Just outside Amsterdam are towns and villages that offer access to the big city without the noise and crowding, and with plenty of space for the kids – and one of the most beautiful is Laren.
Laren, North Holland, may be small, but it has a big reputation – its tree-lined streets and historic charm are attractive to those who want to be close to Amsterdam but with a little more room to live with the children. Expatica explains why this little village has become one of the most coveted places to live outside Amsterdam for families.
Laren: Netherlands’ close-knit community
Nestled in Het Gooi, a region in the Netherlands known for its gently rolling hills, greenery and majestic villas, Laren is a gem: its history as a farming village-turned-art colony has made it one of the coveted places to live outside Amsterdam. The village developed largely into a farming community, but the introduction of a tram line in the 19th century changed everything, as those who worked in Amsterdam could now travel.
But commuters weren’t the only ones coming to Laren in that time period. As the major cities of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam industrialised, the artists saw their once pristine landscapes become brick and iron. Dutch painter Jozef Israëls, a member of the Hague School, discovered the area as a new place to paint – and soon, the area captivated even more artists. The Laren School gained such esteem that painters from across the world took notice.
American painter William Henry Singer moved to Laren in the early 20th century and build a villa, then called De Wilde Zwanen (The Wild Swans); the villa was turned into the Singer Laren museum and concert hall, dedicated to preserving the Laren School and Singer’s art collection.
Living in Laren, NH for families
Since then, Laren has become an affluent village known for its charming homes, spacious streets and friendly neighbours. Its location just outside Hilversum, Amsterdam and Utrecht make it ideal for those who work in one of the cities but don’t wish to downsize to cramped apartments, live on noisy streets and have little to no outside green space in which the kids can play. Though the three surrounding cities offer their own art, culture, education and nature, Laren may have them all beat – and all within a half-hour drive.
Art and culture in Laren
Laren has still held onto its roots as an art colony – as exemplified by the busy Singer Laren museum and numerous art organisations such as Kunst in Laren (Art in Laren), which present numerous art exhibitions each year. Besides the Singer Laren, the town also boasts the Geological Museum Hofland, which explores the earth’s history in an interactive way — perfect for children.
Many events in Laren take place at the Singer Laren museum, but because the village atmosphere is close-knit and friendly, plenty of local annual events take place each year, such as the arrival of Sinterklaas. In the larger cities, these types of events are generally very crowded; in Laren, it’s like your own private event.
Education in Laren
Education is important in Laren. For such a small town, Laren boasts five primary schools, some of which focus on international mindedness; there are also two secondary schools, and one international secondary school.
The Geological Museum Hofland often works with the schools in Laren to provide hands-on, entertaining educational outings and activities that allow the children to truly enjoy learning. With such commitment to education, the area becomes even more attractive for expat parents looking to raise their children in a small town but still maintain global perspectives.
Nature in Laren
Being in the centre of Het Gooi, there is no shortage of nature in Laren. The town is surrounded by nature reserves and forests, the closest by being the so-called Blukbos. Golf parks and country clubs also dot the area, providing a little bit more entertainment when admiring the nature — but a walk through the untouched woods can be a much-needed family adventure.
For such a small town, Laren has a lot going on in terms of art, culture, nature and beyond. A close-knit but private community, Laren offers expats the best of both: a small town with an international atmosphere.