Haarlem’s narrow cobblestone streets, rippling canals, and fields of tulips make for a great escape from the urban frenzy of Amsterdam. Most visitors come to Haarlem (pop. 150,000) for its Renaissance facades, medieval architecture, and incredible museums, but the city possesses more than just this antiquated charm. Haarlem also bustles with a relaxed energy that befits its urban size. Coffeeshops, bars, and the most restaurants per capita of any Dutch city ensure that there is fun to be had even after the sun goes down.

TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Reach Haarlem from Amsterdam by train from Centraal Station (20min.; ‚3.10, same-day round-trip ‚5.50) or by bus #80 from Marnixstr. (2 per hr. 2 strips). The VW tourist office, Stationspl. 1, just to your right when you walk out of the train station, finds private rooms (from ‚18.50) for a ‚5 fee. ((090) 06 16 16 00; www.vwzk.nl. Open in summer M-F 9am-5:30pm, Sa 10am-3:30pm; off-season Sa 10am-2pm.)

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. Walk to the Grote Markt and take a right to reach Joops Innercity Apartments O, Oude Groenmarkt 20, a centrally located hotel with elegant rooms, f 532 2008. Reception M-Sa 7am-llpm, Su 8am-10pm. Singles ‚28-75; doubles ‚55-100; triples ‚95; quads ‚120.) Hotel Carillon , Grote Markt 27, is ideally located right on the town square, to the left of the Grote Kerk. Despite their small size, most rooms include a shower, phone, and TV, and all are extremely clean. (531 0591; www.hotelcarillon.com. Breakfast included. Reception 7:30am-lam. Singles ‚30, with bath ‚55; doubles ‚5571; triples ‚92.) Take bus #2 (dir.: Haarlem-Noord; every lOmin. until 6pm, every 15min. 6pm-12:30am) to stay at Stayokay Haarlem O, Jan Gijzenpad 3. Stayokay is packed with amenities and is home to a laid-back crowd. ( 537 3793; www.stay-okay.comhaarlem. Breakfast included. Dorms ‚22-25, off-season ‚19-22.) To camp at De Liede , Lie Over 68, take bus #2 (dir.: Zuiderpolder) and walk lOmin. (535 8666. Single with tent ‚6, each additional person ‚2.90. Cash only.) For cheap meals, try cafes in the Grote Markt or Botermarkt; many offer outdoor patios. ISGrand Cafe Doria , Grote Houtstr. la, right in the Grote Markt, specializes in great Italian fare on an outdoor patio. (531 3335. Entrees ‚6-20. Open Su-Th 9am-midnight, Sa-F 9am-2am. EiLambermon’s , Spaame 96, offers Haarlem’s best haute cuisine. The menu changes nightly, but always mixes fish, meat, and vegetarian options. (542 7804. Entrees ‚8. Due to small portions, entrees are usually ordered in groups of 4. Open daily 6:30-10:30pm. Reservations necessary.)

SIGHTS AND MUSEUMS. The action centers on the Grote Markt, Haarlem’s vibrant main square. To get there from the train station, head south along Kruisweg, which becomes Kruisstr. and then Barteljorisstr. The KGrote Kerk, at the opposite end of the Grote Markt, houses a mammoth Muller organ once played by Handel and Mozart. In the nearby Dog Whipper’s Chapel, check out artist Frans Hals’ tomb, marked only by a lantern. (Open M-Sa 10am-4pm. ‚1.50. Guided tours ‚2.) Having met the man, now see his work. From the front of the church, take a right on to Warmoestr. and walk three blocks to the liFrans Hals Museum, Groot Heiligland 62, which houses a collection of Golden Age paintings in a 17th-century almshouse and orphanage. (Open Su noon-5pm, Tu-Sa llam-5pm. ‚5.40. Under-19 free.) A 2min. walk toward the train station from the Grote Markt is the moving ESCorrie Ten Boomhuis, Barteljorisstr. 19, which served as the headquarters for Cor-rie Ten Boom’s movement to protect Jews during WWII. The savior of an estimated 800 lives, Corrie was caught and sent to a concentration camp but survived to write The Hiding Place, which was later made into a film. The Teyler’s Museum, Spaame 16, is The Netherlands’s oldest museum, and contains an eclectic assortment of scientific instruments, fossils, paintings, and drawings, including works by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rembrandt; from the church, turn left onto Damstr. and follow it until Spaame. (Open Su noon-5pm, Tu-Sa 10am-5pm. ‚5.50.) The De Hallen Museum, Grote Markt 16, displays exhibits of modem art housed in a former abattoir. ( 511 5775. Open Su noon-5pm, Tu-Sa llam-5pm. ‚4. Under-19 free.)

DAYTRIPS FROM HAARLEM: ZANDVOORT AND BLOEMENDAAL. A mere seven miles from Haarlem, the seaside town of Zandvoort draws sun-starved Nederlanders to its miles of sandy beaches. To find the shore from the train station, follow the signs to the Raadhuis, then head west along Kerkstr. For a different feel, walk 30min. to hip Bloemendaal, which has been transformed from a quiet, family-oriented oceanside town to one of the best beach parties in Holland. The hippie-style club CiWoodstock 69 hosts Beach Bop the last Sunday of every month (www.beachbop.info), although lower-profile parties go on other nights of the week. The town’s clubs, including Republic, De Zomer, and Solaris, are open only in summer, generally from April to September.

Trains arrive in Zandvoort from Haarlem (lOmin. round-trip ‚2.75). The VW tourist office, Schoolpl. 1, is just east of the town square, off Louisdavidstr. (571 7947; www.vwzk.nl. Open M-Sa 9am-5:15pm.) The Hotel Noordzee , Hogeweg 15, has cheerful rooms replete with shower and TV just 100m from the beach. ( 571 3127. Doubles ‚45-65.)

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