Whether you’re honeymooning in Amsterdam or passing through the Netherlands on a river cruise, Haarlem—a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam—makes for a perfect day-trip. Here are five of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon in this storied city, whose roots run at least as deep as the 10th century.
Cheers at Jopen, the “Church of Beer.”
Jopen, situated in the heart of Haarlem, is a craft brewery, restaurant and bar. It has earned the moniker “Church of Beer”—and for good reason. Housed in a former centuries-old church, the establishment’s original stained-glass windows and other nods to the building’s storied past create a divine setting for beer tasting. Even better, Jopen is passionate about re-creating traditional Haarlem beers: two of their founding recipes date back to the years 1407 and 1501. In other words, not only are you surrounded by history inside Jopen, you’re drinking history, too! In addition to beer tastings, Jopen also offers:
Special food and beer pairing events, such as beer and chocolate; beer and cheese; beer and oysters; etc.
Private event space
Marvel at the awe-inspiring Grote Kerk (a.k.a. St. Bavo Church).
More than 500 years old, the Grote Kerk cathedral is an absolute must visit when in Haarlem. The landmark’s Gothic architecture, combined with a history that vacillates between Protestantism and Catholicism, is more than enough to capture any visitor’s attention for a morning or afternoon. Music lovers take note, too: the cathedral’s organ reigned as the largest in the world upon its completion in the 1730s and has been played by Mendelssohn, Handel and Mozart.
Snag a souvenir or pretty bouquet at Grote Markt.
Set in the shadow of Haarlem’s iconic cathedral (see above) and ringed by charming cafes, Grote Markt is an open-air market boasting everything from quintessential Dutch tulips to fresh cheeses and handmade clothes to sweet pastries. It’s an ideal stop to put together a picnic lunch of local foods or to find meaningful souvenirs handmade in the Netherlands. If you’re on a river cruise down the Rhine, it’s also an ideal place to hand select a bouquet to brighten your cabin or suite on-board. (U by Uniworld happily found a vase for my pretty purchase, arranged them and delivered the bouquet to my cabin.)
Pedal your way around the city.
Not too big and not too small, Haarlem was the ideal size to explore on two wheels (pop. 159,500). Since I only had a handful of hours to see the city’s highlights, biking allowed me to get to and from where I wanted to go while still exploring nooks and crannies of the city that are just not as accessible from a car. If I would have had one more hour in Haarlem, I would have pedaled the supplies I purchased at Grote Markt to a grassy spot on the river bank and enjoyed a picnic in the Haarlem sunshine.
Fuel up at a charming café.
I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy a good cup of coffee at a charming European café with outdoor seating. It goes without saying that the experience in Haarlem doesn’t disappoint. After a day of biking your way between Jopen, Grote Kerk and Grote Markt, rest your legs and revel in the beauty of historic Haarlem at one of the city’s many cafés.
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