Take time out in affluent Bloemendaal, a short bike ride from Haarlem city centre.
Aren’t weekends the absolute best!? It’s amazing all the cool stuff you can do with the luxury of free time. Like, finally going on that romantic date your overworked husband promised you or playing tour guide for a day offering your loved ones an unforgettable sightseeing extravaganza. Just awesome. But here is the thing. Haarlem, you love it, you’ve seen it, you’ve done it, and now, you’re out of ideas. This weekend, you want something a little different without actually having to travel too far.
Well, you’re in luck! Brainstorming over. Wake up the other half, grab your things and get on your bike, only a short twenty-minute cycle away from the Grote Markt, voilà! Millionaires village Bloemendaal. Yup, you read that right. This is the wealthiest place in the Netherlands, and it shows! If you’re patching your own tyres, I would recommend watching where you’re cycling, for this is a really high-risk horse poop zone.
The first thing you might notice when coming from Haarlem and cruising along the Bloemendaalseweg is the beautiful Bloemendaal Town Hall. The first time I saw it, I thought maybe it was a royal second residence for it is the fanciest Town Hall I have ever seen! Basically, it looks like the White House, only with way more trees around it and no orange-haired Twitter-maniac living within it. The dream.
From there you’ll quickly reach the village centre. By the way, if you don’t cycle, don’t worry, Bloemendaal has its own train station, just one stop from Haarlem Centraal. Don’t try to travel by bus though, there are barely any: Bloemendalers don’t do buses, that’s for peasants. But jokes aside! Once you are in the village, you can do some shopping in the main street, where you’ll find a nice cheese shop, a couple of art galleries, florists, home design concept stores, golf equipment or clothing for the not-so-regular Joe. They also have the usual Dutch city starter pack, namely the superstar combo Albert Heijn, Hema and Kruidvat. Be aware that you might bump into some celebrities while going about your business in Bloemendaal. I once spotted the man, the legend, the great Hans Klok, and his vintage pink car. And if you don’t know who that is, I am afraid you still have a lot to learn about Dutch culture, my friend.
Anyway. Another activity to fill up your morning in Bloemendaal, way more exciting than shopping, is to go for a nosey wander around the residential streets on the edges of the village, and choose which one of the giant mansions you want as your dream home. I know of one with TOWERS and ten bedrooms, which is for sale for ‘only’ 1.7 million euros in case you’re currently house hunting… A lot of the properties have passed the 100-year-old mark and are so gorgeous it will make you question your entire life goals and ambitions. How is that for a fun Saturday?
All that emotion is going to make you hungry. For lunch, head out to the Café’t Hemeltje, a cosy and convivial bistro serving delicious Dutch and European food, with a history going back almost 400 years! A true institution locally, and Bloemendalers’ pride. As an added bonus, it’s got Bloemendaal chic without the high prices, so, knock yourself out!
After a nice juicy steak (or maybe you ordered frikandelletjes?), it’s time to be digesting in style while learning new things! Follow the Brederodelaan, pass by the busy hockey fields – you might even get the chance to observe oddly dressed middle-aged men playing cricket, it’s so very peculiar yet somehow very fitting to the village – and get to the Ruïne van Brederode, also know as Brederode Castle. Built in the second half of the 13th century, the castle was the main residence of the noble Lords of Brederode. Besieged, demolished, rebuilt, destroyed by fire, this castle has seen the faces of most of the country’s foes over the past few centuries. In ruins today, it remains nonetheless a truly beautiful site, opened to visitors for exploration or for cultural events such as medieval concerts.
If you did manage to get your kids off their iPads to join you on this day out, first of all, bravo, and second of all, yes, there are a few kid-friendly activities to do in Bloemendaal! If I am honest, it might prove difficult to find a playground, as most Bloemendalers have their very own private playground in their gardens… and sometimes they have a tennis court too. Old money lives around these parts, very old money! However, on a sunny day, your kids might love the Oosterplas, a nice little beachy lake hidden in the Bloemendaal dunes, only a 5-minute walk from the Bleek en Berg car park. On a less sunny day, the animal enclosure on the Brederodelaan will certainly make a lasting impression: it has very hairy goats and overwhelmingly cute deer for your little ones to pet (for free!).
GET A SWEAT ON
Let’s say you’re having an adults-only kind of day though; maybe you’ll want to go put your feet up for a bit and relax in the fancy Sauna Ridderrode, one of the highest-rated saunas and spas in the Haarlem area. Let me warn you, this is in every aspect a Dutch sauna. Read: expensive-ish, mixed, and fully naked. I have to admit I was a little taken aback when I found out that my Dutch, sauna-regular, boyfriend, was walking around in his birthday suit to go sweat it for the enjoyment of pretty much all of Bloemendaal’s population. I didn’t experience jealousy per se, just actual cultural shock. But apparently even FORBIDDING people to wear swimsuits in saunas is very, very normal in the Netherlands. Fair enough. Anyway, if you’re comfortable with giving your naughty bits a breather in public, you’re definitely in for a treat.
Okay, it’s now dinner time! Put your clothes back on and let’s go, you must be starving! On top of ‘Het Kopje’ van Bloemendaal (literally ‘the small cup’ or ‘the little summit’ in Dutch, but in reality it’s only a 40 meters climb or so, we are in one of the flattest countries in the world after all) you’ll find the restaurant Peper’s Pannekoekenhuis. Kill two birds with one stone and try traditional Dutch pancake recipes while admiring the awesome sunset views of Haarlem and the Kennemerland dunes from the restaurant’s tower. Should you prefer to head back to the village centre, I suggest you try Vooges in Hotel Bloemendaal, a classy restaurant with tasty, seasonal, vegetarian-friendly food and a rather creative chef (nice wine list, too).
Finally, with your belly full of good things and your head full of great memories, you can go home and enjoy a well-deserved good nights sleep.
See you next time for more unique days out ideas!