The Randstad

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  • 1. Frans Hals Museum

    Named after the celebrated man himself, this not-to-be-missed museum holds a collection of amazingly virile and lively group portraits by the Golden Age painter, depicting...

    Named after the celebrated man himself, this not-to-be-missed museum holds a collection of amazingly virile and lively group portraits by the Golden Age painter, depicting the merrymaking civic guards and congregating regents for which he became world famous. The building itself is one of the town's smarter hofjes: an entire block of almshouses grouped around an attractive courtyard. In the 17th century, this was an oudemannenhuis, or home for elderly men, so it is only fitting that their cottages now form a sequence of galleries for the paintings of Hals and other 17th-century masters of the Haarlem School, along with period furniture, antique silver, and ceramics. Many of the works on display represent Hals at his jovial best—for instance, the Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of St. Adrian (1624–27) or the Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Militia (1616), where the artist cunningly allows for the niceties of rank (captains are more prominent than sergeants, and so on down the line) as well as emotional interaction: he was the first painter to have people gaze and laugh at each other in these grand portraits. As respite from nearly 250 canvases, step into the museum's courtyard—lovely, and planted with formal-garden baby hedges, of which you get only fleeting glimpses as you work your way through the galleries (most of the blinds are shut against the sunlight to protect the paintings). In one room, with curtains drawn for extra protection, is Sara Rothè's Dolls' House; nearby is an exquisitely crafted miniature version of a merchant's canal house. On leaving, View of Haarlem (1655) by Nicolaes Hals, Frans's son, bids you farewell. From mid-March to mid-May, during bulb season, the museum is made even more resplendent, with a liberal splash of tulip bouquets and other floral art displays adding extra color to the galleries and hallways.

    Groot Heiligland 62, Haarlem, North Holland, 2011 ES, Netherlands
    023-511-5775

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €16 (including De Hallen), Closed Mon., Tues.–Sat. 11–5, Sun. noon–5
  • 2. Kasteel de Haar

    The spectacular Kasteel de Haar is not only the largest castle in the Netherlands, but also the most sumptuously furnished. Thanks to the fortuitous way...

    The spectacular Kasteel de Haar is not only the largest castle in the Netherlands, but also the most sumptuously furnished. Thanks to the fortuitous way the Barons van Zuylen had of marrying Rothschilds, their family home grew into a Neo-Gothic extravaganza replete with moat, fairy-tale spires, and machicolated towers. The castle was founded back in 1165, but several renovations and many millions later, the family expanded the house under the eye of P.J.H. Cuypers, designer of Amsterdam's Centraal Station and Rijksmuseum, in 1892. Inside the castle are acres of tapestries, medieval iron chandeliers, and the requisite ancestral portraits snootily studying you as you wander through chivalric halls so opulent and vast they could be opera sets. You can view its grand interiors only via one of the guided tours (no kids under age 5), which leave on the hour and are led only in Dutch. No matter, the objects of beauty on display can be understood in any language. Once you explore this enchanted domain, you'll easily understand why Marie-Hélène van Zuylen, who grew up here, went on to become Baroness Guy de Rothschild, the late 20th century's "Queen of Paris," famous for her grand houses and costume balls. Directions for car travelers are given on the castle website. For public transport, take Bus No. 127 leaving hourly from Vleuten Station, direction Breukelen/Kockengen, until the Brink stop in Haarzuilens, a 15-minute walk from the castle.

    Kasteellaan 1, Haarzuilen, Utrecht, 3455 RR, Netherlands
    030-677–8515

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €18, €7 grounds only; €6 parking
  • 3. Museum Het Prinsenhof

    A former dignitary-hosting convent of St. Agatha, the Prinsenhof Museum is celebrated as the residence of Prince William the Silent, beloved as Vader des Vaderlands...

