Haarlem is a lovely historical city on the river Spaarne 20 km from Amsterdam. International tourism finally seems to have discovered the town's many charms, and an increasing number of visitors find their way here each year. A quick glance at the city centre makes it obvious why. Haarlem boasts a magnificent old centre with plenty of monumental buildings. As the city was home to several first class Dutch painters, including Frans Hals, there's a lot of art to go around. And if you're into shopping, a day in Haarlem is a day well spent too, as it was best shopping city of the country several times. Other towns may lay claims to that title, but Haarlem's centre undisputably offers a colorful mix of large chain stores, specialty shops, boutiques and art galeries. A broad range of bars and restaurants makes the picture complete. In short, Haarlem is well worth a visit. For those who are wondering: yes, the famous New York City neighbourhood of Harlem is named after this once powerful Dutch city.
Haarlem is the centre of a flower-growing district and a major export point for flower bulbs. However, with some 750,000 people visiting the city each year, tourism makes up an increasingly important part of the town's economy. With about 157,000 inhabitants, Haarlem is the 13th largest city in the Netherlands but when it comes to tourism, it's the 4th most visited city. As for most popular places, this may mean the incidental line and some crowds around main attractions in high season. However, the town is fairly quiet in off season and its growing popularity does come with ample opportunities to eat and sleep.