Classic and cool things to do in The Hague

The Hague is a grand and elegant city yet understated and laid-back. You could say that it offers the best of both worlds: a certain refinement reflected by the many embassies aligning the elegant boulevards and the cool, urban chic vibe of a seaside resort. So, I’ve decided to write this article in a similar way, by grouping the classic and cool things to do in The Hague. It’s up to you to mix and match, depending on how much time you’ll spend in this wonderful city.

Binnenhof and Hofvijver, two of the best things to do in The Hague
Lively The Hague – Den Haag in Dutch – was once the capital of The Netherlands before thriving Amsterdam, the country’s economic and trading center, took over that honour. Yet The Hague kept its political power and, to this day, is the seat of the Dutch government, home to the royal family and to numerous international governmental organisations.

Map of The Hague

For your convenience, I’ve created this map with all things do do in The Hague mentioned in this article. So, whether you’re looking for the classic or cool The Hague attractions, you’ll find them here.

If this is a day trip from Amsterdam, then check out our article on 2 days in Amsterdam for the perfect weekend in the Dutch capital.

Classic things to do in The Hague

Admire the Binnenhof

The Hague’s postcard view is often the one from the Binnenhof, reflected in the Hofvijver lake. The complex of buildings houses the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as the office of the Dutch Prime Minister. The gothic palace was constructed in the 13th century, making it the oldest House of Parliament currently in use.

The Binnenhof, one of the classic attractions and a must when you visit The Hague
Some important highlights of the complex include the chapel, the Knight’s House – Ridderzaal in Dutch – where visiting knights could take shelter and the neo-gothic fountain that dates from the 19th century. The Binnenhof – which literally means Inner Court is one of the main The Hague attractions. Visitors are free to enter through one of the impressive gates.

One of the impressive entrance gates to the Binnenhof, one of The Hague's main attractions

Try a herring

At the square next to the west entrance of the Binnenhof, which is conveniently called Buitenhof or Outer Court, you’ll find the Haringkraam. This fish stall is The Hague’s finest. Eat your herring like the Dutch do: hold it by its tail and lower it slowly in your mouth. Watch out for the seagulls!

Haringkraam Buitenhof, the famous fish stall where you can try herring, is a must-see in The Hague

Book a tour a the Peace Palace

In the early 20th century, this neo-renaissance palace was built on the grounds of former royal estate Zorgvliet. The Peace Palace – Vredespaleis in Dutch – was the symbol of a judicial institution, inspired by the peace movement of the late 19the century and the first peace conference that was held in The Hague in 1899. To this day, it serves as the headquarters of the International Court of Justice.

Visiting the Peace Palace counts as one of the best things to do in The Hague
Guided garden tours are organized during the summer months, guided palace tours on some weekends and for a limited time during summer. Tickets are sold only on the official website.

Admire the Palace Noordeinde

The Noordeinde Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family and currently the king’s work p(a)lace. It is not open to the public except for a few days during the summers months when visitors are given access to some historical rooms. Also part of the Noordeinde Palace are the Royal Stables which house the royal carriages and the horses that draw them. Just like it is the case for the palace, visitors are welcome to visit the Royal Stables during a limited number of days every summer. If that doesn’t match with your travel plans then check out Noordeinde Palace and Royal Stables on Google Streetview.

The Facade of Noordeinde Palace, where the king of the Netherlands had his office
And of course you’re always welcome to enjoy the Palace Garden – Paleistuin in Dutch. It’s a city park that’s open from sunrise to sunset (except when the king receives high-profile guests).

The Palace gardens or Paleistuin is free for visitors and a great spot for a break when you visit The Hague

Visit the museums in The Hague

Prison Gate Museum

Located at the Buitenhof, there’s this quaint little building. It’s a former prison that is now the Prison Gate Museum and shows how the criminal justice system worked in the middle ages. The Prison Gate Museum is closed on Mondays. English guided tours are only available during weekends.

