Guides,  The Netherlands

Amsterdam to Haarlem: How to Plan the Perfect Day Trip

Amsterdam To Haarlem Cathedral

If you’re in the Netherlands’ capital for any extended length of time, you may want to consider a day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem. That’s exactly what we did during our five-day visit to Amsterdam, and I’m glad we did.

I was looking for a place that showed off both the Netherlands’ medieval and Dutch Golden Age past. Haarlem perfectly fit the bill. It gave us the opportunity to see one of Europe’s great Gothic churches, paintings from a Dutch master and numerous charming old-world roads.

This post lays out my one-day itinerary for traveling from Amsterdam to Haarlem. Keep scrolling to learn about some of the top things to see and how easy it is to get here to help you plan your trip!

Orientation to Haarlem

If you’re arriving by train, you’ll disembark at a large urban square. Make your way across this square away from the station and basically just head straight along the first road you see. Either road you take from the train station will eventually take you all the way to Haarlem’s main square, Grote Markt.

Along the way, you’re likely to see some of what makes Haarlem so special. The city itself is filled with many picturesque roads that seem to have come straight out of the Middle Ages.

Haarlem was founded during the 9th century and then given a city charter in 1245. It has managed to retain much of its old aesthetic from this time despite about two centuries of off-and-on conflict. After Holland declared its independence from Spain in 1581, Haarlem entered a time of prosperity along with the rest of the region.

This period of time became known as the Dutch Golden Age. It was also a time of great artistic expression in the Netherlands. Haarlem was no different in this regard, giving us the mastery of Frans Hals and also acting as a home for Jan Steen where he painted many of his works.

This history can be explored by simply wandering around Haarlem’s different neighborhoods, Grote Markt and a visit to the Frans Hals Museum. You can also learn more about its history by visiting the Verwey Museum Haarlem across from the Frans Hals Museum.

Things to See While Traveling from Amsterdam to Haarlem

Teylers Museum

Hours:Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 5:00
Length of Visit:Around an hour
Highlights:The museum itself, antique scientific instruments,
Teylers home

If you ever wanted to see a museum where the highlight is basically the museum itself, the Teylers Museum is for you. This museum was the first thing we did when going from Amsterdam to Haarlem, and it was a great first impression of the city. Walking around this fantastic museum will make you feel like you time warped back to a time when 19th century museums were all the rage.

Each room has a general theme, but at the same time, it seems like everything was just thrown together somewhat haphazardly. Information is scant except for what the curators have clearly added in more recent years. Those two things sound like negatives, but I assure you, the Teylers Museum more than makes it work.

The Teylers Museum has plenty of exhibits ranging from antique scientific instruments, fossils, paintings, gemstones and more to keep anyone interested.

Included in the museum is a tour of several rooms of the Pieter Teylers’ home. These rooms flesh out the story of how the museum came to be, while also providing a closer look at Teylers’ 18th century life.

One Of The Main Exhibit Rooms In Teylers Museum Haarlem
One of the main rooms in the Teylers Museum, filled with gems and old fashioned scientific instruments
Dining Area In Haarlem's Teylers Museum
The Teylers Museum includes a visit through Teylers home, replete with 18th century furnishings

Frans Hals Museum

Hours:Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 – 5:00
Length of Visit:Around an hour
Longer if you plan on visiting the HAL
Highlights:A number of Frans Hals paintings

The Frans Hals Museum contains the largest collection of Hals’ works in the world. Considered one of the Dutch masters, Hals painted stunning portraits depicting Dutch life in the 17th century.

As part of the collection here, you can expect to find masterpieces like Regents of St Elisabeth’s Hospital and The Officers of the St Adrian Militia Company in 1633. Besides Hal’s works, the gallery also contains plenty of works from his contemporaries and even early 20th century artists.

The rooms are organized by qualities found within the paintings themselves rather than the year or artist. I think this facet of the museum is a nice touch to make it a bit easier to process than some of Europe’s more extensive galleries. It’s also a pretty compact museum, too. Even if you take your time, you easily see everything in an hour.

Your ticket to the Frans Hals Museum also gives you access to the HAL in Grote Markt. Technically, these two buildings are the same museum but with different scopes – and locations. The HAL focuses more on modern and contemporary art.

Since we aren’t huge modern art fans, we decided to skip this. It may be worth at least a quick walk through if you like those styles.