    A former dignitary-hosting convent of St. Agatha, the Prinsenhof Museum is celebrated as the residence of Prince William the Silent, beloved as Vader des Vaderlands (Father of the Nation) for his role in the Spanish Revolt and a hero whose tragic end here gave this structure the sobriquet "cradle of Dutch liberty." The complex of buildings was taken over by the government of the new Dutch Republic in 1572 and given to William of Orange for his use as a residence. On July 10, 1584, fevered by monies offered by Philip II of Spain, Bathasar Gerard, a Catholic fanatic, gained admittance to the mansion and succeeded in shooting the prince on the staircase hall, since known as Moordhal (Murder Hall). The fatal bullet holes—the teykenen der koogelen—are still visible in the stairwell. Today, the imposing structure is a museum, with a 15th-century chapel, a quaint courtyard, and a bevy of elegantly furnished 17th-century rooms filled with antique pottery, silver, tapestries, and House of Orange portraits, along with exhibits on Dutch history.

    Sint Agathaplein 1, Delft, South Holland, 2611 HR, Netherlands
    015-260–2358

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €12.50, Closed Mon. Sept.–Feb., Tues.–Sun. 11–5
  • 4. Spoorwegmuseum

    Beyond the converted 19th-century station that serves as the entrance to this excellent museum is a vast exhibition space in the style of a rail...

    Beyond the converted 19th-century station that serves as the entrance to this excellent museum is a vast exhibition space in the style of a rail yard. In addition to dozens of locomotives, several themed zones take you on a tour of rail history. In the Great Discovery, dealing with the birth of the railways, you follow an audio tour (available in English) through an early-19th-century English coal mine. Dream Journey stages a theater production based on the Orient Express. In Steel Monsters, you sit in carriages and ride the rails, while all around you the bright lights, sounds, and billowing steam evoke the Golden Age of train travel. Outside, kids can ride the Jumbo Express on an adventure trip past lakes and through tunnels and water jets. The museum is an easy walk from the city center; alternatively, trains run between here and Utrecht Centraal Station eight times daily (€2.40 one-way).

    Utrecht, Utrecht, 3581 XW, Netherlands
    030-230–6206

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €17.50, Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. 10–5; daily during school vacations
  • 5. Vermeer Centrum

    Housed in the former St. Lucas Guild, where Delft's favorite son was dean for many years, the center takes visitors on a multimedia journey through...

    Housed in the former St. Lucas Guild, where Delft's favorite son was dean for many years, the center takes visitors on a multimedia journey through the life and work of Johannes Vermeer. Touch screens, projections, and other interactive features are interspersed with giant reproductions of the master's work, weaving a tale of 17th-century Delft and drawing you into the mind of the painter.

    Voldersgracht 21, Delft, South Holland, 2611 EE, Netherlands
    015-213–8588

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, Daily 10–5
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  • 6. Amsterdamse Poort

    Built around 1400, this is Haarlem's only remaining city gate; remains of the city wall can be seen at its base. It's slightly to the...

    Built around 1400, this is Haarlem's only remaining city gate; remains of the city wall can be seen at its base. It's slightly to the east of the current center, just to the east of the Spaarne River.

    Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 7. Bagijnhof

    The city sided with the (Protestant) Dutch rebels during the Eighty Years' War, and when the (Catholic) Spanish were driven out in 1572, the city...

    The city sided with the (Protestant) Dutch rebels during the Eighty Years' War, and when the (Catholic) Spanish were driven out in 1572, the city reverted to Protestantism, leaving many Catholic communities in dire straits. One group of women was permitted to stay and practice their religion, but according to a new law, their place of worship had to be very modest: a drab exterior in the Bagijnhof, a weather-beaten 13th-century Gothic gate on the Oude Delft just north of the Lambert van Meerten Museum, hides their sumptuously Baroque church.

    Bagijnhof, Delft, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 8. Broek-in-Waterland

    No 18th-century visitor on the Dutch leg of a Grand Tour would miss this picturesque, wealthy Waterland village, where even the local grocer is called...

