Haarlem felt like a sleepy, small Dutch town. It was a Monday and shops were either closed for the day or had a later opening. Unlike the other cities we visited, there were very few tourists. Haarlem is located just northwest of Amsterdam and is the capital of Noord-Holland. People commute from Haarlem into Amsterdam for work. Harlem, New York is actually named after this city by Dutch settlers.
Christian and I walked the quiet streets for awhile.
I still peaked into people’s houses! I loved how every home entrance was decorated with so many plant containers. The townhomes in the city don’t have front yards, it is just bricked. It was so pretty and inviting to see all the greenery and flowers. It made me want to add a couple more containers to the front of our house!
My favorite part of the city was visiting the Grote Kerk or St. Bavokerk (St. Bavo’s) in the market square. It costs 2.50€ to enter and you are given a pamphlet for a self-guided tour. Construction on the church was started in the 13th century. In the 15th century it becomes a Catholic cathedral but in 1578 it is converted to a Protestant church.
The floor of the church is made up of 1,500 gravestones!
The most famous part of the church is the Christian Müller organ. It was first constructed in 1738 and renovations of the organ took place in 1870 and then again in 1959. This organ has over 5,000 pipes and 68 registers. It was played by Händel in 1740 & 1750 and it was played by Mozart when he was 10 years old in 1766. While we were there, someone was practicing for an upcoming concert at the church. It sounded wonderful & we stayed a little longer just to enjoy the music.
We ate our packed lunch on a bench overlooking the Spaarne River. We watched a couple of sailboats coming through and every time the bridge needed to be raised, a guy on a bicycle cycled to the controls on the bridge, raised & lowered it, then cycled off again. Maybe he was responsible for all the bridges in Haarlem?
After a little bit more walking around, we stopped in a coffee shop (I should say café because coffee shop means something different in the Netherlands) and Christian had a cappuccino and I had a hot chocolate. Christian claimed that the cappuccino tasted as good as one you can get in Italy! At this point the rain started, so we headed back to our car and that was the end of our time in Haarlem.