Haarlem is our hometown so we know all the ins and outs of this charming Dutch city. Granted city rights in 1245, Haarlem is one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands. It has a colorful history and a beautiful historic city center. And family-friendly Haarlem is great for a city trip with kids. Check out all the things you can do in Haarlem with kids!
- 1 Petting zoos in Haarlem
- 2 Museums in Haarlem
- 3 Playgrounds in Haarlem
- 4 Indoor and outdoor swimming in Haarlem
Petting zoos in Haarlem
Holland has around 550-600 petting zoos (kinderboerderijen). The literal translation of the Dutch word ‘kinderboerderij’ is children’s farm. A lot of them started in the 1950’s when The Netherlands started to become more and more urbanized. Their purpose was to give both adults and kids in the cities the possibility to interact with farm animals and to teach them where our food comes from. Most of the petting farms in Holland can therefore be found in the urbanized provinces of North and South Holland (Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland). Animals you can typically find at Dutch petting zoo’s are goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small rodents.
In random order, these are our favorite places in and around Haarlem where kids can play with animals.
Holland has a lot of petting farms or petting zoos (‘kinderboerderij’ in Dutch). Most kids love animals, so it’s a great idea for a nice family activity. The biggest one in Haarlem is Kinderboerderij De Houthoeve, located in the Haarlemmerhout park. It also has a small playground. Entrance is free, check their website for opening hours. Wednesdays til Sundays you can combine your visit to the petting zoo with eating a great pancake at a cozy little restaurant called Nurks in de Hout, located less than a minute walk from the petting zoo’s entrance. Keep in mind that it doesn’t open until 14:00. Across the road from the park you will find La Place Dreefzicht which is a self-service restaurant that’s open every day from 8:00 til 21:00. There are several bus stops near the Haarlemmerhout. Check 9292.nl/en for bus schedules. The address is Hertenkamplaan 3, Haarlem.
Kinderboerderij ’t Molentje
Another great petting zoo is Kinderboerderij ’t Molentje in Heemstede. It’s right next to a great forest area called Groenendaalse Bos and a large playground Speeltuin Groenendaal. The entrance to the petting zoo is free, it’s open every day from 10:00 til 16:30. For the playground you pay €2,50 per person, including a drink or ice cream. Make sure to check the playground’s website for opening hours. There are several options to get there by bus from Haarlem, it takes about 30 minutes. Check 9292.nl/en for bus schedules. The address of the petting zoo is Groenendaal 1, Heemstede.
In the middle of the Amsterdam Forest (Amsterdamse Bos) you will find the organic goat farm Ridammerhoeve. Besides goats, the farm is also home to lambs, chickens, pigs, cows and horses. It’s a fantastic place to visit with kids. Most of the stables are accessible and for a small fee you can buy a bottle of milk to feed the little goats, quite an experience! There’s a small playground and the restaurant serves delicious homemade organic food. At the attached store you can buy various different kinds of organic cheeses, meats, vegetables, and herbs. We recently visited there ourselves for the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The address is Nieuwe Meerlaan 4, Amstelveen.
Boerderij Zorgvrij is a livestock farm with an educational purpose. During the winter months the cows are inside and can be fed. Very often there are calves, but also they have goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits. The farm offers numerous activities for kids and has an interesting educational program for schools. At the farm you can also find the information center for recreation area Spaarnwoude, which offers maps with bicycle and walking routes. There’s a large playground and numerous gardens and forested areas where kids can play. At the site there’s also a pancake restaurant called ‘Onder de Platanen’. Entrance to Zorgvrij is free. You can find Boerderij Zorgvrij dat Genieweg 50, Velsen-Zuid
Garden center De Oosteinde
While not a proper petting zoo, this garden center located in Vijfhuizen has a small animal enclosure that offers kids the chance to see goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens. It’s worth mentioning because besides the petting zoo it also has a nice outside terrace and a playground. The playground is free of charge and has a bouncey castle up in the summer, a trampoline (our little boys favorite!), a wooden structure with a slide, some swings (one is suitable for very small kids as well!) and a small sandpit. The garden center is very easy to reach by car. The play area is only accessible via the garden center. The address is Schipholweg 1088, Vijfhuizen.
Museums in Haarlem
Haarlem doesn’t have any ‘real’ children’s museums, such as Nemo Science Center in Amsterdam or the Miffy Museum in Utrecht. However, there are a number of museums in Haarlem that are nice to visit with kids. They aren’t as interactive as museums that are designed specifically for kids, but most of them do offer a treasure hunt to let kids interact and discover the museum’s collection in a playful way. If your kids like museums (our son LOVES museums), these ones are worth a visit.
Archeology Museum Haarlem
Our son’s favorite by far is the Archeologisch Museum Haarlem. It’s a small museum which makes it perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, but it’s interesting for slightly older kids as well. The Archeology Museum is located, quite appropriately, underground. The old cellars of De Vleeshal (‘meat hall’), on Haarlem’s central square the Grote Markt, are the perfect location for this charming little museum. All the displays are the perfect height for kids and there is a small digging pit for little archeologists to be. At the determination table kids can figure out what people used to eat by going through waste found in a cesspit, just like real archeologists.
