The Hoofdwacht used to be the most important building in the city. After having served as city hall for years, the main town guard made this oldest stone building in the city its home base in the 18th century. The main guard defended the city, maintained order and decided when the city gates should be closed. The town guard became obsolete and was disbanded early in the 20th century. It has since been used by the Haarlem Historical Society (Historische Vereniging Haarlem), which researches and documents the history of the city.
Signals from St. Bavokerk
How did the main guard at the Hoofdwacht know when danger threatened outside the city? The building was no higher than any of the other stone monuments on the Grote Markt and yet this was where the order to close the city gates came from. The solution was the St. Bavokerk church, which was manned 24 hours a day by the fire department and the town guard. If danger approached, the Hoofdwacht was alerted from the church tower.
If you want to visit the Hoofdwacht, come to Haarlem in summer. From May through September its doors are open to visitors in the afternoon during weekends. There is no entrance fee to visit the building and if you have the opportunity to explore the Hoofdwacht, we recommend that you should.