Things to do in Den Haag
I am pretty partial to the Hague. It was the first city I lived in long-term in the Netherlands (not including my study abroad in Utrecht), and I spent a lot of time exploring the city and enjoy all that the Hague has to offer. Most visitors to the Netherlands only visit Amsterdam for a few days, but there are so many reasons to visit The Hague (Den Haag), the political capitol, only 40km away and next to the beach! The city has a much different vibe than Amsterdam, with the working palace of the king and queen located here, its also the headquarters of Shell, and is home to many expats and diplomats.
Wait – are you still not sure yet about where the Hague is? Check this post on Holland vs the Netherlands
The Hague might be smaller than Amsterdam but it is filled with loads to do making it a perfect day trip from Amsterdam, or good for a few nights away – in short the Hague is definitely worth visiting! It also has one key feature Amsterdam can’t offer: the beach, but I’ll get to that later.
I lived there for three years before moving to Amsterdam, so check out my top things to do in the Hague and the Hague travel guide. In this blog post you’ll find the best tips on what to see in Den Haag, what to do in the Hague for a day, and the Hague Netherlands points of interest – all shared by a (former) local! Pay a visit to my ex-home city, and you will not be disappointed! If you’re curious to find out what it was like to live in the Netherlands as an expat, check out this post.
About the Hague, Netherlands
First off, the name. The official name of the Hague is ‘s Gravenshage, which means the count’s hedge in Dutch. The Hague actually used to be a place where noblemen would come to hunt, thus the name meaning the count’s hedge. No one really wants to say ‘s Gravenshage, it’s a mouthful even for a Dutchie, so it is simply shortened in Dutch to Den Haag, so The Hague in English.
Where is the Hague? The Hague is located in the province of South Holland, right by the beach (more on that later). If you didn’t know, there are two provinces with the name Holland: North Holland and South Holland. This is where the name Holland comes from – JFYI 😉
Why is the Hague important? The Hague is the political capitol of the Netherlands. In the Hague you’ll find the Binnenhof, or Parliament Building, located smack-dab in the middle of the city. It is also the HQ of the royal family – I’m not sure that is exactly the right word for it, but you know what I mean. In the center of the city you’ll find the working palace of the King. The Hague is also home to the International Court of Justice and the Peace Palace, so there are tons of expats living in the Hague. The Hague is also where the global HQ of Shell Oil is located.
Alright now that you’ve got a basic understanding of what the Hague is all about, let’s get to the good stuff: things to do in Den Haag
The Hague’s top attractions: Visit its best museums
Home to The Girl with the Pearl Earring, this newly renovated museum is a must-see on your visit to the Hague. Its collection is only rivaled by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. If you are going on the weekend or in peak tourist season, be sure to book your tickets ahead of time online.
Once you’ve visited the museum, pop over to the restaurant lined Plein (city square) for lunch afterward… and maybe some beers.
Located a short walk from Mauritshuis is the MC Escher museum, a collection of Escher’s mind bending sketches and artwork. Prepare to have your mind blown and to see his infamous drawings in real life. This is a great alternative for anyone who isn’t interested in seeing classical Dutch paintings at Mauritshuis. The Escher Museum is easily one of my favorite things to do in Den Haag.
Ok, so maybe Madurodam isn’t actually a museum, but I’m not really sure how to classify this one. Madurodam is a perfect visit for anyone with kids, or anyone who just loves cute miniatures!
Madurodam is essentially a tiny version of Holland, with tiny replicas of the country’s most famous landmarks – it is super cute and is one of the best The Hague attractions. Madurodam is even cool for adults to visit, just be sure to visit when the weather is good, since Madurodam is all outdoors.
Looking for more museums in the Netherlands? Check this list of the best Amsterdam museums
What to do in the Hague: Visit the Peace Palace
Visit the gorgeous Peace Palace on of the main points of interest in the Hague, donated by Andrew Carnegie. The Peace Palace is part of the International Court of Justice (also located in the Hague) which presides over international law – human rights atrocities, mostly. The Peace Palace was actually an idea that a Russian and a US diplomat came up with, to provide a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Organize a tour of the palace, or merely take in the impressive building from the outside.
I’ve always thought the Peace Palace was one of the best places to visit in the Hague – this building is so unique and beautiful, and of course, meaningful since it stands for peace all over the world.
Things to do in the Hague: Wander through the Binnenhof
Next to the Mauritshuis is the country’s seat of parliament, the Binnenhof. No itinerary for the Hague would be complete without a trip to the Binnenhof. Take a stroll through and take in the architecture, and maybe you’ll even see the Prime Minister – I’ve actually seen him quite a few times walking through here! Don’t expect any secret service guards to be around, this is the Netherlands after all. The Binnenhof is beautiful and down to earth, a perfect courtyard to stroll through while you visit the Hague.
