Monday, June 27, 2011

Haarlem versus Amsterdam

Next month we'll be moving to another flat here in Amsterdam, in addition to taking a trip to Nice, France for the christening of a friend's child and later I'll be in Portland, Oregon, for OSCON, the world's largest open source software convention. In short, we'll be busy, busy, busy, though I hope to get some photos for you.

Yesterday we took a break from packing (my wife is so efficient at this that she's already packed the novel I was reading ... grr!), to visit Haarlem, a lovely city near Amsterdam. Haarlem, as one of my friends described it, is "Amsterdam without the bullshit". Now I know why. It's gorgeous and not nearly so packed with tourists. Americans often have a preconception of what Europe is supposed to be, but then they visit Paris, London and other major cities and don't see the Europe that is. Haarlem is a lovely example of Europe (though I should be careful not to generalize Haarlem to all of Europe, of course).

Canal in Haarlem, Netherlands
This was a lovely boat in the canal

Canal in Haarlem, Netherlands
People were taking advantage of the lovely weather

Canal in Haarlem, Netherlands
Another canal

Grote Markt, Haarlem, Netherlands
Grote Markt, Haarlem, Netherlands

Cafes near the Grote Markt, Haarlem, Netherlands
Dutch cafes on the Grote Markt

Me and my daughter
Our daughter loves "flying"

... and watching everything around her.

Haarlem, Netherlands
The view from the cafe we were relaxing at.

Canal in Haarlem, Netherlands
Another canal in Haarlem

My niece in Haarlem, Netherlands
My niece, enjoying her trip to Europe

All in all, Haarlem seems to have a slower, more relaxed pace than Amsterdam and I find that to be humorous because my wife and I found that Amsterdam had a slower, more relaxed pace than London.

After having lived in and explored small town Europe versus the "grand cities", I strongly urge anyone thinking of living here to check out the smaller towns. London is not England. Amsterdam is not the Netherlands. Paris is not France. People from the outside often don't recognize this, but you're missing out on so much of the culture if you limit yourself to the tourist destinations.


  1. We've actually already considered Haarlem as an alternative to Amsterdam. It seemed commutable by bike to Amsterdam if I ever did get work there, and it is closer to the ocean! Still, we're only talking about 20km here...

  2. As an american expat in Haarlem, I couldn't agree more :) Thanks for your post!

  3. Hi OE,

    We're not planning to live overseas, but to visit. Thought you might help (

    We are finishing up a Euro vacation by flying out on AMS in mid May. Our first thought was to spend the last +/- 4 nights staying in Amsterdam. Now wondering if we might instead stay in Haarlem and day trip to Amsterdam as needed. Any thoughts? Is it easy to get from Haarlem to the airport?

    Also thought we might visit Bruges prior to Amsterdam/ Haarlem. Thought 2 relaxing nights there would be plenty.

    PS we live in Portland OR - hope you liked your visit. We live downtown with 2 bikes, 2 kayaks (on the river) and no car.