After three months of living in Amsterdam, we decided it’s time to discover new places within the Netherlands and the first one to cross off from our list was Haarlem. This lovely historical town is situated less than 20 km west of Amsterdam on the river Spaarne and easily accessible by train. We took the train from Central station and 15 minutes later we were in Haarlem. We wanted to spend a relaxed Sunday where we could wander around the streets and canals for hours, taste craft beer, eat local food and enjoy the architecture around the city. After all, there is no better way to discover Haarlem than walking on its cobbled streets.
Being a small town, we decided to walk from the train station towards the historical centre. Here, we found Grote Markt – the vast square which happens to be the hub of daily life in Haarlem where concerts, festivals and markets are held all year long. In the middle of the day, the square was full of people sitting at terraces, soaking up the sun and enjoying their coffee while others were rushing through.
The square is surrounded by historic buildings but the most important one is the imposing Grote Kerk (Sint-Bavokerk) which was originally a 15th century Catholic cathedral that became later on a Reformed Protestant church. Another important building within the square is the City Hall which was built in the 14th century.
We heard the inside of the church is worth visiting but we didn’t had a chance to enter. However from outside it looked like any other Protestant church from Netherlands: stained glass windows, grey stone walls and a single tower. It is important to mention that this giant tower rises up above the rooftops and it’s almost impossible to miss while walking on Haarlem’s streets.
Close by we found Botermarkt which is the small neighbour of Grote Markt but with more style and character. The mix of cobbled streets, the cozy terraces and the surrounding buildings are making this square more charming than the main square. Four times per week different markets are being held here in Botermarkt.
Another imposing building that we couldn’t miss was Cathedral Basilica Sint Bavo (Nieuwe Bavo) which was apparently build as a replacement of Sint-Bavokerk church that had been converted to Protestantism. At first we were confused by the fact that Haarlem has two Sint Bavo churches but after a bit of research we found out that one is Protestant and the other is Catholic.
Although we didn’t visit the Bavo churches, we did decided to visit another one, more specificaly Jopenkerk – a former church which was transformed into a modern brewery, grand cafe and restaurant. Here, we tasted local craft beer along with some Dutch starters.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the streets without knowing where we are headed. Like this, we found a mini library outside someone’s house, we discovered hidden alleys and finally understood why people call this place “The forgotten brother of Amsterdam”.
Our visit was more like an introduction to Haarlem but we promised to ourselves that we will return one day to discover the rest of the town.
If you like it, pin it!