Interesting buildings in Haarlem

Interesting buildings in Haarlem

You may have seen Haarlem for yourself already, you may have heard others talk enthusiastically about how pretty it is or you may be looking for the next Dutch city to visit. You may even be lucky enough to live there!

Check out the architecture of Haarlem

Well, no matter how you feel about Dutch architecture and cool cityscapes in cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague or Utrecht, you are likely to fall in love with the sheer beauty and charm of seeing the interesting buildings in Haarlem. Take a self-guided walking tour of Haarlem and marvel at the striking buildings from the outside. 

Haarlem Railway Station

If you arrive in Haarlem by train, the first thing you see is captivating architecture! Haarlem Railway Station is the only Dutch train station to be built in the Art Nouveau style. Built between 1906 and 1908, the station is a national monument or rijksmonument

Haarlem had its own rail service since 1839, located along the Amsterdam-Rotterdam intercity route, the first-ever railway line in the Netherlands. However, in the earliest days of train travel in Haarlem, an older wooden building was used, located outside the city centre.

The updated building, which today is arguably the most beautiful station in the country, was designed by railway station specialist Dirk Margadant. The new design meant that the elevated tracks stayed out of the way of the busy traffic at street level.

The station’s relatively recent claim to fame is its appearance in the film Ocean’s Twelve in scenes that were supposed to depict Amsterdam Central Station!

Haarlem Train Station Netherlands


Unmissable, not only because of its position in the Grote Markt (the main square) but mainly because of its sheer beauty, Vleeshal is a relic of the booming 17th century. There is even a building designed in its likeness in New York - the West End Collegiate Church in Upper West Side Manhattan!

Built in 1603, it served as a meat market. It was the only place in Haarlem where fresh meat was permitted to be sold (salted meat was sold around the corner). It allowed for 40 different meat stalls to operate simultaneously and meat was sold there until 1840.

It was used by the National Archive after that, but today it is home to two museums. The Frans Hals Museum and the Archaeological Museum. Frans Hals Museum actually operates in two separate buildings, and the Vleeshal is known simply as the Hal. (The other building is known as the Hof). The Archaeological Museum is housed in the cellar.

Vleeshal Haarlem

De Adriaan Windmill

The most emblematic feature of the Haarlem skyline for generations, De Adriaan Windmill (Molen De Adriaan) has been around since 1779. Its function was for industrial use, as part of a factory that produced cement, paint and tanbark while in the possession of its first owner, and its second owner used it as a tobacco mill.

The windmill was severely damaged by a storm in 1930 and just two years later, it burned down. After years of grappling with finances and planning, it was finally rebuilt and restored to its former glory in 2002. Now it functions as a tourist attraction and it even has a small museum inside.

Windmill De Adriaen in Haarlem Netherlands

Teylers Museum

Not only is Teylers Museum the oldest museum in the Netherlands, but it is the best-preserved public arts and science building in the whole world. The museum was established in 1778 and has been open to the public since 1784.

Art, natural history and science are the specialities of the museum. It has a permanent collection, including fossils dating back millions of years such as the Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur, which has been on display there for centuries.

Old books and coins, historic instruments for generating electricity and a permanent collection of fine art masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael and Goltzius are also mainstays there.

The museum is named after Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1701-1778), a wealthy banker and cloth merchant of Dutch and Scottish descent. In his will, he left funds for the formation of a society for the advancement of art, science and religion. Teylers Society was set up in Haarlem not long after his death. 

Photo: Kees Hageman Teylers Museum Haarlem

Hidden courtyards on the Haarlem Hofje Route

There are so many beautiful little hidden courtyards (hofjes) all over Haarlem. There are actually 21 public courtyards in Haarlem, dating from across the centuries, from medieval times right up until quite recent times. Most of the courtyards are from medieval times and the oldest is from 1395.

One beautiful example is the Teylershofje, named after the same guy that the oldest museum in the Netherlands is named after, which gives you a clue to the age of the courtyard. Another is Hofje van Oorschot (pictured), dating from 1768 and also named after its donor. A third gem along the Haarlem Hofje Route is the Proveniershofje, flanked by the majestic Proveniershuis.

Many of the courtyards, like the three mentioned, are skirted by terraced houses that were known as alms houses. They were charitable accommodation for poor, widowed or unmarried women or for the elderly. 

Hofje van Oorschot

De Koepelgevangenis

De Koepelgevangenis or simply De Koepel, is a former prison, famous for its huge imposing dome-shaped roof. It is a national monument, built between 1899 and 1901. It is one of only three buildings of its kind in the Netherlands - the Panopticon-style building. This means that the prison cells are located on the outer perimeter of the dome in the form of stacked rings, devised so that a single security guard could keep watch on multiple prison cells all at once.

The prison closed in 2016 and has come into the care of the Panopticon Foundation who are formulating plans for its further use as a college. On your walking tour of Haarlem, if the sheer magnitude of this imposing dome comes into view, it is one that you won’t be able to ignore.

Haarlem Prison De Koepel

Discover Haarlem's most captivating sites and attractions - its buildings

A walking tour of Haarlem is full of prized buildings so lace up those walking shoes and get ready to snap some pictures!

Have you been to Haarlem? Do you have a favourite Haarlem building? Let us know in the comments!

Rachel Deloughry


Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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