When you tell people you’ve been to Haarlem, they usually think of the Harlem neighbourhood in New York, but this couldn’t be more different from the pace of the Big Apple; it’s also less tourist-saturated than neighbouring Amsterdam, only 15 minutes away by train, but still bursting with culture.
During the “tulip mania” of the 17th century, when the financial craze for tulip bulbs was similar to today’s cryptocurrency bubble, Haarlem was the centre of the tulip trade. These days it’s the end point for the Bloemencorso Bollenstreek flower parade every April, with intricately decorated floats passing through the streets, groaning with huge displays – this is miles away from your basic flower arrangement.
Haarlem also has a growing music scene, with a well-established jazz festival, plus 2023’s new Haarlem Vinyl Festival (29 September-1 October), which will draw record lovers from across the globe.
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What to do
Find your new favourite museum
The Frans Hals Museum is spread across two sites, giving a double art fix (tickets €8-16; some concessions free). Paintings by Frans Hals are shown alongside modern art by the likes of Lubaina Himid and Kerry James Marshall.
The Teylers Museum was founded in 1784 to display science and natural history collections, and its age is part of the charm. Peel back layers of history as you browse the wooden specimen cabinets, the beautiful Oval Room and the art galleries of the Netherlands’ oldest museum. A new part of the site opened in 2021: the lovingly restored Pieter Teyler House, once home to the museum founder.
A ground-breaking attraction dedicated to mental health, the Museum van de Geest, or Museum of the Mind, was named European Museum of the Year in 2022 (tickets €10-20; some concessions free). It’s on the site of a leper colony and plague hospital that then became the local asylum. Tough and emotive subject matter is sensitively handled. Another stirring sight is the Corrie ten Boom House (free, but donations encouraged; guided tours only), where one Haarlem family hid Jewish people during the Nazi occupation of Holland in the Second World War.
Explore the hofjes
Haarlem has some beautiful hidden courtyards with well-kept gardens surrounded by former…
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