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The Haarlem globetrotter

Haarlem is a stone’s throw away from Amsterdam, and yet it is a world apart. The tiny town offers local Dutch charms without the hassles of a tourist place

Grote Markt and places to shop

Grote Markt is the medieval centrepiece of Haarlem. With the imposing Sint Bavokerk, a 13th-Century cathedral, and as many as 10 streets diverging from the square, it is the pulsating heart of the town. The streets, lined with tiny, picturesque cafés and quaint designer stores, are a pleasure to walk on; the sprawling square is perfect to soak in the sun. To spend a day like the locals, walk down any of the 10 roads, settle on a table alfresco, and enjoy the best view in town. Gaze at the 700-year-old church and the square that inspired many artists, poets, and writers. Enjoy Dutch delicacies like raw herring, local cheese (gouda and edam), a frikandel (little corn-dog sausage), French fries with mayonnaise, stroopwafels (waffles with syrup), poffertjes (little sugar doughnuts). Or just have a locally brewed beer. The town square is home to weekly markets too. If you happen to be around on a Monday, take time to browse the stalls for clothes. If it is a Saturday, indulge in local cheese, flowers, and fish. Rub shoulders with friendly locals, ask for recipes, and go home to cook something for yourself with the fresh produce. If you are in a hotel, with no access to a kitchen, buy some tulips for the hotel staff instead.

Catch a free concert

The Haarlem globetrotter

Home to artist Frans Hals, the town takes pride in its contribution to modern art. Spend a morning at the artist’s eponymous museum, with the largest collection of his paintings, as well as those of his predecessors like Floris Claesz van Dijck. The Teylers Museum, nearby, is the oldest in The Netherlands. It combines science and art and is perfect to visit with children and science lovers.

In the evening, catch a free concert at Grote Kerk (Great Church). The 16th-Century cathedral, dominated by Holland’s greatest pipe organ (100 feet high, 5,000 pipes strong), was a favourite of musical geniuses like George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and still holds strong.

De Adriaan Windmill, on the banks of the river Spaarne, is Haarlem’s pride. The 250-year-old mill was once used to grind limestone; and later tobacco, and corn. Now, it is used only for exhibitions and tours. You can opt for a guided tour, or visit it on your own. The ground floor gives you access to Haarlem’s history, the first floor tells you about the mill’s technical aspects, and the top floor gives you a fantastic view of the historic city centre of Haarlem.

Hofjes and high street

The Haarlem globetrotter

This town is great to shop at and Grote Houtstraat shows you why. The quaint pedestrian-only street is lined with chic boutiques, tiny designer stores and multinational giants that open as early as 8 am. You can fill your bags with clothes, shoes and minimalist décor from Dutch brands such as Blokker, Etos, Intertoys, or shop in bulk for cosmetics and knick-knacks at Hema and Kruidvat.

If shopping gets to you, take one of the back streets off Grote Houtsraat, walk past ballet schools, gabled townhouses, and cobblestone streets, into one of the many hofjes (a courtyard with almshouses around it). These gardens, surrounded by apartments, were once built for the elderly. Now, a lot of them are open to the public with attached cafés. Hofje Zonder Zorgen, housed in a 15th-Century building, is closest to the shopping street and serves excellent food and coffee.

A visit to Haarlem is incomplete without its canals. You can choose to picnic at the lush grassy banks, or book yourself on a boat tour.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 1:38:03 AM |

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