ones that are much more out there, like the Bug Bagel (with dried crickets, meal worms and grasshoppers) We weren't quite that adventurous on our visit, but we did pick some bagels that were different to what we normally have. We went for the Wild Mushroom Croquette With Truffle Mayonnaise and the Tapas For Two (grilled zucchini, veggie meatballs, humus, tuna salad, guacamole, sun-dried tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes cream cheese pesto) to share. And yum, they were all SO good! We'll definitely be going back there next time we're in Haarlem.

This time around we mostly shopped during our visit and so we didn't get to explore as much from the touristy side of Haarlem as we would've liked. If you do have time it really is a great city to walk around in as it's very compact and everything is very easy to get to. When visiting, I would highly recommend going for two days: one day to explore and one day to shop.

Other places of interest to check out when you visit:

Amsterdamse Poort
Location: Amsterdamsevaart

The Amsterdamse Poort is one of the few remaining bits of Haarlem's city wall. This medieval gate to the city dates back all the way to 1355 and is a stunning example of medieval Dutch archirecture. It has that castle look to it and while it was slated for demolition several times throughout the years, it was declared a national monument in he 1960s. And after a renovation in 1985 it's looking more beautiful than ever.


Haarlem is known voor its hofjes (sometimes public but mostly private courtyards that belong to the residents of the houses surrounding it). I remember seeking out a host of hofjes on a previous visit and loving the ornate designs in small spaces, often with tiny alleyways leading to a small open cobble-stoned square with a well-kept garden. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit any this time around but when you do make sure you seek out Hofje van Bakenes on Wijde Appelaarsteeg 11F, which is the oldest one dating back to 1395, and Teylers Hofje on Koudenhorn 64, which has an impressive entrance.


Whether you want to get your arts & culture on or you're simply hiding out from bad weather, there are a ton of wonderful museums in Haarlem that you can seek out. The most well-known ones include Teylers Museum (the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands dating back to 1784!), Frans Hals Museum (filled with the work of this most famous Haarlem painter of the Golden Age, alongside other Dutch masters), Museum Haarlem (a museum on the history of Haarlem itself), and De Adriaan Museummolen (a museum in a mill, you can't get more Dutch than that!).

And that's it for my blog on Haarlem's highlights! Have you been to this gorgeous city before? If you haven't but are planning a trip to the Netherlands, I recommend Haarlem, Den Haag and Utrecht as the must-see cities (the far more traditional Amsterdam doesn't even make my list) for an authentic and less touristy Dutch experience 😊

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🎵 Listening to: Hamilton – Satisfied
🔹 Mood: Nostalgic


  1. What a beautiful spot! I've always wanted to visit the Netherlands, but was a bit turned off by Amsterdam. I simply love the dark brick architecture. Perhaps I'll have to give Haarlem a go :)

    1. Hi Jacqueline, I 100% agree with you on Amsterdam but don't let it put you off the Netherlands entirely as there are many wonderful places to visit outside of it. Haarlem, Den Haag, Utrecht and Gouda are just a few of them. Enjoy!

  2. This is a fantastic guide! Now I have to get back to the Netherlands to see Haarlem and buy those soaps!

    1. So glad you like it, hope you get to go to Haarlem soon (though Dille & Kamille, the shop with the soaps, can be found in other big cities in the country too!).


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