The Hague is a fascinating city.
I spent a day there on a press trip just before Christmas, and I reeeally loved it. We did three Dutch cities over 4 days, and The Hague was my favourite.
Most of us know that Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands. But did you know that the country’s government, Supreme Court and Council of State are actually in The Hague? (This is where everyone says “yes, of course Katy”, and I’m left feeling like a know-nothing lemon…)
It’s clean and beautiful and friendly. The streets are orderly and the architecture is stunning. They have great museums, yummy cheese, and a fab beach just half an hour away.
Plus, the locals are called Haageners, which I happen to think is one of the best words ever. (I’ve also just had to Google whether this is where Häagen-Dazs comes from. It’s not.)
I loved the Haageners! Dutch people are super friendly, but so matter of fact about it. There’s no gushing or super-cheeriness, just a brilliantly dry sense of humor and a willingness to help anyone, without making a fuss about it.
Honestly, if you’re looking for a quick weekend break in Europe, I really recommend looking at The Hague.
Here’s what you need to know about spending one day in this incredible Dutch city:
HOW TO GET THERE
You have two ways of getting to The Hague from London.
The first option is to fly to Amsterdam, then jump on a train down to The Hague.
But there is another way:
We got the train after work, from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International Port. Then we got an overnight Stena Line ferry across the Channel, and arrived in the Hook of Holland early the next morning.
It meant we had a wonderfully easy start to our trip: a delicious dinner in the restaurant, a couple of glasses of wine in the bar, and then a long and comfortable sleep in our individual cabins.
The next morning we were woken up by jingling Christmas music, had breakfast in the canteen, and were ready and raring to go by 8am! We jumped in a taxi, but there are also trains and buses that will take you into the centre of The Hague.
It’s perfect if you prefer to travel slowly, without the hustle and bustle of airport crowds. You could also take your car with you, and visit several cities over a weekend. Or pick up one of Stena Line’s Rail and Sail deals and get your English and Dutch rail fares and ferry ticket combined in one.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in the beauuuutiful The Hague Carlton Ambassador Hotel, which I would 100% recommend if you’re looking for somewhere special to stay.
It’s perfectly placed, just a five minute walk from all the central parts of The Hague, and it’s stunning. The rooms are lovely, with huge comfy beds and gorgeous decor. My room was blue, with beautiful velvet drapes, a giant king-size bed, and quirky Dutch tiles in the bathroom.
The staff were also so friendly and SO helpful. We had to change the time for our morning taxi several times and they really couldn’t have been more patient and understanding about it.
They serve a delicious breakfast spread in the morning, and the evening restaurant also comes highly recommended.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for more budget accommodation, the Ibis Styles in The Hague city centre has excellent reviews and looks SUPER cool.
THE HAGUE’S HISTORIC CITY CENTRE
There is SO much to do in The Hague! This was probably our busiest day of the whole Dutch trip, because we had so much to cram in to just 24 hours.
We started the morning with a walking tour in the city centre. Our guide, Maurits Burgers (best name ever), was fantastic. He was so enthusiastic and passionate about the city, and had a ton of interesting little tidbits to share.
The Hague is home to the Royal family, and Maurits told us that they’re so casual, you’ll usually find one or other of them strolling along the streets outside the palace. The Prince even bought him a pint in the pub once!
However, if you prefer doing your own thing, This Is The Hague also have a BRILLIANT self-walking Royal tour on their website, full of insider tips and foodie suggestions. It’s a fab itinerary that according to them will only take you an hour, but I’d leave at least two or three, so you have time to properly explore.
The three things I think you absolutely HAVE to see are:
• Palace Noordeinde (The Royal Residence): This was our first stop of the day, and a must-see if you’re in The Hague. You’ll know you’re in the right place because of the huge statue of William of Orange riding his horse up to the palace gates. Behind the palace are the Gardens, which are apparently beautiful in summer.
• Escher in the Palace: There’s a permanent Escher exhibition displayed in an old royal palace in the city centre. If the name doesn’t ring a bell: Escher was the creator of the infinite staircase mentioned in Labyrinth and Inception. His work is fascinating, and it’s not just paintings. There are fabulous statues and light sculptures dotted around too. I’m not much of a modern art fan, but this one’s definitely worth a visit.
• Mauritshuis: Also known as The Sugar Palace, Mauritshuis is The Hague’s most famous museum. It sits on the edge of a beautiful (and huge) pond, right alongside the Binnenhof (the Dutch parliament). First, enjoy the exterior. The best view is from across the water. Then inside you’ll find a collection of world-famous Dutch paintings that include The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer (one of my faves!), and Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson.
