Thursday, August 11, 2005

City Spotting: HAARLEM, the city of flowers

The medieval city of Haarlem, located by the river Spaarne, was once one of the 2 most powerful cities [the other is Dordrecht] in the Netherlands during the 16th and early 17th centuries. This is the home of the great tulipmania trade in the 1600’s, and so with the tulip crash... The city was also known for beer brewing, ship building and textile manufacturing.

In the late 17th century towards the 18th century, Amsterdam stole Haarlem’s crown of power and influence. Amsterdam became Holland’s capital. But since this charming city is roughly 15 minutes away (20KM) to the northwest from the capital (about an hour from Utrecht), many tourists drop by to sample the Haarlem experience. So did I, last week!

Here are some of the few pictures of interesting places and buildings that I took in Haarlem:

The Saint Bavo Cathedral by the Grote Markt square

The church is right on the corner of the Grote Markt square where lots of open air cafés are sited.

Built in the early 1500’s in gothic style by the Catholics, originally as a church; it was later upgraded and held the cathedral status since 1559. However, d
uring the J. Calvin wave circa 1578, the cathedral was seized and converted into Protestantism [just like what happened to other churches all over the country].

The shops at the foot of the cathedral are technically part of the church’s structure. I find it actually very amusing to have a mix of store – shopping while church hopping, haha.

The Vleeshal (The Meat Hall) by the Grote Markt square

Built in renaissance style in 1602 to 1604, this building was primarily used for selling fresh meat, thus the name, Meat Hall.
In other words, this is their city meat market in the 1600’s. Wow, how grand!

It now serves as a café restaurant, and a museum.

Haarlem City Hall by the Grote Markt square

The city hall was built in the 14th century (1351). I guess the Anno 1630 date by the entrance of the city hall [see foto] is a later addition to the building.

History says too that in this exact spot is where the original wooden city hall used to stand. Building remains were found that dates back to circa 1100. Wow, very interesting, Haarlem is that old...

If the weather permits, you will see everyday open air cafes stationed right outside the city hall, in the Grote Markt square. But every Saturday and Monday, a large open air market will replace these cafe terraces.


When I was there last week, there was a Haarlem Culinair event going on in the square. So I sat down and enjoyed a glass of white wine, bread with Tapenade (olives), and Gambas. The weather was terrible; as usual, it was showery and gloomy. You can NOT survive without an umbrella or raincoat here in the Netherlands!

Dutch medieval buildings

These historic cute buildings have since then, for quite some time now, metamorphosed into fine shops on the ground floor and living quarters on top. You will see a lot of these all over in the car-free Centrum of Haarlem. You can walk from one shopping lane to another whilst admiring the Alice in Wonderland look alike colorful crooked houses. An enchanting experience I must say!

The other close up picture is an 1849 old drugstore called Van de Pigge. In 1902, V&D [Vroom en Dreesman, a large Dutch department store], built their building in the area. Van de Pigge drugstore was the only retail shop that did not approve of the buyout. So now, the shop looks quite interesting encapsulated by the imposing V&D building. And yes, it is still in business!

A Subway sandwich store (nothing Dutch)

This one is indeed a strange combination, nothing Dutch by the way. A Subway sandwich store, not in a subway or train station but right in the middle of a 2 way street by the stoplight! I couldn’t resist, I had to take a picture, haha.

The river Spaarne is seen on the second picture.

Haarlem Train Station

Another must see. If one didn’t come by train but by car, the Haarlem station is only a 10 minute walk crossing the river Sparne from the Centrum.

The first wooden station was built in 1839, then came the real station in 1842, built in semi Greek neo Classicism style. In 1867 it was redesigned. In 1905 it was further redesigned and a new station in Art Nouveau design was built or added.

Here you can enjoy an afternoon watch of the trains arriving and departing. There is a Brasserie (café) in the middle of the train platforms where you can have a nice sip of coffee or tea.

Click here for more PICTURES of HAARLEM

Haarlem by the way houses the oldest museum in the country, the Teyler museum. You can also find the Corrie ten Boom museum here (Jewish family’s hiding place during the WWII). Not only that, the city offers many secret gardens which we call here hofjes... and scenic canals and parks. But I am not yet done. Haarlem was awarded as the Best Shopping City in 2002!


A quick ride from Haarlem to the west before reaching the coast, will give you a sneak peek of the flower fields. This is in Lisse and Hillegom, but you will only catch the flowers in bloom during late April to early June. Further to the coast are the Dutch beaches. A popular one is Zandvoort Aan Zee which has a small pleasant albeit touristy Centrum. I have been to all these places and they are pure delight!

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