Regents Of St Elisabeth’s Hospital By Frans Hals
Regents of St Elisabeth’s Hospital
The Officers Of The St Adrian Militia Company In 1633 By Frans Hals
The Officers of the St Adrian Militia Company in 1633

A number of tourism cards include the Frans Hals Museum and Teylers Museum. Make sure to check ahead of time if purchasing a card will be worthwhile during your stay in the Netherlands.

Grote Markt

Haarlem’s Grote Markt is the city’s main square from which the rest of city fans out. It’s likely this square will be your first stop in Haarlem so you can properly orient yourself.

The two main buildings are the Church of St Bavo and the Haarlem City Hall. Both of these large buildings face one another across the square. The church is fairly obvious while the city hall is the large gabled building with the tall tower. If you need assistance, Haarlem’s Tourist Information office is located in the city hall.

Surrounding Grote Markt are many different restaurants, cafes and shops for you to meander around in while you take in the views. It’s perfect for a bit of people watching with a drink after touring some of Haarlem’s museums.

And don’t feel like you have to see all of Grote Markt in one go. You’ll almost certainly pass through here a few times during your day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem.

Gabled Buildings In Haarlem's Grote Markt
Some of the more attractive buildings in the Grote Markt
Haarlem's City Hall
Opposing the Church of St Bavo is Haarlem’s City Hall, the second largest building in the Grote Markt

Church of St Bavo

Hours:Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 5:00
Length of Visit:*15 – 30 minutes
(We didn’t actually visit the inside; time based on similar church’s)
Highlights:Holland’s largest organ, impressive Gothic architecture

Of course, the highlight of Grote Markt is the imposing church. The Church of St Bavo, also known as Grote Kerk in Dutch, is one of the most visually stunning churches I’ve seen. It may not be the largest or most ornate, but its exterior is just so cool.

If you’re coming into Haarlem’s Grote Markt from the train station, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the Church of St Bavo. It’s an imposing structure that dominates the square. It may not be big like some well-known European churches, but its medieval appearance gives it an air of significance that makes it loom larger than it maybe is.

The Church of St Bavo’s most interesting details are found around its sides where buttresses extend out like miniature fortifications and small shops have attached themselves to the church’s walls. This is especially true on the back right corner of the church. From this side, it looks like a small village. I found this detail to be so unique compared to other churches I’ve seen.

Regrettably, we were only able to visit the outside because the church is closed on Sundays. I thought it might be closed in the morning but was surprised to see it closed all day. Make sure to plan ahead if you have your heart set on going inside!

The Front Side Of The Church Of St Bavo In Haarlem
This view of the church is impressive, but the other view, as seen in the top image on this post, is by far my favorite.

Explore Haarlem

Probably the best thing to do in Haarlem is to simply wander around and get lost. Haarlem is at its most memorable when you’re walking along its medieval cobblestoned roads.

Just head towards the Grote Markt in the center of town, pick a direction to walk, and then let your feet take you where they will. You’re bound to stumble on one Haarlem’s many pretty roads or courtyards. Maybe you’ll even stumble upon Haarlem’s iconic windmill, something we completely forgot to see because we were so enamored with everything else.

Fortunately, these medieval lanes permeate much of Haarlem. So, even if you’re not the type of person who likes walking around aimlessly, you’ll still experience Haarlem’s old-world beauty while getting from one destination to the next.

Peaceful Courtyard In The Middle Of Haarlem
A quaint little courtyard we found while wandering around Haarlem
A Winding Medieval Road In Haarlem
One of the many windy medieval roads in Haarlem

The Corrie ten Boom House

Hours:Tours run hourly from Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 – 3:00
Advanced reservations are required
Length of Visit:60 minutes
Highlights:The secret room where the family hid people fleeing from the Nazis

The Corrie ten Boom House, also known as the Ten Boom Museum, is found in a small house near Grote Markt. This house is where the ten Boom lived during World War II and where they helped over 800 Jewish people and other persecuted peoples escape the Nazis.

The house shows the living quarters of the family and the secret room where they hid people looking to escape the city. It also has an exhibit showing objects from the war.

If you’re not able to get to the Ten Boom Museum, check out the virtual tour they put together on their website. The tour takes you through the whole house with 360-degree views plus narration. It even extends beyond the museum to include the Church of St Bavo, Grote Markt and Haarlem’s canal.

The Corrie ten Boom House is the only thing in this Amsterdam to Haarlem guide we didn’t actually do. We visited on a Sunday, which meant this museum was closed. Still, I think it should be perfectly manageable to include in your day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem with proper planning.

