by Aimee Kinniburgh, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands
Having explored lots of Amsterdam over the last few months, my housemates and I decided it was time to venture out of the city and explore more of what the Netherlands has to offer. After a quick google, we chose to take a day trip to the historic town of Haarlem. Following a small mishap with buses, namely taking an accidental detour to the airport, we arrived in Harlem in the early afternoon and were greeted by the gleaming winter sun. Haarlem has a more relaxed vibe than Amsterdam and is a place to get away from the busy tourist spots whilst still having that picturesque town feel, so we were excited to begin exploring. Our google search told us we’d be greeted by cobble streets and historic markets, and we were not disappointed.
To start with we got our bearings by wandering around the fully pedestrianised centre. Much like Amsterdam, the centre of Haarlem is full of lanes to get lost in, with lots of independent businesses and cafes. At the heart of the town is a huge cathedral that towers over the town’s market square. Our initial wanders found us at a lovely local cafe specialising in homemade brownies and amazing hot chocolates. The cafe also works with local charities to help people with learning disabilities gain experience in hospitality. It was a great introduction to the community spirit of the town. Full to the brim with sweet treats we headed off to our biggest excitement of the day; the cathedral. Both my housemate and I studied music from a young age so when we discovered the organ in Haarlem cathedral was played by both Handel and Mozart we knew it would be a must-see on our visit.
The cathedral itself is a stunning piece of architecture which stems back to the 1500s. For just three euros we explored inside with a lovely guided tour that took us through all corners of the cathedral. We were particularly interested to find a cannonball preserved in the wall from an uprising against Spanish rule in 1573. However, the highlight of this church has to be the organ. Standing at a staggering 30 meters tall and dating back to 1738 this organ is a must-see during a trip to Haarlem. We were particularly excited to find a stone plaque to the right of the organ that nodded to Mozart’s use of it at just 7 years old.
Having taken our fan-girl photo with the plaque, we decided to venture out into the famous Haarlem markets. There was everything you could imagine from cheese stalls to hand-knitted baby clothes and fresh fish caught that day. We stopped for a portion of hand-cut chips with homemade truffle mayo and shared three delicious cannoli, with a resounding win for the Limoncello flavour. As the sun began to set we headed to our final destination of the day; the Jopen Brewery. Having seen Jopen in bars all across Amsterdam, it was really interesting to see where it was brewed and learn more about the beer brewing process. We were also surprised to find the brewery situated in an old church that turns into a lively bar and restaurant at night.
Overall we had an extremely enjoyable day in Haarlem. It showcased one of the many benefits of a year abroad; the ability to not just explore your city but also lots of other places throughout the country which you choose to go to. If you happen to find yourself in Amsterdam or the Netherlands I couldn’t recommend a trip to Haarlem more!