The old town is irregularly built, with narrow streets and old-fashioned gabled houses.
Haarlem is the seat of the governor of the province of North Holland, and of a Roman Catholic and a Jansenist bishopric. In appearance it is a typical Dutch town, with numerous narrow canals and quaintly gabled houses.
The waterways which traverse and surround it and the character of its numerous gabled medieval houses give it the appearance of an old Dutch, rather than of a German, town.
Its somewhat gloomy aspect, enhanced by the tortuous narrow lanes flanked by gabled houses of the 15th century, has gained for it among countryfolk the sobriquet of the "Witches' nest" (Hexen-Nest).
It has wide and regular streets, flanked by numerous gabled houses, and is surrounded by pleasant promenades on the site of its old ramparts.