Are you looking for free things to do in Haarlem, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands? Then this self-guided and free walking tour in Haarlem is one of the best things to do. Discover the perfect activity to add to your one-day itinerary for Haarlem and explore the city with a local. There are plenty of things to see in Haarlem, so if you’re wondering what to do, then this Haarlem walking tour will blow your mind. Especially if you’re looking at getting a better insider look in Haarlem.
The ultimate Haarlem free walking tour: Discover one of the best free things to do in Haarlem, The Netherlands
Before we start one of our Haarlem walking tours, there are a few things you should be aware of. Haarlem is a stunning city, with lots of things to do and see. A free walking tour in Haarlem is great if you do pay attention to the local community, which I will explain more below.
Anyhow, I hope you will add this walking tour to your travel guide to Haarlem and that it shows you what to do and see in Haarlem, beyond the main tourist attractions.
How to behave in courtyards in The Netherlands: Etiquette tips
During this free walking tour in Haarlem, we will also visit courtyards. Remember that the patios in Haarlem are beautiful to visit, but they are a quiet and peaceful space. Don’t yell, talk loud, nor enter the courtyards with big groups. Don’t stand in front of houses and look through the windows. People live here, and they are not part of a museum. Don’t be rude.
The opening times of the courtyards may differ from the ones that I state here, simply because the opening times have become more restrictive because of disturbances by tourists. Always have a look at the signage at the sites itself. It will state the time and day that you are allowed to enter. Or the times that you are not allowed to enter. Follow those signs at all times!
Take your Google Translate and see if they are opened or not. It’s not that hard to be a respectful visitor. Be polite, and future generations will still be able to visit these beautiful places in Haarlem and the rest of The Netherlands. If you’re not respectful, these places won’t let visitors in anymore, which is entirely understandable.
Free walking tour in Haarlem, The Netherlands: Find the highlights and top things to do in one day
This self-guided and free walking tour in Haarlem is around 14 kilometres. You will discover anything from the most beautiful almshouses in Haarlem to instagrammable places. And from cute corners to hidden areas in Haarlem. You will truly have the best of both worlds with this free walking tour in Haarlem, Noord-Holland.
We start and finish our self-guided tour through the city of Haarlem at the Grote Markt square. At first, we will have a look at one of the beautiful buildings. That’s why we walk to Grote Markt 2. Here you can find the town hall of Haarlem that dates back to 1370. The tower of the city hall of Haarlem was constructed between 1465 and 1468, but demolished in 1772 and only rebuilt in 1913.
Our next stop is Prinsenhof 7. This is where a part of a monastery was located at the end of the 16th century. The current look dates back to the second half of the 18th century. We continue our walk to the general part of the Prinsenhof. The Prinsenhof was never a courtyard in Haarlem, even though its name includes ‘hof’ or courtyard. It was initially the monastery garden of the Dominicans but turned into a graveyard after 1477. There’s also a small Hortus Medicus that dates back to 1721.
Via the Jacobijnestraat and Koningsstraat, we will walk to Grote Markt 20, which is where you find small buildings on the side of the St Bavo church. These small buildings together were the local fish market in Haarlem, but it is currently an exhibition space. Then at Grote Markt 18, you will see the old meat market of Haarlem and this building was constructed in 1602. Don’t forget to have a look at the sheep and ox heads that can be found on the building. Continue your way to Grote Markt 16.
Now walk via the Lepelstraat and Spekstraat,Warmoesstraat, Anegang to Grote Houtstraat 43. Here you see a church that dates back to 1683. During the 17th century, you could only enter the church through several alleys of the Peuzelaarsteeg, as it was a tolerated clandestine church and it couldn’t have an entrance on the street.
