Autumn with its beautiful colours and invigorating breeze makes Haarlem and the surrounding areas even more beautiful. Haarlem is a lively town with a population of over 350,000, and once a thriving North Sea trading port. Even though Haarlem is a vibrant urban hub, there are still some amazing places where you can enjoy nature and spend the day amongst trees and wildlife. On a small scale, there are 21 public courtyard parks (hofjes) in Haarlem, the oldest of which was founded in 1395. You can also enjoy the city from the beautiful river Spaarne. If you’re looking for a day out in nature however, there are some wonderful green spaces within a short distance from Haarlem where you can explore, hike, or simply watch the world go by.
The beautiful Haarlemmerhout is the oldest public park in Holland, dating back to the early 1500s. The forest is hundreds of years old, but was refurbished in the style of a classical English landscape in the 1830s. During this time, wealthy traders used to take their families for a day of rest and relaxation. Today Haarlemmerhout is open to everyone and is a wonderful place for wildlife. You can watch the herds of deer, or if you want to get really up close and personal, you can visit the park’s petting zoo, which is home to pigs, sheep and even llamas. Among Haalemmerhout’s monumental trees you will also find a beautiful music chapel and a pavilion, often used in Haarlem’s Independence Day festival in May.
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park
Only a short drive from Haarlem is the amazing Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, a conservation area that spans 3,800 acres. This is the perfect place for learning wilderness and survival skills, such as building a shelter and navigation. You can have a family campout, cook on a fire and even purify your own water. A vast part of the park is grasslands, home to many species of wildlife, including the magnificent Wisent – The European Bison. You will also find Scottish Highland Cows, Polish wild horses and fallow deer. The sand dunes and the beach at Zuid-Kennemerland is the perfect place to spot Greylag and Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swans and Red-Necked Grebes.
Right on the edge of Haarlem there is a beautiful nature preserve called Hekslootpolder. Back in 1985 there was a plan to build houses on this area, however local residents were concerned, a panel of conservationists formed, and the natural area of Hekslootpolder was preserved for plants and wildlife. Today you can visit the area, enjoy some fishing on the water, spend some time in the hides watching the migratory birds, and keep a lookout for toads and frogs. If you’re looking for an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of Haarlem, then Hekslootpolder is perfect.
A day out in nature is good for the soul and there are plenty of places to explore within a short drive of Haarlem. You can go for a walk, read a book under a tree, take a picnic to share with family, or simply spend time watching the world go by.