The Teylers Museum calls itself the ‘museum of wonder’ and this is very true. This 18th-century museum definitely houses all kinds of weird and wonderful. From a cave bear skeleton to a massive collection of fossils, and from fluorescent rocks to old scientific instruments and impressive paintings. The building is very old and part of it is the original museum interior of 1784. It’s a proper museum, so not very suitable for really young kids (we first visited Teylers Museum when our son was 3,5), but from age 4-5 the treasure hunt is fun to do and every Sunday they offer great creative workshops for kids.
Frans Hals Museum
The Frans Hals Museum is the oldest art museum in The Netherlands, with a collection that’s over 400 years old. Not a museum for grabby little hands, but a nice place to visit with kids age 4+. The collection is a great combination of the historic Dutch masters and modern art. The museum has two locations, the former old men’s home at Groot Heiligland called ‘het Hof’ and De Hallen at the Grote Markt. Discover all the fun details of the paintings and art objects by doing the treasure hunt.
ABC Architecture Center
The Architectuur- en Bouwhistorisch Centrum (ABC) Haarlem the center of Haarlem, close to the Frans Hals Museum, is not that interesting to visit with young kids. But… they do have over 60.000 lego bricks for kids to build and play with! Who doesn’t love playing with lego? At ABC there are enough to keep kids occupied for a while. For older kids (and parents!) who are interested in architecture and urban development, this is a good place to learn more about various aspects of Dutch architecture. ABC is open all afternoons except Sunday.
If you want to learn more about the history of Haarlem, Museum Haarlem is the place to go. Start with a short introduction film (in Dutch or English) which tells you about important events in Dutch history and the people that were important in Haarlem’s history. Such as plane builder Anthony Fokker, Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer (who played an important role in the defense of Haarlem during the Eighty Years War with Spain) and Laurens Janszoon Coster (the purported inventor of the printing press). Then go on to discover lots of objects, paintings and photos that tell you all about Haarlem’s history. For each exhibition, the museum creates a sheet with questions and assignments for kids. Don’t miss the ‘weeshuiskamer’ (orphanage room) and discover what it was like when the Haarlem Museum’s building was an orphanage, not even that long ago. There’s a chest with dress up clothes for even more pretend play.
Pieter Vermeulen Museum
A bit outside of Haarlem, at Driehuis, you’ll find the Pieter Vermeulen Museum. It’s a small museum, specifically for kids, which has about 3 or 4 different exhibitions during the year. It’s only open on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoons (more often during school holidays). We’ve been twice and learned about waste & recycling and about the various aspects of water. The exhibitions are in Dutch, so if you don’t speak Dutch make sure to use Google translate app (tip: there’s an option to scan a written text your phone’s camera and immediately translate it to English). We do recommend you to do the assignment sheet, because otherwise you’ll be done is less than 30-minutes.
Playgrounds in Haarlem
Haarlem has a lot of playgrounds (playground = speeltuin in Dutch). Quite a few of them are run by playground associations and operated by volunteers. On the one hand this is fantastic, on the other hand this reliance on volunteers means the playgrounds have limited opening hours and aren’t completely free to visit. Usually you pay a small entry fee of €0,50-€1 per child. Make sure the playground is open before visiting! Search online for ‘speeltuin Haarlem’ and you’ll find them all.
Het Paradijsje used to be our favorite playground when our son was young. Perfect place to spend an hour or two with your little one (up to age 5). It’s a city playground and unless you know it’s there it can be a bit hard to find.
Playground de Glasblazers was recently renovated and great for both young and older kids. It’s not a large playground, but there’s enough space to climb, jump and play.
Open year-round (not when the weather is really bad!) Playground Groenendaal is a commercial outdoor playground. At €3 per person (including a drink or ice cream) the entrance fee is very reasonable. It’s not in Haarlem itself, but in neighboring town Heemstede. This playground is located right next to the Groenendaalse Bos, in the middle of a forest. We love combining an hour or two of exploring in the forest with some playtime at this playground. This playground is also very close to Kinderboerderij ‘t Molentje.
Play forest Meermond
Also in Heemstede, this free play forest is a great alternative for families on a budget. It’s best for kids 4 and older with some great climbing structures, a slide and surrounding forested area to explore. Our son loves it there. There are no restaurants and toilets close by. The entrance of the play area is at Cruquiusweg 49, Heemstede.
Indoor and outdoor swimming in Haarlem
There are a two indoor swimming pools in Haarlem, zwembad Boerhaavebad and zwembad De Planeet. Both have limited options for recreational swimming, so do check the website before visiting. Water Park Aqua Mundo in Center Parcs Zandvoort is more expensive but you can easily spend a few hours there and it’s a great alternative that’s open every day. Haarlem also has an outdoor pool called De Houtvaart (open every day from end of April to end of August). For open water swimming the Molenplas (Waertmolenpad 1) in de southern Schalkwijk area of Haarlem is great. There are some play structures as well as a restaurant. An alternative in nearby Hoofddorp is the Haarlemmermeerse Bos (IJweg 961, Hoofddorp). Haarlem is very close to the beach too. Zandvoort is only 15 minutes away by train or about 45-60 minutes by bike. During the summer holiday in July and August it can be very crowded on the beach on hot days.