Haarlem was originally Haarlo-heim—“village on higher ground,” a designation that described the earliest settlements here, along Holland’s coastal dunes and not far west of the modern-day capital of Amsterdam. The city exited the Middle Ages with a growing economy thanks to the work of Flemish exiles in the 1500’s, and, despite a brief war with the Spanish monarchy under Philip II—just a decade before the launch of the Spanish Armada into England—Haarlem began enjoying growing cultural autonomy and diversity.
Textile factories, print shops, and breweries all flourished in the next few hundred years, as they did
elsewhere in the Netherlands
at the time, and would continue to do so until the 19th-century, when different technologies would take hold and ultimately dominate the city’s economy. By 1850, steam and rail inroads were linking this North Holland capital with that of greater Holland, and the close of the century saw booms in infrastructure, political organization, transportation, residential growth, and population.
Check out Haarlem’s Grote Markt—the city’s main square—or just wander its streets, stopping to study the architecture of the old houses, churches, cafés, and shops that pervade this location and you will certainly take in the intertwining of past and present that characterizes the atmosphere here.