Like almost any other city in The Netherlands, Haarlem is divided in pieces by the train tracks and the canals. The main train station is one of the oldest ones from the country as the railway from Amsterdam to Haarlem is the first one of its kind in The Netherlands.
There is no surprise to find Haarlem a rich and interesting city, starting with the beautiful architecture kept inside the train station and ending with the small paved streets which can make you discover small cafe’s or hidden hand made shops. Inside the canals, in the old city center, there’s a reminiscence of the air which used to be in the citadel of Haarlem, before the destruction of the city walls. As a memory impregnated in the city’s life, Amsterdaamse Poort is still at the pass way from the East to the center.
Haarlem passed through multiple fires and social crises, but there is almost no sign of it in the overall state of the city. Only small signs remain to be discovered during a trip or a stroll on the streets, like the 3 breads on the house from Spaarne river: the legends says that the house was sold on 3 breads during the hunger period. Nowadays a restaurant is selling its bread. And the hunger remains in the history as the city center is crowded with small restaurants or places to eat.
Being the capital of North-Holland, Haarlem is the home of the archive and the chamber of the province. During 2 days in September each year, the archive can be visited. Would it be weird to discover that the archive is in a church? It shouldn’t, as in Haarlem the churches are used with other purposes than the traditional religious way: you will find out that in Bavo’s Church no religious ceremony takes place, that in Jopen’s Church there’s a brewery and that in another church apartments are built inside.
Even if the religion seemed a memory from a long forgotten past, the city concentrates in the center over 10 almshouses. The oldest almshouse from the country, founded in 1395, is still opened for visitors right in the center of Haarlem. Close to the almshouse a memorial in the name of the Jews killed in World War II will invite you to meditate on what cruelty and ignorance can generate in the world. And if you thought Anne Frank was the only one hidden in a house around The Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom museum will make you travel in time and have chills too.
And as we reached museums it is good to know that Haarlem is the home of a numerous Dutch painters, known world wide. Frans Hals museum stands as a true live witness to it. Don’t forget about Teylers museum as well, which covers extended scientific collections right on Spaarne’s edge.
There are many to see and discover in Haarlem and around the city constructed on dikes. Have you ever thought in visiting the capital of North-Holland? No one will be upset if you say Holland instead of The Netherlands here!