Mauritshuis Museum

Located right next to the Binnenhof’s east entrance, you’ll find the renowned Mauritshuis museum which houses an art collection of paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the 17th and 18th century (the Golden Age). You’ll find pieces of Jan Steen, Vermeer, Rubens, Paulus Potter and Frans Hals. The masterpiece on display is Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring”. The Mauritshuis Museum is closed on Monday morning.

The Mauritshuis is one of the city's prime museums and therefore counts as one of the most important things to do in The Hague

Escher in het Paleis

The Escher museum, or rather the Escher permanent exhibition, is the one The Hague experience I really regret missing out on. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist who played with perspective, geometry and symmetry creating the most surreal looking artworks. The retrospective has been on display in this former palace at the elegant Lange Voorhout boulevard since 2002.

Mesdag Museum

Klaas Mesdag was a 19th century banker who, after inheriting a fortune from his in-laws and encouraged by his father, gave up his corporate career to pursue his passion for painting. His masterpiece is called Panorama Mesdag, a view over the fishing district of Scheveningen. Klaas finished it in 4 months, assisted by his spouse Sina. This painting is over 14 meters (46 feet) high and measures 40 meters (130 feet) in diameter) and the room it is displayed in was purpose-built and actually not in the Mesdag Museum but just a 5 minute walk away. The Mesdag Collection inside the museum features paintings from the The Hague School and the Barbizon School and Colenbrander ceramics.

(Window) shop at the galeries and boutiques at the Denneweg

The Denneweg used to be the epicentre for antique shopping in The Hague but nowadays it offers an attractive mix of design shops, fancy designer boutiques, lifestyle brands and quaint eateries. A great place for a break when you visit The Hague.

Art galleries, boutiques and fancy shops at the Dennestraat in The Hague

Enjoy an iconic high tea at Hotel des Indes

Hotel des Indes is The Hague most luxurious hotel, housed in a former city palace, and has welcomed many famous guests. The hotel’s high tea is renowned and so, if your schedule allows it, it’s one of the most iconic things to do in The Hague. But even if it doesn’t, I would strongly suggest to have a drink at the bar so you can a grasp of the Hotel des Indes’ spectacular interior.

My husband enjoying his high tea at the Hotel des Indes in The Hague
The interior of the bar area at the iconic Hotel des Indes in The Hague

Cool things to do in The Hague

Hang out at the Zeeheldenkwartier

One of my favorite hang-outs in The Hague is the Anna Paulownaplein, the heart of the Zeeheldenkwartier or Seaheroes district. This lively square is located in between the city center and the Peace Palace and you’ll find plenty of quaint little cafes casual terraces on every corner.

The vibrant Zeeheldenkwartier in The Hague

Make a wish at the wish tree

At the entrance of the Peace Palace’s visitors center you’ll find this wish tree. People from all over the world hang their wish for peace in this tree. How inspiring! Will you hang yours too?

Reading the peace wishes in the wish tree next to the Peace palace is one of the essential things to do in The Hague

Takin in the city views

I admit, I’m a sucker for city views and panoramas. There’s just something so peaceful about observing a city from a distance. In The Hague, you have different options to do so too:

  • Haagse Toren: This is the 92.5 (303 feet) tower of the Grote Kerk or St Jacobs Church. Climbing the 288 steps is only possible as part of an organized tour on Thursday to Sunday from 13:00-15:00.
  • The Hague Tower: The Sky Bar or The Penthouse (Veranda) restaurant at this 132m (433 feet) skyscraper next to HS railway station.
  • Marriott The Hague Executive Lounge: I settled for the views over the beaches in The Hague this hotel’s Executive Lounge. Pretty amazing, right?

Breakfast with a view in the Marriott The Hague Executive Lounge

Have dinner at Catch by Simonis

Looking for the best fish restaurant in town? You’ve found it! Simonis is not just a name when it comes to fish in The Hague, it’s an institution. They have several restaurants, the coolest one being Catch by Simonis. It’s located right at the harbour of Scheveningen. From sea to plate, almost literally.

