Visit Haarlem, an unspoiled city twenty minutes away by train ($9.50 round-trip) and imagine you’re stepping into a painting of a Dutch town circa 1850. Start your day with a look at the work of Haarlem’s most celebrated Golden Age painter: Frans Hals. The impressive collection at the Frans Hals Museum ($9.80) contains the somber portraits that he painted well into his eighties, as well as works by other Dutch masters. Pause in the idyllic seventeenth-century garden before you head to the Grote Markt, the city’s main square, for lunch at the historic Grand Café Brinkmann. Choose from light fare like melted goat’s cheese on dark bread with honey and arugula ($10.30) or heartier plates, like steak with pepper sauce ($22.60). Across the square you’ll find the small, boundary-pushing modern art museum De Hallen Haarlem ($3.50 to $6.85). The current exhibition by Nathaniel Mellors involves a pair of head casts arguing in British accents, with creepily roving eyes. The quirkiness continues at the Teyler's Museum ($12.30), the oldest museum in the Netherlands. Opened in 1784, its collection of fossils and machines conjures images of mad scientists and Indiana Jones. Afterward, swing by the orange and white awning of tiny local favorite De Haerlemsche Vlaamse (Spekstraat 3; 023-5325991) for a cone of crispy frites ($2.50) and your choice of more than a dozen different sauces (try the rosemary-garlic mayo). After that, head to In Den Uiver, an eccentric pub with green wood paneling and leather wallpaper that carries the tasty Haarlem-brewed Jopen four-grain Bokbier on tap ($5). For dinner, head over to the elegant bistro Jacobus Pieck and ask for one of three tables in the handsome glass conservatory room. Trains back to Amsterdam leave often throughout the night, so there’s no need to rush.
5. Oddball Day
Published on Dec 2, 2010 as a web exclusive.