The Hague is the third largest city in the Netherlands, located on the coast and is the political capital of the Netherlands (yes, Amsterdam is still the actual capital, but the Dutch government is located in The Hague!). It’s the city where King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has his workplace located in a regal palace, the city that is known as the international city of peace and justice (as it is fittingly home to the United Nation’s International Court of Justice) and the city that is called Den Haag (or ‘s-Gravenhage) by the Dutch.
When visiting The Hague, you will have a bit of everything: Gothic architecture, shopping, foods from different cultures, a sprawling bombastic beach with a wonderful pier, art, history and much more. And the good news is, it’s only an hour by train from Amsterdam!
Start your time in The Hague at the Binnenhof (Dutch for Inner Court). This is a complex of buildings where the meeting places of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministery of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister (in the famous torentje, or ‘little tower’), are located. It is not just interesting to see where these important ministries are located, it is also beautiful to see. As it was built in Gothic style in the 13th century, the Binnenhof is almost like a castle. Situated at the wonderful Hofvijver (Court Pond) it is one of the oldest parliament buildings still in use! You can walk around the wonderful buildings that make you feel as if you are walking through the Middle Ages. If you are interested in knowing more, you can even do a tour through ProDemos, they have a knowledge centre that can have lots of information about the Binnenhof as well.
After walking around Binnenhof, make your way to the Mauritshuis. This is interesting for anyone that is interested in art, because there are some legendary paintings from iconic artists here. Think of The Girl With The Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, The Goldfinch of Fabritius and different paintings of the one and only Rembrandt. Besides these, there are about 800 other paintings from other talented artists from between the 17th and 18th centuries. And on top of that, the building on itself is already worth a visit. Designed in Dutch Baroque style, it was built in the 17th century and the interior has been renovated to show the impressive past of the building. Get your tickets for the Mauritshuis here.
From Mauritshuis, make your way to Noordeinde Palace, but before this, make a stop at Slagerij Dungelmann (Butcher Dungelmann), where you can get the best kroketten in the Hague. Kroketten are a Dutch delicacy, it is a deep-fried snack that is filled with ragout and something you have to try when you are in the Netherlands!
When you have finished your kroket, walk further to the palace. This palace is not where the king and his family live, but it is his ‘working palace’. Apart from the palace being the king’s office, it is an important place for receptions and audiences, and it is where the king receives foreign ambassadors. Behind the palace, there are the Noordeinde Palace Gardens. The palace is open to the public, but not many people know about it! It is hidden between the palace, the Royal Stables and the Royal Archives. Have a stroll along the flower lawns, ponds and old trees or have a picnic and feel like a prince or princess yourself. Look for art, for example in the trees, or find one of the 30 hidden pearls! There is even a labyrinth in the Palace Gardens, the classic seven-path labyrinth, the oldest form ever found.
From the Palace Gardens, step into a painting at Panorama Mesdag, which is a 5-minute walk. The Panorama Mesdag is a panorama painting, created in 1881 by Hendrik Mesdag, his wife and other painters. While being surrounded by this painting that is 14 metres high and 120 metres long, you will have a view of the beach of Scheveningen, in the 19th century! The plateau you will be standing on is surrounded by sand and dune plants, which makes it seem as if you are really situated in the dunes.
When it is time for dinner, make your way to Restaurant Basaal, where they serve Dutch food with a modern twist! There are Dutch specialities on the menu such as mussels and potatoes, but somehow the chef knows how to mix these foods with international delicacies. Besides good, seasonal food that is focused on simplicity, they also have a wine bar with delicious wines from different European places.
Start your second day in Den Haag with breakfast at THE Bookstor Cafe and have your morning coffee in one of the cosy nooks or in the garden of this old bookstore! Try the carrot or banana cake if you are craving something sweet. This place is perfect as well if you need to do some work.
When you are ready to go, make your way to Escher in Het Paleis (the Escher Museum). If you haven’t heard of Escher before, you will probably recognise his art pieces that mostly consist of optical illusions. At the museum, that is located in another impressive, classical building, there are 120 pieces of the artist that you can admire. Besides the permanent collection, the museum also showcases temporary exhibitions. A ticket to the museum is €11,50 and you can book this in advance here.
Close to the Escher museum lays the Malieveld, a huge field of grass, that is used for events such as festivals, concerts and fairs. The Malieveld is protected by the Act of Redemption from 1575 and the area may not be built on. It is an important field especially for the protests, as many of them have been held here.
As I mentioned before, the Hague is also known as the international city of peace. That is why you can’t leave the city without visiting the Peace Palace. This wonderful building houses the International Court of Justice, the only judicial body of the United Nations outside New York, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Besides this, the Library of the Peace Palace and the Hague Academy of International Law are situated here. Hundreds of law students from all over the world come to take courses here every year. Unfortunately, the palace isn’t always open to the public. A couple of times a year it is possible to do a tour through the palace with a guide. But throughout the whole year you can visit the visitor’s centre where there is lots of information about the palace. There is a free audio tour available, an exhibition and a film that explains everything about the Peace Palace.
