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Grote Markt or Great Market in the center of Haarlem on a sunny day

My sister lives in Harlem… New York :)

So on her recent visit her to the Netherlands – which was an awesome dollop of much-needed fun and distraction! – we decided she needed to visit Haarlem… the original :)

What’s the song…? “Even Old New York, was once New Amsterdam…”

BareNaked Ladies not withstanding, Haarlem is a lovely day-trip outside Amsterdam. Less than 15-minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station, with trains running back and forth every few minutes, this is an easy spot to visit for a walk, for a museum or even for shopping.

Cute Haarlem streets with a view of St. Bavo’s in the back

(I like to go to the stores in Haarlem instead of in Amsterdam – here they are too crowded and nobody bothers to fold the sweaters they lift out of the pile back up so they are messy. In Haarlem… it’s quiet… serene. Perfect for a shopping-phobe like me!)

And it’s a beautiful spot! The Grote Markt (Great Market Square) is like something out of time, and in fact… if you look at the paintings from the Golden Age of Haarlem by folks like Berkheyde, little has changed!

So my favorite thing to do when visiting Haarlem is to walk from the train station to the Grote Markt via Kruisweg

Imposing entrance to the Teyler’s Museum

street, peaking into the shop windows and drooling over chairs in their home-goods stores… then stop on the square for a coffee in one of the cafes lining the square while watching the people and the pigeons.

Not much has changed since 1696! (Painting of Haarlem’s Grote Markt by Berkheyde)

Next – a visit to the Grote of St. Bavo Kerk (Great Church, St. Bavo’s.) Really a stunning space to wander around, it’s a church with much history and fascinating art pieces. One of my favorites is the wooden panel dating from 1518 that shows a model of the church before it was finished. Suspended from the ceiling are also two ship models dating from the 16th and 17th century.

A canal cruise in Haarlem is a nice way to spend the afternoon :)

And of course, don’t forget the impressive Christian Müller organ, used by 10-year old Mozart in 1766, as well as by Händel. The church still has a resident organist, Jos van der Kooy, who is a talented musician. If you can, time it right to see the church before or after one of his concerts, or one of the many other organ concerts held in the church (free in the summer!)

One of my favorite ‘stops’ in the church is the grave of famous Dutch painter, Frans Hals, and to the right of his grave, against a pillar, is a copy of a painting by Pieter Jansz Saenredam (d. 1665), showing the interior of the church. And it looks like a photo!! Not much has changed!

After the church visit, you have two options… Frans Hals Museum (a great space that actually uses the old home of the artist to showcase Dutch art and decorative art pieces such as cabinets, tables and vases in Delft porcelain) or the Teyler’s Museum. (The Teyler’s Museum is of interest for this museum-kook since it’s the oldest purpose-built museum in Europe.)

Gorgeous Gothic interior of St. Bavo’s

Instead of a building that was originally designed for another use and then appropriated (like what you get with the British Museum or such), this was built in 1778 to BE a museum. It has an amazing collection of fossils and scientific instruments as well as a nice cafe.)

The Teyler’s permanent exhibit is interesting – especially things like old batteries the size of an entire room – but they usually also have a rotating exhibit that is worth seeing. And the library is to DIE for.

If you have the whole day – do BOTH museums :)

On your way back to the train station down Kruisweg street, stop for some tart at Jetties… an organic bakery with a nice atmosphere and lots of big

Muller organ in St. Bavo’s

windows to enjoy last views of Haarlem. I highly recommend the Fig-Date Tart (like a coffee cake sweetened with organic figs and dates.) YUM

Pretty streets of Haarlem