    No 18th-century visitor on the Dutch leg of a Grand Tour would miss this picturesque, wealthy Waterland village, where even the local grocer is called Posch. The village is full of pretty 17th- and 18th-century wooden houses built for merchants and farmers (83 of the houses have national historic status). Back in the day, the residents here amassed legendary fortunes. The 16th-century church is the burial place for Dutch East India Company businesswoman Neeltje Pater, who left the enormous sum of 7 million guilders when she died in 1789. Today's inhabitants include media moguls and finance types. (Check out the superchic houseboats, with matching speedboats, on the dike leading into the village.) It's a charming step-back-in-time stroll around the village, where you can admire De Kralentuinen, the fine houses with hedges clipped into baroque patterns and elaborate garden mosaics studded with antique blue glass beads. Hundreds of years ago, Dutch sea merchants used these beads to trade with primitive cultures for spices and other goods; the beads that were left over and brought back to Holland were used to decorate such gardens. There's an old-fashioned pancake house and a slightly funkier café for a spot of lunch, or bring a picnic, if you prefer. It's a lovely area to explore by boat, canoe, or kayak, and you can rent all of them here. Potter round the Havenrak, the large lake that is popular with ice-skaters in the winter, or go for a more extensive Waterland tour.

    Broek in Waterland, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 9. Centraal Museum

    This vast and eclectic collection ranges from a 10th-century boat to a Viktor and Rolf A-Bomb coat, and from Golden Age paintings to minimalist home...

    This vast and eclectic collection ranges from a 10th-century boat to a Viktor and Rolf A-Bomb coat, and from Golden Age paintings to minimalist home furnishings. What you see largely depends on the theme of the current temporary exhibitions, but there are also permanent displays. Don't miss the Utrecht Boat, the complete 1,000-year-old wooden hull of a ship, excavated from a nearby riverbed in 1930, which has survived remarkably intact. The museum also has a collection of Golden Age work by artists from the Utrecht school. Across the square, modern-art lovers should make a beeline for the Gerrit Rietveld Wing, focusing on the most famous of De Stijl architects and designers; there is a reconstruction of his studio and lots of original Rietveld furniture.

    Agnietenstraat 1, Utrecht, Utrecht, 3512 XA, Netherlands

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €18.50, Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. 11–5
  • 10. Corrie ten Boomhuis

    Just off the Grote Markt, and tucked into a small gabled building above a shop, this house honors a family of World War II resistance...

    Just off the Grote Markt, and tucked into a small gabled building above a shop, this house honors a family of World War II resistance fighters who successfully hid a number of Jewish families before being captured by the Germans in 1944. Most of the ten Boom family died in the concentration camps, but Corrie survived and returned to Haarlem to tell the story in her book, The Hiding Place. The family clock shop is preserved on the street floor, and their living quarters now contain displays, documents, photographs, and memorabilia. Visitors can also see the hiding closet, which the Gestapo never found, even though they lived six days in the house hoping to starve out anyone who might be concealed here. The upstairs living quarters are not accessible through the shop, but via the side door of No. 19, down a narrow alley beside the shop. Meeting instructions giving the time of the next guided tour are posted on the door; note that the last tour begins 30 minutes before the posted closing times.

    Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem, North Holland, 2011 RA, Netherlands
    023-531–0823

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Closed Sun. and Mon., Apr.–Oct., Tues.–Sat. 10–4; Nov.–Mar., Tues.–Sat. 11–3:30
  • 11. De Adriaan Museummolen

    This impressive wooden smock windmill was first constructed in 1788 on the foundations of a former defensive tower just east of the city center. The...

    This impressive wooden smock windmill was first constructed in 1788 on the foundations of a former defensive tower just east of the city center. The original structure burned to the ground in 1932, but was replaced some 70 years later by this faithful replica. Visits of the interior mill workings are by 45-minute guided tour only, and include an exhibition on windmill technology, plus great views of the city from the fourth-floor balcony.

    Papentorenvest 1a, Haarlem, North Holland, 2011 AV, Netherlands
    023-545–0259

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5.50, Closed Tues.–Thurs. Nov.–Feb., Mar.–Oct., weekdays 1–5, weekends 10:30–5; Nov.–Feb., Mon. and Fri. 1–4:30, weekends 10:30–4:30
  • 12. De Hallen

    A branch of the Frans Hals Museum, De Hallen has an extensive collection of Dutch Impressionists and Expressionists, including sculpture, textiles, and ceramics, as well...