In front of the palace there is the World Peace Flame. This flame has been burning since 2002, and is a symbol of hope and to inspire people to make the world a better place. Surrounding the flame there are 196 stones from all over the world, among which a piece of the Berlin Wall and one from Robben Island (the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned).
After visiting the Peace Palace, take a 20-minute walk to Madurodam, where you can see the Netherlands in miniature! See replicas of famous Dutch buildings such as the Rijksmuseum, the Euromast of Rotterdam, the Anne Frank House, or even a concert of Armin van Buuren, made on a scale of 1:25. Even the final of the European football championship in 1988 where the Dutch team won is reconstructed in miniature. Get your ticket for Madurodam here!
At the end of the day you might be hungry, and what better way to end the day than at a Dutch restaurant? Not too far from Madurodam is Oma Toos (oma means grandmother in Dutch). Here they serve delicious pancakes (the Dutch don’t eat pancakes for breakfast but for dinner), from natural pancakes to pancakes with apple and ham. Not in the mood for something sweet? They also have other Dutch dishes, such as mashed potatoes, stew or just a classic burger.
On your last day in the Hague, you should see the beach in Scheveningen. It doesn’t matter if it is beach weather or not, you will enjoy it either way! From The Hague Central Station, there are different buses and trams going to Scheveningen (for instance bus 22).
First, you have the Scheveningen Lighthouse, a classic red lighthouse looking over the beach, dating back to 1875. Unfortunately, you can’t visit inside the lighthouse, but is it a wonderful view to take in. If you walk a little further along the beach, you will come across one of the Vissersmonumenten (Fisher’s Monuments). A statue of a woman in traditional clothing is watching over the sea. The woman's gaze is symbolic because: because it is directed to the sea, from where she could once expect one or more of her lovers, her husband, her son or her father to return.
Go to Vrolijk Snacks to try kibbeling, fried fish served with a creamy, sweet sauce. Even if you don’t like fish, you will probably enjoy this! Kibbeling is a real Dutch delicacy and you can get it anywhere, but the best place is of course at the beach.
Not too far from the fish place is the Museum Beelden aan Zee (Museum of Statutes at the Sea). You can either enter the museum and explore different exhibitions that present different statues, or you can enter the terrace, which is free, where you can see different sculptures that are presented outside. It is called the Sprookjes Beelden aan Zee (the Fairytale Statues at the Sea). It has sculptures by the American sculptor Tom Otterness, and there are more than twenty works of art depicting various fairy tales, such as those of Gulliver and Hansel and Gretel. Most striking is the gigantic Haringeater that has become the icon of the new Scheveningen boulevard.
Close to the museum is the Kurhaus, one of the most famous hotels in the Netherlands. You won’t miss this impressive building while walking the boulevard, as it is a real eye-catcher. This wonderful building was almost demolished in 1975, but luckily it was saved! Thankfully it got listed as a historical building and is still looking over the sea of Scheveningen to this day.
Before it was affected badly by a fire, the building was a concert hall and a hotel, consisting of 120 rooms. In the late 19th it was rebuilt and until the mid-1960’s it remained a concert hall. Big artists have performed here, such as The Rolling Stones and Tina Turner. Designed in the Renaissance Revival style, the hotel has high ceilings, and impressive chandeliers and is very detailed. The glass roof can be seen from the inside and is surrounded by wonderful ceiling paintings.
A 5-minute walk away from the hotel is Sea Life Scheveningen. Here you can stand eye to eye with sharks, piranhas, jellyfish and other sea creatures. You can surround yourself with magical, colourful fish while walking through a tunnel of glass and see all the fish swimming around you as if you walk through the ocean. There are 45 aquaria where you can learn about the world of the ocean and you can even feel a starfish or hold a crab under the guidance of an employer!
You probably already saw the pier, if not the Ferris wheel from a distance. The Scheveningen Pier has been a popular place for tourists as well as locals since 1959. There is a tower you can climb and watch the sea from above, or see the sea and the boulevard from above from the Ferris wheel! You can go on a 15-minute ride in one of the gondolas and look over the sea while sipping some coffee or tea and eating a muffin or an apple pie for €14 through this package. There are many places where you can eat or have a drink, for instance, the gastro pub where you can try one of the 35 craft beers. If you’re a real daredevil you can even bungee jump from the pier!
When it is time for dinner, go to the Brasserie The Beachroom, where they have delicious poké bowls as well as shrimp kroketten, kibbeling, chicken saté and much more. And the best part is the view: the sea. After your dinner, try some of their delicious cocktails while you watch the sun set in the sea.
Where to stay in The Hague
Budget - Stayokay Hostel Den Haag
Stayokay is a trendy hostel that is also great if you want to get to know new people, as there is a common area with a pool table.
Mid-range - Moxy The Hague
This hotel has a cool interior and is situated in a great location.
Luxury - Hotel Indigo The Hague - Palace Noordeinde, an IHG Hotel
For the price you pay for this hotel you wouldn’t expect it to be this luxurious!