When I first took the train from Amsterdam to The Hague, I had absolutely no clue how I was going to take to the European, not-so-fast-paced life. Little did I know that the delightful city of The Hague with its picturesque canals and vistas straight out of a postcard would make me never want to leave.
The fact that The Hague is a melting pot of cultures courtesy its international organisations, is one of the reasons it is different from most European cities. There are a myriad cultural things happening across the city on a regular basis. Food truck festivals, fireworks festival, Museum Night (one night in the year when the museums are open at night with cocktails, musical acts, the works), walking tours, embassy festivals – these are just a few things that make ‘The Hague experience’, one of its kind.
Apart from the fact that The Hague offers the perfect mix of a metropolitan city and the charms of a relaxed town, it is imperative to come here for its spectacular landscapes and the natural topography of the city, complete with the canals and tulips. If you’re lucky, you might get to see the tulips in full bloom in Keukenhof (only 30 kms from The Hague), the most magical sight I’ve witnessed this side of Holland.
But if you are in the city for a short trip, here are the things that you must do.
See and Shop
With a super efficient public transportation system and crisp, clean air to make walking around conducive, there is no wrong way to explore The Hague. Home to the Dutch monarch, the city boasts of a number of stunning palaces. Art is deeply entrenched in its fabric and the number of museums (I still haven’t been to all of them!) and art galleries across the city is astounding. Nobody should go back without a visit to Mauritshuis, which houses the famous ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer, or the Panorama Mesdag, a museum featuring 19th-century artist Hendrik Mesdag’s detailled beach painting. And fashion here is just as important as art because the European fashion sensibility is so interwoven into the fabric of The Hague and Rotterdam. It’s common to spot effortlessly chic women shopping and walking across stores like COS, Costes, De Bijenkorf in their oversized knits, skinny jeans, and trainers, especially in the district of Centrum (City Centre, if you may) or in De Passage (an architectural wonder which serves as a shopping arcade). A Dutch label very close to my classic-meets-cool sensibility is Vanilia; a store I recommend visiting in the city centre.
Must-Eat and Wander
One of my favourite streets in the city to grab a bite or a drink is Denneweg. It’s lined with hip cafes and restaurants serving a whole variety of cuisines, and an array of bars, each with a specialty like a wine bar or ones doing some great gin (poison du jour) cocktails. Walter Benedict is perfect for a great coffee and poached eggs with avocado, while Bouzy is ideal for an exclusively wine-only night. My most favourite place to get some seriously innovative drinks with some authentic Sardinian food is The Court.
I live in the Scheveningen district, which is the beach side, and I cannot emphasise enough how great a spot it is for visitors. With a boardwalk full of restaurants, bars, and shacks, a walk down to the pier and a stop for an aperitif in the summers is not uncalled for. Since it’s a postcard-pretty city, most spaces make for great walks and snacking on-the-go. Lange Voorhout is another such area, with a palace and museums covering all sides. It’s a beautiful space to walk around, and sit by the cafes or turn up on the weekends when it hosts an antique book market and go back with a kitty full of literary bargains.
Another one that makes it to my list of experiences is a walk down Noordeinde Palace and the street full of art galleries and cafes next to it. I would suggest picking up a fresh stroopwaffle or fries with a range of toppings from a cart in the city centre and walking down to Noordeinde, gazing at the art displays and enjoying the lovely albeit windy weather. These are experiences so true to the spirit of The Hague and a far cry from the obvious tourist traps.
Like the millennials say, #TravelGoals for 2019?