When the busyness of Amsterdam becomes too much, a fifteen minute journey by train brings you to Haarlem. A small city of around 150,000 people Haarlem has a beautifully preserved and pedestrianised centre focused on the Grote Markt, only ten minutes walk from the railway station.
During the Dutch Golden Age Haarlem was home to Frans Hals and Jacob van Ruisdal and his uncle, Salomon van Ruisdal. Jan Steen also lived and worked in the city for ten years. More recently Haarlem was the birthplace of Harry Mulisch, generally considered one of the greatest Dutch writers, and of Corrie ten Boom whose family sheltered Jewish refugees and Dutch resistance fighters in their home in the city during the Nazi occupation. The ten Boom family home is now a small museum honouring the family.
Beyond the central square are narrow side streets where centuries old buildings stand alongside more modern constructions. A little further out Haarlem’s canals are lined with pleasant and well kept buildings – mostly business premises and people’s homes.
The canal above leads to one of Haarlem’s best known sites, the De Adriaan windmill. Originally built in 1779 the windmill burned down in 1932. Plans to rebuild were drawn up but construction did not start until 1999 and the windmill finally re-opened in 2002.