While in Amsterdam, I decided to take a 20-minute train to explore Haarlem, a town that I had heard wonderful things about. Plus, it was the namesake town for New York City's Harlem neighborhood. It was a completely charming day trip from Amsterdam, and I especially loved discovering H. de Vries bookstore, open since 1905. Today, it has the largest selection of books in the Netherlands and is a joy to peruse, even though most of the books aren't in English. There are tucked away corners, a small but cute cafe, brick walls, chandeliers, and a gorgeous original fireplace - one of the loveliest independent bookstores I've ever visited.
We also had lunch at the casual La Place at the V&D department store - if you go, don't eat at the first level La Place - take the escalators all the way up to the top location, where there is a wonderful view of Haarlem. The Frans Hals museum was another highlight, especially seeing the collection of his Civic Guard paintings.