By Joey Düker
Big cities like Amsterdam have a lot to offer. But they also involve cheap tourist attractions, masses of people and clamour. The city of Haarlem is a great alternative to the hectic rush of metropolises.
A quick look at a map seems to show that Haarlem is a seaport. Although the city does border on the coastal dunes of the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, you cannot access the sea from the city. Early November is not a good time to visit Dutch beaches anyways, so let’s take a look at what the town itself has to offer.
Thrill-seekers will say “not much”. Haarlem is a sleepy place and if you are looking for action and adrenaline, you might want to hop off at Amsterdam Centraal. However, if you are tired of Amsterdam’s sights, weed stench and tourist crowds, Haarlem invites you to stroll around its beautiful streets and enjoy the calm atmosphere.
Haarlem is full of ornamented buildings and impressive churches. The Grote Markt is most outstanding: you can easily reach it by heading out of the train station and following the road straight ahead (as you can see, getting around Haarlem is not too difficult). In the centre of the Grote Markt looms the Grote Kerk with its iconic bell tower, surrounded by a bunch of cafés. Check out the massive and famous pipe organ inside.
Apart from the magnificent architecture all over the city centre, Haarlem has a number of interesting museums. The Frans Hals Museum features Dutch masters, but unless you are an art history major, you might consider it a bit pricey. A better choice is the Teylers museum, the oldest museum of the Netherlands. Not only does it exhibit art, the Teylers also features natural history and science. The building itself is worth a visit and inside you will find old, bad-ass scientific apparatuses, fossils, paintings, and stones. Stones! Can you believe that?!
If I would have to describe Haarlem in one word, it would be ‘picturesque’. It is a quiet place and there is not much to do, yet the town’s beauty makes a short day trip worthwhile.