Walk It! Locaux – IJ River, an Intimate walking tour through North Holland Click & Tweet! guide includes two suggestions: Monuments and museums of Historic Haarlem; History and tour of the Haarlem’s Hofjes.
Bookmark and reference them during your next trip, as both are great options to enjoy a special day in Amsterdam.
A Bit of History About The River IJ
Known as Amsterdam’s waterfront, the River IJ is named for an obsolete Dutch term; a digraph consisting of a two capitalized letters that are pronounced like a single letter pronounced ay or eye.
One theory about its origin is that it began as a stream following a break in the dunes of Castricum. Another is that the IJ is a remnant of a northern arm of the Rhine delta. Finally, the IJ may come from the lake Almere or Flevo.
The IJ is divided into two parts and connected to the North Sea to the west and the IJmeer to the east. To the west of the Oranjesluizen, the Binnen-IJ or Afgesloten-IJ, is directly connected to the North Sea Canal. To the east Oranjesluizen, the Buiten-IJ is an extension of Lake IJmeer, which is itself an extension of Lake Markermeer.
The Merchant History of The IJ
The IJ has played an important role in development of the city with its key role in Amsterdam’s merchant history.
Founded in 1275 Amestelledamme, this settlement was home to fishermen, farmers, craftsmen and traders who settled along the dike built to protect the low lands against flood waters of the tidal Zuiderzee, the body of water connecting to IJ.
With this came an influx of traffic from ships sailing between Dutch cities as well as towns along the Baltic Sea. Thus making it one of Europe’s busiest waterways connecting the North Sea and the Port of Amsterdam with the rest of the continent. The growth of Amsterdam continues today, with new and continued expansion and development of around the IJ.
Though Central Station is now the place where most tourists enter the city, prior to its construction in 1880s, it was the center of the Port of Amsterdam.
North Amsterdam is now a sought-after district with a mix of nature, villages and modern urban developments, cultural hotspots; a world-famous creative community housed in former ship wharf, an ever-growing number of unique restaurants, world-class music venues and the world-renowned EYE Film Museum.
Enjoy a long walk and sights along the North Holland Canal by starting the day crossing on one of the free passenger ferries weaving their way on the busy waterway in between other vessels, taken by tourists and locals alike across the IJ River.
Once across, you may find the influence gentrification has on a, once less desirable residential area, that’s been only been populated since the beginning of the 20th century.
Haarlem, the capital city of the province of Noord-Holland (North Amsterdam), is an exuberant city to experience the Dutch autumn.
Wander along the canals, enjoy the beauty, shop and indulge in delicious cuisine at fine restaurants. Art lover? Make time to visit the Frans Hals Museum or Teylers Museum.
Note: If you’re a new transplant living in Amsterdam, Haarlem is the perfect city for a weekend away from home.
Take a tram to Central Station and exit through the back doors of the station to catch the free pedestrian ferry from Pier 8 to Buiksloterweg.
Disembark at Buiksloterweg and drop into Restaurant Het Tolhuis for a drink before heading up Noorhollands Kanaal.
After, double back down the Noordhollandschkanaadijk and
Buikslorerweg, turning right to arrive at Mosplein, where you’ll see the only Egyptian Coptic Church in the country.
Walk back to Van Der Pekstaat, with turns into Ranonkelkade, then Buiksloterweg, to take the ferry back across the river. From the opposite bank, take any tram from the Central Station terminal.
Get Going With The Best Espresso
Up for a quick shot of espresso before taking in some sights? Stop by Al Ponte Italian Coffee kiosk right across from Central Station.
Afterwards, you can take a relaxing stroll along Noordwal Promenade, a wonderful yet overlooked spot of most Amsterdam tour guides.
Note: With a five-minute ride on the IJplein Ferry to Al Ponte Caffé Italiano, you can enjoy that great espresso and a light meal with genuine Italian hospitality, at the famous brick and mortar location for a peaceful terraxe view on the waterside. Enjoy!
Stroll Through Historic Haarlem
With minimal short stops, this entire tour takes about 90 minutes.
There are details for pit stops and visitor information of museums are included.
Remember this is for your pleasure, so stopping for lunch on a terrace is recommended and enjoyable!
