Last Updated on 19th July 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
Golden sand dunes, lush parks, and a history to rival that of Amsterdam: The Hague is one of the best-kept secrets of the Netherlands. Located South of Amsterdam in the Holland region, here’s why you need to visit The Hague on your next Europe trip!
After all, the city boasts a fantastic foodie scene, attractions for all ages to enjoy, and makes for a great base from which to explore the wider region. Not only that, but the city is also home to its own beach, was once the haunt of many an acclaimed writer and artist, and even houses several of the Netherland’s greatest treasures.
The Hague is the perfect mix of the City and the Beach
You may well not know this, but the Scheveningen area is actually a part of The Hague. Located around a fifteen to twenty-minute cycle ride from the city centre, the fishing district is characterised by its sandy dunes, cobbled lanes, and historic buildings and was once a town in its own right.
However, as The Hague grew, the community was incorporated into the fabric of the larger city, although it has since maintained its own distinctive vibe. Visit today and you can expect to find sandy beaches, a maze of cobbled lanes that is the centre of Scheveningen, and plenty of water-sports opportunities. For the ultimate romantic getaway and the chance to wake up to views of the sea, check out some of the best places to stay in the sand district here.
The UNESCO passage is well worth checking out
The most famous of the UNESCO listed destinations in this area of the Netherlands is that of De Passage Den Haag. A horse-shoe shaped covered arcade featuring a selection of independent shops and eateries, this regally appointed structure dates all the way back to the 19th-century and was created so as to ‘mimic’ the covered arcades of Paris.
The Girl with the Pearl Earring
Many people mistakenly visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, believing that they’ll be able to spy 17th-century Dutch Master. Johannes Vermeer’s, most famous masterpiece, the Girl With the Pearl Earring. This famous Dutch masterpiece is to Den Haag what the Mona Lisa is to Paris.
And that’s not just because the painting is superbly executed. Instead, little is known behind the painter behind iconic artwork. A man likely born in Delft during the 1630s, Vermeer is as much of a mystery as the subject of his most famous painting, which can now be found in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
Coffee Culture in The Hague is fantastic
It may well surprise you, but The Hague boasts an impressive café scene, with plenty of independent shops and eateries. While some Dutch hotspots are perfect for brunches with friends, other cafés boast amenities such as speedy WiFi and are great spaces to sip on speciality coffee while catching up with work!
Some of the best cafés to visit in The Hague include Mugs & Mermaids (as you can imagine from the name of this café, the theme of this cosy venue is mythical with an underwater vibe), Filtro // Speciality Coffee Bar (perfect for the caffeine lovers out there), and Walter Benedict (hands down, this eatery is the brunch spot to frequent!)
The Hague is home to a Royal History
History buffs need just one reason to visit The Hague! And that’s the city’s Royal History. Though the Dutch settlement is probably best-known for its political buildings today (after all, this is where you’ll find the Peace Palace!), thanks to its strategic position in South Holland, Den Haag has a rich royal history and was the political seat of power for Holland during much of the Middle Ages.
There’s an amazing vegan scene in The Hague
Between fast food joints and fine dining experiences, I was pleasantly surprised to discover upon a visit to Den Haag that the city offers some of the best vegan and vegetarian experiences of anywhere in Europe. Some of my favourite foodie meat-free hotspots in the city include FOAM (for brunches and light lunches) and Hortus for a more luxurious, fine-dining experience.
The city of Den Haag is easy to cycle around
Like much of Holland (including the city of Amsterdam), The Hague is particularly easy to get around with either on your two feet, or preferably by bicycle. While you can explore many of the central museums and photo spots by foot, if you want to get a feel for the city’s parks, outer districts, and easily visit the beach, then you’ll want to rent a bike (which can be done at several points throughout the city).
For those who enjoy cycling and wish to escape the confines of the city for the day, then one of the best bicycle day trips from The Hague is that to Kasteel Duivenvoorde. A sumptuous brick castle surrounded by its own parkland and moat, the former family home can be found halfway between Leiden and Den Haag, and is around a forty-minute cycle ride from The Hague city centre.
The Hague is a great place from which to take day trips to the rest of Holland
If you’re looking for a cheaper place to stay than Amsterdam and yet with easy access to the rest of the Holland region, then you may well want to consider booking a stay in The Hague. After all, from the political city it’s easy to take day trips to the nearby university cities of Leiden and Delft.
It also couldn’t be easier to make the journey to the architectural city of Rotterdam or even the tulip fields of Keukenhof during the tulip season of late March- mid-May. For more ideas and inspiration regarding day excursions, check out this guide to the best day trips from The Hague.
Mondrian was born in The Hague
Even if you’re not familiar with the name ‘Mondrian,’ I’m sure you’ll recognise the Dutch designer’s works of art. Characterised by their blank canvases, stark black lines, and primary blocks of colour, Piet Mondrian is widely regarded to be one of the greatest names in Dutch abstract art.
Today, you can follow in the footsteps of Mondrian in The Hague, including at the Gemeentemuseum, where there is an entire wing of the museum devoted to the iconic artist. The collection is the largest group of Mondrian artworks in the world. Elsewhere in the city, there are bars, accommodations, and even a school named for the famous Dutch artist!
The Hague is home to windmills!
I think it’s fair to say that many people visit the Netherlands with the hope of seeing a traditional Dutch windmill or two! Created centuries ago so as to help grind grain and diminish water from the low-lying fields, today just a handful of these historic monuments survive.
Of course, the most famous of the wooden windmills are those of Kinderdijk, a set of stunning mills which can easily be visited as a day trip from Amsterdam or as an excursion from Rotterdam. But what many people don’t know is that The Hague, too, has its own set of windmills.
‘Molendriegang’ is quite literally translated as ‘three windmills,’ and once upon a time, the mills were used to dry mill the De Driemanspolder. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘polder’, it’s a piece of low lying land which has been reclaimed from a river or from the sea which is then protected by levees.
Things to know before visiting The Hague for the first time
You should know before you go that Dutch people are among some of the best English speakers in the world! This means that the Netherlands is great for solo travel and you’ll easily get by, even if you don’t know any of the local language. With that being said, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language with a simple Dutch phrasebook like this one.
Though The Hague boasts easy rail links to the rest of Europe, if you’re travelling from a little further away, then Schipol Amsterdam International Airport is one of the best and most convenient airports in Europe. Situated a mere half-hour train ride away from The Hague city centre, it couldn’t be easier to reach this part of the Netherlands!
Finally, if you’re visiting The Netherlands from the USA, UK, Canda, and a plethora of other countries, then you should know that you’ll need to bring along a travel adaptor. If you want to save money, then purchase this all-in-one travel adaptor that will allow you to use your electronics in over 150 countries!