Walk to the Gedempte Oude Gracht and Botermarkt to the first official courtyard in Haarlem on this walking tour: Bruiningshofje. This courtyard in Haarlem that dates back to 1610 is opened from Monday- Friday (10:00-17:00). You might have to search a little for the entrance of the courtyard. But the entry is between the terraces and the covered bicycle parking on the Botermarkt. The address is Botermarkt 9. It is one of the smallest courtyards in both Haarlem and The Netherlands, with only four houses and a small garden. It used to have six houses, but you know how those things go — the courtyard changes, as well as the time. The last renovation of this courtyard in Haarlem was in 1978.
After the first courtyard, we will go to Gasthuisstraat 32. It is an old building where shooters came together to make sure the city was safe and calm, which makes them the police officers and soldiers of that time. They would defend the town with arrows and muskets. The building dates back to 1612, and when you walk through the gate, you will see a small courtyard. As of today, you can find a library here.
Now we will make our way to another courtyard in Haarlem: Brouwershofje. It was first established in 1457 by a brother and his sister that both belonged to one of the Haarlemse brewing families. Which also explains the name: Brouwers in Dutch means brewers in English. It was first named the Sint Maartenshofje after the patron saint of the Brewers’ Guild. There were originally 22 houses for poor and unmarried women who worked for breweries, but the entire courtyard burned down during the big fire of Haarlem in 1576. Luckily the courtyard was reconstructed on the same spot twelve years later, only with eight houses.
Nowadays only four houses remain as the eight houses were tiny. People who live here must be 55 years or older. The address of the courtyard is Tuchthuisstraat 8, and you can enter it through the gate. It’s opened from Monday- Saturday (10:00- 17:00).
Walk to the Breestraat, then continue your way to Gierstraat, Lange Annastraat until you arrive at courtyard number three, Hofje van Guurtje de Waal. It is the smallest courtyard in Haarlem and dates back to 1616. It was established by the daughter of a cloth merchant, Guertie Jansdochter de Wael. She constructed the courtyard on her land near her own house. Usually, patios are built on separate areas. The second cousin of Guertie (Guurtje) expanded the courtyard from six to eight homes in 1661. As of now, the yard is home to four houses as the eight were combined in the 80s. You can visit the courtyard at Lange Annastraat 40 from Monday- Friday 10:00 – 17:00.
Continue your free walking tour in Haarlem to Doelstraat to yet another courtyard in Haarlem, Proveniershof. It used to be a building where the defenders of Haarlem came together, then it was turned into a hotel, and lastly, it was made into a Proveniershuis for poor people. A provenier is someone who lives of gifts, such as money and food. The Proveniershof is the biggest courtyard in Haarlem. You can visit the Proveniershof at Grote Houtstraat 142, and it is opened seven days a week and 24 hours a day.
Go to the Kerkstraat and end up at the Nieuwe Kerk. This church in Haarlem is one of the most special monuments in the city. It was the first stone church building that was built explicitly for the protestant community in 1649. The tower dates back to 1613 that came from a previous chapel. It was made when the end of the 80-year-old war between the Spanish was coming to an end. People thought of the construction of the church as the temple of peace. Currently, the protestant community uses this church in Haarlem as their winter church as the Bavo church is too cold during the winter. This church is found in one of the cosiest areas of Haarlem.
Discover the Korte Houtstraat and Korte Annastraat, before you continue your walk to the Cathedral Basilica St. Bavo in Haarlem. It belongs to the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam and is designed in an eclectic and neo roman style by the son of Pierre Cuypers, Joseph Cuypers, at the end of the 19th century. Construction of this church started in 1895 and finished in 1930.
Pope Pius XII made the Sint Bavokerk a basilica on the 2nd of May 1948. It is the second biggest roman catholic church of The Netherlands, after the Sint Jans cathedral in the city of Den Bosch. This spectacular building is one of the five most famous churches in the world which were built between 1850 and 1950. You can visit this beautiful piece of architecture in Haarlem from Tuesday- Saturday, and you can climb its tower for a beautiful view of Haarlem.
P.S. Don’t confuse the basilica in Haarlem with the church on the Grote Markt that also is named St.Bavo.
