Visiting Haarlem… the ‘original’ one in Holland

When my family and I are back in America, Harlem, New York City, is home.

So on a recent trip to Amsterdam, we couldn’t resist taking a short train ride to see Haarlem, the New York neighborhood’s namesake from back in the days when the Big Apple was New Amsterdam and a Dutch colony.

Haarlem, just 20 kilometers west of Amsterdam, is extremely easy to reach. Trains depart approximately every 15 minutes from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. Haarlem has a small town charm that makes it a pleasant day trip from the busy capital city.

Grote Markt is the picturesque main town square. We were unfortunate not to have been here on a Saturday, when the entire square is the site of a large and colorful outdoor market. My advice would be to try to make it here for the market, which must be lovely in this dramatic town square.

One of the draws of Haarlem is the Gothic cathedral, Sint-Bavokerk. The cathedral is also famous for its flamboyant, 18th century pipe organ, said to be among the best organs in the world.

Famous musicians and composers who have performed here, including Händel and the then-10-year-old Mozart, have confirmed this claim, expressing their enthusiasm for the organ’s superb quality.

Haarlem was also home to the Golden Age Dutch artist Frans Hals (1580 -1666) and the excellent Hals Museum (open daily 11:00– 17:00) contains the largest collection of his paintings in the world. By the way, the second largest collection of Hals paintings isn’t far from ‘New Harlem’ – housed in the wonderful Metropolitan Museum of Art. Last summer, the New York museum hosted an amazing exhibition of Frans Hals.

It’s pleasant to walk around this small city and to wander around the banks of the Spaarne River. During a visit to Amsterdam, enjoy a few hours here exploring picturesque Haarlem.

Just don’t expect to find many similarities between the two modern-day Ha(a)rlems…


  1. ledrakenoir on May 29, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Lovely story – as a danish guy I really apriciate to visit the Netherlands as well as I love to visit US both are great visiting in their own way – it’s wonderful that french, dutch, english and spanish placenames from the “old” is seen in US – so we’ve got other things in return – I love that… 😉

    Netherlands are a lot more than Amsterdam, a lot of lovely places and Harlem is one of them – one of my own favorite is Gouda a town north Rotterdam – with a lot of wonderful cheese… ‘big smile’

  2. Julia on May 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Very interesting post. My sister lives in Haarlem, Holland, but I have never been there myself, so I enjoyed this.

  3. kimberlysullivan on May 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks for your comments. You’re right, Ledrakenoir. I love visiting cities, but it’s important to explore the smaller towns, too, if you really want to get an idea about life in a country. Kind of funny how NY was named first for a Dutch city and then, once it became British, for the city of York. How funny, Julia, that your sister is in Haarlem! I’m sure you’ll love it when you visit.

  4. Aluva DEO on June 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    My sister told about this place Haarlem in Holland and was surprised to see that famous musician mozart who was 10 years old performed on this oplace. it a great feeling to visit such place and next time when i get an oppurtunity i will definitely visit this place. please share more photos . thank you

  5. kimberlysullivan on June 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is pretty impressive to see places where musical geniuses have performed. Definitely worth a visit when you’re in Holland!

  6. […] For other tips when you’re in Amsterdam, see my earlier post on taking a day trip to visit the namesake of our New York City neighborhood, Harlem, known in the original version as Haarlem. […]

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