The harbour of Scheveningen

Go to the market in The Hague

Did you know that you can find the Holland’s biggest open market in The Hague? It takes place all day every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Painters district – Schilderswijk in Dutch. Locals love it because of the multicultural vibe and the worldwide assortment. After all, because of its international character, The Hague is also home to a large expat community so for many of them this is the place where they find some specialties that remind them of their home country.

Head to the beaches in The Hague

The beaches in The Hague are locates a few kilometres from the center. So, your best bet to get there is to do like the Dutch do: rent a bike. Most hotels will offer this service. The most known beaches in The Hague are located opposite from Scheveningen harbour:

Scheveningen beach

Dominated by the luxurious Kurhaus, a former bathhouse and to this day one of Holland’s most famous beach resorts, and the pier with its iconic ferris wheel, this beach is the busier of the two. It is dotted with beach pavilions and offers plenty of activities: kiting, surfing and even zip-lining over the pier.

Scheveningen beach, one of the beaches in The Hague

Kijkduin beach

If you’re more into peace and quiet, then Kijkduin Beach will be your favorite, where it’s all about the sea, the sand and the dunes.

Take a boat tour

While taking a canal tour is the obvious choice for a weekend break in Amsterdam, it’s not the same for The Hague. Yet, the city does boast some gorgeous waterways as well. The Ooievaart offers boat tours by passionate volunteers that will show you a different angle of this lovely city and tell you stories that you can’t read in your city guides. This is one of those under-the-radar cool things to do in The Hague you wouldn’t want to miss!

More things to do in or near The Hague

Of course your visit to The Hague doesn’t have to stop here. Here’s some more inspiration of things to do in or near The Hague to spend some more time in this lively city.

  • Keukenhof Gardens and the tulip fields of the Netherlands: The Hague is the capital the South Holland province, the heart of the bulb region. This means that spring time makes this the epicentre of tulips, Holland’s colorful icon.
  • Landgoed Clingendael Park: This elegant estate is mainly known because of its beautiful gardens. The main garden is open to the public year-round and offers a large playground. No better place for a summer family picnic. The Japanese garden is only open for a few weeks during spring and a few weeks during fall.
  • Madurodam: This is a collection of scaled miniatures of Dutch cities, landmarks and icons.
  • Louwman Museum: This must be one of Europe’s most beautiful car museums. In fact, it’s a private collection of over 200 historic cars and motorcycles including the James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 featured in “Goldfinger”.

Getting from Amsterdam to The Hague

It’s pretty easy to get from from Amsterdam to The Hague:

  • From downtown Amsterdam, just hop on the train from Amsterdam Central Station and about 50 minutes later you’ll arrive at one of The Hague’s two train stations: The Hague Central Station or The Hague HS.
  • From Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, make sure to take a direct train (otherwise you’ll need to transfer at Leiden) and you can get there in 30 minutes.

For train schedules, ticket prices and online tickets for your trip from Amsterdam to The Hague check out the website of the Dutch railway service via this link.

Where to stay in The Hague

Either the luxurious Hotel des Indes or the cool and very centrally located Hotel Indigo The Hague would be our pick.

Full disclosure: I stayed at The Marriott The Hague which was very nice too but more for business purposes. The reason why I choose it is because it was a rewards stay which means that I stayed there for free with points that I saved from the hotel chain’s loyalty program. It is conveniently located right in between the city center and the beaches of The Hague.

When will you visit The Hague?

With so many exciting things to do in The Hague, you’ll have a hard time narrowing it down to just a day trip. It’s such a vibrant city with plenty of activities on offer that you’ll easily spend a weekend exploring all the highlights. I can’t wait to find out if this article has inspired you to visit The Hague. Do let me know!


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6 Comments

    1. Sarah

      Just couldn’t resist! Another high tea tip in the area is the one in the Royal Delft museum, not too far from The Hague. Soooooo good and in an equally enjoyable setting.

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