    A branch of the Frans Hals Museum, De Hallen has an extensive collection of Dutch Impressionists and Expressionists, including sculpture, textiles, and ceramics, as well as paintings and graphics. The complex consists of two buildings—the Vleeshal and the Verweyhal House. The Vleeshal (Meat Market) building is one of the most interesting cultural legacies of the Dutch Renaissance, with a fine sweep of stepped gables that seems to pierce the scudding clouds. It was built in 1602–03 by Lieven de Key, Haarlem's master builder. The ox heads that look down from the facade are reminders of the building's original function: it was the only place in Haarlem where meat could be sold, and the building was used for that sole purpose until 1840. Today it is used for exhibitions—generally works of modern and contemporary art, usually by local artists. Note the early landscape work by Piet Mondrian, Farms in Duivendrecht, so different from his later De Stijl shapes. The Verweyhal was built in 1879 as a gentlemen's club, originally named Trou moet Blijcken (Loyalty Must Be Proven), and now bears the name of native Haarlem artist Kees Verwey, who died in 1995. It is used as an exhibition space for selections from the Frans Hals Museum's enormous collection of modern and contemporary art. In addition to the works of Kees Verwey, the exhibition covers such artists as Jacobus van Looy, Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel, Herman Kruyder, and Karel Appel. Note, too, a fine collection of contemporary ceramics.

    Grote Markt 16, Haarlem, North Holland, 2011 RD, Netherlands
    023-511-5775

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €16 (including Frans Hals Museum), Closed Mon., Tues.–Sat. 11–5, Sun. noon–5
  • 13. Delftse Molen de Roos

    Just to the west of Oude Delft is Phoenixstraat, where you'll find this working flour mill that originally stood on the town ramparts. Parts of...

    Just to the west of Oude Delft is Phoenixstraat, where you'll find this working flour mill that originally stood on the town ramparts. Parts of the mill date back to 1679. The platform encircling the mill about halfway up was restored in 1990, and the whole building underwent a second, crowd-funded restoration in 2014. Unused for many years, grain is once again milled here and available for purchase in the Ambacht shop on the ground floor. When the miller is working, you can usually climb up the vertiginous stairs to get a view from the platform as the sails swoosh by.

    Phoenixstraat 112, Delft, South Holland, 2611 AK, Netherlands

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Sun.–Tues., Thurs.–Sat. 10–noon, and occasionally Sun. 10–noon (when miller is present)
  • 14. Domkerk

    Holding its own against the imposing Domtoren across the square, this grand Gothic cathedral was built during the 13th and 14th centuries and designed in...

    Holding its own against the imposing Domtoren across the square, this grand Gothic cathedral was built during the 13th and 14th centuries and designed in the style of Tournai Cathedral in Belgium. It has five chapels radiating around the ambulatory of the chancel, as well as a number of funerary monuments, including that of a 14th-century bishop. The entire space between the tower and the Domkerk was originally occupied by the nave of the huge cathedral, which was destroyed in a freak tornado in 1674 and not rebuilt. Many other buildings were damaged, and the exhibition inside Domkerk shows interesting before-and-after sketches. Today only the chancel and tower remain, separated by an open space, now a sunny square edged by a road. Behind the chancel is the Pandhof, a 15th-century cloister with a formal herb garden with medicinal herbs, replanted in the 1960s.

    Achter de Dom 1, Utrecht, Utrecht, 3512 JN, Netherlands
    030-231–0403

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free (donations accepted), May–Sept., weekdays 10–5, Sat. 10–3:30, Sun. 12:30–4; Oct.–Apr., weekdays 11–4, Sat. 10–3:30, Sun. 12:30–4
  • 15. Domtoren

    Soaring lancet windows add to the impression of majestic height of the famous 14th-century tower of "the cathedral that is missing." The sole remnant of...

