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A long-weekend in The Hague, the perfect Europe city-break?

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Updated: 24th November 2019


I’ll admit that before my long weekend in The Hague, I was a bit dubious about whether I could fill three days there. It turned out, though, that I was sorely mistaken. This Dutch city, best known for some of the most prestigious international institutions, offers every piece of the pie you could want for the perfect European city break.

Chic beach clubs with chilled cocktails and golden sands, check. Dutch brews and an ever-growing dining scene, check. History, culture and interesting museums check. Laidback vibes that are perfect for exploring by bike check. The Dutch essentials: canals and tulips – well, a few.

I think it’s fair to say Amsterdam steals most of the international attention and visitors The Netherlands receives, but with crowds and over-tourism becoming a real issue in the Dutch capital, so much so that Amsterdam tourism board is even promoting other destinations such as The Hague itself, consider visiting the royal and political capital of the country instead, The Hague.

Whether you come for a long weekend in The Hague or just an overnight visit, here is some inspiration for your Hague itinerary that you can draw from and plenty of reasons to make Den Haag, as it’s known locally, your next Europe city break.

Museums and galleries for all ages

Museums and Galleries in The Hague aren’t all about the Peace and Justice side of the city. Whether you enjoy your long weekend in The Hague as a couple, solo, or with a family, you’ll find plenty of chances to admire art, learn about history, or interact with emotional displays of reality.

There are a couple of museums I visited in The Hague that really stand out to me, the first being Humanity House. I wrote about this in-depth in my Hague Peace and Justice article, but the premise of the museum is to start to understand the journey of a refugee or migrant.

The interactive experience walks you through just some of the steps that displaced people face on their journey to a new country, and that experience, coupled with the emotional stories at the end, makes this my number one museum recommendation in The Hague.

Another fantastic spot, which is certainly not just for kids, is Madurodam, the ‘happiest war memorial in the world’. Dedicated to their young son, the parents of George Maduro, who died during WWII, set up this miniature theme park, which details the whole of The Netherlands in model size in dedication to his memory.

If you are seeking more classical art, there are plenty of galleries in The Hague to visit. The most famous is Mauritshuis, a beautifully restored palace best known for displaying The Girl With The Pearl Earring. The building itself is just as worth a visit as the collection that adorns its walls. For contemporary art lovers, the modern collection at Galerie Ramakers or the graphic work of Escher in Het Palais might be preferred.

If you don’t have time to make it out to the coast of The Hague, then Panorama Mesdeg houses a striking 19th-century panoramic image of the shorefront. Lastly, Museon is an ideal place to start your visit, especially with kids, although this museum is known for its easy-to-understand displays on all kinds of subjects, which makes it ideal for us big kids to take in the history and political situations in bite-size pieces.

Food, drink and a fantastic vegetarian and vegan scene

Foodies in The Hague will feel spoilt, with abundant fresh food, funky restaurants, and an ever-expanding collection of vegetarian offerings. Thanks to some of the outstanding backstories many of The Hague’s dining options have, there is also an opportunity to dine with a conscience. For those who prefer chic beach bar vibes, the golden sands of Scheveningen are only a short ride away.

One of my favourite meals in The Hague was at Love & Peas, a vegetarian restaurant that hit international newspapers when it opened a few years ago. Founded by a Palestinian and an Israeli together, with the goal of great hummus, this spot outside the city centre is a cosy setting with renovated furniture and a tempting array of mezze plates. The back story behind the duo coming together caused a wave as the divide in their homeland is obviously well known. Still, here, you’ll be welcomed as old friends and showered with all the incredible dishes I loved during my time in Palestine.

If your love for Indonesian food is as high as mine, there are plenty of options to choose from here, thanks to the large Indonesian population in The Hague. I was reliably informed each one serves up delicious dishes, and Restaurant Garoeda, where I dined, put on a generous and scrumptious rice table, which will allow you to sample multiple dishes in one sitting.

For those seeking a more indulgent fine dining experience, Tommy’s & Zuurveen is a must-visit. This beautiful venue brings together a delicious menu of high-end treats and offers both a standard menu and an entirely vegetarian option. I had some of the most exquisite food of my trip here, and the delightful setting in a warm palate of blues with charming finishing touches makes it an ideal spot for a romantic meal or a reasonably priced treat while visiting The Hague.

