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Haarlem’s Hidden Passageways

So you’re traveling to Haarlem, Netherlands, and looking for a different experience than most other cities can offer — one that allows you to explore, feel a bit hidden, and finding oasis of peace and quiet amongst the city life and lazy canals. Well, taking slightly hidden passageways and alleys anywhere in Haarlem will lead you to some sort of beauty, whether architectural, historical, or simply breathtaking, as Haarlem can tend to be. What you’re seeking, though, is not expensive, arduous to find, nor requiring of a guide: hidden Hofje or courtyards; quiet sanctuaries tucked away amongst the streets and buildings. And of course you’ll need to see the major tourist attractions -- but that’s the beautiful thing about finding the Hofje throughout Haarlem: they’re on your way to your next sightseeing adventure.

You’ll want to start your excursions from the Grote Markt, a central square which is known for its markets, produce, wares, and the stunning Grote Kerk, a 14th century cathedral home to the world’s most renowned organ, played by Mozart himself! If you want to see the true splendor of the Markt start your day on a Saturday when the full market is up and running! Once you’ve taken in the sights in the Grote Markt and that Grand Organ take out your map and start heading toward Bakenessergracht, acclaimed as Haarlem’s most beautiful canal. Along the way are a few Hofje tucked amongst the buildings and trees. Keep your eyes out as you stroll leisurely toward the canal. Once you’ve reached the Bakenessergracht take a moment and appreciate the architecture as you search for the Hofje Van Bakenes - the oldest courtyard in Haarlem! There are 21 public Hofje in all throughout Haarlem. Make this the expedition for your vacation and you’ll follow many hidden passageways throughout Haarlem.

Renting a bike is a wonderful way to get around the city, and beyond, with ease. This can make the journey to the Hofje and other more typical tourist locations more authentic to the Haarlem lifestyle: relaxed, leisurely days filled with all sorts of beauty along cobblestone alleys and drifting waters. You can easily get to the Windmill de Adriaan for the most iconic and picturesque view in the city. Stop by the Teylers Museum; it’s the oldest museum in the Netherlands. Check out the ABC Architectuurcentrum and leave with a new understanding of the beauty and history of Haarlem’s breathtaking architecture. Or visit the Frans Hals Museum, home to Haarlem’s most famous portraiture during the city’s Golden Age painter: Franz Hals. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for tucked away courtyards full of quietude! Perhaps the city’s sights aren’t what brought you to the area and you want to get out and see the coast; then cycle over to the beaches at Noordzee, Bloemendaal, or Zandvoort — a beautiful 35 minute ride away on an easy, scenic byway.

Like many will say: when in Haarlem… But seriously, try to live the Haarlem lifestyle while visiting for the few days you’re there! Explore and go at a leisurely pace; really look around and see what the city has to offer. You’ll discover a unique memory along the way.

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