After discovering this basilica in Haarlem, you will walk to a Dutch war memorial, called the ‘Treurende vrouw‘, or the grieving woman. It’s a statue of two meters high and remembers the murder of ten resistance people by the German occupiers on the 26th of October 1944 next to the Sint Bavokerk.
Walk via the Emmabrug, Eerste Emmastraat, Koninginneweg, Tempeliersstraat, Houtplein, Gasthuisvest to Groot Heiligland 62. It is one of the locations of the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. The museum is housed in the former house for older men that date back to 1609. At that time, there were thirty small houses that each had a place for two men. In 1810 the older adults moved to the Proveniershuis that we have visited earlier. Then an orphanage was here, and it later turned into both an orphanage as well as a school. On the 14th of May 1913, it was transformed into the Frans Hals Museum, which is named after Haarlem’s most famous painter Frans Hals.
Now we continue to Nieuw Heiligland, Klein Heiligland, Groot Heiligland, Omvalspoort, Frankestraat, Anegang, Schagchelstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Turfsteeg until we reach our second courtyard: Gravinnehof. This courtyard is the youngest in Haarlem and is also nicknamed the 21st-century courtyard or 21ste eeuws hofje. It opened on the 7th of May 2001, and you can have a look in this courtyard on Saturday from 12:00-14:00. If you’re visiting Haarlem on any other day than Saturday, when you walk through the Gravinnesteeg after this stop, you can see the inside of this garden in Haarlem.
After the Gravinnehof we will go to the Gravinnesteeg and Kleine Houtstraat 70. This building used to be a monastery from the Lazarists but changed into a bank in the 16th century. As of today, you can find a restaurant here.
Now go to the Groendaalsteeg, De Witstraat, Kampervest and lastly, Essenstraat 24. At Essenstraat 24 there’s another courtyard, but you cannot visit this one. It’s still a beautiful building to see from the outside, especially with a canal right in front of it. Walk to Burretstraat, Turfmarkt, Antoniestraat, Spaarne, Hagestraat, Burgwal, Spaarnwouderstraat, Houtmarkt and the Amsterdamse Poort. During this part of the free walking tour in Haarlem, you will walk along the river, through picturesque streets in Haarlem and will end up at the city gate in Haarlem: the Amsterdam gate, or Amsterdamse Poort.
This city gate dates back to around 1400 and was first named the Spaarnwouderpoort as the road to Amsterdam used to be through the small Dutch town of Spaarnwoude. You might have noticed that this is the first city gate in Haarlem that you’re seeing. There’s a good reason for that. Haarlem originally had twelve city gates, but this is the only gate that is left. The Amsterdamse Poort is also the city gate that was first mentioned in archives as it was built when Haarlem first expanded.
It’s time to continue our Haarlem walking tour to the Korte Dijk and Molen De Adriaan. Windmill De Adriaan is the mill in Haarlem that you’ve probably seen on plenty of photos. The windmill De Adriaan has been standing at the same location since the 19th of May 1779. It was actually a part of the fortifications of Haarlem as it was built on top on the fundaments. It was first mainly used for grinding shells, tuff and oak bark. In 1802 the windmill in Haarlem was sold to a tobacconist who produced tobacco in the mill.
In 1865 the windmill got yet another owner and function as it was transformed to wind and steam mill where grain was ground. The plan was to demolish the windmill in 1925, but a non-profit organisation prevented this. In 1930, this windmill in Haarlem was heavily damaged during a storm after which the mill became more decayed as time passed on. On the 23rd of April 1932, the windmill caught fire and is destroyed. While the inhabitants of Haarlem wanted their favourite mill to return, there was a crisis in the 30s in The Netherlands and after that 30s the Second World War made its way to Haarlem. Eventually, the windmill in Haarlem was finally rebuilt between 1999 and 2002. The mill can be visited, but not always.
