No, the title doesn’t have a typo. Haarlem, Netherlands is where the New York neighborhood gets its name from, and it’s a quintessential Dutch town to visit when you’re in the Netherlands. When you visit, the best to stay is at the Hello I’m Local Hostel. I can’t say enough about my two days there!
Why Visit Haarlem
Haarlem is located just fifteen minutes by train west of Amsterdam. As I mentioned in my article on Hello I’m Local Hostel, I don’t like Amsterdam. It’s too touristy, too full of pot smoke, and too fake. Sure, there’s some beautiful old architecture and you can visit some nice landmarks like the Opera House or tour through the Van Gogh Museum or Anne Frank’s House, but the red light district really shouldn’t be a tourist attraction, and I’d have to say the canals there are a bit more trashy than in other Dutch towns.
As such, my girlfriend and I decided to visit Haarlem instead. That decision was influenced in part upon finding the Hello I’m Local Hostel, a beautiful, boutique accommodation in the city and the only hostel near the center. Their hospitality for us was definitely the highlight of our time in Haarlem.
Hello I’m Local Hostel
The Hello I’m Local Hostel was established in 2013 only a couple minutes walk from the main square of Haarlem. There’s another hostel outside the city, but why stay there when this option is available?!
Upon our arrival, Laura and I were greeted by Lotte and Melle, two of the four managers at the hostel. Lotte was simply bubbly with her enthusiasm and alacrity to settle us in, show us around the hostel and give recommendations for what to do, see and eat in Haarlem.
The hostel has nine private rooms and three dorm rooms for a total of over 50 beds, but Lotte and Melle had a surprise waiting for us. They’ve recently purchased another premises around the corner in the same building structure so all the spaces are connected. More rooms will be opening up shortly, but one room was already established and we were the first to get to stay in the expansion.
While we didn’t stay in an official room, the twelve main rooms are each unique and wonderfully designed. They have their own motif, named after characters that encapsulate some part of Holland’s history or culture. I liked the Old School room which had rings hanging from the rafters and a plaque by the door talking about an old gym game where players had to tag each other using the equipment and never touching the floor.
Really tasteful decorations and art are throughout the hostel. A great example is in the De Heem room which has a huge flower work of art on the wall, and a robot light by the bed. Yet another room has a swing hanging from the rafters!
The dorms had my favorite feature in a hostel – pod beds! All the rooms have their own private shower, although a couple have a shared toilet room down the hall. The mattresses are uber-comfy memory foam and the pillows and blankets were thick (not that we needed the duvet since we managed to visit during a heatwave which saw temperatures up to 100°F!). Thankfully our special room was the coolest option and kept us from melting.
The hostel has several breakfast options you can order (available until 4 p.m.) from a full egg, ham and cheese breakfast to toast and preserves. Vegan options are also available. Even the coffee that the hostel uses is a premium blend and delicious!
I particularly loved the decorations in the dining patio, which used glass-paned doors as tabletops. Hanging plants decorated the walls and there was a large wrought-iron fireplace for the winter. Also throughout the hostel were cookie molds, hanging from the walls or displayed under the glass doors/tables.
Riding a Bike to the Beach
Hello I’m Local has bikes available to rent for the day. Laura and I got one on the afternoon of the second day, preferring to wait until the temperature had cooled down. The beach was a straight shot west and only took us about 45 minutes to get there on the bikes. The road leads to the town of Bloemendaal aan Zee, but we chose to go half a mile up the coast to a more secluded beach. It was still busy, but not as much as the main beach had been. I did have a little adventure on the way out when we stopped to buy water. I had accidentally grabbed the wrong bike key! The 6 and the 9 just looked too similar!
The water was deliciously cold (this is the North Sea after all and a higher latitude than Vancouver, Canada). We swam around for quite some time before going up to relax on the beach. Sunset wasn’t until just after 9 p.m., and we stayed almost till then, choosing to leave a bit earlier so we didn’t have to ride back in the dark.
As it was, we made our way back to Haarlem via the Kennemerland National Park. This took us significantly longer, partially because the bike path made a huge circuit around the park, and partially because we kept stopping to admire the stunning beauty, the herds of deer, the sunset and something I’m always stunned to see in the Netherlands. The first time I saw Hairy Coos (Scottish cows) in Holland was on a tour in Rotterdam. There were several more in the national park. At one point they were walking through a very narrow pass we had to bike through, and we decided to wait until they moved on instead of chancing an encounter with their horns.
A Brief Exploration of Haarlem
Despite the city being so beautiful, Laura and I didn’t have much time to explore the city due to some writing assignments we both had. Our room in the hostel had really fast Internet and there wasn’t much reason for us to leave, but we did venture out a couple times, other than the bike ride to the beach.
On the first day, we made our way into the city center for lunch and found a fish stand selling kibbeling on one of the walking streets. This is the Dutch version of fish and chips (or perhaps the forerunner of the English like how the British took gin from the Dutch). It started off as bits of cod, and now is chunks of any white fish lightly battered and deep-fried. It’s usually sold from fish food trucks around the country, or at weekend markets. Aioli or remoulade (Dutch tartar sauce) are served with the portion and, unlike the British, the Dutch aren’t stingy with their helping of sauce. The meal is one of my favorites in the Netherlands, and I had a portion at least once a week this summer. Best of all, a portion is as little as $4.
After our meal, we found a cafe called Frenchie. If the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, their primary feature is French Bulldogs that come to hang out! They were absolutely adorable, and we might have lost a bit of time playing with the dogs instead of working. The chai latte they served was one of the best I ever had! The Dutch established the spice trade centuries ago, and their use of them is legendary to this day.
Despite all the churches I’ve been to in my travels, it would have been nice to see St. Bavo’s Church, but it just didn’t fit into our schedule. We also missed all the museums, such as the Connie ten Boom Museum (Haarlem’s version of Anne Frank’s House) and the Teylers Museum (a history museum which displays artifacts grouped together in the way historians used to think was accurate).
Despite what me missed, I still loved our time in Haarlem. Walking along the canals with locals swimming around and seeing the quintessential Dutch architecture was more than satisfactory for us. Sometimes it’s nice to slow down in our travels and not rush from one attraction to the next.
Book your Stay at Hello I’m Local
You can either book directly at the Hello I’m Local website, or you can give me a small commission by booking with my affiliate link for Agoda.com. Do make a reservation early, as they fill up in the summer.
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In case you missed them, here are all the links to my other articles concerning the Netherlands.
- Bringing Out My Inner Child At the Efteling Amusement Park
- Getting Back to My Family Roots in Rotterdam, Netherlands
- Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinderdijk
- Hostel ROOM: The Best Place to Stay in Rotterdam for a Weekend Break
- 12 of My Favorite Activities in Rotterdam – A Better City Than Amsterdam
- Is Dutch Chocolate Better Than Belgian Chocolate?
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.