The Hague is a must-visit on your next trip to the Netherlands.
Only a 50-minute train ride away from the centre of Amsterdam, The Hague (or as the Dutch call it, Den Haag) is home to the Dutch government, many exciting shops and restaurants and the famous Vermeer painting The Girl with the Pearl Earring. After living just outside The Hague for almost ten years, I've put together a list of a few things I think you should definitely try to fit into your visit to help you experience the Dutch culture and lifestyle...
Top touristy experiences:
1. Discover the Mauritshuis Museum
Home to a small collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, the Mauritshuis is one of the most visited art museums in the Netherlands. Set in a gorgeous 17th century palace, the permanent exhibit in this museum houses Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring and Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp along with many other paintings by famous Dutch painters. When you visit, make sure to bring your student ID card to get a discount ticket, or if you have a Museumkaart, bring that to get free entrance (if you're staying in Holland for longer than a few weeks and intend to visit many museums, consider buying a Museumkaart to save money at museums throughout the country). If you're interested in the stories behind the different painters and works of art, make sure you download the free Mauritshuis app on your phone to get an audio guide and to watch videos.
2. Explore Madurodam
Unless you're staying in the Netherlands for an extended period of time, it's unlikely that you'll have the time to experience all that the country has to offer. Madurodam is an "interactive miniature park" which gives you the opportunity to see all of the main points of interest in the Netherlands in just a few hours. With highlights such as Schiphol Airport, the Dutch deltaworks and many "functional" windmills, the miniature park gives you a sense of everything that is packed into the small country of the Netherlands. Don't be fooled into thinking this is purely an attraction for children - even you will marvel at how detailed the models are and will enjoy the Delft pottery factory (spoiler alert: you can get an adorable souvenir there). Make sure you don't forget your camera!
3. Visit the Escher Museum
Another famous art museum located in The Hague is the Escher Museum, filled with some of the best known pieces by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. This is a museum experience like no other, as you travel into the mind of Escher and become part of his artwork.
4. Experience the city from above
A 10-minute tram journey from Den Haag Centraal you can find The Hague Tower. Ride the glass elevator up to the 42nd floor and enter The Penthouse Restaurant, the highest restaurant in Holland. Whilst having a full gourmet meal at The Penthouse is an incredible experience, it is also very expensive. A cheaper alternative which still allows you to take in the view of the city is to pay €6 to have a drink at the Sky Bar and then make your way out onto the balcony where you can see a panoramic view of the top of The Hague. There isn't a set dress code for the Penthouse and Sky Bar, but you'll probably feel awkward if you show up in shorts and a t-shirt! Something more classy is recommended.
5. Savour a stroopwafel
Stroopwafels (directly translated to syrup waffles) are a Dutch delicacy that will cure any cravings for sugar. Made from two thin waffles sandwiched together with a layer of syrup, these are best eaten hot off the waffle iron. You're on vacation - forget about the calories in this sugar-filled snack and just enjoy it! You can often find a stroopwafel vendor on Spuistraat, the main pedestrian shopping street.
When in Den Haag, do as the Dutch do:
6. Try Hollandse Nieuwe herring by the Binnenhof
A trip to The Hague wouldn't be complete without trying the Dutch Nieuwe herring. The best place to get one of these slimy but tasty typical Dutch snacks is at the small pavilion just outside the Binnenhof, where the Dutch government and parliament are situated. To eat the herring like a local, cover the fish in small pieces of raw onion then lift the whole herring by its tail, tilt your head back and eat the herring upwards. Word of caution: if you don't normally eat fish, it's probably best you don't try the Dutch herring - this is about as fishy as it gets!
7. Bungee jump from the Scheveningen Pier at the beach
If you're anxious for a thrill, catch a 15-minute tram ride from the centre of The Hague to the nearby beach and bungee jump off the end of the Scheveningen Pier out over the North Sea. Even if bungee jumping isn't for you, the beach is still worth a visit. In the spring and summer months, clubs and restaurants are set up along the sand and there is a huge range of exciting places to enjoy a drink or meal whilst watching the sun set over the sea. If the sun is out, you can bet the beach will be filled with Dutch people taking advantage of the decent weather - it's a rare occurrence, so make sure you savour every moment of it!
8. Enjoy pannenkoeken at the Malieveld
Pannekoeken are delicious Dutch pancakes, definitely something you have to try on your trip! At the Paviljoen Malieveld (open only for lunch) there are 20 different types of pannekoeken, both savoury and sweet from which you can choose. Unlike American pancakes, pannekoeken are large (often the size of a pizza), thin and eaten for lunch or dinner. Another Dutch treat which you should try at the Paviljoen Malieveld are poffertjes: tiny, round, fluffy pancakes eaten with powdered sugar and butter. Don't worry, it's perfectly acceptable to have both a pannekoek and an order of poffertjes!
9. Have drinks on the Plein
After a long day at college or work, you'll see many Dutch students and adults grabbing a drink and snacks at the Plein, a large square in the centre of the Hague. With festive lights, outdoor seating and heaters in the winter, this place is perfect for a gezellig evening (there's no English translation for this Dutch word, but in this context it roughly means the cozy, warm feeling you get from being with good friends). Relaxing at the Plein is the perfect way to end a day out in The Hague.
Although The Hague may not have as many of the picturesque canals that Amsterdam boasts on their postcards, the atmosphere in The Hague is much more laid back as a result of fewer tourists. No matter how long you decide to stay there, I can ensure that you will find something fun to do! Tot ziens!
13 other things you can do:
- Experience the beauty of the Panorama Mesdag
- Visit the Louwman Museum which hosts a large collection of old cars, coaches and motorcycles
- Tour the Gevangenpoort (medieval prison) Museum
- Arrange for a tour of the Peace Palace
- Rent bikes and cycle like a local
- Visit the Haagse Markt to experience the everyday Dutch lifestyle
- Shop all the major trends at Grote Markt and Spuimarkt
- Watch a ballet the National Dance Theatre
- Attend various festivals on the Maliveld
- Have a wild night at Kingsnight every year on the 26th of April
- Take a day trip to Rotterdam, Leiden or Kinderdijk
- Grab drinks at De Paas, The Fiddler or O'Caseys
- Dance the night away at the Paard van Troje Club