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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amersfoort is a city and municipality in the province of Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Amersfoort is a very historic and attractive city. It has many fine medieval buildings that are well maintained.
It is a busy place with a population of just under 150,000 people, but the town centre is easily explored on foot, with most of the main attractions being easily within walking distance. The railway station is one of the busiest in Holland with several tracks converging on the area.
Information from Wikipedia and Netherlands Tourism.
Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam near to Amsterdam.
It is famous for its large collection of historic windmills – many of which are not just heritage buildings but still fully-operational. Tours allow visitors to see for themselves how the windmills are used for sawing wood, grinding oil and much more.
The historic windmills and distinctive green wooden houses were relocated to Zaanse Schans in 1961 to 1974 from all over the Zaanstreek in order to recreate the look of an 19th-century village.
Information from Wikipedia.
De Haar Castle or Kasteel de Haar is located near Utrecht in The Netherlands.
The medieval House De Haar dates from the 13th century. It fell into disrepair in the 18th and 19th centuries. Architect Pierre Cuypers (famous for his designs of the Rijksmuseum and the Central Station in Amsterdam) restored and rebuilt De Haar for baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar. The rebuilding took from 1892 till 1912 and was a project unique of its kind in all of Europe.
Surrounding the castle there is a huge park with various gardens designed by Hendrik Copijn.
The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which is reminiscent of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost because the wood was used to light fires and the soil was used to grow vegetables.
However the gardens are now restored in their original state.
In order to decorate the park the entire village of Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was demolished. The inhabitants were moved a kilometer away and lived as the Castle’s tenants. The new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style and features a rural village green.
Information from Wikipedia and Kastel De Haar
Brederode Castle, also called the Ruins of Brederode, is located near Santpoort-Zuid in the Netherlands. The castle was founded in the second half of the 13th century by William I van Brederode (1215–1285).
The name Brederode is a reference to a wooded area called Brede Roede (literally: broad wood), that was cleared and on which the castle was built. To begin with the castle was simply made up of a tower but around 1300 Dirk II van Brederode had the tower pulled down and replaced with a proper castle.
Information from Wikipedia.
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.
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.
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.