48 hours in... HAPPENIN’ HAARLEM
Travel columnist Julia Hanley-Gordon heads across the Channel to the productive city of Haarlem in the Netherlands for a weekend of craft beer and town-beach combos.
Haarlem is a city outside Amsterdam in the north-west Netherlands.
Once a major trading port, ancient buildings, cobbled streets and charming winding waterways make the medieval city of Haarlem a perfect 48-hour travel destination.
Not only is it known for its cool boutique shops, bars and array of restaurants, with the coast just a short trip away, you combine city-break elements with on-the-beach relaxation – plus Amsterdam is only a stone’s throw away.
Where to stay
Bang in the city centre, Boutiquehotel Staats offers 21 individually designed bedroomsWHAT?, making it a stand-out choice within walking distance of the train station, Kenaupark and waterways.
Sea Lodge Bloemendaal
This unique holiday park is set in the dunes of the bustling seaside town of Bloemendaal.
The lodges are amazing, not only for their location but also because of their comfort and architectural style. Bloemendaal is a rambler’s dream, with beach-front walks and hikes through the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park both an option.
For those looking for something livelier, Bloemandaal is also arguably the Dutch answer to Ibiza, hosting some of the best beach parties in Europe. It really is easy to see why this place is so popular with the hip Dutch crowd.
Things to see
This is the central market square of Haarlem and the centrepiece for many of the city’s famous buildings, including The City Hall, The Vlesshal, Hoofwacht and Saint Bravo Cathedral.
Give a bit of time to explore as there are lots of bars and restaurants dotted around the side roads, as well as every Monday and Saturday a market that dates back to the Middle Ages – it offers wonderful fresh bread, lovely vegetables and more.
De Adriaan Windmill
When in the Netherlands you need to see a windmill and this one, on the banks of the River Spaarne, doesn’t disappoint. A 45-minute tour is topped off, literally, with a 12-metre-high viewing platform offering unique views of the city.
Where to eat
Zijlstraat 18 Haarlem
If you’re looking for a quick snack to soak up the beers or smokes, then Frietkamer is the place.
Don’t be fooled by its slightly dated tiled floors and wooden counter, it serves up arguably the best fries in the Netherlands. Pull up a pew outside and enjoy.
Grote Markt 23 Haarlem
With exposed brickwork, metal trim and even a cultivated plant wall, Fortuyn is one beautiful building. It has an excellent food selection, from snacks and sharing plates through to more substantial options like the 69€ tomahawk steak.
It is perfectly located in the Grote Markt and great for people-watching.
Where to drink
Zijlstaat 18 Haarlem
These guys behind the bar know their stuff and if craft beer is your thing, then this is your place. It is the taproom frontage of the Uiltje Craft Beer Brewery. It has everything from unfiltered lager to silky hefeweizen and puckery American IPA.
Gedempte Voldersgracht 2
Jopen has restored the age-old Haarlem brewing tradition. This former almshouse has been transformed into a modern city brewery, grand café and restaurant.
Watch the brewing process while you sample some of the different types of Jopen beers. They also do great tours of the brewery.
For those of you who like a smoke, there are a couple of coffee shops in Haarlem. Coffee shop Willie Wortel Sativa (Kruisweg 46) is the most popular and well stocked, with something for every palate.
Driving to Haarlem would take about five hours from Kent. And with regular Eurotunnel and ferry crossings, it really couldn’t be easier. Prices vary according to the time of the day and year, so plan in advance.
If you don’t fancy taking a car, Eurostar trains now run to Central Station in Amsterdam, with Haarlem just a 15-minute onward train journey from there.