Frans Hals Museum: What to Expect

Last Updated: January 10, 2024

Gerrit Vandenberg

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Are you curious about the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem?

Then you’re in the right place. In this article, I’ll answer everything there is to know about the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.

As a local who loves visiting this museum, I have much information to share.

PS: Are you looking for more ideas for things to do in Haarlem click here.

  • The Frans Hals Museum is in the city of Haarlem, just 15 minutes from Amsterdam.
  • Here you’ll find the largest collection of Frans Hals paintings in the World.
  • Home to both old and contemporary art in two magnificent buildings.
  • The locations are “Hof” and “Hal”.
  • This is where you can buy your Frans Hals Museum tickets.

This is where you can discover Golden Age paintings from Haarlem’s master painters, including the world’s largest collection of paintings by Frans Hals.

It’s a unique place, not in the least, because he started the radical change in art that happened at the beginning of the 17th century. 

The Teylers Museum in the same city (also fantastic to visit). I love going there. It’s called the Museum of Wonder, and it is.

While it may hold the official record for being the oldest museum in Haarlem. Unofficially, it might be the Frans Hals Museum. I tell you more about that later.

What makes Frans Hals and his exhibitions so special? His paintings bring the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) to life.

He was different, he painted people as they were, which wasn’t typical then.

Frans Hals had a talent for capturing the personality of the person he was painting. He was also one of the first to capture people smiling.

Today, you might wonder why that is special. But back then, he took a significant risk, which has paid off, even during his lifetime (another thing unique about him).

And it was precisely that style that influenced many later artists, including artists like Manet. And because of that, Frans made a massive difference in how art developed.

Luckily, he has his museum today in Haarlem which owns most of his works (and in this article, I’ll also tell where else to see his works in the Netherlands).

The Frans Hals Museum, with two locations, is a bargain. Both museum locations are worth a visit, and you need just one ticket for both.

There is the former museum, “De Hallen” Modern Art Museum, which is now called location Hal. It showcases modern and contemporary art.

The main museum in the former Old Men’s Almshouse is dedicated to Master Frans Hals himself. This location is called “Hof” and if you only have time for one of the museums to visit, this is the location to go to.

In this article, I’ll explore both so you have everything you need for a great visit.

Frans Hals Museum: Banquet Of The Officers Of The Calivermen Civic Guard.
Banquet Of The Officers Of The Calivermen Civic Guard – © Hidden Holland

One Museum Two Locations

The Frans Hals Museum has been split between two locations since the 1950s, “HOF” and “HAL,” two magnificent historic buildings in Haarlem’s city center.

They’re just a short, few-minute walk from each other. (Use Google Maps for navigation). The Hal location became home to the museum’s collections of modern art. While the main collection is based at Hof.

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Location Hal

“Location Hal” is behind the impressive Bavo church (where you can visit his grave) at the Market Square (Grote Markt 16).

Grave Frans Hals at Bavo church in Haarlem.
Grave Frans Hals at Bavo church in Haarlem – © Hidden Holland

The Hallen location on the corner Grote Markt and the Grote Houtstraat consists of magnificent historic buildings in Haarlem’s city center. But while the outside is old, you’ll find modern, contemporary art on the inside.

At the Hal location, it’s all about modern and contemporary art. This place is a mix of three unique buildings: the Vleeshal (‘Meat Hall’), Vishuisje (‘Fish House’), and Verweyhal (‘Verwey Hall’), each from a different time.

The Vleeshal has been a museum since 1951, showing works from big names like Rembrandt and Damien Hirst. It was built in the early 17th century and was originally the town’s meat market, designed by the famous Lieven de Key.

Like Frans Hals, he moved from Antwerp to Haarlem to escape Spanish rule. Did you know that more than half of Haarlem’s inhabitants were immigrants from Belgium at a certain point?

That wave of immigration was met with great enthusiasm since they brought a wealth of knowledge and craft to the city. It made Haarlem the center of art in the Netherlands for a while.

Then there’s the Vishuisje, built around 1600. It used to be the fish market supervisor’s home, then a coffee house where fishwives from Zandvoort would hang out. The beach of Zandvoort is just minutes away (by train or bicycle).

But back to the Fish House. It was rebuilt in 1905 and became part of the museum during the renovation in the 90’s.

Last up is the Verweyhal, built in the late 1870s for a gentlemen’s society. It’s had many lives: a bank, an exhibition space, and after the ’90s renovation, it was named after Haarlem painter Kees Verwey. He donated his work to the museum and helped fund the renovation. 