After this windmill in Haarlem, we go to Koudenhorn and, yet another courtyard, Teyler’s hofje. It was made in 1787, as a legacy from Pieter Teyler van der Hulst. He was a wealthy entrepreneur who mainly made money from the silk industry. The endowment also stated that money should go to a new museum about science, called the Teyler’s Museum, as well as a new non-profit organisation in Haarlem. The Teyler’s courtyard in Haarlem is home to 24 houses and has one of the most beautiful main entrances you’ll ever see. This courtyard was only for poor women above the age of 70. Nowadays, women are only able to live here, but age doesn’t matter anymore. You can visit this courtyard from Monday – Saturday 10:00- 18:00.
Walk to the Donkere Spaarne and then we continue to a beautiful church in Haarlem: Bakenesserkerk. The current form of the church dates back to the 17th century, although the tower goes back to 1530. There was already a wooden church, with the same name as nowadays, on the same location since 1250. But it was replaced by a church made of stone shortly after 1250. The stone building was replaced in the second half of the 15th century. Nowadays the church is part of an office, but also has an exposition room and interesting archaeological works. You can visit the church from Monday- Friday 13:00- 16:30 and every third Sunday of the month from 12:00- 16:00.
Go to the Kokstraat and Koudenhorn 2. This building was a home for people who couldn’t take care of themselves, such as the homeless or beggars. The people who lived in the house were in better conditions than on the streets, but it still wasn’t much. But they did get food, fuel and clothing, in exchange they had to work. This house was built between 1768 and 1771 and could house 670 elderly, 150 needy children and 80 boarders. In 1810, the building changed into barracks, and the inhabitants had to move. The barracks were in use until 1960. As of 1971, the principal office of the police in the region Haarlem is located here.
We are going further on our self-guided and free walking tour in Haarlem. It’s time to head to another courtyard, Hofje van Noblet. This courtyard in Haarlem can be visited from Monday – Saturday from 10:00-17:00. It was founded by Leonard Noblet, which explains the name of this patio, in 1760. It’s one of the more special courtyards in Haarlem as it has a garden in front of the building and a courtyard after you enter through the gate.
The Noblet family from Amsterdam lived in a building on this location. They stated that the house had to be reconstructed into a courtyard after the entire family had passed away. So that is what happened. This courtyard offered to house unmarried women who were fifty-plus years. The eastern part was reserved for women who had lived in Amsterdam for at least ten years; the western side was for women who lived in Haarlem for at least ten years. All these women also had to be a member of the Dutch reformed church for at least ten years.
Walk to Hooimarkt and then to Parklaan 34. This is an Evangelical protestant church that was designed by architect D.E.L. van den Arend and built in 1876. Now continue to walk another part of the Parklaan, Jansweg and to another courtyard: Hofje van Staats.
This almshouse in Haarlem was founded after the legacy of Ysbrand Staats, who was a prosperous trader. His entire wealth was left to the poor in Haarlem. Construction started in 1730, and the thirty houses for unmarried older women were finished in 1733. It’s one of the best-hidden courtyards and places to see in Haarlem. As of today, there are twenty houses. They even had a moratorium, which is a cycling storage room nowadays. You can visit the courtyard from Monday- Saturday 10:00-17:00.
Now you will walk into one of the parks in Haarlem: De Bolwerken Park. This city park in Haarlem is mainly known as a place where you can discover the old fortifications of Haarlem, and it opened in 1828. These fortifications remained when the city walls of Haarlem were demolished in the 17th century. This park in Haarlem is designed with the English landscape style in mind.
Now head over to Staten Bolwerk 1. This neo-classic villa, with coach house, is located in De Bolwerken Park and dates back to around 1900. The coach house was made in the last quarter of the 19th century. We continue our walk to our next park: Kenaupark.
After a walk through this park, you will make your way to Nieuwe Gracht 80. This is the former Bishop’s Palace from the diocese Haarlem- Amsterdam and is from the first half of the 18th century. This palace in Haarlem was the home of the bishop of the diocese, not too shabby if you ask me. The complex was put on sale because of reorganisations within the diocese in 2013. It was sold in 2016 to investors who are planning to develop the palace into luxury apartments. Investors buying old buildings is not my favourite thing to happen in this world, but I guess I can’t do anything about it.
