When facing Haarlem City Hall façade, you will find the Tourist Information Centre (VVV) on the right side of the building under the Lady of Justice and a Visitor Centre known as “Anno Haarlem” on the far left corner of the building. These are the two places you must visit if you have never been to Haarlem.
At the Tourist Information Centre (VVV), you can obtain a free city map, purchase leaflets for several walking tour routes, buy Haarlem city merchandise, inquire about services, museums or local attractions, etc. It is centrally located on Grote Markt square, so you cannot miss it. However, Anno Haarlem is housed within the building’s cellars and it is rather hidden and unknown. Allow me to enlighten you more about Anno Haarlem.
The Anno Haarlem section is part of what was originally a count’s hunting mansion built in 1250. For a start, every visitor will be treated to a cup of delicious Haarlem (tap) water. I was told it won an award for the most delicious drinking water in the Netherlands. I did a quick fact-check and indeed Haarlem was the winner of the 2014 KRNWTR award for the tastiest tap water in the Netherlands!
Then, you may proceed to watch the short 6-minute historic animation entitled ‘A Spin Around Haarlem’ (Dutch: Haarlem in Vogelvlucht). It is a (very!) fast paced video about Haarlem starting from 3600 BC till present days. The film features the 16th-century fire that raged the city, the construction of the St. Bavo church, the first Dutch railway line between Amsterdam and Haarlem, the spectacular flight that Anthony Fokker made in 1911 with his self-built airplane De Spin and many other highlights. Here is the video link if you are curious: https://youtu.be/3k_0PSTd7hg
After that, you can check out the display (Dutch only) featuring numerous local historical documentation such as a cannonball from the Siege of Haarlem, stone axe from Stone Age, Droste cacao memorabilia, replica of Haarlem’s City Rights bill and audio stories. Look for the English translation sheets by the wall. Feel free to engage the local volunteering staffs should you have any questions.
I reckon Anno Haarlem is one of the best FREE things to do in Haarlem. The perfect place for all visitors to get a quick grasp on Haarlem’s history. You can easily find Anno Haarlem located left to the double fronted gallery staircases.
Address: Grote Markt 2. 2011RD Haarlem.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 11am – 4pm.