Although a lot of foreigners never make it past Amsterdam, The Netherlands really have a lot to offer for such a small country. Visiting Haarlem should definitely be on your list of things to do in The Netherlands. Haarlem, only about 15 minutes away from Amsterdam by train, is a great place to spend a day during your family’s stay in Holland. Haarlem has some great petting zoos, lovely family-friendly restaurants and beautiful historical buildings. I always find that insider tips from locals can change a city trip from just sightseeing to actually experiencing the local life. I’m sharing our favourite places in our hometown Haarlem in an easy to follow step by step itinerary, so you too can stop being a tourist and start being a local (even if it’s only for one day).
Since the weather in the winter and summer time can vary a lot in The Netherlands, I’ll make this post a series and share two itineraries (one for when it’s cold and one for sunnier days). This way you can make the most of your day trip to Haarlem with your family. Spring is definitely knocking on our door at the moment and we’ve seen some lovely days already. But it’s still quite cold out, so I think I can get away with sharing this itinerary first. The summer one will follow soon!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, check out this cool video explaining the difference between The Netherlands and Holland.
Seasons in the Netherlands
The Netherlands in the wintertime are either cold and wet, or just plain cold. And often windy. In January and February temperatures can be around 0 Celsius. We’ve even had a few days of snow this winter! Of course, you don’t want the weather to spoil your city trip to Haarlem, Netherlands. So dress appropriately, wear a warm coat, warm shoes and bring a winter hat and gloves. Haarlem is definitely worth a visit in any season and luckily our city offers plenty of indoor activities!
Since especially in the morning it will still be quite cold, you’ll want to find a nice cosy place for a proper breakfast. Some good options are By Lima (Zijlstraat 65) and Anne&Max (Zijlstraat 68). If you have young kids and are looking for a restaurant with a nice play area, try Yoghurt Barn (Kruisstraat 15). It has a great wooden play kitchen. All three restaurants are open from 8:00, 9:00 on a Sunday. If you’ve already had breakfast at your hotel, quickly skip to the next step.
Spend the morning exploring
When the hungry mouths are fed and everybody’s happy, it’s a great time to go exploring for a bit. Walk to the Grote Markt (big market square) and take a look around. There are some beautiful buildings in this old central square, such as the old Town Hall (people still get married here!) and the Grote or St. Bavokerk. The large and beautiful church is well worth a visit. It’s open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 -17:00. Inside you’ll find the famous Müller organ, dating from 1738, which was played by both Händel and Mozart. Our toddler was very impressed and often asks to go again. One of the other old buildings lining the square is the Vleeshal (meat hall). This building was built early 1600 and used for selling fresh meat. Now, it’s a gallery. If your kids are past the toddler stage, it’s fun to visit the Archeologisch Museum Haarlem (archeologic museum) in the cellars of the Vleeshal.
Around lunch time your kids are probably tired of walking around and ready to play for a bit. So it’s a good there are some great family-friendly restaurants in Haarlem’s city center. Meneer Paprika (Koningsstraat 19-21) and Brownies & downieS (Schagchelstraat 26) are great choices, as is Pippa’s (Stationsplein 64) near the train station. Pippa’s has a wooden train track and some nice large dollhouses to play with and Brownies & downieS is more suitable for younger kids, with a nice play kitchen (our 3,5 year old really enjoyed it last time we were there). Meneer Paprika is always a good choice. It also has a wooden train track and lots of other toys to play with (be advised there is a toy store next to the café ;-)).
After playing and eating a nice lunch, your kids will be energized enough to continue your city trip. Of course they might not want to leave the nice play areas… If your kids are still very young and happy to be in the back carrier or stroller, or past the toddler stage, you could visit one of the many art museums or galleries. The Frans Hals Museum is no. 1 in TripAdvisor for a reason! But a lot of things kids aren’t supposed to touch are within easy reach, so avoid if your kids are in the ‘I want to touch everything’ stage! Another great museum I recently visited with our toddler is the Teylers Museum. Our tot was a bit too young to really appreciate it, but he enjoyed it anyway. The museum holds a curious mix of fossils and bones, rocks and gemstones and old scientific instruments. And the building it’s in is absolutely stunning.
… or nature
With infants and toddlers, visiting a museum might not be such a great experience. Luckily there’s a great little playground tucked away between the houses in the city center, it’s called Het Paradijsje (little paradise, Witte Herenstraat 36). Our sons loves it and we go there pretty much all year round, provided it’s not raining. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00-17:00 and you can play there for €1 per child.
There’s also a petting zoo within easy walking distance of the city center. Kinderboerderij De Houthoeve is located in park The Haarlemmerhout (Hertenkamplaan 3). Check out our post about petting farms around Haarlem for more info. If you do visit this petting zoo, you might also consider Nurks in de Hout for either lunch or dinner. It’s located next to De Houthoeve and open Wednesday – Sunday from 12:00 – 20:30. This cute little place serves great Dutch pancakes, but also sandwiches and burgers.
Afternoon exercise… shopping
Later in the afternoon and before dinner, why not go back to the center for some shopping. Haarlem has won multiple awards for Netherland’s best shopping destination. Fun shops for kids toys are Meneer Paprika (Koningstraat 19-21), Krokodil (Gedempte Oude Gracht 84) and Tante Steef (Zijlstraat 66). Kiekeboek (Gierstraat 29) is an awesome kids book store. At Kruisweg 66a you will find Het Spellenhuis, where they sell every board game and role playing game you can imagine. Definitely worth a visit if your kids are a bit older.
Of course, don’t forget to bring some snacks for your kids to munch on in the afternoon, hungry kids are no fun. You will find some supermarkets in the city center: DekaMarkt (Gedempte Oude Gracht 56-58), Albert Heijn (Drossestraat 11 and Grote Houtstraat 182).
Of course if the weather turns really bad, you can always spend a few hours at the cinema. You can find Pathé Haarlem on Zijlvest 41-43.
After a full day of city tripping your kids are probably up for an early dinner. Haarlem has so many restaurants it will be hard to choose! Italian, Japanese, Moroccan, Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican… you all find it in the city center. The Netherlands are generally pretty child friendly. Most, if not all, of the restaurants will have high chairs for you to use. On Saturday and Sunday kid friendly Pippa’s serves pizza’s until 20:00. Otherwise you could go to Sumo (Oude Groenmarkt 14-16) or Nagoya (Spaarne 48) for all-you-can-eat sushi. It’s fun to let the kids choose which types of sushi or other Japanese dishes they want to try. El Pincho (Riviervischmarkt 17-19) is a nice place for tapas. If you like chicken, try Pluimage (Spekstraat 6), They serve just about any type of chicken dish you can imagine. Budget options: JetTes Lokaal (Schagchelstraat 15), serves a different main course every day of the week for only €9 per person. And Cafe Bruxelles (Lange Wijngaardstraat 16) offers a daily meal for €8,50.