The history of Haarlem started in the Roman time when Haarlem started off as a settlement on a thoroughfare in the direction of the Roman fort of Velsen. Haarlem became an important settlement on the road from the south to the north. Around the 10th century the first version of the current big church was built from wood and the city expended around this center. Haarlem got their city rights in 1245.
From the 15th century Haarlem was one of the most important cities in The Netherlands, even more important and bigger than Amsterdam. Industrial and cultural wise it was famous for the textile industry, ship-building industry, beer breweries and pictorial art.
After fighting back hard against the Spaniards, the settlement fell in 1573 and the people of Haarlem suffered from hunger, the plague and Spanish torture measures. After four years the Spaniards left and Haarlem began to do better by the introduction of the linen industry by French and Flemish immigrants.
Later in 1631 they constructed a canal between Amsterdam and between Leiden in 1657. Also the first trains started running to Amsterdam in 1839 and they extended the tracks to Leiden in 1843. You can still see the wealth Haarlem had by looking at the old monumental city center.
For further information and old stories it is best to visit one or more museums in Haarlem, they explain step by step what happened in the early days of this beautiful city and see the works of famous national and international painters.