Bringing funky beats and rooftop vibes to The Hague is Bleyenberg, inside a converted hardware store that is named after the old manager. Sitting amongst plenty of other fantastic dining spots on Grote Markt square, each room has great decor and occasional DJ sets, but on a sunny day, head to the top-floor terrace and enjoy a colossal salad overlooking the tallest buildings of The Hague.

Drink lovers are spoilt too, Traditional ‘borrel’ – the Dutch word for gathering for drinks – is best enjoyed in one of the wood-heavy local bars such as at Café Huppel de Pub, which has an extensive menu of local and international brews. For a fancy cocktail, head to the Gold Bar in the Indigo Hotel, a gold-decorate bar in the old bank vaults.

There are plenty more places for a mindful drink or conscious cafe options in The Hague. De Prael Brewery hires people who have a distance from employment and are soon to start brewing here as well as their Amsterdam location. At Moaz Vegan, you’ll find a whole host of meat and dairy-free treats while grabbing a coffee at Lola Bikes and Coffee will support various local projects in the community. For a spot of people-watching with traditional food, head to the happening square of Plein, where the tables of Barlow spill out under the tree-lined square and, at lunchtime, come alive.

When the sun is shining, though, be sure to head out to the beach at Scheveningen, where a California vibe is present along the beach. Countless chic cocktail bars, wooden decked cafes, and fancy restaurants can be found here in the summer season, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy some fresh fish while catching the rays.

I was honestly surprised at how fantastic the food scene was in The Hague, so whether you plump for one of my options or seek out your own spots, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a great meal.

Peace, justice, politics and a slice of royalty

The Hague is known as the city of peace and justice, and I actually visited over the weekend celebrating the UNs International Day of Peace. There are a whole host of activities, events and museums dedicated to The Hague’s peace and justice focus, and I wrote an in-depth guide to Peace and Justice in The Hague, which will give you a more detailed insight. But for an overview, here are a few places to enjoy during your long weekend in The Hague.

Start your trip in The Hague at the Inner Court and The Hall of Knights, which is home to the Dutch parliament. The courtyard is always open to the public, and it’s quite surreal to be walking around or cycling past all these essential buildings in the evening. The reflection of the prime minister’s office in the large pond out the front is a beauty, while tours can take you inside The Hall of Knights to see the throne where the Dutch King gives his annual speech. From the Inner Court, it’s just a few minutes walk to the fantastic Humanity House museum I mentioned earlier.

There is plenty of royalty to enjoy throughout the Hague, with a few palaces here, mainly working ones, which you can quickly see from the street or gardens. The Royal Court Quarter is the ideal place to stroll around and soak up this side of The Hague on a long weekend visit.

When it comes to The Hague’s peace icons, though, The Peace Palace reigns supreme. This grand building has a fantastic history, which you can read about in my Hague Peace & Justice guide, but essentially, it holds two of the most important national courts: The International Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice. Try to book a tour during your long weekend in The Hague, as it’s a spectacular and humbling building decorated with gifts from countries worldwide. The more modern International Criminal Court is also in The Hague and has a visitor centre.

War history is also honoured in The Hague, given the city, after remaining neutral, was quickly captured in WWII. The Hague became a vital part of the invasion of the ‘Artik Wall, ‘ and along the coast, you can still find war bunkers that are now open to the public to visit and display artefacts.

Perhaps the most harrowing and, therefore, important spot in The Hague is the Nationaal Monument Oranjehotel, which has recently been reopened as a museum. During the war, it was here much of the resistance was held before being taken to concentration camps. Some of the cells remain as they were, with messages from inmates etched into the wall. It’s an emotional place to be in, but the curators have done a good job of being respectful while putting history on display.

California beach vibes on The Dutch coastline

The Beach scene in The Hague seems to be the one that surprises visitors the most, I mean, who would have thought it possible to find in The Netherlands. During your long weekend in The Hague, a trip out to Scheveningen is a must if the weather is right, and there are plenty of things to enjoy on the coast.

Heading to the coast in The Hague, you’ll pass the West Dune Park, both important for keeping the city from sinking but also where the war bunkers I mentioned above are.

