Although it is one of the eleven Frisian cities, Harlingen[dead link] is perhaps the least Frisian of them all, and few people speak the Frisian language as their mother tongue. It's a quaint little port town, which gained its fortune through fishing and trade. Still today, several commercial boating routes leave from here, on their way to Scandinavia or further. Some of the original fortifications have survived the test of time, as have the canals and a good number of historic warehouses and mansions.
This is pretty much as north as it gets on the Dutch mainland. Harlingen started to grow in the 12th century, when the monks of a nearby monastery dug canals to improve the trade activities in the area. Benefiting from the increased trade, Harlingen was awarded a city charter in 1234. For a few centuries however, the town remained of minor importance compared to nearby university city Franeker. As the harbour grew, however, so did Harlingen's wealth and fame. In 2021, it was home to 16,000 people.
Today, most of the shipping is related to transport of salt from the local salt factory.
This town is served by a good network of roads. The A31 is the main road towards Franeker and Leeuwarden. A quick connection via the N31 coastal road, leads to the major A7 highway over the Afsluitdijk. It's only about 8km to this major causeway that links Friesland to Noord-Holland, making Harlingen also well-reachable from the Western Netherlands.
Bus and train services are operated by Arriva, and are a good alternative to the road. There are two train stations, Harlingen Haven (for the harbour) and Harlingen Station. The train runs from here to Franeker, Dronrijp, Deinum and Leeuwarden, typically twice per hour but less on evenings or weekends.
Buslines include lines 71 and 97 to Leeuwarden, line 75 to Franeker and 99 to Bolsward, Sneek and Heerenveen. Bus line 132 will get you to the start of the Afsluitdijk. In summer, there's a connection to Alkmaar in the Western Netherlands (Qliner 351).
Obviously, Harlingen can be reached over water. Apart from coming in with your own boat, there are daily ferry services to the islands of Terschelling and Vlieland, operated by Rederij Doeksen. It's possible and advisable to book tickets in advance.
Your best bet when it comes to air connections, is simply Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
It's all quite doable on foot, but to get from the harbour to the centre, you could also hop on a train or bus. Line 199 and 132 take about 5 minutes. Bikes make for a great way to see the city surroundings or even the islands. Rent one at Rijwielhandel Jelle Dijkstra, Schritsen 1. They have a few electric bikes too, but call ahead if you want to be sure to get one. €10 for a day.
Countless monuments have survived over the centuries and make Harlingen a nice, historic harbour town today. Wander through town and you'll find the old canals, lovely merchants houses and warehouses and a network of charming little alleys in between. Note the gable stones that remain from former times, when they were used to find houses in a world without house numbers. Many have a link with the history or purpose of the building it's on. Good examples are the golden angel (Lanen 28) on the oldest stone house in the city, once used as a masonic loge, and the image of a carpenter with his tools (Voorstraat 5).
The Blauwe Hand (Grote Bredeplaats 35) is one of the best preserved warehouses. It's also among the oldest in town, built in 1647 according to the gable stone. The centre is packed with other fine warehouse examples, including the 17th century Brittania (Noorderhaven 39) and the lovely 1657 building at Noorderhaven 106. The Harlingen Lighthouse is now in use as a hotel, after it lost its function in 1998. It originates in the early 1920s and is a true landmark for the town. Another major monument that can't be missed in the city centre is the 18th century City hall (Noorderhaven 86).
- 1 Museum Hannemahuis (It Hannemahûs), Voorstraat 56, ☏ . M closed, Tu-Sa 10:00 - 17:00, Su 12:00 - 17:00. This is the place to see the history and arts history of Harlingen through a wide variety of painting, pictures, silver works and maritime artefacts. €5.
- 2 Harlinger Aardewerk Museum, Voorstraat 84, ☏ . The Pottery Museum displays, as the name suggests, all kinds of pottery from the region. There was a blooming pottery production in the Frisian cities in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. If you want to make sure to get in, call ahead for an appointment. This tiny place is usually open but has no set opening hours. Free, but a voluntary contribution is much appreciated.
Explore the city and the surrounding waters on your own, with a rented boat, canoe or kayak. Licenses are not required, also not for the simple, motorized sloops. They allow for pretty extensive day trips but can also be rented per half day or per hour.
- 1 Ouwe Seun Boat rental, Jacob Backerstraat 39, ☏ . In high season, half-day rentals may come with set times (with required returns at 13:30 and 18:00) while in low-season, flexibility is possible when it comes to the desired time of day. Small boats with motors come at €10 per hour, €30 for half or €40 for a full day. Larger ones are €15 per hour or €55 for a full day. Fuel is excluded and will be determined by weighing the tank upon return. Count around €10 to 15 for half a day of boating. Two person canoes costs €5 per hour of €25 for a full day. Kayaks have room for 1 person only and start at €4 per hour.
Harlingen isn't huge, but it has a reasonable variety of stores, including many fashion shops. There's an Albert Heijn supermarket at Zuiderhaven 8 and a Poiez supermarket at Johan van Oldenbarneveltstraat 5.
In the old centre and along the sea side, you'll find several restaurants and cafés. Listed below are some of the best ones.
- 1 De Tjotter, Rommelhaven 2, ☏ . This is perhaps the best place to eat seafood, with great, fresh dishes for fair prices. The service is fast and friendly too. €27.50.
- 2 't Havenmantsje, Havenplein 1, ☏ . Place with a nice view, situated in a former court house. They use mostly regional products. It's not the cheapest place in town, but the service is good and so is the food. €38.50 for 3 courses.
- 1 Hotel Zeezicht, Zuiderhaven 1, ☏ . This place in the harbour has some excellent views and is a perfect place for boat spotting. Ask for a renovated room with a balcony, although they might be slightly more expensive. There's free wifi, a restaurant and a bar with a nice outdoor terrace. From €97.50 for a non-sea side double.
- 2 Hotel Centraal, Brouwersstraat 12, ☏ . This simple but friendly, quaint hotel is good value for money. The stairs are rather steep and narrow but the rooms are fine and the breakfast is good. It's a lively place, with local clubs sometimes meeting in the hotel. €60/90 for a single/double.
- 3 , Kruisstraat 8, ☏ . This place has some nice hotel rooms, budget rooms and refurbished apartments in an old warehouse and some workers houses The apartments have a reasonable kitchen for self-catering and there's a lovely courtyard. The service is friendly and the location is convenient, close to the centre but in a quiet corner and with a supermarket around the corner. From €65.
- 4 Vuurtoren Harlingen (Lighthouse), ☏ . For a real splurge and a special stay, spend the night in the lighthouse. It's not cheap, but it's a place like no other, offering great views over the sea and the backlands. You have it all to yourself, and for a €45 surcharge the champagne will await you when you arrive. Via the same company, you can opt for a night in a rescue boat or a harbour crane! €319 per night.
Most bookstores and supermarkets sells stamps, but for other postal services (including packages) head to one of the two main postal office service points:
- inside Bruna book store, Voorstraat 49. M 09:00-18:00, Tu W F 08:30-18:00, Th 08:30-21:00, Sa 08:30-17:00.
- inside Jumbo Supermarket, Spoorstraat 1. M-W 08:00-20:00, Th-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 12:00-18:00.
You're right on the beach, so why not hop on a ferry and visit the island of Vlieland or Terschelling. On the mainland, head to the lovely town of Franeker or go boating in Sneek. Alternatively, you're just a few minutes away from the Afsluitdijk, the causeway that will take you to Alkmaar, Den Helder and other destinations in the Western Netherlands.
|Routes through Harlingen|
|Amsterdam ←||W E||→ Franeker → Leeuwarden|