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Four days Haarlem

My husband and I just returned from a 10-day trip to Amsterdam (4 nights), Bruges (2 nights), and Haarlem (4 nights), and I am sharing some of my experience in case someone is planning a similar trip. The Amsterdam and Bruges (under Belgium) portions of our trip are posted under separate topics. As Haarlem was the last leg of our trip, we had already seen Amsterdam, so we focused on a couple of excellent days trips, but also sights around Haarlem. I would change very little in terms of our itinerary, and feel the pacing was very doable.
DAY 1: (Wednesday) Arrived by train from Bruges at 3:00 p.m. Checked into apartment in the Vijhoek (meeting of “5 streets”) neighborhood. This is, in my opinion, the most utterly charming, idyllic area in Haarlem. Fabulous location, steps from coffee, a cool neighborhood pub, restaurant, and walking distance to everywhere—we took no public transportation except to train station for our day trips. We mostly wandered this first day, had beers on Grote Square @ Grand Café Brinkmann. Dinner: La Plume. Excellent food, service, great (heated) outdoor tables, fantastic location and people-watching. Reasonable prices. Ate here twice!
DAY 2: (Thursday) Day Trip to Kinderdijk. I HIGHLY recommend this—this was one of our favorite days on our trip. It does require a full day (and best with a somewhat early start). I would say you need to also have good weather—you are either biking or walking to a total of 19 windmills (if you choose to see them all) and it would not be fun in bad weather. We lucked out and had a perfect 70 degree day with sunshine—a glorious way to see this quintessential Dutch landscape—it is a photographer’s dream! Fascinating history of Netherlands here. It takes a bit more total travel time than some day trips, involving coordinating the train, a tram and a waterbus, but don’t be daunted by this. (Use www.ns.nl/en/journey planner to see train departure options—I used this site for all our train travel. Use www.waterbus.nl to see departure times for the direct waterbus 202 that takes you to Kinderdijk. Be aware that if you are there off—season, the waterbus has more limited departure times. We were there beginning of October, so it only picked up passengers every 2 hours, requiring us to coordinate the train schedule carefully to avoid wasting time). Here’s how to do it: Train to Rotterdam (1 hr.). Key tip: just before you exit the station, go directly to the Tourist Information desk near the exit (NOT the TI for train info, the one for tourist info!). Here you can buy, in one fell swoop, your all-in-one ticket for both the waterbus 202 (to and from Kinderdijk) and the tram that takes you to the waterbus and back from waterbus to the train station at end of day.) With this ticket, take tram #7 (to the left as you exit the station, direction Willemsplein) to the Eramusbrug Waterbus 202. (Tram takes 15 min.) Waterbus (30 min) to Kinderdijk. When we got there, we bought tickets for the short (15 min.) intro video (recommend) and tour of 2 windmills--fascinating glimpses into lives of families who lived and worked in the windmills. We rented bikes at the souvenir shop (great customer service) to get around. I think biking is the best way to see Kinderdijk—you can cover more ground and really see all the windmills, the paths are clear and straightaway, very tranquil. We spent 3 hours at Kinderdijk, on bikes. You would probably want a bit more time if on foot. Waterbus back to tram stop in Rotterdam, tram to train, back to Haarlem. Dinner: Spaarne66, lovely restaurant on the river, great food/service.
(Continued on Fours days Haarlem, part 2)

Posted by
527 posts

Thanks for your reports! La Plume was our choice twice in 2003, and I went there alone in 2004 and 2014. Always satisfied. :)

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131 posts

(4 days Haarlem part 2...it was suggested that I repost part 2 as a reply so that it is on same thread as my first post :)

DAY 3: (Friday): Day trip to Den Hague and Delft. An easy side trip from Haarlem. Took train to Den Hague. Went to Maurtshuis Museum. Easy walk from train station, well-signed. Excellent—another great audio guide again. Spent 1 ½ - 2 hours—so glad we did this! Took tram (NOT train) to Delft. This is the easiest way. Go to the TI right at the museum for your tram #1 ticket (one-way) Took tram (direction Delft Tanthof ) to Prisenhof stop. Lunch: ‘T Postkantoor, lovely, convivial, great food and service. Charming interior; we ate in a beautiful courtyard area out back. Toured Vermeer Center—highly recommend. Great 1-hour audio guide. My husband spent 45 min., I spent 1 ½ hours, fascinating. Had a drink on the main square and wandered around this lovely town. We were there a total of 3 ½ hours. Train back to Haarlem. Dinner: back to La Plume.
DAY 4: (Saturday). Good, full breakfast at Café Brinkmann on Grote Market. Went to Corrie Ten Boom house—highly recommend. Excellent, well done, narrative tour with a superb guide (I hour). Very moving. (Reserve entry time in advance, tours in English and Dutch, free, recommended donation of $2.50). Enjoyed the fun Saturday market on Grote Market. Lunch on the river at Spaarne66. Wanted to go to Frans Hals museum, but it was unexpectedly closed for renovation until October 13; they are adding a new exhibit showing the relationship and influence Hals had on Impressionism. I expect this will be a great addition to the museum. We decided to bike again—it was another beautiful, sunny day. We rented bikes and did a very pleasant, uncrowded non-crazy ride out to the Zanzvoort beach area. Really fun and beautiful ride—about 2 hours total. Rode a bit more around canals and river in Haarlem. Had a beer outside at the fun Jopenkerk Brewery. Dinner: De Lachende Javaan. Wonderful Indonesion food/service/ambience. We ordered the rijsttafel for two, wonderful experience, and not too pricey for all you get (go hungry!)
Day 5: Departure back to USA. Took bus #300 to Schiphol Airport, 40 minutes, easy as pie. End of a wonderful, exciting trip. Cannot wait to go back someday!

Posted by
2995 posts

Lovely trip report! As much as I adore Amsterdam, Haarlem was a great "mini-version" that was less stress on my older family when I traveled there with them. I'm jealous of your day trips, they sound well-planned and really lovely!

Posted by
3551 posts

I was in Haarlem in sept. Relaxing dutch modern town. Alot less costly than Amsterdam. But Amsterdam is also so enoyable but with crowds unfortunately.

Posted by
7992 posts

We visited many of the same places as you did, but from our base in Leiden. You say you bought tickets for teams, water bus. We used our OV Clipkaarts. Was there a reason you didn’t have them? Perhaps too short a stay?
We also loved Den Hag and Mauritshus, Parliament, , Delft and Kinderdijk too.

Posted by
131 posts

To answer your question, Suki: We bought Amsterdam card for our 4 night stay in Amsterdam, which covered all the museums we wanted and all public transport within the city--we only used trams there, but it was handy when we were tired. This is a super buy, and we definitely got our value out of it!
The IAm card did not cover trains, trams or waterbus outside of Amsterdam proper. Because we were staying in Haarlem our last 4 nights and doing day trips from there, I knew that we'd have to buy train tix etc. separately anyway. For the amount of time we were there (to your point), I decided that "buying as we go" made more sense. I'm not sure if I'm right about that...but early on in my research I had read in RS guidebook that the OV -Chipkaart can be a bit of a pain, in that you don't know how much money to put on the card and it can run out, etc. and cashing it out at the end of your trip can be difficult if you don't use all the money up (see page 34 of the RS Amsterdam/Netherlands 2018 guidebook).
Having said that, it might make sense for some folks...I liked how we did it, and if you read how we got to Kinderdijk, for example, it was no trouble to buy the tickets for both tram and waterbus at the Rotterdam train station on the spot. We didn't need any public transport otherwise for the other day trips we did (Delfte, Den Hague). Hope that helps!