On this ideal walk among the monuments of this historic city, you’ll enjoy architecture and the Spaarne River, and are invited to follow this by including a visit to any one of Amsterdam’s notable museums.
- Prepare for the day’s adventure by starting the morning with a cup of coffee on the Grote Markt, as you visually explore the seemingly infinite number of special monuments surrounding the central square.
- Begin in front of the oldest city hall in Holland, and turn left onto Koningsstraat here.
Note: You will see the statue of a baker that commemorates the former bakery here. The tourist office is at the end of the street (Verwulft 11).
- Turn onto Gierstraat and continue through the Breestraat, Lange Raamstraat and Nieuwe Kerk and Nieuwe Kerksplein to the greenest street in Haarlem: the Korte Houtstraat.
- Stroll along Grote Houtstraat, Grote Houtbrug and Houtplein square to Dreef. The Welgelegen Pavilion is located at number 3. The current Province Hall, formerly Napoleon’s country house, is located at the edge of the Haarlemmerhout city park.
Tip: If you feel inclined, consider walking around the park and have lunch at the tea house.
- Return across the bridge and turn right on Gasthuisvest. Turn into the second street to the left towards the Frans Hals Museum (Groot Heiligland 62), where you can admire the town guard paintings by Frans Hals (More about the museum below in the Arts and Culture section of this page).
- At the end of the street turn right and immediately left onto Kleine Houtstraat. Here you can stroll along, while window-shopping, before walking straight into Lange Veerstraat.
- Turn right one you reach Damstraat. Make your way to the end of the street where the beautiful Waag building rests is to your left.
Tip: Don’t get to comfy, as you stop to have a glass of wine and simple Dutch fare, while enjoying the view of the Spaarne River.
- After enjoying that treat and break, resume by turning left and follow the water towards the oldest museum in Holland: Teylers Museum (Spaarne 16; More about the museum below in the Arts and Culture section of this page).
- Turn left onto gorgeous Bakenessegracht and walk through Korte Begijnestraat to Lange Begijnestraat, pass the Toneelschuur and Philharmonie.
- Riviervismarkt takes you back to Grote Markt and the monuments Hoofdwacht, St. Bavokerk church and De Hallen.
Art and Culture Around Haarlem
Haarlem, a city well-known as a hub for art lovers, and a plethora of historic buildings in the old city center.
Visit the beautiful Teylers musem, De Hallen, or the Frans Hals museum, where you can admire the famous civic guard works of Hals himself as well as those of Jan Steen and Jacob van Ruysdael.
Masters of the Frans Hals Museum
With the rise of citizens wanting their status and wealth displayed in the 17th century, portraiture became a popular vehicle to capture and express such. Given this, Frans Hals became known as the best portrait artist in the country.
Hals is especially known for his schutterstukken – group portraits of the ruling civil guards of the time.
Being appointed to paint these group portraits was a great honor.
Though set in typical settings, these paintings articulate vivid likeness and motion. He captured a moment in time and life on each canvas.
Admire these and more of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of works by Hals other masters from the 16th and 17th centuries at the Frans Hals Museum.
The Teyler Museum: Monet, Rembrant, Corbet
A place where art, natural history and science converge in the heart of Haarlem, The Teyler Museum was founded in 1778 by Pieter Teyler; its doors to public in 1784.
It’s the first and oldest museum of Holland, remains mostly unchanged and boasts a huge collection of more than 10,000 master drawings and 25,000 prints, including those of Michelangelo and Rembrandt.
The museum, a center for contemporary art and science; weaves a diverse collection of artifacts, coins, medals, books, scientific instruments, drawings, fossils and minerals.
It was established with the primary goal of giving people an avenue to discover the world independent of and without coercion from the church or state.
Impressionists Monet, Corbet and Manet, contemporaries to and admirers of were greatly influenced by Hals in the 19th century. They visited the Hals Museum, and you too have the opportunity to behold the masterpieces as these contemporaries.
Note: Be sure to view the neoclassical Oval Room – a room designed for research and study.
Pride and Beauty of Haarlem’s Hofjes
Boasting its more than 20 idyllic hofjes (courtyards). The following are a large sample, coupled with bit of guidance to some of hidden hofjes and gardens of the city.
