Hip Haarlem: 10x shopping, food and culture
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Hip Haarlem: 10x shopping, food and culture

It’s been half a year since I moved to Haarlem. Even though I can be a bit homesick for my native Amsterdam sometimes, and even though there’s still so much more for me to discover in Haarlem, I already know it’s a wonderful place! Not just to live, but also to spend a day or a weekend.

So if you’re looking for a nice little weekend retreat, a good place to shop and eat, or for a day trip to the northern parts of Holland: come visit wonderful Haarlem!

Shopping in Haarlem

In many ways, Haarlem’s city centre feels like Amsterdam’s Nine Little Streets expanded into an entire town. It is a beautiful collection of quaint streets, colourful boutique shops and historical buildings. It is ridiculously easy to walk from Haarlem’s central railroad station to the city centre (via the Kruisstraat, in itself already a street worth your while). South of the Grote Markt, the city’s main square, you find plenty of smaller streets (such as the must-visit Kleine Houtstraat!) with one-of-a-kind stores.

  1. NYHAVN A cosy, sustainable concept store with designer postcards, tasteful items for your home interior, original gifts and books. If you’re looking for inspiration, make sure to pay this shop a visit.
  2. Best Kept Secret If you’re looking for something unique to wear, don’t miss out on this store! The owners import all their clothes from London themselves. Dresses, cool sweatshirts with original prints and patterns, button-up shirts: the collection is bound to have something for your taste.
  3. Jutka en Riska Sweet, snug and different. The ladies sell both vintage clothing and their own brand of clothes, as well as a whole range of accessories like shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, bags and purses.
  4. Number Nine A beautiful, spacious store with Scandinavian-looking brands and items. The shop’s style is cool, fresh, and immaculately designed.
  5. Foof Exactly what a tiny boutique should be: cute, pretty, and quaint. The store is run by two twin sisters, who have together created a lovely collection of women’s and children’s clothes.

Eating & drinking in Haarlem

Haarlem gets top marks for their offer of lunch, late afternoon and dinner spots. My personal favorites:

  1. Native A kind of urban jungle café with ridiculously tasty homemade cakes, smoothies, and lunch dishes
  2. Bar Boef Cosy like a living room, this café offers delicious food at a very reasonable price. Board games are strewn all over the place for whenever it’s rainy and dreary out, and there is live music on a regular basis.
  3. Brownies & Downies This light and spacious place, combined with the sincerely friendly staff, are the quickest antidote to any kind of stress. On top of that, the food is terrific and prepared with love. Bonus: there’s a playing area for the little one!
  4. Spaarne 66 Perfect for lunch, drinks (in the sun!) or dinner. There’s a beautiful waterfront terrace and a truly relaxed atmosphere. The always smiley staff provides you with tasty food from a frequently-changing menu.
  5. De overkant Delicious sandwiches in a personal and snug atmosphere, that’s the recipe of this place. In winter time, the place is warm and homey; in summer, the owners squeeze their tables into the quaint alley out front.

More fun tips to discover Haarlem

A day trip to Haarlem is easily combined with a visit to the beach! Buses 80 and 81 go directly to seaside towns Zandvoort and Bloemendaal (bus 80 even leaves from the heart of Amsterdam, departing from the Elandsgracht bus station). So I’d recommend starting your day with your feet in the sand and a hot cup of coffee, and continuing in Haarlem’s city centre in the afternoon; or the other way around, with a full day of sightseeing and shopping in Haarlem, and in conclusion drinks or dinner by the sea.

If you want to explore Haarlem’s cultural side, you can visit quirky museums like De Hallen (Grote Markt) or het Dolhuys (behind the train station) during the day, and Haarlem’s pop music temple Het Patronaat (known lovingly as the “Patro”) in the evening to see renowned musicians or the pop sensations of tomorrow perform. For theatre and film, you will find all you need at the Toneel- & Filmschuur, around the corner from the city’s main cathedral, where the country’s greatest actors can be found on stage and/or by its lively bar.

Top photo: ©TasFoto, Dreamstime