What’s in a name: Haarlem or Harlem

So where was it you wanted to visit – Haarlem or Harlem?! Not to be confused with Harlem in New York, our Haarlem, in North Holland, the Netherlands is located on the banks of the Spaarne river and is actually the provincial capital of North Holland. Dutch Haarlem dates back to gothic times and this is reflected in the architecture and cobbled streets, which make for splendid strolls.

Anglicisation of Haarlem to Harlem

Nieuw Haarlem
Nieuw Haarlem – before it became Harlem

In fact American Haarlem was originally a Dutch outpost, founded in 1658 and was named Nieuw Haaarlem (new Haarlem) after Dutch Haarlem in the Netherlands. The village of Nieuw Haarlem was a rural farming community, incorporated by Pieter Stuyvestant into the New Netherlands colony. The name was probably chosen because of the heroic defence the citizens of Haarlem had put up against Spanish invaders in the Eighty Years War. This was quite apt given the buffeting the inhabitants of the new colony were facing from both the indigenous people and the British.  After the British took control of the colony, they tried to rename New York Haarlem, “Lancaster” but the name never stuck, so they settled on anglicising it to Harlem.

Haarlem and Harlem – worlds apart

Haarlem or Harlem - they may seem world's apart
Meanwhile in Haarlem we plodded along

Although the Dutch did get another chance at it – they managed to regain control of Nieuw Haarlem for a year in 1673 – this is where the history of Haarlem and Harlem began to divulge remarkably. Harlem went on to have a rather vibrant and iconic history, and Haarlem pretty much plodded along peacefully – with the exception of a tumultuous time during World War 2.

Haarlem Heritage

Although at first sight, Haarlem is not synonymous with exciting social and  cultural revolutions, music halls and artistic renaissance, the city does still have a very rich history. Art and music-lovers will delight in the city’s museums and (free) festivals – and as the city is so well-preserved it’s a delight to discover Dutch heritage in Haarlem.