Haarlem Shuffle


The Grote Houtstraat leads to the heart of the city - the Grote Markt
Located about 20km from the capital city of Amsterdam, Haarlem is a picturesque city in the province of North Holland. It stands on the river Spaarne, a few kilometres from the North Sea on the western coast of the Netherlands.

Although nowadays only the thirteenth largest town in Holland with a population of nearly 150,000, Haarlem is the fourth most densely populated, with some 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. While offering many of the convenient amenities of a larger town, it is also known for its relaxed pace of life and relatively low crime rates. In demand as a place of residence, real estate and rented accomodation is at a premium.

The city is rectangular in shape, the north-south axis being several times longer than the west-east. Down through this oblong runs the river Spaarne, its many undulations marked by a variety of bridges, all of which are raised several times a day for the considerable river traffic. The Spaarne forms an important shipping link for merchant ships and pleasure boats between the North Sea (via the North Sea Canal) and the Ringvaart, a major inland waterway. This link helped make Haarlem a successful, easily accessible market town.

Haarlem used the abundance of water from its river and waterways to become an important brewing and textile centre in mediaeval times. Today, the chief industries include pharmaceuticals, metal work and horticulture. The city is also the main shopping centre for the region, with tourism providing extra summer income for the many shopkeepers.

As with nearly all Dutch towns, there are no hills of any note, just flat, even ground, perfect for cycling. The soil is light and sandy and the coastal dunes, some 7km distant, can be seen from the top of the higher buildings in the city. The nearby seaside town, Zandvoort, is a busy tourist resort in the summer season.

To the north of Haarlem lies the most important fishing town in Holland, IJmuiden, also home to the giant Corus steelworks, formerly known as Hoogovens. Between Haarlem and Leiden, to the south, is the famous Bollenstreek bulb-growing area, from where millions of flower bulbs are exported to all corners of the world every year. It is no surprise that Haarlem is also known as the 'City of Flowers'.