Historic buildings

Haarlem has over 4,000 national and municipal monuments making it the Netherlands’ second city, after Amsterdam, in terms of number of listed buildings and monuments. There are more than 1,000 listed monuments in the well-preserved historic city centre. Situated in Grote Markt square, the oldest part of the city and once the tournament field of the Counts of Holland, are the medieval town hall complex, the Hoofdwacht (Main Guardhouse), Grote or St. Bavokerk (St Bavo’s Church) and the Vleeshal (Meat Hall). There are many more monuments to admire throughout the city such as the Waag (Weighhouse), Janskerk (St John’s Church), which also houses the Noord-Hollands Archief (Municipal Archives of Noord-Holland), Kloveniersdoelen (former headquarters of the civic guard) and Kathedrale Basiliek Sint Bavo (St Bavo’s Cathedral) at Leidsevaart. In addition, there are also 21 hofjes (courtyards with almshouses), the oldest of which dates from 1395. In the second weekend of September, many of Haarlem’s historic monuments are open to the public during Open Monumentendagen.


Tip: Take a walk through the historic city centre with the 'Monumentenwandeling' (Heritage walk) leaflet as your guide or a join a guided city walk.


A selection of heritage attractions in Haarlem:


Stadhuis (Town Hall)

The present town hall stands on the site of the former hunting lodge of the Counts of Holland which was built in 1250.  Count Floris V used this hunting lodge as his residence when he stayed in Haarlem to collect taxes. His son Willem II (William II) chose The Hague as his permanent place of residence, donating the remainder of the hunting lodge to the city. It almost burnt down completely in 1351 during a massive city fire. Since its reconstruction, the complex has served as the town hall. The famous Gravenzaal (Counts’ Hall) dates from that period, a room which these days is mostly used as a wedding room and function room for special visits. The Vierschaar court was built in the same period and is characterised by four pillars on the right front side of the building. In front of the Vierschaar stood the scaffold where justice was administered. Several other alterations have been made to the building throughout the centuries.


Hoofdwacht (Main Guardhouse)

The Hoofdwacht is one of the oldest buildings in Haarlem and was built in the 13th century. This location served as the town hall until about 1350. The building owes its current name to the civic guard who used it as its headquarters after 1755. Opposite the Hoofdwacht at the top of the church tower of Grote or St. Bavokerk is a small sentry box. In this low attic, the town guards would stand guard. It is thought that there was a communication link between the Hoofdwacht, as the point of security, and this sentry box. When a fire broke out in the city, the guards in the sentry box would wave the red flag, prompting the town guards at the Hoofdwacht to jump into action. The sentry box in Grote or St. Bavo Kerk was in use until 1914.


Grote or St. Bavokerk (St Bavo’s Church)

The biggest church in Haarlem is Grote or Sint Bavokerk in Grote Markt square. This Gothic cruciform church is a significant feature in the Haarlem cityscape. The nave was built around 1400. The tower was only finished in 1520 and is over 75 metres high. The characteristic ringing of the Damiaatjes church bells can be heard every evening and commemorates the heroic role Haarlem citizens played in the capture of the Egyptian city of Damietta in 1219. Inside the church are the famous Müller organ from 1738, which Mozart played as a young boy, and the gravestones of Frans Hals, Pieter Teyler, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam and many others. This was originally a catholic church which after the violent seizure by Protestants during the Haarlemse Beeldenstorm (Haarlem iconoclastic outbreak) became a Protestant church.


Vleeshal (Meat Hall)

The Vleeshal (1602-1604), characterised by its exquisite crow-stepped gable with striking decorative elements, used to serve predominantly as a market hall where meat was sold. It was designed by Lieven de Key, who was originally from Ghent and was the city master builder from 1593. A later interpretation of this architectural style can be seen in the 1902 façade of the Grand Café Brinkmann situated opposite the Vleeshal.


Kathedrale Basiliek St. Bavo (St Bavo’s Cathedral)

The diocese of Haarlem was founded in 1853, heralding the start of the construction of the Kathedrale Basiliek Sint Bavo at Leidsevaart. This neo-Gothic church was finished in 1930 and is dedicated to the city’s patron saint.


Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

Nieuwe Kerk is situated in the Vijfhoek district of Nieuwe Kerksplein square. The church is characterised by a striking Renaissance tower. Nieuwe Kerk was built between 1613 and 1616 by Flemish city master builder Lieven de Key. The church’s location is where Sint Annaklooster (St Anna’s Convent) used to be, against which the tower was built. The chapel was replaced in 1645 with a church building designed by Jacob van Campen. As a result, the church and tower form a special fusion of two totally different architectural styles.


St. Adriaans or Kloveniersdoelen (former headquarters of the civic guard)

This 16th century building now houses the city library of Haarlem. It used to serve as the headquarters of the civic guard. The gate leads to an inner courtyard, the Doelenveld, originally a field used by the civic guard for shooting practice and military exercise. In 1610, a decorative façade was added to the gate by Lieven de Key.


