18 charming things to do in Haarlem

The Spaarnestad is calling...🌲

So, you’ve found your way to Haarlem, Netherlands, otherwise known as ‘little Amsterdam’. However, now that you’ve landed in the picturesque streets, you’re likely wondering: what is there to do in Haarlem? 

You’re in luck, as the centuries-old city has heaps to offer. As the second-largest city in North Holland, these canals and winding streets are chock-full of history, culture, and intrigue! 

Here are the top things to do in Haarlem!

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1. Take a shopping trip along the Grote Houtstraat in Haarlem

If you’re in the mood to spend an afternoon shopping the sales, a trip down Haarlem’s Grote Houtstraat is just the thing! 

Grote Houtstraat is one of the Netherlands’ longest (and oldest) shopping streets. Originally referred to as just ‘houtstraat’ (Wood Street), this now bustling area was initially the major road leading from Haarlem’s city square to the forest. 🌲

Enjoy a little retail therapy on the bustling streets of Haarlem. Image: Depositphotos

Take a pit stop at one of the many high street stores, or grab a latte at Barista Cafe and sip away while you watch shoppers migrate along the street.

READ MORE | Why I love Haarlem: a local’s guide to the Spaarnestad

But remember; park your bike before you hit the street, as the Grote Houtstraat is foot traffic only. 🚶‍♂️

💰 Price: Free, unless you choose to shop
⏰ Opening hours: Most stores are open from 9 AM until 6 PM, Monday to Friday, with different times on the weekends. 
📍 Location: Grote Houtstraat, Haarlem

2. Hop on an inspiring cruise of Haarlem along the Spaarn 

Another amazing thing to do in Haarlem: jump on a boat and watch the city glide by from the comfort of the Spaarne River. 

Take a relaxing cruise along the Spaarne River. Image: Depositphotos

Running all through Haarlem, Heemstede, and Spaarndam, this river is perfect for spending an hour or two watching the sights. From the tall Dutch buildings to even the ducks swimming along the banks, there’s so much to see. 🦆

READ MORE | Renting a boat in the Netherlands: all you need to know

You can usually catch a boat in the centre of Haarlem, and there are a variety of ways to cruise and enjoy. You can take a public cruise for around €18.50 per person or splurge on a private boat with a captain for around €180.

💰 Price: Ranges from €18.50 to €170+
⏰ Opening hours: Typically 11 AM to 4 PM, with longer opening hours in the summer.
📍 Location: A variety of pick-up points along the river, depending on the boat company.

3. Take a trip to the Netherlands’ oldest museum 

There’s something for everyone at Teylor’s Museum! Image: Depositphotos

If you’re looking to spend an afternoon invested in a museum full of culture, art, and beautiful galleries that will leave you breathless, take a trip to Teyler’s Museum, Haarlem. 

READ MORE | 16 Haarlem museums that are well worth a visit

Living up to its reputation as the Netherlands’ oldest museum, the astoundingly old building has been open to the curious since 1784. 

With art exhibitions and lots of family-friendly stuff to bring the kids along to, you’re sure to spend a vibrant day at Teyler’s. 😍

💰 Price: €15 for adults, €2.50 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem

4. Visit the Corrie Ten Boom house to uncover a Dutch WWII icon

Haarlem’s version of the Anne Frank Museum, the Corrie Ten Boom House, tells the story of a family that helped to hide fugitives during World War II. 

The Ten Boom family originally owned a watch shop and lived in the rooms above the store, but they and the house became safe havens for fugitives. 

Built into an iconic Haarlem home just like these, the museum is a great option for those interested. Image: Depositphotos

Corrie Ten Boom, who hid fugitives behind a false wall in her bedroom, miraculously survived the war after being arrested and brought to a concentration camp. The museum is named after her as she was the only family member to survive the war. 

The house has now been converted into an exhibition and museum, telling the story of the Ten Boom family and the people they saved. 

