Where the locals go in The Hague
Travelling to the Netherlands? You’re probably considering Amsterdam and/or Rotterdam as possible destinations already, but how about The Hague? The oft-overlooked Dutch city has a lot going for it: parts of it are better known, such as the Royal Palace (yes, Amsterdam is the capital but the palace is in The Hague!) or the International Court of Justice, but did you know about the huge beach of Scheveningen that’s just next door? Still, that’s just surface-deep — discover more by following these tips by The Hague locals and looking at the Netherlands from a different point of view.
Go to the beach
The Hague has an 11km stretch of beach, famous Scheveningen. There you’ll find plenty of pavilions during the warm season (April – October) that are set up and taken down every single year. Take advantage of the opportunity to go surfing in the North Sea, hang out at surfer beach club Hart Club, visit iconic Scheveningen pier (complete with Ferris wheel!) or even hop on a trampoline at Fonk. At one of the quieter places on the beach you can visit jazz club de Fuut that actually organizes concerts on the beach.
Strange artificial life form or just plain art?
If you drop by the aforementioned de Fuut, you can’t miss these ‘sculptures’, or Strandbeesten (beach beasts) by world-renowned local artist Theo Jansen. He makes weird constructions that move around independently on the power of the wind alone, and every year he brings his new creations to this space to test them out. Are they works of art or science? You don’t have to riddle this one out — just come here and enjoy observing this local hero’s creations. If you’re interested in more art on the beach, also check out the Scheveningen Sculptures.
Best fried fish & seafood in town
Still in Scheveningen and getting hungry? You should check out local favorite Simonis. This place combines the vibe of a butcher’s shop (you’ve got to get a number to stand in line!) with a snack bar (where they only serve fried food), but it’s not just your average fish & chips shop. You can either stay here to eat or take your seafood away and enjoy it on the beach. Just be mindful of the seagulls — they know what they want and exactly how to get it!
A real Dutch windmill
Few things convey Dutchness more strongly than an iconic windmill, and this one, the Molen de Korenaer, isn’t just a tourist attraction — it’s an honest-to-goodness agricultural facility that still grinds wheat into fine flour. It was restored in 1721, and today it has to keep working so as to not fall into disrepair. Thus, it is thankfully operated by volunteer millers who can show you around and will sell you flour, müsli, yeast (hard to find!) and honey at the mill’s shop.
A crispy-crunchy outside, creamy-smooth inside kroket is as close to a real Dutch snack as you will ever get, and there’s honestly no better place to get one in The Hague than Dungelmann, a traditional butcher shop in the center. Having a kroket here while shopping on Hoogstraat is a local custom you should definitely try. Be prepared to get in line (although it does move fast), ask for a ‘broodje croquette’ and you’ll get the question ‘traditional or special?’. It all depends on taste. Enjoy with mustard!
The burying ground of Fahrenheit — yes, that Fahrenheit
Local Jenny’s neighborhood church, the Kloosterkerk, which dates in one way or another back to the 15th century, organizes cute second-hand bazaars twice per year that she tries to never miss. It’s also the church the former queen Beatrix used to attend, and (unbeknownst to most people) it also happens to house the remains of Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, the inventor of the mercury thermometer. Also good to know: every last Sunday of the month a Bach cantata is performed during Mass.
A centuries-old drugstore
Tired of shopping in personality-less megastores? Van der Gaag has been in business for more than 200 years and has changed little over the last couple of centuries — it’s still got glass jars and wooden panels. Its stock isn’t limited to medicine, of course; here you can buy personal care products and over 250 kinds of spices and herbs, the shop’s traditional specialty. You can also buy candy including dropjes, or licorice, straight out of the glass jar. Will you be like most foreigners, who typically despise them?
The King’s backyard
The Palace Gardens might be the King’s property (and it’s also right next to the King’s workplace, Noordeinde), but they’re an excellent place to enjoy a day in the sun for the commoners as well. Every Sunday morning, there’s a huge yoga class here, but what’s most charming about the Gardens is the little stories about it: in 1785, the first hot-air balloon took flight from here, whereas hidden in a little corner there’s an inconspicuous door which, if you ring the bell for the guards to open for you, will lead you directly to the city centre through a beautiful archway via a royal shortcut. Now that’s luxury!
Header image by Zairon