    Soaring lancet windows add to the impression of majestic height of the famous 14th-century tower of "the cathedral that is missing." The sole remnant of an enormous house of worship that was destroyed by a storm late in the 17th century (the outline of its nave can still be seen in the paving squares of the Domplein), the tower is more than 367 feet high. Not only is it the highest tower in the country, but its more than 50 bells make it the largest musical instrument in Holland. The tower is so big that city buses drive through an arch in its base. You can climb the tower by joining a tour, but make sure you feel up to the 465 steps. The panoramic view is worth it, though, stretching the 40 km (25 miles) to Amsterdam on a clear day. Buy tickets in the RonDom office across the street, or online.

    Utrecht, Utrecht, 3512 JN, Netherlands
    030-236–0010

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, By tour only: Tues.–Sat. 11–5, Sun. and Mon. noon–5; last tour at 4
  • 16. Gasthuis-huisjes

    Don't miss this series of houses with their identical step gables at the southern end of Groot Heiligland, across the street from the entrance to...

    Don't miss this series of houses with their identical step gables at the southern end of Groot Heiligland, across the street from the entrance to the Frans Hals Museum. They originally formed part of the St. Elizabeth hospital and were built in 1610.

    Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 17. Gemeenlandshuis

    The pretty, tree-lined Oude Delft canal has numerous historic gabled houses along its banks and takes the honors for being the first canal in the...

    The pretty, tree-lined Oude Delft canal has numerous historic gabled houses along its banks and takes the honors for being the first canal in the city, and possibly the first city canal anywhere in the Netherlands. One of the finest buildings along its length, the "Common Land house" is a spectacular example of 16th-century Gothic architecture and is adorned with brightly painted shields and a coat of arms. A few yards east of here, across the canal on the corner of Hippolytusbuurt and Cameretten, is a row of visbanken (fish stalls), built along the canal in 1650. Fish has been sold over the counter here pretty much ever since.

    Oude Delft 167, Delft, South Holland, 2611 HB, Netherlands
  • 18. Grote Kerk

    Late Gothic Sint Bavo's, more commonly called the Great Church, dominates the main market square. It was built in the 14th century, but severe fire...

    Late Gothic Sint Bavo's, more commonly called the Great Church, dominates the main market square. It was built in the 14th century, but severe fire damage in 1370 led to a further 150 years of rebuilding and expansion. This is the burial place of Frans Hals: a lamp marks his tombstone behind the brass choir screen. Laurens Coster is buried here, too. It is rumored that he was the first European to use movable type in 1423 (sorry, Gutenberg), which he discovered while carving letters for his children; he was inspired when one of the bark letters fell into the sand and made an imprint. The church is the home of the Müller organ, on which both Handel and Mozart played. Installed in 1738, and for centuries considered the finest in the world, it has been meticulously restored to protect the sound planned by its creator, Christian Müller. Between May and October organists perform free concerts every Tuesday at 8:15 pm, and occasionally on Thursday at 4 pm—Bach fugues have never sounded so magisterial.

    Haarlem, North Holland, 2011 HL, Netherlands
    023-533–2040

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2.50, Closed Sun. Sept.–June, Sep.–June, Mon.–Sat. 10–5; July and Aug., Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. noon–5
  • 19. Grote Markt

    Around this great market square the whole of Dutch architecture can be traced in a chain of majestic buildings ranging from the 14th to the...

    Around this great market square the whole of Dutch architecture can be traced in a chain of majestic buildings ranging from the 14th to the 19th century (with a smile and a little bravado, you can enter most of them for a quick look). Yet it is the imposing mass of Sint Bavo's that catches the eye and towers over everything.

    Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 20. Markt

    Delft's main square is bracketed by two town landmarks, the Stadhuis (Town Hall) and the Nieuwe Kerk. Here, too, are cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops...

    Delft's main square is bracketed by two town landmarks, the Stadhuis (Town Hall) and the Nieuwe Kerk. Here, too, are cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops (most selling imitation Delftware) and, on Thursday, a busy general market. Number 52 is the site of Johannes Vermeer's house, where the 17th-century painter spent much of his youth. Not far away is a statue of Grotius, or Hugo de Groot, born in Delft in 1583 and one of Holland's most famous humanists and lawyers.

    Delft, South Holland, 2611 GT, Netherlands

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