- Hofje van Oorschot – Start on the Grote Markt and turn onto the Barteljorisstraat on the Kruisstraat 44.
Note: Name for the donor Wouterus van Oorschot. This courtyard is closed on Saturdays.
- Remonstrantse Hofje – Walk through the Krocht and in a straight
line to Ursulastraat, where you will find at number 16.
Note: Founded in 1773 by Justus and Isabella van Leeuwarden on the site of the old Ursula cloister. This courtyard is not freely accessible by the public.
- Luthers Hofje | Frans Loenenhofje | Coomanshofje – This trifecta is found on Witte Herenstraat, the courtyard lane of Haarlem, to your right after walking onto Magdalenastraat.
Note: Luthers Hofj, originally founded by the Lutheran Church in 1615 for members of the church. | Frans Loenenhofje was donated by Frans Loenen | Coomanshof is a former hofje disbanded under Napoleon in 1798. It was rented out until 1854 when it was sold. The head of archives Adriaan Justus Enschedé, bought the property in 1871.
- Prinsenhof – At the end of the street turn left onto Zijlstraat, then right onto the third street. You are lead you behind city hall to this aged herb garden, peace temple and statue of Laurens Jansz Coster, the inventor of the printing press.
Dating from the 15th century, Prinsenhof was the property of theBrethren of Communal Life. By the end of the 16th century this hofje became the official residence of, and named for the Nassau viceroys.
Due to viceroys rarely using their Groningen residence, the Prinsentuin Gardens were created. During the 19th century it was used as a military hospital for the French troops and subsequently became a barracks for the military police. From 1945 Prinsenhof has accommodated the regional radio and television network, now called RTV Noord, until 2005. It has been transformed into a hotel, café and restaurant where the general public is welcome. 
- Huis van Schagen – Follow the path alongside Stedelijk Gymnasium, making a turn left onto Jacobijnestraat towards the on Koningstraat 20. If the door is open, enter the courtyard to look at the garden.
- Bruiningshofje – Walk to the end of the Koningstraat, onto Gierstraat to your right and to the Botermarkt. Pay attention, as it takes a bit of searching to find these four residence hidden to your right.
Note: Founded in 1610 by Jan Bruininck Gerritz and is one of four hofjes owned by the Mennonite church of Haarlem. Given he had daughter and that family members were given first rights to a place, it is
thought it may have been founded with them in mind.
- Brouwershofje – At the end of the street turn left onto Tuchthuisstraat and visit this hofje at number 8. At the end of the street turn left into the Breestraat and then right into the Gierstraat, where you will find the extraordinary Wijnkoperij
Note: Brouwershofje was founded by one of the most powerful brewer’s guild; Harlem Guild of Beer Brewers with donations received in 1472 from Jacob Huyge Roepersz and his sister Katharina. It was initially named after the patron saint of brewers St.Maartenshofje, and was intended as a charitable home for 22 poor people who worked in the brewing industry.
- Hofje van Guurtje de Waal – Walk through the Korte Gierstraat to get here on Lange Annastraat 40. Continue on to the Nieuwe Kerksplein and open the door with the red number 11.
Note: Founded in 1616 by Guerte Jansdochter de Wael, daughter of a
rich textile trader, for poor women of the Dutch Reformed faith. She died in 1632. The original 6 small houses were expanded to 8 houses in 1661. It was governed by female regents and passed down from mother to daughter until 1853. After that point, it was in the hands of the city council and slowly deteriorated. It was in 1985 that it was remodeled into 4 modern homes and is technically no longer a hofje, and is managed by a Haarlem rental agency.
- Proveniershof – A small hallway takes you here. Afterwards, you can leave through the big gate onto the Grote Houtstraat. Walk towards the Spaarne River and turn right onto the greenest street in Haarlem: Korte Houtstraat.
Proveniershof was established in 1866, and was expanded in 1882 with other houses formerly belonging to the adjacent Hofje van Oud Alkemade (also called Hofje van de Twaalf Apostelen). It was located on Barrevoetsteeeg, which was broadened to Barrevoetstraat. Some houses were demolished, with the remaining land and houses of the Oud Alkemade Hofje added to the grounds of the Proveniershof. The houses are larger than the average hofje house because they were not built for charity, but as rental properties for the general public; including many artists such as the famous Haarlem composer and pianist JanWillem Lagerwaard.