Location Hof

Hallway at Hof location Frans Hals Museum.
Hallway at Hof location Frans Hals Museum – © Hidden Holland

“Location Hof” is the main museum with the most extensive collection of paintings by Frans Hals. It’s located on a beautiful photogenic street called Groot Heiligland. The full address is Groot Heiligland 62 in Haarlem.

The building was originally an “Hofje” (or courtyard), which housed an almshouse for elderly men in the 17th century. Fast forward to 1913, and it became a space to display the city’s art collection, featuring many pieces from that same era.

But before that it was also an orphanage for nearly a hundred years, starting in 1810. It even housed the painter and writer Jacobus van Looy whose beautiful paintings you can also see at the Teylers Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

The municipality purchased the buildings in 1908 to house the growing art collection owned by the City, which had outgrown the town hall.

They renovated the Old Men’s House in an early 17th-century style. In 1913, the Museum officially opened there but has been officially established in 1862.

The interior of the museum has changed quite a bit since then. Take room 15, the old dining hall. It now features chandeliers from a 12th-century church and tiles from demolished buildings. The decorative fireplace is a unique assembly of various pieces. You don’t want to miss this room!

Room 15 at the Frans Hals Museum the dining room.
Room 15 at the Frans Hals Museum the dining room – © Hidden Holland

Opening Hours of the Frans Hals Museum

The Frans Hals Museum is open every day of the week except for Mondays from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.

That means you don’t have to get up that early to enjoy this magnificent museum. But who am I kidding? Haarlem has so much to offer. You want to be there on time to get the most out of your day trip to Haarlem.

Frans Hals Museum Tickets

You can purchase your Frans Hals ticket online. Allowing easy entrance to the Museum. The current Frans Hals ticket prices can be found here.

How to Get to The Frans Hals Museum Haarlem

It’s easy to get to Haarlem by train from Amsterdam. Trains leave every few minutes from Amsterdam Central Station to Haarlem, and take about 15 minutes.

Here is information on how to travel from Amsterdam to Haarlem.

You can also travel by private taxi. If you book in advance you can save a lot of money.

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History of the Collection

Smallest Frans Hals painting at the Frans Hals Museum.
Smallest Frans Hals painting – © Hidden Holland

Initially, the collection focused on religious themes, as most art museums did long ago.

Over 100 artworks seized from catholic churches came to the museum during the Reformation in the 16th century —a time when Catholic Churches in the 1580s were forbidden to exist publically in the Netherlands.

Did you know Frans Hals was involved in restoring some of these artworks?

The museum’s collection also includes significant historical works. In the 17th century, the city council actively bought art, like the legend of Damiate and the Haarlem Shield.

Before starting the actual museum in 1913, city hall was a semi-public art space. Also, when Frans Hals was alive, people could visit the city hall to admire the art.

Kind of the first museum. This was highly unusual at the time. So, in that regard, the Frans Hals Museum and its collection can be seen as the oldest museum.

As the collection grew, it moved to a larger space in 1777 at the Proveniershuis. This move split the collection; natural history items went to the Teylers Museum, while art and religious pieces stayed.

Today, the museum showcases a rich mix. There are large religious paintings, works by Haarlem painters from the 16th and 17th centuries, and influential pieces that attracted impressionists in the late 19th century.

Painting view on Bavo Church in Haarlem at the Frans Hals Museum.
View on Bavo Church in Haarlem at the Frans Hals Museum – © Hidden Holland

The museum is particularly renowned for its group portraits. These paintings are a significant draw for visitors. But also works from other famous people from this city, like Judith Leyster, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Cornelis van Haarlem.

I admit that portraits and group paintings didn’t excite me for a long time. But when you start to learn about Frans Hals and his magnificent story, and when you look at his paintings carefully, you begin to see actual humans just like you and me in their natural way. It is captivating.

Each of them tells a story. They’re far from static, as many of his contemporaries’ works are.

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Frans Hals The Artist

Who was Frans Hals? He was a Dutch Golden Age painter known for his mastery of portrait painting.

