Haarlem, The Netherlands

Posted on March 14, 2010


This large town is the namesake for Harlem, the famous namesake in New York City. The NYC Harlem was settled by many Dutch who originated in Haarlem and I imagine felt a bit homesick. Haarlem is due west of Amsterdam and a 50 minute train ride north of Rotterdam. It is a popular summer destination due to the proximity to the ocean and some popular beaches.

I found Haarlem to be an interesting town of winding streets and small shops and restaurants. Because I was there on a Saturday, the market in the central square was very active. I bought 250grams of freshly roasted cashews to munch on as I strolled the city.
Other than the great, interesting streets and winding pedestrian shopping district, there were only a few buildings that really drew my attention. Many of the most distinctive buildings surround the central square (the Grote Markt). The city hall is large and at one time was more impressive, but it burnt down in the early 1900’s. There is a very old meat market building that I just could not get a good picture of. The brick and stone structure is very old and still in use, though no longer as a meat market. You can still see the carved decorative heads of cattle in the stone.
The most impressive building in the city is the Sint-Bavokerk Church. Built in the 1500’s this building is very impressive and houses some interesting historical items. There is the organ that was played by both Mozart and Handel. There is the pronouncement issued when the town was under seige by the Spanish in the late 1500’s. The pronoucement declared among other things that cats and dogs are now to be treated as food. This church was missing the impressive stained glass windows you would hope to see, it is not clear whether the windows were damaged over time or if they were never added.
I also went to the Haarlem Historical Museum, which though an ernest attempt was hardly worth the 4 euro admission fee. There was not much about the history of the city, considering the city is almost a thousand years old. Everything they had fit into one room. There was a separate display on the production of linen, which used to be an important industry in the are, but this only kept my attention for a few minutes.
An impressive structure worth noting is the Amsterdamse Poort, the only remaining gate from what used to be a series of walls and gates around the city.
Posted in: Netherlands, Travel