*** The next part is bit of tricky twisting and turning through the city.
Turn right onto Lange Annastraat, then left onto Doelstraat and immediately right onto Lange Raamstraat towards the ‘de vijfhoek’
- Hofje van Loo – Walk through the Drapenierstraat, turn right into the Vlamingstraat and continue straight ahead where you’ll find it.
Note: Founded in 1489 on the Grebbesteeg by Mayor Symon Pieterszoon van Loo and his wife Godelt Willemsdochter, as a family burial plot.
They funded 13 rooms with gardens to be administered by the gasthuismeesters of the St. Elisabeth Gasthuis.
*** These last three hofjes require you to turn back crosing Botermarkt, Gedempte Oude Gracht, Schagchelstraat and onto Warmoesstraat.
- Hofje In den Groenen Tuyn can be found at number 23. This courtyard is open from 10am – 12pm. Ring the bell for access.
Founded 1616 for the legacy of Catarina Jansdochter Amen, widow of Jacob Claesz van Schoorl. It was originally intended for single Roman Catholic ladies, aged 50 and over, who were able to provide for themselves. After death, their possessions became the property of hofje. These rules no longer apply. In 1885, the courtyard was rebuilt, and the number of houses was then reduced from 20 to 18. The courtyard is open to the public on weekdays from 10 am to 12 noon. The courtyard is closed on weekends.
- Hofje van Bakenes – Turn the corner and cross Oude Groenmarkt and Damstraat and turn left onto Nieuwe Appelaarsteeg, then right into the Wijde Appelaarsteeg..
The oldest hofje in the Netherlands, founded in 1395 to honor the legacy of Dirck van Bakenes. Originally designed with 13 houses for 20 women.
- Johannes Enschedéhof – Walk along the garden of this more contemporary hofje in Haarlem. After your visit, you can leave the
courtyard through a big grey door. Walk through a big grey door and through the Lange Begijnstraat, across the Riviervismarkt back to your starting point: The Grote Markt.
Designed and built in 2007 by Joost Swarte and Henk Döll. It was named
after Johannes Enschedé III. It is managed by the same manager of the
Hofje van Bakenes; which can be reached through the rear entrance. The hofje has ten apartments, eight of which are dedicated to single women over 65, and two are for elderly couples. The hofje garden is open to visitors from 10am – 5pm.
History of the Hofjes
In conversation, hofjes are generally referred to by the name given to the buildings themselves. Names and locations may have been changed over time, given they may have moved premises several times since the original foundation date.
As a result of hofjes in Haarlem resulting from generous bequests by wealthy men or women, they are primarily named for them rather than religious or municipal group effort.
There were far more homeless older women than men on the streets, and thus most hofjes were meant for elderly women.
After the iconoclasm of the Reformation of Haarlem in 1566, Catholics and their hofjes were forced underground. As a result, many were destitute. In 1609, the Oudemannenhuis opened and the poor men of Catholic faith who were accepted.
More from Locaux!
Discover & bookmark other walking tours in the Walk It! Locaux – Amsterdam Series and others here:
Remember to tune into Locaux!, The Podcast. We’re celebrating the stories of phenomenally unconventional single women have followed a strong pull to upsticks from their country of origin, unearth a patch of land and plants seeds where their soul feels most at home.
They are well-traveled women who have found clever ways to move countries and you can too!
So, join us, as we travel through the their minds of those who have dared greatly, giving into their obsessions and actually live, abroad.
If you have a story, let us know!
We look forward to sharing the stories of fab women like you. So yah, get in touch here to have your story, or that of another awesome woman featured on the show.
And while you’re there, subscribe to get the latest podcast.
Discover hidden city gems perusing our insider guides. The women in our Locaux + Collectifs share local’s perspective on who, what and where when visiting cities around the world!
Guest Contributors are Welcomed
If you have intimate knowledge of a city, becomes a contributor!
Are you or someone you know a phenomenally unconventional woman that is now an expat? If so, submit to Locaux! The Podcast.
Get Locaux! Share your story here.
Locaux in your inbox.