💰 Price: Free entrance, but donations are welcome
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM
📍 Location: Barteljorisstraat 19, 2011 RA Haarlem

5. Watch a movie in a converted prison in Haarlem

Yes, you heard that right. Here in our beloved town of Haarlem, you can, in fact, catch a screening of the latest film in the basement of a converted prison at De Koepel! 🎥

The prison was converted into housing for asylum seekers in the Netherlands in 2016. Today, the building houses an impressive cinema, coworking spaces, a café, a mini arcade, and even escape rooms!

One of the best things to do in Haarlem on a rainy day? Go for the cinema, and stay for the view of old prison cells while you sip a coffee and dissect the themes of the movie you just saw. 🤔

💰 Price: €12.50 for adults, €7.50 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Box office open from 12 PM to 8 PM
📍 Location: Harmenjansweg 4, 2031 WK Haarlem

6. Visit Haarlem’s Museum Van de Geest

Awarded the title of European Museum of the Year 2022, this museum hosts an array of interesting exhibitions focused on artwork about the human mind. 

They also offer a low-stimulus museum visit for visitors who can become overwhelmed by loud music and bright lights. This is a great adjustment for autistic or disabled persons visiting the museum as they can experience the history and artwork without feeling overwhelmed. 

💰 Price: €20 for adults, €10-15 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Schotersingel 2, 2021 GE Haarlem

7. Take a (free!) walking tour around Haarlem

Yes, you read that right. In our dear city of Haarlem, you can, in fact, go on a free walking tour and explore the sights on foot.

The tours meet at the Grote Markt on Fridays and Saturdays and are a perfect opportunity for those of us with tight wallets to enjoy some well-deserved sightseeing in Haarlem.

Did you enjoy the tour? It’s nice to give the tour guide a tip so they can continue to run them in the future.

Explore the wonders of Haarlem with your own two feet. Image: Depositphotos

A few companies organise tours around the city, which usually last approximately two hours. These tours take visitors to major sights such as the Grote Markt and the Molen de Adriaan and tell the history of Frans Hals. 

READ MORE | 10 things you’ll notice your first week in the Netherlands

Not feeling like walking? Take a Haarlem Highlights tour with the Dutch’s favourite mode of transport: bike!

💰Price: Free
⏰Opening hours: Fridays at 4 PM and Saturdays at 1:30 PM
📍Location: Grote Markt, 2011 RD Haarlem

8. Wander the Grote Markt in Haarlem

For the authentic Dutch shopping experience, take a visit to the Grote Markt on a Monday or Saturday. Shop the small businesses and pop-up shops and find some well-deserved treats! 😉

Explore the streets of Haarlem while you wander around the Grote Markt. Image: Depositphotos

Located just steps away from St. Bavokerk, and a five-minute walk from the Grote Houtstraat, you can easily plan a day of fun activities if you start in the cultural centre of Haarlem city.

READ MORE | The 18 best street markets in Amsterdam: the ultimate guide

You can sample some delicious cheese and deli items and chow down Dutch foods like kibbeling, stroopwafels, or poffertjes. 

💰 Price: Free
⏰ Opening hours: Mondays and Saturdays, 9 AM to 4 PM.
📍 Location: Grote Markt, 2011 RD Haarlem

9. Learn about the history of iconic Dutch windmills at Molen de Adriaan 

For most tourists in the Netherlands, the windmill is an object of curiosity. If you want to take a peek inside a real, working windmill, the Molen de Adriaan is the place to be. 

Learn about the iconic history of the windmill at the Molen de Adriaan. Image: Depositphotos

This family-friendly museum is situated along the Spaarne and makes for a great activity if you’re looking for something to do in Haarlem on a colder Dutch day. 🌨

READ MORE | 7 great windmills to visit in the Netherlands

There are loads of models and installations for those visual learners, and you can take a guided tour that will make you a windmill expert! 

