Haarlem is a city and municipality in the Netherlands and the capital of the province of North Holland. The city is located on the river Spaarne and in the South Kennemerland region.

Haarlem is one of the medium-sized cities in the Randstad. The municipality of Haarlem includes the city of Haarlem and the western part of the village of Spaarndam. Haarlem has 162,962 inhabitants, making it the second largest city in North Holland after Amsterdam and the twelfth municipality in the Netherlands. The metropolitan agglomeration of Haarlem (Haarlem, Heemstede, Bloemendaal and Zandvoort) has about 230,000 inhabitants, and the urban region of Haarlem (South Kennemerland and IJmond) has more than 430,000 inhabitants.

Haarlem is first mentioned in a document from the 10th century. In 1245 it received city rights from Willem II of Holland. At the end of the Middle Ages, Haarlem had become one of the most important cities in Holland. In the Early Modern Period the city developed industrially as a textile city and culturally as a painter's city.



The place name Haarlem is probably a corruption of Haarloheim or "Haralem". The obsolete heim in Dutch is related to heme, which means 'place of residence'. Haarlo or Hara is related to harula, a diminutive form of hair (sandy back). It is also possible that the name as a whole could mean 'residence situated on a high sandy ground in the forest (lo)'. However, the exact origin is not entirely clear, this is because the word had many different meanings to her at the time.

The name Haralem was first put on paper at the beginning of the 10th century by a clergyman of the St. Martin's Church in Utrecht, who had to make an inventory of all church possessions. On this list the place is called Haralem with three farms.

Its location on the river Spaarne has earned the city the nickname Spaarnestad. A resident of the city is from Haarlem, but is also referred to as a mosquito. Its origin is not known with certainty, but 'mosquito' was already used as a swear word in the 14th or 15th century. A logical explanation would be that there used to be many mosquitoes in Haarlem. As alternative explanations, the nitpicking of the Haarlemmers is mentioned, and a saga about a witch who threatened to turn the inhabitants of the city into mosquitoes if they did not listen to her.

In the Early Modern Period, Haarlem was known as the city of painters. Thanks to its location in the north of the Bulb Region, the city nowadays also has the reputation of being the Flower City.

In 1658 Peter Stuyvesant founded New Haarlem in the province of New Netherland, on the east coast of the present-day United States. In 1664 the English took over the colony and renamed the place Harlem. Harlem, which lies in the north borough of Manhattan, is now part of New York City.



Middle Ages
Haarlem is first mentioned in literary sources in the 10th century. In the source the place is mentioned under the name 'Haralem'. Archaeological research shows that 1500 years before our era there was already inhabitation in the area around the Spaarne. The place originated as a ghost settlement on a beach ridge, over which a country road ran that connected the north of Holland with the south.

The city became the seat of the Counts of Holland and in 1245 Count Willem II granted Haarlem city rights. Due to its favorable location on the Spaarne and the aforementioned connecting road, the city was able to develop rapidly. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the city's economy mainly revolved around beer brewing, shipbuilding and the cloth industry. In the 15th century, the economy declined. This was partly due to the riots in that period in Holland and West Friesland.

Early modern age
In 1572, during the Eighty Years' War, Haarlem sided with the rebels of William of Orange and against the Spanish king. At the end of that year, under the leadership of Don Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo, the siege of the city by the Spanish began. In July 1573, the city surrendered after almost starving. 700 defenders, including their commander Wigbolt Ripperda, were beheaded. Three years later, Haarlem was ravaged by a major city fire. In 1577 the Spaniards left and the city came back to William of Orange.

As a Catholic city, Haarlem was severely affected by the Reformation. The Agreement of Veere, concluded in 1577, established equal rights between Catholics and Protestants. This made Haarlem the only Dutch city where there was religious peace at that time. In June 1578, Protestants stormed the then Catholic Grote Kerk on the Grote Markt. They looted the church and killed the priest. The monasteries were also looted and partly destroyed, intended as a revolt.

In 1581 the Veere Accord was terminated. From that time on, only one religion was allowed in Haarlem: the Reformed. Catholic life went underground: in secret churches, such as the Old Catholic Church of St. Anna and Maria on the Bakenessergracht, the Catholics continued to meet in secret.

After the peace had returned, many Flemish and French saw their chance and moved to Haarlem. They gave the Haarlem linen industry a new period of flowering. The painter Frans Hals was a son of one of these Flemish immigrants.


The city experienced a period of enormous prosperity after 1577. The number of inhabitants grew from 18,000 to 40,000 within 50 years, making Haarlem one of the largest cities in Holland. The economic boom was mainly due to the textile industry, but also to the printing press and tulip trade. In 1631 the construction of a barge canal was started between Haarlem and Amsterdam and in 1657 a barge canal was dug between Haarlem and Leiden. At the end of the 17th century, the city's population had grown to 55,000.

Modern time
After 1680, things went badly with the textile industry in both Leiden and Haarlem. The population of Haarlem fell in 1815 to below 20,000.

In 1839 the first train in the Netherlands ran on the Amsterdam - Haarlem railway line. In 1842 this rail connection was extended to Leiden. The Oude Lijn, as it is called, and the other railway lines in the vicinity of Haarlem were operated by the HSM. All broad gauge lines had been converted to standard gauge by 1866. The original Haarlem station was located on the site of NedTrain's current overhaul company.

In addition to the railway connections, the city also got a tram network in both standard gauge and meter gauge. On May 28, 1878, the first horse tram line between Haarlem station and the Dreef was opened by the Haarlemsche Tramway-Maatschappij. In 1913 this line was electrified and extended. Haarlem also got long-distance steam tram lines to Leiden and Alkmaar and an electric tram line Amsterdam - Haarlem - Zandvoort. All the tramway companies involved eventually merged into the NZHTM (later NZHVM), which operated the Blue Trams. In 1957 the last tram line was discontinued and replaced by a bus service. The NZH Transport Museum keeps the memory of Haarlem's tram and bus history alive.

The diocese of Haarlem was founded in 1853 and a new cathedral was built between 1895 and 1930 on the then outskirts of the city. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that the city's economy started to recover. New industries emerged, including the Beijnes coach and railcar factory, Figee's machine factory and Joh. Enschedé. Also during this time the defenses of the city were pulled down to make way for urban expansions.

On May 1, 1927, the municipality of Schoten became part of Haarlem. Parts of other surrounding municipalities were also annexed. In the 1930s, Haarlem also suffered from the bad economy and after the Second World War the large industrial companies disappeared from the city. Haarlem became a city of services, schools and government institutions.

21st century
A number of large-scale construction projects were started in Haarlem in and after 2000, such as the Mariastichting project, the new Raakskwartier construction plan and the Spoorzone master plan.

In 2018, eight development zones were designated, within these zones large numbers of new homes will be built.