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Haarlem is a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam. Once there,  you walk through a serene city that is equally as beautiful as Amsterdam, without  the crowds. The largest market, held on Mondays and Saturdays,  is at the Grote Markt Square alongside St. Bavo Cathedral.  Haarlem has retained  its medieval character of cobblestone streets and gabled houses and is famous for art museums and hofjes - almshouses built around leafy courtyards.


Zaanse Schans is north of Amsterdam, and a 40 minutes train ride away. Historic windmills and distinctive green wooden houses were relocated here to recreate the look of an 18th/19th-century village.   Taking a walk along the edge the River Zaan is a great experience. The nearby town of Zaandam  has a chocolate  factory and it's hard to resist buying a few samples from the many little shops along the way.  Claude Monet lived and painted in this town  for  six months.  

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