💰 Price: €7.50 for adults, €3.50 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 1 PM to 5 PM; Weekends, 10:30 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Papentorenvest 1A, 2011 AV Haarlem

10. Play a game of cards at the Boardroom Café in Haarlem

In the mood for a bit of competitive Dutch Monopoly, where you can own the miniature Grote Houtstraat, or want to test the strength of your friendship with UNO? Take a visit to the Boardroom Café

Only a few minutes walk from Haarlem Station, you’ll find this lovely café situated in South Haarlem. You can not just purchase games to bring home, but you can also sit and play for hours with your mates.

Practise a bit of Dutch (helaas pindakaas!), and make sure you’ve got those cards hidden up your sleeve. 😏

💰 Price: €6 per person for unlimited board-game usage
⏰ Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 AM until 11 PM
📍 Location: Kruisweg 60, 2011 LE Haarlem

11. Visit Haarlem’s engaging Museum de Cruquius

A visit to the Museum de Cruquius is a top recommendation when looking for things to do in Haarlem. 

The museum occupies an old pumping station along the Spaarne, offering a more than immersive experience into the history of the reclaimed land that most of the Netherlands is built on — a.k.a, polders!  

Learn about the war on the sea at Museum de Cruquisi in Haarlem! Image: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed/Wikimedia Commons/CC 4.0

This museum is accessible for the family with children’s tours on offer. Of course, there’s also plenty to intrigue adults, as the museum also offers a theatrical retelling (with actors!) of the history of Nicolaus Cruquius, after whom the museum is named. 

💰 Price: €11 for adults, €5.50-7.50 for kids 
⏰ Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10 AM to 5 PM; Weekends, 11 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Cruquiusdijk 27, 2142 ER Cruquius

12. Visit the St. Bavokerk in Haarlem Centre

This mammoth church is a casual hundreds of years old, after being constructed between 1370-1400. With a huge tower that once served as a fire watch and an impressive clock, the exterior of this church will leave you with the impression of being a very small fish in a very big pond. 🐟

Check out the ancient St. Bavokerk on a day trip to Haarlem. Image: Depositphotos

A lovely aspect of this historical church is that visitors can catch a free concert performed by young artists and musicians in the area. Donations are always welcome at the concerts, which take place twice weekly on Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons. 

While the church is open Monday to Saturday for visitors and worshippers alike, it’s only on Saturdays that one can take a tour of the church — and learn about its rich history! 

💰 Price: €4 for adults, €2 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Saturdays at 2 pm for tours; open Monday to Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Grote Markt 22, 2011 RD Haarlem

13. Take a calming stroll through Haarlemmerhout

This park, with its huge forests or woodlands vibes, is the oldest in the Netherlands and offers ample opportunities for a relaxing family outing or a romantic couple getaway. 

Enjoy a relaxing stroll through the forest with the people you love. Image: Unsplash

You can watch the changing seasons as you wander through the woodlands and admire the orange of autumn and the silver of Dutch winter. It’s a truly magical place if you’re looking to let thoughts wander. 

With a café on site, you can even choose to have some fanciful afternoon tea and live out your dreams of royalty. 

💰 Price: Free
⏰ Opening hours: Open 24 hours
📍 Location: Hendriklaan, 2012 JK Haarlem

14. Visit Haarlem’s epic Frans Hals Museum 

If you’re an art nut, looking for something to do in Haarlem, the Frans Hals Museum is the place to be! There, you can gaze in awe and wonder at the numerous art exhibitions and really take your time in appreciating the craftsmanship. 

The museum boasts collections of art from the 17th century, as well as more contemporary pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Get a glimpse at iconic Dutch art at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. Image: Frans Hals Museum 

The museum is split into two locations; Hof, where you will find the older collections, and Hal, where you can find the more modern art. 