After exploring this beautiful place, try some fresh pickled herring (haring) from one of the stands located outside of the Binnenhof – its a Dutch delicacy! Eating pickled herring is one of the most important things to do in the Hague IF you are a fish connoisseur 😉 Also check out the view of the Binnenhof from the Hofvijver, the pond in front of the building.
Things to do in the Hague: Stroll past the Royal Palace and browse the shops on Noordeinde
A short walk from the Binnenhof will lead you to the Royal Palace, Paleis Noordeinde. This is the working palace for the king and queen, but don’t expect to see them here. It’s pretty modest as far as palaces go, but hey, that’s what makes it so Dutch! A list of Den Haag things to do would never be complete without stopping by Paleis Noordeinde, even if it is only to have a look from the outside.
After seeding the palace, continue heading down Noordeinde, a street filled with boutiques, cafes and some of this city’s best restaurants. If you’re looking for a great place to eat, check out It Rains Fishes or Het Heden, both located a short walk from the palace.
Things to do in the Hague: Chill on a beach terrace in Scheveningen
If you’re visiting The Hague in the summer time, you absolutely cannot miss out on heading to Scheveningen. Say it with me (skay-vin-en-gen). The beach terraces on Zwarte Pad are the place to be on a warm summer day in the Hague. Skip the main beach area where all the families spend their day and walk north along the beach, past Carlton Beach hotel by about 5-10 minutes. There are tons of hip places, so just stroll ’til you find one that suits you. Hanging out in Scheveningen is one of my favorite things to do in the Hague, and one of the ways I frequently spent my summer days when I used to live there! If you visit the Hague in the summertime, you absolutely cannot miss out on a visit to the beach.
Chill out on a lounger and drink a beer while a DJ spins tropic-house in the background – its the perfect way to cure a hangover – or create a fresh one by staying for an all night beach party. Reach the beach via Tram 1 from the center.
Where to stay in the Hague
Mid-price range hotels:
One of my favorite places to recommend to visitors to the Netherlands is always the Student Hotel. They’ve got locations across NL and are expanding across Europe with their concept of student apartments and hotel rooms for normal travelers. The Student Hotel definitely has a hip, upscale vibe that is sure to make anyone feel young. It’s also a pretty affordable option for any city you visit.
Zeta Beds is located smack in the middle of nightlife in the Hague’s Grote Markt, a popular square for doing out for food and drinks. So it might get a little noisy if you are in bed early, but if you want to be in the heart of the action this place is for you – plus it looks so darn cute!
The Hilton is something I have to personally recommend because I used to live one street away from it and biked past it EVERY DAY! I loved seeing the replica of Girl with the Pearl Earring on the wall there every time I passed by. The Hilton is located just a few minutes walk from the city center, but is just far enough outside of the busy area that you won’t encounter much noise or tourists. I’d say it is the ideal place to stay (and live near!)
No list of places to stay in the Hague is complete without Hotel Des Indes. This hotel is famous across the entire country, and for good reason. It is a true luxury hotel and completely fits the royal vibes of the city.
How to get around in the Hague
The Hague isn’t so big, so all the attractions I’ve listed here, besides the beach, are easily reachable by foot from the Den Haag Centraal train station.
If you want to go Dutch, or if you prefer to visit the beach by bike – which I strongly recommend during the busy summer months – you can rent a bike from Fietsverhuur Den Haag, just a few minutes walk from central station.
How to get to the Hague from Amsterdam
You can easily reach the Hague from any of the train stations in Amsterdam. Don’t assume your fastest route is via Amsterdam Central Station, especially if you are staying in De Pijp or Amsterdam Zuid.
Be sure to check NS.nl for train times and prices. Typically there are between 2-4 trains running per hour. to the Hague from Amsterdam Central, Amsterdam Sloterdijk, Amsterdam Lelylaan, and Amsterdam Zuid stations. You’ll want to make sure you take the train to Den Haag Centraal (not Den Haag Holland Spoor).
What to pack for the Netherlands
Looking for more things to do in the Netherlands? Don’t miss these tips
- Why you should visit Rotterdam
- Visit the charming fishing village of Marken, the Netherlands
- The best hidden gems of the Netherlands
- Get off the beaten path and over to the Dutch island, Texel
- Go Dutch and get into the mudflats with a wadlopen adventure
- How to see tulips in Holland
- The best things to do in one day in Haarlem
- Visit the breathtaking Kasteel de Haar
- The best microbreweries in Amsterdam
Did this post help you determine what to do in the Hague? Let me know in the comments below!
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.