Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
HAARLEM, Netherlands — This historic town in Holland’s tulip bulb-growing region makes for an easy day trip from Amsterdam.
Called “Bloemenstad” (Flower City), Haarlem feels like a low-key, miniature version of Holland’s capital, which is just a 15-minute train ride away.
The New York City neighborhood’s namesake even has its own mini Red Light District. And if you don’t have the patience to wait in the inevitably long line wrapping around Amsterdam’s Anne Frank house, you can visit Haarlem’s Corrie ten Boomhuis to see a home where Jews were hidden from the Nazis in World War II.
Something Haarlem has that Amsterdam doesn’t: a big, beautiful market square, where you can sit at an outdoor cafe with an apple tart and coffee while listening to the bells of the gothic St. Bavo Church. If you’re stomach is game (mine wasn’t), wander over to the square’s fish stand and drop a fresh herring down your throat.
This city of 150,000 used to be a beer-brewing mecca, with Haarlem breweries once producing 20 percent of all beer made in Holland. Get a taste of Haarlem’s heritage at the hip and funky Jopen brewery and restaurant, which opened late last year in an old church.
If you want to make more than a day trip out of Haarlem, the 83-room Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hals hotel is reasonably priced, centrally located and less than a 10-minute walk from the train station.
Get your flower fix at the annual Flower Parade, a colorful procession of floral floats that travels 25 miles from Noordwijk to Haarlem each spring. The next one is April 21, 2012.