Although it is one of the eleven Frisian cities, Harlingen 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.

Today, most of the shipping is related to transport of salt from the local salt factory.



Sights and Activities

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).

  • Museum Hannemahuis, Voorstraat 56. 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.
  • Harlinger Aardewerk Museum, Zoutsloot 43, ☎ +31 517413341. 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.



Events and Festivals

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity.



Getting There

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.



Getting Around

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.




In the old centre and along the sea side, you'll find several restaurants and cafés. Listed below are some of the best ones.

  • De Tjotter, ommelhaven 2, ☎ +31 517 414 691. 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.
  • 't Havenmantsje, Havenplein 1, ☎ +31 517 85 86 00. 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.
  • Frish 'n Dish, Grote Bredeplaats 15, ☎ +31 517 430 063. This is almost an all-you-can-eat place, but for a most international kind of food. In up to 5 rounds you can order max 2 dishes at a time, choosing from about 35 options from all parts of the world. Expect anything from sushi to couscous. The dishes and their quality are quite divers, but all in all, this is a pretty special, fun place. For lunch, you can order individual dishes for €6.95 € 27.50 for a trip around the world in food.




  • Hotel Zeezicht, Zuiderhaven 1, ☎ +31 517412536. 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.
  • Hotel Centraal, Brouwersstraat 12, ☎ +31 517412200. 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.
  • Hotel Almenum, Kruisstraat 8, ☎ +31 625031173. 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.
  • 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.

View our map of accommodation in Harlingen



Keep Connected


Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.


The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.


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This is version 3. Last edited at 15:05 on May 10, 19 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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