We will walk a bit further on the same street to Nieuwe Gracht 7. It was home to a man called Willem Philip Barnaart, that’s why it’s also called the Barnaartshuis (House of Barnaart), who was a member of the state and a mayor. Willem wanted to renovate his house but eventually decided to construct a completely new home. Construction started on 26th of January 1804. The coach house and the coachman’s house from the old building remained intact. In 1807 Napoleon Bonaparte visited Barnaart.
After several owners, the house was eventually bought by a non-profit organisation called Vereniging Hendrick de Keyser that buys important and historic Dutch buildings to renovate them in its original way. Every year this organisation buy between five and ten buildings a year. And as of now, they own 390 buildings in 94 cities and towns in The Netherlands.
Now we are going to Ridderstraat, Korte Jansstraat to end up at the St. Josephkerk. Before the St. Josephkerk was built (1841-1843), there was already a community of beguines. They lived and worked in the surroundings of the church for centuries before this church was established.
Continue to the Jansstraat and then go to the Janskerk. The church and its monastery were built in 1310-1318. Until 1625, these two buildings formed the seat of Haarlem of the Commandery of Sint Jan that was established in 1310. The Commandery of Sint Jan was a wealthy monastery as many famous painters received assignments from the monastery such as Jan van Scorel and Maarten van Heemskerck. It was built as a catholic church. However, in the 16th century was confiscated by the protestants and masses were forbidden in 1581.
From 1587 until 1930 the church was used for the reformed worship. In 1799, the church received another function. It was a shelter for prisoned English and Russian militaries who unfortunately failed to liberate The Netherlands from the French during the Battle of Castricum. The diaconate of the reformed church wanted to demolish the church to create buildings for the elderly. Luckily the municipality of Haarlem prevented this terrible situation, and they bought the church and relocated the city archives of Haarlem in this building. You can visit the city archives and Janskerk in Haarlem, click here for more information.
Go to the Ceciliasteeg, Korte Wijngaardstraat and stop at Korte Wijngaardstraat 2. This stunning building has been a national monument since 1969 and was built in the middle of the 17th century. Continue your walking tour in Haarlem to the Kruisstraat, Lange Margarethastraat, Ursulastraat and to the next courtyard: Luthers Hofje.
This was founded by the Lutheran congregation for elderly Lutheran women in 1615. It’s built on the grounds an old orchard that belonged to the former monastery of the Norbertines. These monks were mostly known for their white robes and were also called ‘Witte Heren’ or white gentlemen. Fun fact: The street where you can find the Luthers courtyard is Witte Herenstraat, which refers to the monks.
The courtyard originally had four homes, but it was expanded to nine in 1648. In 1982, the yard was renovated, and eight houses were combined, which made four bigger houses. There is still one small house that has the original measurements of the 16th century. You can visit the courtyard from Monday- Saturday 10:00- 17:00.
After this courtyard, we will discover yet another almshouse in Haarlem, Frans Loenenhofje. It was established as housing for older women in 1607. The legacy of Frans Klaeszoon Loenen fully paid for the courtyard. The almshouse is located on the part of the old orchard of the Norbertines, just as Luthers Hofje. The orchard was, as much as they could, left intact, that’s why you will also see fruit trees in this garden in Haarlem.
In 1607, the Frans Loenenhofje had eleven rooms for poor and single women. Then in 1609, the courtyard got expanded with five rooms. Nowadays there are ten houses in the yard, simply because some were connected. The entry to this courtyard in Haarlem is wheelchair friendly.
Make your way through the Zijlstraat and after that head to Nieuwe Groenmarkt 16. Here you will find the second oldest roman catholic church in Haarlem that is built in 1844. Unfortunately, this church is currently for sale, but as long as it hasn’t been sold, you can visit the church daily from 14:00-16:00.
