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Visiting Haarlem and its Bavokerk: an ornate tower dominating the Downtown area

Updated on July 7, 2012
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Haarlem: the Bavokerk from Jansstraat.
Haarlem: the Bavokerk from Jansstraat. | Source
View of Sint Bavokerk, Haarlem, from the west.
View of Sint Bavokerk, Haarlem, from the west. | Source
 Map location of Haarlem, and district
Map location of Haarlem, and district | Source

A lofty achievement

The tower of Haarlem's Bavokerk — or Sint Bavokerk, or Grote Kerk — is enormous and dominates the Downtown area of this city in the North Holland (Dutch: Noord-Holland ) province of The Netherlands.

Some history and features

Having been built from 1370 to 1520, the church building itself dates from before the Reformation, although for centuries it has been Protestant.

The literally crowning architectural feature of the Bavokerk is its 75 metre lantern tower, in Late Gothic style. It is thus futile to advise the visitor to Downtown Haarlem to see the tower — often illuminated at night — of the Bavorkerk, because he or she can't miss it!

The materials used on the tower were a combination of wood and lead. The lower part of the tower was built between 1504 and 1407 and the upper part between 1518 and 1520. A full carillon performance is regularly rung during some summer evenings. Some of the bells, painstakingly preserved, are hundreds of years old; two of them originate from Egypt, and were acquired by Crusaders during the 13th century.

The interior of the church has a number of striking features, including a magnificent organ built by Christian Mueller between 1535 and 1538. It is recorded that Mozart played this organ at the tender age of ten! (1) The organ comprises over 5000 pipes.

Intricate wooden vaulting dates from the 16th century. A cobblestone floor incorporates the graves of prominent past citizens.

The artist Frans Hals (c.1583-1666) is buried in the Sint-Bavokerk; a museum dedicated to the artist's work exists in the city.

July 8, 2012


(1) Other famous composers known to have played the organ include Handel and Mendelssohn.

Also worth seeing

In Haarlem itself, visitor attractions include: The Town Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ) adjacent to the Bavokerk in the Grote Markt, parts of which date from the 13th century; the Frans Hals Museum (see also above); the Medieval gate known as the Amsterdamse Poort ; and many others.

Amsterdam (distance: 19 kilometres); visitor attractions include the Dam with the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and the National Memorial; the Munttoren ; Anne Frank's House, and many others.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam-Schipol Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services between Amsterdam-Schipol and Haarlem . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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