In 2017, over 16 million people visited The Netherlands. This number is projected to grow over the coming year, with tourists flocking to the flat, windy country from places near and far. Most go straight to Amsterdam, and no wonder – with its mixture of history, culture, quirky vintage stores, and lax weed regulations, there’s definitely something for everyone!
If you find yourself wanting to explore beyond Amsterdam, why not head to The Hague (Den Haag) for a day trip? As a totally unbiased resident of this beautiful city, I find that it’s often grossly underrated. I probably won’t be there to give you the perfect Sunday tour, so instead have a look at my recommendation for the perfect itinerary!
Why The Hague
Aptly named the city of peace and justice, The Hague is home to the Peace Palace which houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It is also the third largest city in The Netherlands after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It boasts beautiful beaches, sprawling green spaces, cozy cafés, numerous museums – all easily reachable with its excellent public transport links. Busy, overcrowded Amsterdam cannot compare to the relaxed vibe of this gem of a city. Even as a tourist, sometimes you just need a break from all the tourists!
How to get there
The best way to get to The Hague from Amsterdam Centraal is by train. There are frequent daily services to Den Haag Centraal. My preference is for the Intercity – a 52 minute journey with trains running twice per hour. The train is usually quite on a Sunday morning, so you’ll get to enjoy a peaceful journey through the scenic Dutch countryside.
The trip from Amsterdam Centraal to Den Haag Centraal will cost you EUR11,70 (as of February 2018). If you are travelling with children under 11, make sure to buy them the Railrunner ticket priced at EUR2,50. It allows them to travel on any NS train service all day long – not everyone knows this and many end up paying the regular priced ticket for their children which is a huge waste of money!
Where to go
To get the full experience of a day in The Hague, aim to arrive by 10AM. Buy an HTM Dagkaart (EUR 6,50) for use on public transport for the rest of the day. Or, use your OV card if you have one.
Your first stop will be The Mauritshuis. This museum is walking distance from Den Haag Centraal, so you will not need to concern yourself with public transport just yet. The Mauritshuis was built in the 17th century, almost completely demolished in a fire in the 1800s, but then renovated and rebuilt. Most recently, it was restored and expanded in 2014.
While the building itself is stunning, it also hosts an impressive collection of Dutch art – most famously, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. This piece is so popular, it has its own movie (Girl with a Pearl Earring, 2003) starring Colin Firth as Vermeer and Scarlet Jonahsson as ‘the girl’:
Entry to the museum will set you back EUR15,50 for the adult ticket, EUR12,50 if you have a valid student card. If you are under the age of 19, you can get in for free.
The Mauritshuis is a compact museum which will give you just the right dose of Dutch art for the day. It is the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning in The Hague.
Lunch at Bagels and Beans
Having completed your Mauritshuis tour at roughly noon, you will make your way to Bagels and Beans, the Dutch chain that brought bagels to the Netherlands in 1996. The walk to lunch will be a scenic one, as you will be able to walk through the Binnenhof (House of Parliament). When you enter this courtyard built in the 14th century, you will immediately feel like you’ve walked through a time portal and traveled back in time a few centuries. And no wonder, the Binnehof happens to be the oldest Parliament building still in use!
Upon exiting the Binnenhof area, you will be greeted by the Hofvijver lake surrounding the Binnenhof buildings. This is a stunning part of The Hague, and a perfect spot for picture taking, especially on a sunny day!
Across the street, you will find Bagels and Beans. You will be able to choose from a variety of delicious bagels and exotic teas – my personal favourite is the Hummus bagel; go for the sesame bagel with hummus, sun dried tomatoes and rocket (EUR4,25). Add a Chai Mogli – a spicy, cinnamon flavoured tea (EUR 2,45). This organic, fair-trade, very affordable lunch will re-energise you before your next stop on our tour of The Hague.
It’s time to say goodbye to the lively central part of The Hague and head The Madurodam. Aim to leave Bagels and Beans by 2PM, as our next stop closes at 5PM on Sundays and you will want to see as much of it as possible!
You will get to the Madurodam using public transport (Bus 22, Direction Duindorp via Zuidersrandtheather). Again, there are frequent services and you can either use your OV or your HTM Dagkaart to get there. You’ll get off at the Madurodam stop and step into miniature Holland.
The Madurodam is perfect if you don’t have the time to explore the Netherlands but really want to see all the key bits. There are replicas of famous Dutch buildings, tiny Dutch houses and streets, as well as interactive attractions that teach you all about what it is that makes the Netherlands so special. There is a Cheese Scale, for example, and it literally is what it sounds like. It’s your weight in cheese. That’s really as Dutch as it gets. I won’t spoil the rest, but rest assured, you will fully immerse yourself in interactive Dutch inspired activities!
The experience will cost you EUR17,50 if you buy your ticket at the door, and EUR15,50 if you buy it online.
Once you’ve experienced the entirety of the Netherlands in miniature, head to Scheveningen (attempt pronunciation at your own risk). Scheveningen is The Hague’s most popular beach, with a beautiful boardwalk, a ferris wheel, and the pier. No tour of The Hague is complete without a stop here.
You can get to the beach from Madurodam by taking Tram 9 from Madurodam Noord, Direction Scheveningen Noorderstrand. Get off at the Kurhaus stop. Then head to the pier to enjoy views like the one below:
The pier has an indoor area with eclectic pop-up bars, cafés, and stores. The outdoor area allows for a peaceful, if a little windy walk, with beautiful views of the North Sea and the beach.
After you’ve had a chance to see the pier, enjoy the boardwalk for a while. Take it all in, you’ll find the vibe at the beach is very different from that of the city centre – people seem even more relaxed, and especially on a summer night, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a lively beach resort.
When you’ve explored the boardwalk and the pier, head to one of the beach restaurants. Watch the sun set over the North Sea and reward yourself with a cold beer, followed by a slightly overpriced dinner. Totally worth it!
This completes our one day tour of The Hague. Head back to Den Haag Centraal (Tram 9, Direction Vrederust from the Kurhaus). And next time, maybe book a stay in The Hague instead. This is only a snippet of what it has to offer.