Haarlem – Best Shopping in the Netherlands

Posted on Monday, May 2, 2011 - 6 Comments
Grote Markt, Haarlem, Netherlands
St. Bravo Church in Grote Markt

(The following is a guest post about the incredible shopping in Haarlem, Netherlands from the inimitable Adrienne Lusby, one of my all-time favorite people. I’m sure you’ll like her too.)

Enter Adrienne

Being a photography addict, Algis vehemently protested writing about this charming city in the Netherlands until such a time that we could go back for a plethora of amazing photos. I thought the one below was pretty good.

Mercury's Winged Foot
Mercury’s Winged Foot (As seen in 4 Quick Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos)

A location this fabulous and so close to Amsterdam shouldn’t have to wait a moment longer. So I’m letting the proverbial cat out of the bag to tell you about a town so charming, with shopping so fantastic, you’d be crazy to pass it up. It’s called Haarlem, and yes, it’s the original city that Harlem, New York was named after.

Haarlem, Netherlands offers a respite from the excitement and sometimes overwhelming stimulation of nearby Amsterdam (and I don’t just mean the red light district!).

As my friend Kyle once described it to me: “Haarlem is like Amsterdam, but smaller, cleaner and more charming…not to mention the awesome shopping.” But we’ll get to that later.

Just a 15 minute train ride from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam and you’re in a whole different world. No more cars, backpacking stoners and cheesy buskers to contend with. Stroll along the windy cobblestone streets of Haarlem and you’ll feel like you’re getting a true slice of Dutch life. Cars are banned here, but bicycles are everywhere.

Bikers in Haarlem, Netherlands
I Want to Ride My Bicycle…I Want to Ride My Bike

Like Amsterdam, Haarlem has its share of scenic canals, gorgeous architecture and even its own tiny (albeit much less conspicuous) red light district. It is also happens to be anchored on one side by a beautiful old-fashioned windmill called ‘The Adriaan.” (How could I NOT love this place?)

Adriaan Windmill
Adriaan Windmill

The people here are not only incredibly tall (as in the rest of the Netherlands) but also exceedingly nice. Being a mere 5’1” mouse in a town of giants, I was happy to discover they were indeed the friendly giant sort. So friendly, in fact, that when Algis and I stopped to eat at a local café where the menu was all in Dutch, our waiter offered to translate the entire thing into English for us right there at the table. Thank goodness we knew the Dutch word for “Thank you”, (Dank je Wel).

Eating Tip: The Netherlands is known for its delicious cheeses (Gouda, Edam and Leyden being some of the more famous ones) so it’s hard to go wrong with a cheese sandwich.

Algis at Netherlands Pub
My View Inside Haarlem Restaurant (Photo: Adrienne Lusby)

Aaaaaand… back to shopping.

GROTE MARKT: This is the center of Haarlem and where all the shopping happens!  Haarlem has been voted many times as the best shopping city in the Netherlands, and for good reason. I dare say, I enjoyed the clothes shopping here, even more than in Paris. Street after street of beautiful, unique shops with everything from shoes to dresses to men’s clothes as well as décor and housewares… oh, and don’t forget the chocolate!

Airport Chocolate Shop (Amsterdam)
Yes, it DID taste as good as it looks!

Although my favorite part of shopping in Haarlem was the abundance of one-of-a-kind independent clothing shops, I will admit there were indeed a few chain stores around that I recognized. However, those were few and far between and the stores which seemed to be exclusively European chains were waaaaay cool and had styles I rarely see here in my home town of Los Angeles. Oh, and by the way, if you’re a man and you are partial to super-pointy hipster shoes… welcome to paradise.

What’s especially exciting and surprising about Haarlem is how affordable the shopping is. I won’t lie and say I didn’t spend $400 on a sweater in a specialty shop, I did.  Then again, I also bought an adorable dress I saw in the window of a little store that was only $35.

Here are just a few of the great finds I snapped up while in Haarlem.

Clothes from Haarlem
My Haul from Haarlem

I guarantee Algis and I will be back again sometime soon, and this time we’ll bring back a lot more clothes…err… I mean photos!

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  1. I like this guest writer thing (not that it’s not usually excellent!!) Great post with cool pix & different flavor : )

  2. Excellent post and pictures guys! We’ve been meaning to write for a while to thank you for the amazing travel advice. We are home bodies who mostly live vicariously through your beautiful pictures and stories. Obviously, we don’t get out much, so we really, really appreciate all of the great tips that you post here.

  3. Great website. Wonderful pictures. Haarlem is now definitely on my list of places to visit in Europe.

  4. Great pics and descriptions. You make me want to go. Algis, I wore your t shirt today and got compliments on the graphics.

  5. Hey Algis, Guess who’s going to Amsterdam. I leave next week. I’m am so grateful that I thought to check out your site. I’m traveling with a girlfriend that always loves a good shopping stop. Kyle keeps emphasizing Haarlem, so I gotta check it out. Thanks Adrienne

    1. Hi Stephanie. (It’s Adrienne) So glad you enjoyed the post! Kyle is 100% right on this one. You and your friend will looooove shopping in Haarlem! I am envious. Hope you have a fantastic time.

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Hi, I’m Algis


I have an insatiable wanderlust which takes me to some crazy places where I try strange foods, pretend I'm a local and talk with elephants. Keep reading...

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