Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 17, 2012

Walking in Haarlem

We went to Haarlem for the day and the information centre suggested the self guided walking tour. Armed with a brochure and a map we set off from the Grote Markt, the original centre of the city of Haarlem. The city is located 20 kilometres from Amsterdam on the river Spaarne, and has a rich history back to pre medieval times.

Laurens Janz Koster dominates the square, standing in front of the Grote Kirk (Great Church).
He is represented holding a letter A in his right hand, a nod to his invention of a printing press.


The square is considered one of the loveliest in the Netherlands and is lined with restaurants, which were waiting for some warm weather.


Happily, the gallows which used to be in the square have been removed. The jousting competitions might have been fun to watch. Perhaps they could be brought back.

We headed off down Koningstraat, looking for the baker’s shop at number 37. It was built in 1900 and has a stone sculpture of a baker above the shop door. It is no longer a baker, it sells antiques, but was not open.


Our next stop was the chemist shop in Gierstraat number 3. It has a traditional ‘gaper’ over the door.



He is no doubt astonished because the shop sells ‘Haarlemmerolie’, an oil which is said to cure everything. The chemist shop dates from 1849 and has a fascinating interior.






We bought some of the oil, so I will be able to let you know soon what it cures.


We walked past the Niewe Kirk ( New Church) which was built between 1613 and 1616. It was covered with scaffolding, so we moved on to Karte Houtstraat, one of the greenest and prettiest in Harlem.




What a pity more people don’t get together to make their street look this good.

Next stop was the Provinciehuis, a pavilion built at the end of the 18th century to house the art and antique collection of Henri Hope, an Amsterdam banker. It is now the home of the Noord-Holland provincial council.


It has a wonderful circular driveway with a set of lions that look a bit Egyptian to me.



Opposite the house is a beautiful park, Haarlemmer Hout, which is hundreds of years old. It had a bit of a makeover in 1830, but some of the trees are original plantings.


Further on, at 62 Groot Heiligland, is Franz Hals Museum.

We ducked in to have a look at the gorgeous art collection. Some of the rooms were closed for renovation, but what we saw was magnificent. The rooms themselves are worth the admission price.


It is wonderful to see these amazing paintings up close.




There is a beautiful garden at the back of the museum.


We wandered down a pretty shopping street and came to the back of the Grote Kerk.



It is huge, and quite stunning inside.


The wooden ceilings are amazing.



The Waag, or weighing house, was built in 1598 and functioned until 1915. It is now a restaurant.


It has a stunning roofline.


Nearby is the white drawbridge called Gravestenenbrug.


Beside the bridge are 2 beautiful buildings with traditional stepped gables, dating from around 1630. I liked the 2 beside those as well.




Behind these buildings was the De Olyphant brewery from 1550. There is a tiny stone elephant on the side of the building still.


The Spaarnwoulder Gate was not part of the walking tour, but we found it anyway.


From here we spotted a windmill and went on to investigate.


The mill dates from 1778, but it was all but destroyed by fire in 1932 and was rebuilt and open to the public in 2002.


Haarlem is a beautiful city. If you go, arm yourself with a guide and a map and get walking.

You would think from looking at these photos that it was a warm, sunny spring day. It was not. It was freezing, windy and raining on and off. I managed to get these photos in brief periods of sun, while being blown to bits by the Arctic wind.


  1. What lovely photos Debra – I had no idea Haarlem contained so many beautiful sights! Did you get there by train? I was about to comment on how warm it looked in all the pictures… and then I read your last paragraph!


    • We took the train from Amsterdam, it was only a 15 minute trip and the trains go regularly. It is a lovely city, pity we had to keep hiding from the rain. Hopefully it will be better today as we head for the tulips.


  2. Those timber ceilings are beautiful Debra. What a find. Europe is so diverse! Thank you for braving the cold winds for us!


    • The church was amazing. Did you see the size of the organ? It was being played while we were there.


  3. Absolutely beautiful and great photos, Debra. I love the old apothecary, according to Michel de Montaigne, we had plenty of them in Bagni back in the 16th Century (nowadays the oldest is Betti’s, which thankfully has kept its early 19th Century decor).
    The portrait of the woman makes me think of an older Scarlet Johnson… or is it because of her role in “The girl with the pearl”?


    • I loved the pharmacy too….the snake in particular.


  4. Haarlem is where Fred grew up and he played in that beautiful park. Mozart played that magnificent organ in St Bavo’s which we’ve heard many times. There’s such a lot to see in Holland – most people seem to stop in Amsterdam for 2 days on their way elsewere.


    • I’m so glad we went to Fred’s hometown. It is lovely.


  5. Wonderful post Debra…..haven’t been to Haarlem but now I’ll have to visit. Did you get to Aalsmeer?


  6. wow! what a wonderful post. thanks a lot for sharing.. i love every of your photos


  7. Looks great. I love the chemist shop, do report back on the oil! It does look like a gorgeous day, hard to believe it was chilly!


  8. how gorgeous…we visited out friend in Haarlem a few years back…we got very drunk in her house…probably should have gone for a walk!!
    love Daryl xx


    • It would have been much better for you, and a lot of fun.


  9. Appears to be loaded with charm and much less chaos/energy than Amsterdam. Thanks for sharing the beauty!!!


  10. How funny-the chemist shop would scare any child into taking there medicine! Love the mill pictures. Thank you for sharing.


    • It was a great looking shop and the attendants were very child friendly.


  11. What a lovely place. Thank God they removed the gallows from the town square. I’ve only ever spent on day in Amsterdam, but very much want to go back for a more reasonable length of time.


    • I’m sure the gallows were a crowd pleaser at the time.


  12. Holland has not been on my radar as a place I would like to visit. Your photos change my mind. I am very proud of you, Sister!


  13. You have been to my home town! you actually walked almost passed our house… how lovely that you enjoyed visiting Haarlem, and you really went around and saw everything! Great post, and beautiful photos!


    • We are in Holland for the first time and we love it! Everybody is so friendly and helpful and, lucky for us, speaks English. I can speak some Italian, but no Dutch. Our day in Haarlem was really interesting and great fun.
      I would have knocked on your door if I had known.


  14. Wonderful post Debra, I feel as if I was there too. The pictures are lovely, as usual. Thanks for taking me along on this walking tour.


    • Haarlem is a great city to walk in. There is something great to look at in every street.


  15. Whenever I read your blog….which is several times a week… travel list gets longer and longer. What a charming place, and excellent pictures.


    • Holland is a gorgeous place and Haarlem is very interesting.


  16. What a stunning and picturesque place! I’m looking forward to hearing what the oil is like too!


    • I’m not sure I am game to take it. I might just rub it on the arthritis on my finger.


  17. Beautiful pictures and insight into Haarlem. How interesting to read that a number of followers are from that area. Didn’t realize it would be so cold there at this time of year. Enjoy! Enjoy!


    • It should be a bit warmer now, the weather is crazy everywhere.


  18. Wonderful photos. The chemist looks fascinating. I love the ouroboros/serpent hanging from the ceiling – how alchemical.


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  20. […] Walking in Haarlem […]


  21. I just stumbled across this by accident! I’m just looking at walking tour options for a quick 1 nighter I will have there after Xmas. Great write up, I can’t wait to get there although I don’t think the weather will be as nice as you had!


    • It will be great anyway. The day was not quite as good as it looked. I waited for bits of blue sky to appear to take the photos. It was cold and windy with patches of rain. Have fun!


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