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Amsterdam, Haarlem and The Hague for Less


We saved money during our August trip to Southern Holland by staying in Haarlem. The hotels in Haarlem are less expensive than Amsterdam and it is only a short train ride away. At the same time, it is easy to get to The Hague from Haarlem as well.

The renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (August 2014). The controversial bike path through the middle of the museum has not been changed. Notice the scaffolding above the arch, suggesting that reconstruction — or at least repairs – continue.


The Carlton Square Hotel in Haarlem

We saved money during our August trip to Southern Holland by staying in Haarlem. The hotels in Haarlem are less expensive than Amsterdam and it is only a short train ride away. At the same time, it is easy to get to The Hague from Haarlem as well.

We stayed at the Carlton, a positively reviewed Haarlem hotel (Trip Advisor). Our cost was about $200 per night, relatively inexpensive for Europe. This included some breakfasts.

Our room for 4 of 5 nights was a deluxe with a side view of the Grote Kerk. It was spacious and had an up-to-date bathroom. My only complaint would be the pillows—definitely more like the ceramic variety that Chinese ladies of old used, rather than soft and squishy.

We were in the hotel’s only suite the first night of our stay (1 of 5) because of lack of availability of another room. The air conditioning didn’t work and the window was far away from the bed. Our “view” was the central courtyard— i.e. no view. Also, there is a step up and down to the bed area from the rest of the space including bathroom. This could lead to nighttime falls. We were glad to move to the lighted deluxe described in the previous paragraph. Additionally, it was 20 Euros less a night —and so much better.

The Golden Tulip Lion d’Or in Haarlem

This hotel is part of the Golden Tulip chain that I stayed in while in Maastricht, Holland a year and a half ago. Though I do not have any personal experience with the Tulip in Haarlem, I can say that my stay in their Maastricht hotel was comfortable and I was pleased.

The Golden Tulip Lion d’Or in Haarlem has the advantage of being located at the train and bus station. This means that if you are planning on lots of travel in and out of Haarlem, it is likely a good choice. The Carlton Square Hotel is about a 20-minute walk to the train station. Thereby, if leaving Haarlem most days, that is a 40- to 50-minute round trip walk to and from the station in addition to journey time on a train or bus. Staying at the Tulip would avoid this.

Day Trips

The Hague (a short train ride from Haarlem—one to 2 hours depending on the day and connecting time):

  • The Mauritshuis in The Hague Within the 6 hours we spent in The Hague, we saw 3 museums and had our dinner at the Mauritshuis during its 5-7 pm “after museum hours” dining opportunity. The Mauritshuis was opened as a museum in 1822. The Dutch classic architecture of the building dates from much earlier, 1633-1644 when it was built. Count Johan Maurits was the first owner. He was governor of the Dutch colony in Brazil for 8 years as well as a military commander.

The back of Maritshuis, The Hague, coming from Museum Bredius. The interior of Mauritshuis is opulent. It also houses some of the most important art in the world. Be forewarned, however. If you go on a weekend as we did, the lines are often long, so plan accordingly.

A portion of a painting by Willem van Haecht (1593-1637) showing early Chinese porcelain imported into Europe. The Mauritshuis in The Hague.

  • Museum Bredius This museum, near the Mauritshuis, was the home of Abraham Bredius (1855-1946). He was the director of The Mauritshuis for 20 years. Also, Bredius was a scholar and researcher who published regularly on 17th Century artists. His 1935 catalog of Rembrandt’s work is still considered an important reference today. The director traveled widely and collected paintings plus Chinese porcelain for his personal collection. Both are displayed in this charming house museum.

Museum Bredius is a house museum. All of the objects displayed belonged to Abraham Bredius, a director of the Mauritshuis in The Hauge for 20 years.

  • Prince William V’s Picture Gallery This is a little jewel in The Hague that is not much visited. Photos are not allowed but this article from the Aug. 3, 2014 issue of Apollo gives an idea of what the gallery looks like. It is a special treat because the long passageway hails back to days gone by when the prince would allow his citizens to come as visitors at certain times just as we can today.

Amsterdam (a short ride—less than one half-hour from Haarlem)

We went to Amsterdam only one day, but it would be possible to go every day if desired. The roundtrip fare was reasonable, 8 Euros apiece. The train arrives at Central Station and from there the whole City of Amsterdam is easily available including public transportation.

The Rijksmuseum, one of the most important museums in the world, has re-opened after renovation. We wanted to see it after its facelift. From the basement area with the Chinese artifacts to the 20th Century exhibition on the top floor, the museum is chock-full of rich artefacts. But, as my husband noticed, maybe not as many as before. With renovation, the building was stripped of its later additions and appears now not to have as much floor space. What there is, though, is opulent, and would likely take anyone’s breath away in her or his favorite gallery.

The light in the new lobby of the Rijksmuseum is mesmerizing.

Banquet Still Life by Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1651/52), one of the many important paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

All photos by the author.

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