Paviljoen Welgelegen (provincial government building)

The pavilion was built at the end of the 18th century by Henry Hope, a prominent banker from Amsterdam. The neoclassicist mansion was predominantly used as a storage place for an expensive collection of paintings and antique objects. In 1808, Lodewijk Napoleon (Louis Napoléon Bonaparte) bought Paviljoen Welgelegen after which it became known by many as his palace. Following French rule, Princess Wilhelmina, mother of King Willem I (William I), used it as her residence. Since 1930, the pavilion has served as the provincial government building of Noord-Holland.


Haarlemmer Hout City Park

Haarlemmerhout is an ancient forest with about one hundred listed trees. It was redesigned in 1830 by Haarlem (landscape) architect Zocher in English country style.


Gasthuishuisjes (hospital almshouses) and Frans Hals Museum

The Gasthuishuisjes are a unique example of 17th century serial building. These small houses were part of Elisabeth’s Gasthuis hospital situated in the back and provided accommodation for the so-called proveniers, people who were given lodging and care against payment. Another charitable institution, the Oude Mannenhuis (Old Men’s Home) used to be located across the street. Following extensive renovation (1908-1913), this became home to the Frans Hals Museum. The roadside façades were added during this renovation but situated along the inner courtyard is the original building from the early 17th century.


Haarlemse Hofjes (courtyards with small houses)

With twenty-one hofjes, Haarlem is a real ‘hofjes’ city. The hofjes are a reminder of times past. Wealthy citizens set up the hofjes for poor unmarried women. They lived in tiny houses that surrounded a landscaped inner courtyard. The women were under supervision and the gate, often beautifully decorated, would be locked at night. Many hofjes have since been modernised or disappeared. The hofjes gardens are small oases in the city. Sometimes, the only thing remaining and marking the place where there used to be a hofje would be a gate, as in Jansstraat opposite the court. The oldest and newest hofje of the Netherlands are situated next to each other in the city centre. The oldest surviving hofje is Hofje van Bakenes, set up in 1395 by Dirc Van Bakenes. The newest hofje, Johan Enshedéhofje, was created in 2007 and designed by duo Joost Swarte and Henk Döll. This hofje is named after Johan Enschedé printing business which once stood in this spot. Most hofjes can be visited daily, free of charge, between 10:00 and 17:00. The hofjes are closed on Sundays.


Haarlem Station

The first station in Haarlem was opened on 20 September 1839, as one of three stations along the Amsterdam – Haarlem railway line, the first railway of HIJSM (Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij, Holland Iron Railway Company) and also the first Dutch railway (Amsterdam – Halfweg – Haarlem), now part of the Oude Lijn (the Old Line). The original station building was replaced in 1906 with a new building by D.A.N. Margadant along the now elevated railway line. The building was completed in 1908. It is characterised by two different entrance and exit buildings and the location of the waiting rooms and cafeterias on the island platform. It is the only Art Nouveau or Jugendstil station in the Netherlands and one of the most striking buildings in the city of Haarlem. One of the characteristic features is the presence in the building of many tile pictures. 


Molen De Adriaan (De Adriaan Mill)

Situated along the river Spaarne, Molen De Adriaan dates from about the same period. Built in 1779, the mill burnt down completely in 1932 but was restored to its former glory in 2002.


De Waag (The Weighhouse)

De Waag was built around 1598 under the direction of city master builder Lieven de Key based on a design by painters Cornelis Cornelisz and Willem Thybaut. It served as a weighhouse, a place where goods were weighed, until 1915. Goods brought in for weighing were taxed by the city administration according to the nature and weight of the goods. The Renaissance building has almost two identical façades in Namur stone, limestone extracted in the Belgian province of Namur. Characteristic of the building are the round arch and cruciform windows. The building’s administrative purpose was indicated by the coat of arms of Holland on the Damstraat side and the coat of arms of Haarlem on the river Spaarne side.


Hodshon Huis (Hodshon House)

Hodshon Huis along the river Spaarne has been home to the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities) since 1841. The listed mansion was built in 1794 for Catharina Cornelia ("Keetje") Hodshon by Amsterdam city master builder Abraham van der Hart. The period rooms in this building are exquisite examples of late 18th century interior design, representing all major European interior design styles of the day.


Amsterdamse Poort (Amsterdam Gate)

The Amsterdamse Poort is a city gate from 1355 and the only surviving gate of the twelve original gates of Haarlem. The Amsterdamse Poort was built during the first city expansion and is situated at the end of the old Amsterdam to Haarlem route. Legend has it that Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer stood on the retaining walls to repel the Spanish attack during the Eighty Years’ War. It is the only gate to withstand the siege without considerable damage.


Spaarne and Spaarndam

The river Spaarne winds its way like a beating heart through the city. Since the big industries along the banks have disappeared, the river is mostly used by cargo ships and pleasure boats, which can cut across Mooie Nel lake to the Noordzeekanaal (North Sea Canal). This takes you past Spaarndam, a picturesque village which partly comes under the municipality of Haarlem and is known for its smoked eel, characteristic narrow footpaths along the houses and the statue of Hansje Brinker, who has become something of an American legend. The story goes that one stormy afternoon, the son of the lockkeeper of Haarlemmermeer, Hansje Brinker, noticed a hole in the dyke. He did not hesitate a second and put his finger in the hole to fill it. All evening and all night long, he defended the city and country against the threat of the sea. Just outside Spaarndam, there are two historic forts which are part of the Stelling van Amsterdam (Defence Line of Amsterdam).

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