The main beach is Scheveningen, which is just a short bicycle or tram ride away from the city centre. Here, the year-round pier takes centre stage with its attractions, shops and bars, and all along this stip in the summer months, you’ll find countless beach bars, clubs and restaurants to suit all tastes. I was so surprised by the vibes here, with people on rollerblades and others knocking back Mojitos, I almost forgot I was in Holland!

At the top of the pier is the Kurhaus of Scheveningen, a grand 5-star hotel which, although impressive from the outside and ballrooms, I’ve heard is a little dated inside. A walk along the coast will take you past The Fairytale Statues, a mix of comic-inspired metal creations, and a further walk will take you to the Harbour and Lighthouse, from here you can loop back on foot to the city centre.

A packed-out, year-round event calendar

The Hague might not be the biggest city in The Netherlands, but it does offer a year-round events calendar that you might want to plan your long weekend around. Here are a few of the top events in The Hague to keep in mind.

The most important of these I believe is The Peace Weekend, in September, and if you are planning to spend your long weekend in The Hague around then, be sure to read my Peace Weekend guide.

Other well-known events include Parkpop, a large one-day music festival in June, the Filmhuis Den Haag which is actually open all year round, and Art The Hague, a quirky and contemporary art fair that happens each October.

Green spaces, outside activities and other gems

It goes without saying that indulging in canal strolls, people-watching over coffee, and green spaces is one of the great pleasures of visiting The Netherlands, and a long weekend in The Hague offers plenty of gems to enjoy during your visit.

The Palace Gardens are one of the sweetest inner-city spots to relax on a summer day, enjoying a picnic or reading a book in the shadow of a royal palace.

For those who are seeking some retail therapy, The Passage is a grand old set of shops that is like a smaller version of Milan’s Gallerie, although it is mainly chain stores now, and there are plenty of fantastic boutique stores around the city to shop at.

If you want to enjoy a coffee with a slice of history, head to the Hotel des Indes, whose huge downstairs cafe used to be open-plan and see horses and carts delivering guests to the staircase. It’s also where many celebrities will stay when visiting The Hague.

Honestly, the list of things to do in The Hague on a long weekend is seemingly never-ending and will shower you with a mix of attractions, events and experiences that can cater to any traveller’s tastes. There aren’t many cities in Europe that can tick so many boxes, and for me, it makes The Hague a perfect European city break. I hope you agree when you make it to this fantastic city!

Need to Know: The Hague

A few tips and details to help you plan your visit to The Hague.

Visiting during the UN International Day of Peace and Peace Weekend

I visited The Hague during this very special occasion when these institutions opened to the public. You can read about my experience at The Hague Peace Weekend here.

Getting to The Hague

The Hague can be quickly reached by train from Amsterdam airport in around 30 minutes by car or train and is well connected to most cities in The Netherlands by train. Rotterdam-The Hague shared airport is even closed, although cheap flight options are more restrictive.

Where to stay in The Hague

During my visit to The Hague, I was hosted in the Staybridge, ideally located looking out on Parliament. This brand new hotel was converted from the Norwegian Embassy and offers a real home away from home vibe with social evenings three times a week. An all-suite hotel, the rooms provide comfy bedding and bathrooms, and an additional room with a lounge area and kitchen, which, given that many visitors to the city may be staying for extended working periods, figures. It was a perfect hotel, ideally located, and offered a great breakfast and bike hire.

If you are visiting The Hague on a budget, there are hostel options, too, including the highly-rated Pink Flamingo Hostel and The Student Hotel.

If you want to go all out, then book into the Hotel Des Indies, a truly royal and grand hotel in the city centre that has a long and distinguished history in the making of the city and has welcomed celebrities and royalty for years – even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth popping in for coffee as I did.

Alternatively, if you want to base yourself by the beach in The Hague rather than the city centre, consider staying in a fully decked-out beach hut, which looks super cool, or the famous, grand and yet reviews say slightly dated, five-star Kurhaus of Scheveningen hotel.

4 replies
  1. Kelley Harris says:

    It sounds like there is certainly a lot to do here! What a great alternative to Amsterdam and kind of avoiding more of the crowds. So much respect for history and community here – it’s definitely now on my travel list.

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