• Madurodam: Looking for a quirky afternoon activity? Jump on the tram and ride 15 minutes to Madurodam. It’s The Netherlands’ first and biggest miniature
village town city country. It’s a sprawling place, and a great way to get a an idea of the layout of the different Dutch cities. Check out the detail on the tiny buildings, watch a fascinating video about the history of the country and Madurodam, take photos in the giant clog (obviously), and then stop for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake in the cafe.
SCHEVENINGEN BEACH RESORT
Scheveningen is The Hague’s biggest beach resort. Just a twenty minute tram ride from the city centre, it makes for a fun afternoon break from all the palaces and museums!
There are shopping centres, cinemas, bars and nightclubs galore. Visit in winter and you’ll find an ice sculpture park on the beach. Visit in summer and you’re more likely to find food and music festivals on the sand.
Whatever else you do, make sure you visit The Pier. It’s a massive glassed-in structure, filled with street food stalls, colorful bars, quirky restaurants, arcades, a zip line, and even several luxury hotel suites overlooking the sea! Much cooler than any pier I’ve ever seen in Britain…
We visited on the windiest of all days, so the zip line was closed, but we did get to try the Ferris Wheel.
Now, first of all, maybe don’t go up in the Ferris Wheel on the windiest day of the year. Because this is no London Eye. This is a literal ferris wheel, with pods that can (and will) swing. Especially in gale force winds.
But once we stopped shrieking and got used to the movement, we could admire the view. Our lovely guide had timed it perfectly for us to watch the sunset from the top, and it was absolutely stunning..
I would have loved to spend more time exploring The Pier (and Scheveningen in general) and it’s definitely on my Next Time I Go list!
WHAT TO EAT IN THE HAGUE
I’d never really thought about Dutch food before. I knew about stroopwafels (♥︎) of course, and I have a bit of a soft spot for a nice slice of gouda cheese (♥︎). But other than that, if you’d asked me to name a national Dutch dish, I wouldn’t have had a clue.
And oh boy have I been missing out!
Here’s a little taster of what we tried in The Hague:
SOUPS AND SALADS: This might be a bit of a odd one to recommend, but honestly the soups and salads in The Netherlands were constantly fantastic. We had lunch at Bleyenberg in The Hague – which (side note) is fabulously decorated (pink walls, greenery, and cement floors) and also has The Hague’s first fancy rooftop bar and underground music club. It’s v hipster and the food is fantaaaastic. Spanish soup with Manchego crostini was a favourite, and the Potato Tortilla and Iberian ham salad went down a treat too.
BITTERBALLEN: I asked for food suggestions on Instagram and this one came up several times. Bitterballen are little round balls of deep fried ragout (a meat stew of sorts). They remind me of a bit of Spanish croquetas, and are absolutely delicious. They make a great bar snack, and we had ours at Solo Vino, a beautiful wine bar overlooking Scheveningen Beach.
STROOPWAFELS: If you go to The Netherlands and don’t eat stroopwafels, did you even go to The Netherlands? Apart from being super fun to say (stroopwafels) they’re delicious. Two soft and chewy waffle biscuit/dough hybrids, sandwiched with a layer of treacly toffee. YUM. We had some brilliant ones at The Dutch Souvenir Cafe, round the corner from the Royal Palace. It’s a shop as well as a cafe, and I picked up some stunning hand-painted presents here, as well as a stash of wafels to take home with me!
FRIET MAYO: Basically: fries with mayonnaise. Apparently this is a real big thing in The Netherlands, and it’s a Thing I can 100% get on board with. We ordered several bowls of the stuff to have with our dinner at Jamey Bennett and they were wonderful. Crunchy and golden and drizzled with creamy mayo.
APPELTAART: Dutch apple tart! You’ll see it on menus everywhere. It’s a soft doughy pastry shell stuffed to bursting with chunks of apple and baked with cinnamon and lemon juice. It’ll usually arrive at the table with a giant dollop of whipped cream.
Other foods to look out for: poffertjes (tiny fluffy Dutch pancakes), haring (raw herring), kibbeling (deep fried fish bites), erwtensoep (pea and ham soup), hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles on buttered bread), and oliebollen (Dutch sort-of-donuts – we tried them in Rotterdam and they are YUM).
*** This was a press trip. I was a guest of Stena Line ferries and The Hague. ***