Two Places to Eat and Drink

Haarlem has plenty of places to grab some food and a drink while you rest your weary tourist’s feet. Whether you’re looking for views of the Church of St Bavo or people watching on a winding medieval lane, you’ll find something for your tastes.

Since we were only in Haarlem for a scant six hours, we only had time to try two spots. Still, I recommend both options during your time in Haarlem.

The Governor

The Governor sits along the back right corner of the Church of St Bavo in the ground floor of a hotel. It has an outdoor seating area where you can enjoy great views of the church and some good people watching if the weather is cooperating.

Unfortunately for us, the weather was not cooperating meaning we had to sit inside. I was bummed to not eat underneath the church’s walls, but the interior of The Governor was a fine alternative.

The Governor is kind of a chic place, but it doesn’t feel stuffy or pretentious and is perfectly fine for families with young kids.

Its menu was fairly standard European cafe fare. We both had flammkuchen, Michelle’s without Serrano ham and mine with it. It was pretty tasty but not quite what we expected after having flammkuchen at Munich’s Christmas market in 2023. This was more of a crispy flatbread. Regardless, I wouldn’t say no if offered it again.

The Governor also has a decent drink menu with a good variety of wines if you need a break from Dutch beer.

Flammkuchen At The Governor In Haarlem
After melting my mouth on my flammkuchen, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my lunch at The Governor.

Jopenkerk Haarlem

Found within a renovated church about a 5-minute walk from Grote Markt is Jopenkerk Haarlem, a brewery doubling as a restaurant. This brewery, plus its extensive drink menu, makes it a must for any beer aficionado.

The most interesting part of Jopenkerk Haarlem is its location in an old church. It has large stained glass windows and a lofty nave to remind you of its past life. This setting certainly beats the typical brewery scene.

Besides the location, Jopenkerk Haarlem also has an extensive menu with several options under each category of beer. It was probably the most diverse menu I’ve seen in a brewery outside of America.

I can’t speak for the quality of all their beers (I don’t drink that much), but the two I had were pretty tasty. The quad and dry Dutch stout were two I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys these varieties. Michelle enjoyed her 0% IPA, and she doesn’t even like IPAs.

Jopenkerk Haarlem also has a food menu if you’re coming for a meal or just want a snack with your brew. We didn’t try anything, but the food I saw looked tasty.

Jopen Brewery In Haarlem
The outside of Jopenkerk Haarlem looks like a pretty standard church…because that’s what it used to be.
Inside of Jopen Brewery
The inside of Jopenkerk Haarlem looks more like a brewery.

Getting from Amsterdam to Haarlem

Traveling from Amsterdam to Haarlem is very quick and easy. Haarlem is easily reached by train from Amsterdam Centraal. Trains from Amsterdam run about every 10 minutes and take roughly 15 minutes. The return trip is essentially the same. Tickets for both ways cost under $14.

Roundtrip tickets can be purchased ahead of time or at the ticket office to the left of Amsterdam Centraal’s main entrance. Because trains run so frequently, you shouldn’t have to wait too long if you decide to buy at the station. Just make sure to hold on to your ticket since you’ll need it for the return trip.

View Of Haarlem Near The Train Station
This was one of our first views of Haarlem on our way to Grote Markt from the train station.

Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling from Amsterdam to Haarlem

Is a day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem worth it?

I absolutely think so as long as you have enough time in Amsterdam. We had five nights in Amsterdam, which gave us plenty of time to see everything and to do another day trip out to the countryside.

With at least four nights in Amsterdam, you should definitely take at least one day trip. Whether you go to Haarlem or the smaller countryside towns is down to preference.

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When is the best time to visit Haarlem?

For fair weather and smaller crowds, head from Amsterdam to Haarlem during the shoulder months of September to November or mid-March to May. The best weather is from June to August, but because of this, you can expect larger crowds.

Haarlem has a Christmas market during December, so it’s likely to be a bit more crowded then. January to mid-March will have the smallest crowds but also the worst weather.

A particularly popular time to visit the Netherlands is from late March to May when the tulips are blooming. Of course, this time of year will also lead to big crowds.

Should I book a tour of Haarlem?

If you’re only going to be in Haarlem for a single day trip from Amsterdam, a guided tour is likely not worthwhile. Especially if you’re visiting museums, an added tour may make for a pretty busy day.

On the other hand, if you’re in Haarlem for more than a day or you aren’t interested in museums, a guided tour of town could make for an interesting introduction to the city. I’ve included one of the top-rated city tours from GetYourGuide if you’re looking to book a tour.

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