See My City – Visit Haarlem with kids
When you are going to visit any new town or city, there are so many decisions to make. You need to work out what attractions to spend your time at, which area is the best to stay, where to go if the weather turns bad, and which are the best places to feed a hungry family. We love taking out the guesswork and finding out from local families of boys.
The beautiful city of Haarlem in The Netherlands has so much to offer families, so we got talking to Lisa from FlipFlop Globetrotters to get the insider story.
What do you love most about living in Haarlem?
Haarlem is a proper city, with lots of restaurants, museums, great shopping, and a movie theatre, but has a small town feel. It’s nice and compact, easy to navigate and has lots of history. There are interesting smaller villages close by to visit, as well as the ocean. Haarlem is also not far from Amsterdam and other big cities such as Alkmaar and The Hague.
What are your favourite things to do in Haarlem as a family?
My favourite place to go with our little boy is the dunes area, especially a dune lake called ’t Wed in National Park Zuid Kennemerland. It’s about 20 minutes by bike from where we live. We also love to go to the beach, but the dunes are the absolute best place for running, climbing and playing. In the city, we often visit the playground Het Paradijsje (little paradise) to go for lunch at Meneer Paprika, where they have wooden train tracks to play with. Haarlem also has some great petting zoos, which are always a hit with our little boy.
What is your region famous for?
Haarlemmerolie (Haarlem Oil) created in 1696 by Claes Tilly is known worldwide. It’s a popular home-remedy mainly used for healing and disinfecting wounds and treating kidney and urinary ailments.
What are your favourite places to take your family for breakfast and lunch?
Our little one isn’t a fussy eater and he loves going to restaurants. I think it’s because we always went out for lunch and dinner while we were travelling around South-East Asia for 10 months when he was younger. As a family, we don’t have dinner out often in our hometown, since it’s so expensive. But I regularly go out for lunch with our little world traveller.
Our favourite places are:
- Meneer Paprika (Koningsstraat 19-20)
- Pippa’s (Stationsplein 64)
- Yoghurtbarn (Kruisstraat 15)
- Brownies&Downies (Schaghelstraat 26)
Read more about our favourite places to eat.
What is the must-see attraction for families?
There are a number of great places in the city and surrounding area. In the city centre, the Teylers Museum and Archeologisch Museum (Archeological Museum) are very interesting. You’ll find the archeological museum in the underground vaults beneath the Vleeshal (Meat Hall). I recently visited the Teylers Museum with our toddler, but he was still a bit too young to fully enjoy it.
Playground Het Paradijsje (open Monday – Saturday) is fun for the youngest boys. It’s a city playground, well hidden in a residential area. You have to know it’s there or you’ll miss it.
The Ruïne van Brederode (ruins of Brederode) in Santpoort (15 minutes by car) is a great place to stimulate the imagination. It’s a lot of fun for the boys to dress up as knights and chase each other around the ruins.
For the sporty or adventurous, Haarlem has an ice-skating rink (open October – March), an indoor climbing wall, and an indoor ski hall. In the recreation area Spaarnwoude, you can go laser gaming or paintballing.
If it’s raining, where is the best place to go?
It rains quite a lot in The Netherlands, so we’re not too bothered by the rain. Just grab an umbrella or wear a raincoat and you’re good to go. Haarlem has won numerous awards as the best shopping city of The Netherlands and there are some great toy stores.
We like Meneer Paprika (Koningstraat 19-21, also great for breakfast and lunch), Tante Steef (Zijlstraat 66) and Krokodil (Gedempte Oude Gracht 84). If you’re into children’s books, definitely check out Kiekeboek (Gierstraat 29) and for board games or role-playing games don’t miss Het Spellenhuis (Kruisweg 66a).
What accommodation would you tell your friends with kids to stay at?
I would tell my friends to find a nice apartment on AirBnB. The best areas to stay are close to the city centre including Centrum, Stationsbuurt, Patrimoniumbuurt, Transvaalbuurt, Frans Halsbuurt and Kleverpark. Haarlem is a fairly popular city, so book well in advance.
Where is your favourite location for a family day-trip, outside of your city?
If you’re traveling with little kids, Sprookjeswonderland (fairy tale wonderland) in Enkhuizen is a fun place to spend a day. It’s a lovely little amusement park, with a fairy tale theme.
How to get to Haarlem
Haarlem is only 15 minutes away by train from Amsterdam Central Station. It’s also easy to reach from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport by bus (line 300).
About the author
Lisa is the proud mum of a cheeky 3-year old ginger-haired little boy. She and her partner Maurice spend most of 2015 travelling around South East Asia with their little world traveller. They have a home base in Haarlem, Netherlands, and travel whenever they can. Follow Lisa on Facebook or Twitter.