Haarlem

The Netherlands

Haarlem is a lovely historical city, located on the river Spaarne, less than 20 kilometres from Amsterdam. It features a magnificent old centre with plenty of monumental buildings. The city was once home to several famous Dutch painters, including Frans Hals, so there is a large art focus.

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Haarlem is where my grandmother is from – her and my grandfather immigrated to New Zealand in 1953. Last year I was finally lucky enough to visit this wonderful city and meet some family members I had never even spoken to before.

Haarlem is probably one of my favourite cities in The Netherlands, not just because it has some personal connection for me, but it also has some of the most beautiful buildings and streets. In New Zealand we have nothing like the old stepped gables or cobblestone pathways. Sure, the scenery here is beautiful but the buildings in Haarlem (and most of the cities in Europe) have and reflect such rich histories.

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It has been voted numerous times as the best shopping city in the Netherlands because it has a very diverse range of shops. The Grote Houtstraat, the main shopping street, has the most shops – including iconic brands and chainstores. The surrounding streets (Kleine Houtstraat and Gierstraat) host smaller shops, where you can browse anything from fancy bicycles to cute teapots.

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Haarlem is one of the cities in the Netherlands that has a number of hofjes. The word ‘hofje’ just means small garden. In the past, small houses were generally grouped around a community kitchen garden with a water pump. They were often attached to a larger field for bleaching linen or growing orchards, but today those fields have been long used for city expansion and only the central gardens can still be seen.

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The Grote Kerk is a Reformed Protestant church and former Catholic cathedral located on the central market square in Haarlem. This church is an important landmark for the city and has dominated the skyline for centuries. It is built in the Gothic style of architecture and it became the main church of Haarlem after renovations in the 15th century made it significantly larger than the Janskerk.

Information from Wikitravel and Wikipedia.

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Paleis Het Loo

The Netherlands

Het Loo Palace or Paleis Het Loo (meaning “The Woods Palace”) is a palace in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and was built by the House of Orange-Nassau.

 

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The symmetrical Dutch Baroque building was designed by Jacob Roman and Johan van Swieten and was built between 1684 and 1686 for stadtholder-king William III and Mary II of England. The garden was designed by Claude Desgotz.

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The palace then remained a private residence of the younger House of Orange-Nassau until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962. In 1960 Queen Wilhelmina had declared that when she died the palace would go to the State. She did, however, request that it would be returned to her family if the Dutch were to abolish the monarchy.

The palace became property of the Dutch state in 1962 when Wilhelmina died at Het Loo Palace. Her daughter, Queen Juliana, never lived there, but her younger daughter, Princess Margriet, lived in the right wing until 1975.

The building was renovated between 1976 and 1982. Since 1984, the palace is a state museum open for the general public, showing interiors with original furniture, objects and paintings of the House of Orange-Nassau. It also houses a library devoted to the House of Orange-Nassau and the Museum van de Kanselarij der Nederlandse Orden (Museum of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood’s Chancellery) with books and other material concerning decorations and medals.

Information from Wikipedia.