Tuesday, November 12th 2019

Haarlem – Take a day off Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a cool place to visit. It combines unique architecture of houses built on canals, great museums, markets, clubs, coffee shops and many other attractions. Hence it is heavily visited by toursits. And one may get tired of herds and crowds, queueing to museums and watching people with half closed eyes (customers of coffee shops) slowly and insecurely floating around canals or wide open ones (clubbers and theirs friends) nervously jerking even without music. Of course, one can visit the Red Light district over and over again, but stress and tension in the body will be growing. This is the right time to take a day off…..a day off Amsterdam.

My recommendation is visiting a town of Haarlem which is located 20mins away by train from Amsterdam. Haarlem is a lovely historical city, located on the river Spaarne. The population is about 151 thousand people.

Haarlem has a magnificent old centre with plenty of very old buildings. The city was home to several first class Dutch painters, including Frans Hals, and here you can visit its museum and see paintings by other prominent artists.

By the way you may be wondering whether the famousNew York Cityneighbourhood ofHarlemis named after this once powerful Dutch city. And the answer is Yes.

Haarlem’s main market square called Grote Markt is the heart of the old city. St.-Bavokerk is a Protestant church and former Catholic cathedral located on the central market square of Haarlem.

Grote Kerk or St.-Bavokerk on Grote Markt in Haarlem

Grote Kerk or St.-Bavokerk on Grote Markt in Haarlem

St.-Bavokerk is an important landmark for the city and has dominated the city skyline for centuries. It is built in the Gothic style between 1370 and 1520 and became the main church of Haarlem after renovations in the 15th century.

Grote Kerk or St.-Bavokerk on Grote Markt in Haarlem

Grote Kerk or St.-Bavokerk in Haarlem

Haarlem has a rich history dating back to pre-medieval times. You can se a lot of really old buildings while wandering around the streets. It seems like an unseen by many pearl of Netherlands.

house decoration, Haarlem

The first record of the name ‘Haarlem’ dates from the 10th century. In 1245 the city was granted city rights by Count William II of Holland. Because of heroic acts of knights from Haarlem during the fifth crusade and their contributions to the siege of Damiate in 1217, Haarlem was granted permission to show a cross and a sword in the city’s coat of arms.

Old houses of Haarlem

Old houses of Haarlem

There is an old shop where talented craftsmen still produce hand made violins. You can order one for yourself. In general Haarlem is famous for good shopping, but I am afraid I have missed that completely. Though I don’t regret that.

A shop where you can order a hand made violin

A shop where you can order a hand made violin

In the 16-17th centuries Haarlem became known as a mecca for dutch painting. Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Adriaen van Ostade lived here.

Old houses in Haarlem

Old houses in Haarlem

All of the city’s buildings were wooden at the beginning and in 1328 most of the city was burnt down. Later houses were built of stone, and you can come across buildings as old as 1612.

Ancient building in Haarlem

Ancient building in Haarlem

Frans Hals was a Dutch Golden Age painter. He is a very prominent and important artist who introduced new techniques into the Dutch art during his life.

Franz Hals Museum is located on this street

Franz Hals Museum is located on this street

But history, art and shopping are nothing without a glass of great beer. Haarlem was famous for beer brewing since long time ago. Until the 16th century the water for the beer was taken from the canals in the city. However, the water in the canals was getting more and more polluted, and no longer suitable for brewing beer. And new sources of suitable water were found later.

Haarlem was a major beer producer in the Netherlands in the middle ages. Before the arrival of Pilsener beer, each region in the Netherlands brewed its own special beer. Brewer’s were registered in the city of Haarlem as early as the 14th century. Over 100 brewers from Haarlem sold their beer over a vast area ranging from Russia to France. The cities did not have local breweries and many had to ‘impot’ their beer. Haarlem beer, for example, hed its highest popularity in Holland’s neighbouring cities and in Leeuwarden, Ghent and Antwerp. From the end of the 17th century the economic situation in the city turned sour, for a long time. No breweries were registered in the city anymore. Later in 1990s some of the old recipes under the new Jopen beer brand were revived. This beer is marketed as a “Haarlem bier”. In 2010 Jopen opened a brewery in a former church in central Haarlem called the Jopenkerk.

We visited this holy place after a long day to relax and taste some fresh beer.

Jopen Kerk Brewery in Haarlem

Jopen Kerk Brewery in Haarlem

The Jopen kerk Brewery has a good choice of beers, which are a bit similar to Belgian ones. The beers are strong and full of taste.

Jopen Kere beers

Jopen Kere beers

One of the beers I have tried was Koyt. It is a bit bitter with herbal tastes and has dark amber color.

Jopen Kerk beer - Koyt

Jopen Kerk beer – Koyt

The other one was Spring Bokbier. There are two types of it: the light one is brewed in spring, and the dark one – in autumn. Jopen beers’ alcohol is between 4% & 9%.

Jopen Kerk Brewery

Jopen Kerk Brewery

The waiters and the customers are very friendly. The whole atmosphere of the pub is very cheerful.

Jopen Kerk, Haarlem

Jopen Kerk



Refreshed, rested and tipsy we left the pub and set off to visit the seaside.

All in all we have spent a great day in Haarlem. It was my second visit, and I liked it as much as the previous time. Though this time we were showed around by my friend who lives on a boat close to Haarlem. Yes, on a real boat on a canal.

I highly recommend you to visit Haarlem even if you have just a couple of days in Amsterdam. You will be able to see different Holland, visit Museums without crowds and taste great beer.

Of course, Haarlem is a famous center for tulips trade, but it is already another story.

////Some information in this post was used from Jopen beer


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9 Comments on “Haarlem – Take a day off Amsterdam”

  1. Nice story, Alex) beers seems a bit expensive though

    1. hehe, well for us leaving in Prague, it is expensive, but at the same time you will drink two or three of them, instead of 5-7 like in Prague. In the end the price is more or less the same. Just with Czech beer you will have more visits to WC.

      1. Yes beers are more expensive, but as Alex said, it’s quality above quantity. I rarely drink more than 3 small beers / night when I’m in Belgium which would equal to about 9 € or 220czk.

        1. Yes, i also prefer lately less volume more taste. Thought Czech beer can be very refreshing during hot weather. I am not sure I would drink Belgian or this Jopen beer in +30*C.

  2. Cool place. Next time I am in Amsterdam, i will visit.

  3. Would love to visit Holland this year. Might go to Harlem.

  4. Love your post. I’m a descendant of Abraham P. Van Deursen and visiting Haarlem NL and surrounding areas is on my “bucket list.”

    1. Thank you. We have recently spent 3 weeks not far from Haarlem. We enjoyed every minute of our stay. We went to Haarlem many times, and I have to say that I prefer Harrlem or other smaller cities to Amsterdam. Enjoy your visit!

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