Haarlem, a little town about 20km north of Amsterdam is one of the cutest, medieval scenic towns I’ve ever seen. (Population is ca. 150,000). If you know Brugges In Belgium, Haarlem can well compete with it. Haarlem has a rich history dating back to pre-medieval times. The part of New York that goes by the same name was founded by Dutch immigrants in the16 hundreds and has about 60,000 more inhabitants. We had visited Amsterdam several times before and opted for Haarlem as our first outing.
During the night we had slept through a Code Orange as we learned from an anxious email from our exchange partners. Well, there had been some storm and lightning, but it hadn’t rocked the boat too much. There was only the tiniest of movements on the waterline if you looked really hard. It was a little cooler and less muggy, however.
The old city center is a gem with narrow streets and brick and timber framed houses, all well-maintained as if they had sprung from a story book. And the ever present fiets milling about in the tiniest of alley ways. Just like they have car parks, Dutch towns have parking garages for their fiets.
The main square The Grote Markt with its impressive church The Grote Kerk is the center of touristic activity and well worth a visit. But try to find your way into the smaller, older quarters where the Nieuwe Kerk is. That’s where you find the real old Dutch architecture and atmosphere. A big open air market where the locals shop from cheese, to fish and bread also has cafes that invite you to take a break - maybe over a koffie and appletaart met slagroom or a Grolsch?
What I hadn't expected in these quaint quarters was a red light establishment right next to the new church.Hard to believe! See pic on the right!