Our love for Europe has motivated us to try and get there twice a year – one trip in the spring and another in late summer. For our first trip of 2014, we chose the Netherlands with stops in Belgium, Haarlem and Amsterdam. After a few days in Belgium, which I will cover in another post, we chose a quiet town just outside of Amsterdam called Haarlem as our base to explore Holland’s beautiful flower fields. We loved our time in Haarlem. From the hospitality of the owner we rented the Spaarne Dream Apartment from to the calming activity on the canal that runs through town, Haarlem is a perfect place to get a real sense of life in the Netherlands.
Haarlem Netherlands: a great Holland experience
Our completely restored apartment, which was in a 500 year old building, was perfectly situated right on the canal. The apartment was near a great selection of cafes and restaurants and within two minutes of the lively city center. To round out the experience, we added bikes to the mix. It’s true that no trip to the Netherlands would be complete without riding bikes. The Dutch have bike transportation down to a science. The owner of our apartment was kind enough to rent bikes to us for a very reasonable fee, which we used to ride through the flower fields to the stunningly beautiful Keukenhof Gardens.
The tranquility of the canal lined with the meticulously maintained building facades made for some satisfying photographic opportunities. One morning, I got up at sunrise to capture the canal views and was not disappointed. My experience of walking along the canal was amplified by a layer of moist haze on the horizon that filtered the warming glow of the rising sun.
At the end of my walk was the Haarlem’s beautiful windmill in an almost idyllic setting. Below is one of my favorite shots. I was appreciative that the view of the windmill had not been adorned with touristy signs and unnecessary commercial clutter.
Haarlem’s city center and the organ at Grote Kerk
Haarlem’s old city center wakes early and bustles during the day. The jewel of the city in the market square is Grote Kerk. The cathedral houses the one of the world’s most historically important pipe organs. According to Wikipedia, many famous musicians have played the organ, including Mendelssohn, Händel and the 10-year old Mozart, who played it in 1766. Upon its completion, the organ at Grote Kerk was the largest in the world.
As you can see, Haarlem has a little bit of everything that Holland has to offer. You can see a beautifully maintained windmill, grab a drink on a canal, dine in an old city center, or hop on bike to explore flower fields. After our time in Haarlem, we made out way to Amsterdam. In retrospect, we wondered if we should have just stayed longer in Haarlem and took the quick 15 minute train ride to Amsterdam to explore the city. Take a serious look at Haarlem if you are planning a trip to Holland. You won’t be disappointed!