Haarlem, our "Little Amsterdam" (Photo: Nick Ferrara)

Haarlem, our “Little Amsterdam”

When I was getting ready to move to the Netherlands four years ago I was told living in Amsterdam would not really be feasible because of where my job was.  I was heart broken but soon learned that Haarlem is actually a little Amsterdam!  It has everything just on a smaller scale.

Due to the fact that I needed to have a car for work because of its location I was told that Amsterdam would be out of the question for me unless I was really rich or really really lucky (I now know that this is not 100% true).  Instead I decided to look at rental apartments in Haarlem sice a few of my co-workers suggested it to me.  I immediately saw that this was a city and not just some little town.  Just walking around Haarlem it’s easy to see that there is always activity no matter what time of the day or night, there are always others around.  Whether you want to go shopping, have a few drinks, see a film, or go to a museum, Haarlem has it all.

All the benefits without tourists everywhere

The nice thing about Haarlem is that you do not have tourists everywhere.  They are not getting in your way everywhere you turn, not stepping into the bike lane right in front of your bike, and not walking down the street puffing on a joint.  The other nice thing about this is that restaurants in prime locations here tend to be better than those in Amsterdam.  Since there is not a constant flow of tourists, places actually have to do a good job to keep customers coming back.  I even notice differences in chain restaurants such as Sumo.  The Haarlem location has much better quality food than its sister location in Amsterdam.

Getting out is easy

Okay let’s face it, even though Haarlem is a “little Amsterdam” sometimes you want to experience the real thing.  No problem, with 8 trains per hour to Amsterdam and night bus between the two cities, it’s always in reach.  Haarlemers also have the benefit of being much closer to the beach than Amsterdamers so when the weather is nice and everyone is jammed packed into the train or fighting their way through traffic, we have a 25 minute leisurely bike ride to the beach.

In the end, I was happy that I picked Haarlem.  I got to meet a lot of really great people and am able to feel like I am part of the community here.  It’s really nice to be walking down the street and see familiar faces greeting you with a smile.  That’s my story now what about yours?  Why did you choose Haarlem and what about it do you like?  Leave your answers in the comments.