Haarlem Tourist Attractions
Haarlem, capital of the province of Noord-Holland, lies between Amsterdam and the North Sea, 7km/4.5mi from the coast, on the little river Spaarne (which gives the town its popular name of "Spaarnestad"). This very typical Dutch town, part of "Randstad Holland", now forms a continuous built-up area with the adjoining towns of Heemstede, Bloemendaal and Zandvoort.
Haarlem is the cultural center of southern Kennemerland, with several research institutes, educational establishments and libraries, and is the see of a Roman Catholic bishop. It is also a considerable industrial town, with shipyards, railroad workshops, printing works, engineering and coach-building plants and foodstuffs industries.The town has a long history. It first appears in the records in the 10th century under the name of Harulahem (i.e. a homestead on a narrow channel in the sand). Its situation between bogland and rivers at the narrowest point in the province of Holland made it a place of strategic importance. From the 11th to the 13th century Haarlem was the seat of the Counts of Holland, from whom it received its municipal charter in 1245: it is thus the second oldest town (after Dordrecht) in the Dutch heartland. During the fight for independence the town was recaptured by the Spaniards, after a heroic resistance, in July 1573, whereupon the commander and the entire garrison, the Protestant clergy and 2,000 citizens were executed. In the 17th century Haarlem was the scene of great artistic activity and the residence of many painters, including Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, Philips Wouverman and Adriaen van Ostade. The city architect Lieven de Key (C. 1560-1627) founded a school of building in the town, and Haarlem's public buildings and the numerous gabled houses in the old town bear witness to its achievements.There is also a lively market in Haarlem every Monday and Saturday.
Haarlem is famed as a great bulb growing center, producing tulips, hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils which are dispatched all over the world. The tulip came to the Netherlands from Asia Minor by way of Austria at the end of the 15th century, and in the following century gave rise to a "tulip mania" during which extraordinary prices were paid for choice bulbs. A century later there was a similar craze for hyacinths.
The southern districts of Haarlem begin south of the ring of canals just south of the Frans-Hals Museum.
Beyond Frederikspark is the Provinciehuis (provincial government offices), formerly known as the Paviljoen, a country house built in 1788 which was occupied from 1806 to 1810 by King Louis Bonaparte and from 1817 to 1820 by the widow of Prince William V of Orange.
From the southern ring of canals (Raamsingel and Gasthuissingel) Houtplein and its continuation the Dreef run south to the Haarlemmer Hout. On the left of the Dreef lies the beautiful Frederikspark.
To the right of the Dreef is Florapark, with a statue of Frans Hals.
To the south of the Provinciehuis extends the Haarlemmer Hout, a remnant of the expanse of forest which once covered much of the Kennemerland, with some ancient trees. The Hildebrand Fountain is decorated with figures representing characters from the well known book "Camera Obscura" by the 19th century writer Hildebrand (the pseudonym of Nicolaas Beets). On the east side of the park, at Kleine Houtweg 135, is the Hofje van Heythuizen (1650).
The canal to the west of the city center marks the beginning of the western districts of Haarlem.
St Bavo Cathedral
At Leidsevaart 146 stands the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Bavo, a three-aisle cruciform basilica (by J. Cuypers, 1895-1906). 100m/328ft long, 42m/138ft wide and 60m/187ft high, it is a good example of the transition to modern architecture, curiously combined with neo-Gothic and even Arab elements. The tower was added in 1927-30. The cathedral treasury contains valuable silver liturgical utensils and a reliquary with the remains of St Bavo, who is also commemorated by a statue at the east end of the church. Other notable features of the cathedral are the fine stained glass and the sculpture and pictures by well known Dutch artists such as Toorop, Derkindern, Bijvoet, Maas, Brom and Andriessen. The Willibrord Organ, built in 1923 by the Adema firm, has four manuals and 75 stops; there are periodic organ recitals from Easter to the end of September.
International Organ Festival
This annual three-week festival, International Organ Festival, takes place in June or July and is considered to be very important on the country's cultural calendar. The Netherlands has an abundance of organs, with historical grand organs in every town.The focus of this festival is the 1738 organ in St Bavo's Church, on which both Mozart and Handel played. Over two-centuries later, modern musicians from around the world are invited to Haarlem to play the organ during this festival.
Beyond the boundaries of Haarlem proper are a number of interesting attractions.
Just 5km/3mi north of Haarlem is Bloemendaal aan Zee, a popular seaside resort.There are beaches to the north and south of the town as well as surrounding sand dunes in Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland.
The aim of this garden, Thijsse Hof, is to preserve the natural state of the coastline. It features a variety of plants in its woodland setting, each emerging by layers in the season.
Farther east of Spaarnwoude is Halfweg, where a pumping station on the dam between the Haarlemmermeer and the river IJ was originally used to drain the lake and is still in operation.
From Bloemendaal the road runs east through the dune country of Kennemerland (nature reserve, with a number of lakes; camping sites) to a cemetery containing the graves of almost 400 people shot here during the German occupation in the Second World War. Then, passing Overveen station, the road goes back to Haarlem (7km/4-.5mi).
Map of Haarlem Attractions