Onto the next courtyard: Hofje van Oorschot. This courtyard is the legacy of the unmarried rich man of Wouterus van Oorschot. He wanted twelve houses in the yard, six of whom were for one person and the other six for two people. He also was buried in the Bavo church, and his grave wasn’t cleared the first 200 years. The courtyard was founded two years after van Oorschot died. This courtyard is not opened up for the public, but you can see it very well from the street. The houses in the yard were only inhabited by the maid of van Oorschot and her family. The rest of the houses were empty for twenty years. After that time, the other houses were finally inhabited by fifty plus women who were members of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Walk to Barteljorisstraat and then to Grote Markt 17. This building is one of the oldest monument in Haarlem, and it partly dates back to the 13th century. From 1250- 1350 it was the first town hall in Haarlem after the town hall was relocated to the current city hall, this building was just a house. At around 1650 the city hall was changed into an ordinary building, later on, it was the building for the civic guard. It became a central guarding post on the Grote Markt in Haarlem. From this place, the city gates were opened and closed, plus the public order was maintained.
Now go to the Waalse Kerk, or Walloon church. This is a Calvinist church in Haarlem, The Netherlands. The members of the Walloon church are actually descendants from people who are from the Southern Netherlands and French. In this church, the language that people speak is French. This church is the oldest in Haarlem and created in 1348. There are frescoes in this church that date back to the 14th century. The Waalse Kerk was a church were many refugees sought their peace, especially during the 16th and 17th century. For instance, in the 16th-century Flemish protestant were fleeing from the catholic Spaniards and 20.000 refugees in total arrived in Haarlem which included quite a few Walloons.
Continue to Begijnhof 24. It is the only remaining house of Haarlems medieval Begijnhof, or Beguine courtyard. From now go to Bakenessergracht, Korte Begijnestraat, Lange Begijnestraat and Hofje van Bakenes.
This is the oldest known courtyard in The Netherlands and was founded by Dirck van Bakenes in 1395. There are twenty houses, and the women had to be sixty years or older to be able to live here. You can leave a small donation in the money box in the courtyard which helps to maintain this beautiful, quiet area in Haarlem. As with the other yards, don’t look inside their homes as people live here. There’s one exception here, between the houses 11j and 11k there is a particular regent room. You can have a look at this room through the window, but only inside this one. You can visit the courtyard from Monday- Saturday 10:00- 17:00.
Now we will go to Damstraat 21 where you can find the house of Pieter Teyler van der Hulst and his wife Helena Wijnand Verschaave which dates back to the 17th century. He is the founder of the Teylers Hofje and Teylers Museum. The Teylers Museum is behind this house and is connected as well. The legacy of Teyler van der Hulst states that this house cannot be sold.
We’re almost at the end of our self-guided and free walking tour in Haarlem. Continue to Berkrodesteeg, Lange Veerstraatand Oude Groenmarkt 23. At the last location, you will see short houses that were made against the Grote Kerk in Haarlem in the 18th century.
Last, but certainly not least: Grote Kerk, or Sint Bavokerk, in Haarlem. Some parts of this church date back to the 14th century. The tower of the church was finished in 1520 after the construction of two years. Many famous and wealthy people have been buried in this church. For instance, Frans Hals is buried under the choir in the Grote Kerk since 1666.
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Perfect day trips from Haarlem
I hope that this self-guided and free walking tour for Haarlem will help you to explore one of the beautiful Dutch cities with one of the best activities to do in one day in Haarlem. This tour in Haarlem will be your best guide for exploring Haarlem beyond the church, cathedral and other highlights. You will discover more than the best things to see and do in Haarlem in 24 hours; this travel blog will take you to the must-sees in Haarlem that aren’t on anyone else’s bucket list.
Find Haarlem its old town, town hall, parks, and plenty of more. This guide for a walking tour in Haarlem will show you why Haarlem is one of the best day tours from Amsterdam. Add this Haarlem walking route to your one day, or weekend, Haarlem itinerary. And I can guarantee you that this is one of the best free things to do in Haarlem and you will experience why Haarlem is worth visiting. Share this post!
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