The Hague (or Den Haag in Dutch) is a city on the North Sea, home of the Dutch government, Dutch royal family palace, International Court of Justice among many other international government organisations and it’s simply one of my favourite cities in the Netherlands. I like it for its big green parks, interesting museums, historical buildings as well as modern city skyline and of course for its seacoast.
The Hague is easily reachable by train from other Dutch cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Utrecht and therefore it makes a perfect day trip from wherever you’re staying in the Netherlands. If you have at least half a day or a day, below are my suggestions on what you can see and do in The Hague.
Assuming that you will be arriving by train to the ‘Den Haag Centraal’ station, let’s start the walk from there.
From the central station walk towards Grote Marktstraat – big shopping street in The Hague. I don’t usually do much shopping when travelling and don’t recommend shopping as something to do when you are visiting a new destination, but Grote Markstraat is a different case. Grote Marktstraat is a pedestrian only street and here you will not only satisfy your shopping needs, but will also see some artistically designed benches, buildings and modern art statues. Nice to start your walk to the city.
Noordeinde Palace and Postzegelboom
Noordeinde Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family, and it’s located right in the center of The Hague. Although it’s not open for public visits you can still view it from the outside, and there is a square in front of it – Postzegelboom – with a statue of William of Orange.
Continue on to Noordeinde street – to see old houses or to have a break in one of the cafes of the shopping street in the old part of the city.
Escher in Het Paleis
If you are into art visit Escher in Het Paleis museum dedicated to famous Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. Museum is located in the former palace of the Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands.
Some of Escher’s most popular mathematically-inspired graphic art and optical illusions such as Relativity and Waterfall are on permanent exposition in the museum.
Visit their website to get more information.
Icon of The Hague – Binnenhof – is a home to Dutch government office. Binnenhof is more like a castle or a complex of buildings, with a pond in front of it and a nice inner yard open for visitors.
You can walk around Binnenhof, snap some pictures from across the pond or have a rest at one of the benches along the water. Make sure you go inside to see the inner yard of the castle.
Next to Binnenhof is Mauritshuis museum (see below) and a nice square simply called Plein (Square). With the statue of William of Orange in the middle, many cafes on the square and a modern city skyline picking out behind the old buildings it’s a popular place in The Hague.
The Mauritshuis is a small art museum (nice to fit into a short visit of The Hague), but it has many famous art pieces by Dutch and other European artists. The most famous one, perhaps, is the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ painting by Johannes Vermeer. Mauritshuis is also a home of ‘The Anatomy Lesson’ by Rembrandt, paintings by Rubens, van Dyck and other artists.
Visit their website to get more information.
Vredespaleis (Peace Palace)
If you are up for more walking and sightseeing, from the Postzegelboom continue on to the Noordeinde street – a shopping street in the old center of the city, and then to the Zeestraat with its embassies of different countries. Then you reach Vredespaleis – the Peace Palace.
The Peace Palace is a nice building on its own built in the Renaissance style, it also has a visitor center where you can learn about the history of the Vredespaleis with an audio tour (free of charge). Alternatively, you can pay for a guided tour, which needs to be booked in advance, or a tour through the historical gardens of the palace if you’re visiting in summer.
Madurodam is a very popular tourist attraction in The Hague. It’s a big park with lots of miniature replicas of Dutch cities, outdoor exhibitions and activities for children and adults. You can walk among miniature versions of Dutch landmarks with quite realistic buildings, tiny canals and parks, watch toy buses, ships and drawbridges operating within the scaled-down cities.
Interesting fact about Madurodam is that profits from the park go towards different charity organisations in the Netherlands. Visit their website to get more information.
You can get there by Tram #9 from the Central train station or by Tram #22 from the old town.
Seacoast and promenades
The Hague is located on the coast of the North Sea and has a few kilometers of nice sandy beaches. You can get on a tram (#9 or #22) at the Den Haag Centraal station and be at the popular Scheveningen beach in half an hour. Take a walk on the beach or the promenade just above it, have an ice cream to go or a meal in one of the many restaurants at Scheveningen, enjoy the view from the Pier or have a ride on The Pier SkyView ferris wheel.
Being born and raised in cities by the sea I love seacoast and beaches. And after living 10 years in New Zealand I get used to mostly empty beaches where you can enjoy the nature in piece and quiet. But Scheveningen is way too popular and therefore pretty crowded in a warm time of the year. While Scheveningen is good for social outings and lunch/dining options, if you want a quieter beach then head to Kijkduin beach instead (still not quite empty but with much lesser crowds).
If you’re visiting The Hague for a day, I think finishing the day on a beach would be a nice end of the visit (and you can easily get back to the train station from there by taking a tram). Even if you are visiting at a cold time of the year, enjoy a dinner or just a cup of coffee in one of Scheveningen’s cafes with a view to the sea.
Other places to visit in The Hague
If you’re staying in The Hague for longer, there are few more places I’d advise you to visit.
If you are visiting with kids, make sure to go to the underwater world at the Sea Life at Scheveningen. You will see there various sea creatures, including sharks and stingrays. Check their website.
If you like taking nature photos, go to one of the dune parks along the coast – Westduinpark, Oostduinpark or even Meijendel (a little outside of the city) – sand dune reserves are rich with bird life.
The Hague is a green city and there are few big parks within it. Take a walk in Park Sorghvliet or Scheveningse Bosjes (Scheveningen Woods) next to each other. Go out for a picnic in Haagse Bos – a huge green park in the middle of the city, with a playground, lake, Huis Ten Bosch (Royal residence) and many walking tracks among the trees.
Visit Louwman Museum to see world’s oldest private car collection. From antique cars to James Bond’s Aston Martin and to Formula 1 racing cars – quite an extensive collection to admire. Check their website for tickets and opening hours.
A bit outside of the city, but still reachable by public transport is one of the oldest castles in the region – Kasteel Duivenvoorde. It’s open from April to October and can be visited with a guided tour. Check the opening times and entrance fee on the website.
Go to Delft – a small city famous for its production of blue-and-white china and pottery. Delft is only 15 min by train away from The Hague so you can combine visit to both. Visit Royal Delft museum or shop to buy beautiful blue-and-white pottery. Go to Oude Kerk – a burial site of famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, or to Nieuwe Kerk – to see the tomb of William of Orange.
Want to see something even further from The Hague? Read my post What to see in the Netherlands to get more ideas and inspirations visiting Dutch cities.