There are separate tickets for each, and you can get access to both parts of the museum for the same price if you use the discount code given on the website. 🎨

💰 Price: €16 for adults, and free for under 19s
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Groot Heiligland 62, 2011 ES Haarlem

15. Travel back to the 13th century at Brederode Castle in Haarlem

Located in downtown Haarlem, you’ll need to take a short cycle, bus ride, or drive to visit the incredible Brederode Castle. 🚲

Live out your princess dreams at Brederode Castle in Haarlem. Image: Johan Bakker/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0 

However, we promise it’s worth it: the castle boasts an amazing moat and drawbridge, so you can really live your fairytale dreams while you wander the grounds and imagine what life might have been like nearly 900 years ago. 

READ MORE | Public transport in the Netherlands: the complete guide

There are also guided tours with actors who bring the history of the castle to life to really bring you back in time. 👸

💰 Price: €6 for adults, €4 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Velserenderlaan 2, 2082 LA Santpoort-Zuid

16. Catch a fabulous harmony at Haarlem’s Philharmonie

The Philharmonie is the place to be in Haarlem if you’re an orchestra fan. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky; you name it, you can find it! 🎼 

Catch a charming orchestra at the Philharmonie in Haarlem! Image: Depositphotos

A wondrous 19th-century venue, this theatre has five different halls. That’s more than enough space for a range of performances!

If you’re lucky, you might just catch the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra or the Dutch Chamber Orchestra pumping out some sweet tunes. 

💰 Price: Dependent on concert
⏰ Opening hours: The box office is open Monday to Saturday, 1 PM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Lange Begijnestraat 11, 2011 HH Haarlem

17. Take a cycle out to Bloemendaal Aan Zee beach in Haarlem

If you’re looking for a break from the cityscapes (though we’re not sure why, when Haarlem is so stunning!), we can only suggest Bloemendaal Aan Zee Beach. 

Relax and get your tan on at the Dutch beach. Image: Depositphotos

About a 25-minute cycle from the centre of Haarlem, here you can live out your sea-faring dreams. Beautiful in the Dutch summer heat, this beach is also perfect for returning to nature in winter and experiencing the Dutch art of uitwaaien.

While there, why don’t you reminisce on the flatness of the Netherlands and the lack of cliffsides? 🤔

💰 Price: Free!
⏰ Opening hours: All day, every day
📍 Location: Bloemendaal aan Zee, 2051 EB Haarlem

18. Check out the architectural wonder that is the Cathedral of St. Bavo

Oh, so you’re a bit of an architecture nerd like us, huh? Well, there’s something for you to do in Haarlem too.

The Cathedral of St. Bavo, also known as the Koepel Kathedraal, in Haarlem has much to offer. Built in 1853, this church offers neo-romanesque style architecture, with influences from Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles. 

Take a trip to the Cathedral of St. Bavo for a visit to Gothic churches of the past. Image: Simone Jacobs/DutchReview

Not only is the massive cathedral a wonder to look at, but it also has a rich history. The cathedral was built as a replacement for St. Bavokerk when the church was converted to Protestantism.

This Roman Catholic church now hosts choir recitals and an organ that could only be a musician’s dream. 🎹

💰 Price: €7.50 for adults, €4 for kids 
⏰ Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 1 PM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Leidsevaart 146, 2014 HE Haarlem

There are so many things to do in Haarlem, from museums to castles to parks. Little Amsterdam has something for nearly everyone, so give the city a chance and explore for a day or two! 

Will you be visiting Haarlem? If so, where will you be headed first? Tell us in a comment below! 

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Heather Slevin
Heather Slevin
Heather is a Dublin native, addicted to catching the Luas, the Irish version of a tram, for one stop, and well used to the constant rain and shine. Seeking to swap one concrete city for another (with a few more canals and a friendlier attitude to cyclists) here she is with the Dutch Review! As a Creative Writing student, she can usually be found sweating over the complicated formatting of her latest poem or deep inside the pages of a book, and loves writing, writing, writing.

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