He lived and worked in Haarlem after he fled Antwerp. This is where he gained fame for his unique approach to capturing his subjects. This is what made him special:

  1. Realism: Frans Hals painted lively, realistic portraits. Unlike many contemporaries who favored a more polished, idealized style, Hals captured his subjects with immediacy and naturalism. It’s intriguing to watch.
  2. Loose Brushwork: His technique was notable for its loose brushwork. Hals had a remarkable ability to suggest texture and movement with quick, deft strokes, a style ahead of his time. He often put his first try straight on the canvas.
  3. Expression and Personality: Hals had a talent for capturing the personality and mood of his subjects. His portraits are full of character, often portraying people with a sense of individuality and emotion that was rare for that era.
  4. Group Portraits: Besides individual portraits, Hals is famous for his portraits of civic guards and local guilds. These paintings are remarkable for their sense of dynamism and how he managed to individualize each figure within the group. They tell a story, not just a group together like a statue.
  5. Influence on Modern Art: His style and techniques influenced many later artists, including impressionists like Manet, not to be confused with Monet, although they’re friends. The spontaneity and vitality in Frans Hals’ work inspired artists to pursue more expressive, less formal approaches to painting.

Frans Hals is unique for his distinctive, lively portraiture style, innovative brushwork, and ability to capture the essence of his subjects, making him one of the most influential figures in the world of art. He, indeed, was a phenomenon.

Amazing tile work at the Frans Hals Museum.
Fantastic Tile Work at Frans Hals Museum – © Hidden Holland

Where To Find Frans Hals Paintings Elsewhere in the Netherlands?

Did you know Frans Hals was more popular than Johannes Vermeer for a long time?

It’s interesting how times can change views. Frans Hals disappeared for a while to the background, but that is all changing again.

So besides his Museum in Haarlem, there are other places to see his works in this country.

Rijksmuseum

Some extraordinary portraits by Frans Hals are on permanent display in the Gallery of Honour. Where, as the name suggests, you can find the Netherlands’ most precious pieces of art.

Exhibition Frans Hals Way Ahead Of His Time 

Me attending the Frans Hals lecture at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Attending the Frans Hals lecture at the Rijksmuseum – © Hidden Holland

And in 2023 and 2024, you can experience the Frans Hals Exhibition “Way Ahead of His Time.”

The show opens first at The National Gallery in London, then from February 16, 2024 – June 9, 2024, you can see it at the Rijks in Amsterdam, and after that, the show will travel to Berlin. 

I’m genuinely looking forward to this extraordinary exhibition. And living here, and being a friend of the museum, I’m sure I will visit the exhibition more than once.

I’ve been to a lecture by a curator one evening not too long ago in preparation for the exhibition coming to Amsterdam. It made Frans Hals an actual human being for me. The lecture gave me a much better understanding of his work.

During the special exhibition, you’ll get to see about fifty of Frans Hals’ masterpieces together in one room for the first time. This includes “The Merry Drinker” and “Portrait of a Couple” from the Rijks. But also loans like “The Laughing Cavalier” from London.

Plus works like “Catharina Hooft with her Nurse” and “Malle Babbe” from Berlin—a particularly famous painting of him.

A highlight will also be “The Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard” from 1616. It’s leaving Haarlem for the first time. And it’s stunning.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the painting from Zandvoort beach and the workers there. Some are breathtaking.

You can get your tickets for the Rijksmuseum here.

Mauritshuis The Hague

Mauritshuis museum The Hague from Hofvijver.
Mauritshuis in The Hague – © Hidden Holland

At the Mauritshuis in The Hague, you can also see some of Frans Hals’s best works on display.

Some are now part of the show like the laughing boy. But this is another fantastic museum to see work by Hals and other famous Golden Age painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer (Girl with the Pearl Earring). 

You can get your tickets for the Mauritshuis here.

Final Thoughts

This is a fantastic museum to visit when you’re in Haarlem. But in 2024 you have to keep in mind that some works are on loan for the big exhibition around Europe.

Still, there is enough to see and experience without them at the original museum. You’ll learn more about Haarlem itself, there are still plenty of his paintings around. It’s a beautiful building in itself.

And I particularly enjoyed the movie at the start of your tour. It’s worth sitting down for. They tell his story well in an entertaining way.

St Bavo Church Haarlem Organ.
St Bavo Church Haarlem Organ – © Hidden Holland

Haarlem has a lot to offer besides this museum. The other museum, Teylers is amazing too, there is so much to discover there. Then there is the heavy but intriguing free Corrie Ten Boom museum (reservations far ahead are essential), the Bavo Church (the organ is a must-see) and the city itself is just beautiful.

When you go I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time.

Travel safe!

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Are You Visiting The Frans Hals Museum?

I’d love your thoughts: If so, I would love to hear why you're going. Is it Hals, or is the modern art location, both, or something completely different?

Let's start a conversation below this article 💬.

Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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