If you are visiting The Netherlands during the week, the almshouse route in Haarlem is a must in the North Holland province. Old houses, hidden on narrow streets, with beautiful gardens are the home for elderly women. The official tourist office in Haarlem gives this tour the name of “Hidden green oases” and that’s no wonder why: the interior gardens of the almshouses are well maintained and each of them with a different design.
What is a almshouse you may think. Almshouses are houses in which elderly, without family women are allowed to live, and most of the houses were put at their disposal by the rich citizens of the country. In Haarlem 14 almshouses are open for visit during the week and they are all placed inside the city centre. Usually the entrance into a almshouse has 2 items to make it recognisable: a brown plate with a bit of history of the building and a beautiful arcade above the entrance with the year and/or the coat of arms of the family.
The tour takes around 2 hours and it should be done between 10:00 and 17:00, but it highly depends on the time you spend in the gardens. There are four almshouses which should be visited even if you don’t want to take the entire tour:
Van Bakenes: the oldest almshouse in the country, built in 1395, well hidden from the ordinary eye, located on Bakenessergracht, just behind the cultural cinema, close to the Philharmonic. The interior garden is small, but nicely designed.
Van Noblet: not mentioned in the official tour, the imposing almshouse is located close to Adriaan Windmill. It resides since 1737 and the interior garden is one of the most beautiful ones in the city.
Frans Loenen: close to the Lutheran church on Witte Herenstraat, the almshouse was built in 1625. In this courtyard you will usually meet the tenants as they are working in maintaining the garden: many fruit trees are planted and you will not find the common bush.
In den Groenen Tuy: there is a reason for these almshouses to have then name of “green”, as here you will discover the most beautiful interior garden: colourful bushes and different types of flowers will delight your view. It is located close to the St. Bavo church, on Warmoesstraat.
The official tour is described, in English, here. A few things you should have in mind while visiting the gardens: don’t take pictures and don’t speak loud. We all know that in The Netherlands people don’t use curtains, but the privacy of the tenants should be respected fully. Enjoy your trip!