Haarlem's charming windmill, the Molen de Adriaan

In the Dutch city of Haarlem, De Adriaan windmill is one of the city’s most beautiful sights, turning its sails peacefully as it overlooks a bend in the river Spaarne. While it looks like a well-preserved slice of Dutch history, Haarlem’s windmill (molen) actually has quite a dramatic history.

Book your accommodation in beautiful Haarlem through Booking.com!

Landscape illustration haarlem windmill reflection on the water spaarne river
Copic marker and pencil sketch of Haarlem’s Molen de Adriaan

The humble windmill might be the quintessential Dutch icon (and the bicycle, of course!), using the low features of the countryside to take full advantage of wind power. There are still around 1000 windmills standing across the cities and countryside of The Netherlands, some of which are operational, and other which aren’t.

Molen de Adriaan is just south and across the river Spaarne, on a river bend that gives it plenty of free space to catch the wind. It is built on the foundations of a medieval defense tower, the Goê Vrouwentoren, and named after the Amsterdam businessman who organised its construction, Adriaan de Boois.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through a link.

History of Haarlem’s de Adriaan windmill

When it was first opened in 1778, it was used to grind tufa (a calcium carbonate limestone) to create a base for paint and waterproof cement. It also ground seashells and oak bark. From 1865 onwards, it was used for grinding tobacco into snuff, and finally corn. By 1925, it was largely obsolete, and in the hands of a windmill preservation association.

Then, in 1932, disaster struck. Molen de Adriaan went up in flames for unknown reasons, and with limited firefighting capabilities, thousands of Haarlemmers could only watch as it burned to the ground.

Fundraising began the very next day to reconstruct it, but it wasn’t until 1999 that construction actually began to rebuild Molen de Adriaan. 70 years after the fire, in 2002, it finally reopened, which is the windmill we see today. While it serves as a museum for visitors most of the time, it also can be used to mill grain for demonstrations.

Features of the Molen de Adriaan

The windmill is a smocked windmill, characterised by its weatherboarded wooden tower panelled across eight sides. It has a cap that rotates to move the sails into the direction of the wind, so you’ll often finding it facing in all kinds of directions.

Photographing Molen de Adriaan

There are lots of great places to take pictures of Molen de Adriaan. Popular vantage points include the pedestrian walkway from the other side of the river, the Koudenhorn, as well as the Catarijnebrug, the bridge adjacent to the windmill.

Of course, some of the best photos can be taken by standing under the windmill itself, and taking in the little details such as the iconic Haarlem-red brickwork, and the skeletal wooden framework.

Having lunch at the Haarlem Windmill

Right next door to the windmill is a beautiful cafe called Restaurant Zuidam, which sits next to the river and under the shade of the turning sails of Molen de Adriaan. Here, you can find typical Dutch cafe food – salads, sandwiches, coffee, smoked salmon, cheese and (of course) bitterballen.

Haarlem is generally a quiet, sleepy city, and enjoying a coffee next to a slow canal, under the turning shade of a windmill is one of the best ways to soak in the city. Make sure you try the bitterballen, too!


So, that’s everything you need to know about Haarlem’s iconic windmill, rebuilt to its former glory after its catastrophic fire. The Molen de Adriaan is not far from Haarlem station, and other attractions such as the Grote Kerk, so it’s definitely worthwhile dropping in to see this treasure from Haarlem’s past, and enjoying a coffee under the rotating sails while you’re there.