Charming and culture-loving, the Hague deserves at least a day trip – and getting there from Amsterdam couldn’t be easier. Intercity trains will whisk you there in under 45 minutes, with direct, half-hourly services from Amsterdam Central Station. The big surprise for first-timers? This is one of Europe’s loveliest cities, with its Golden-Age mansions, gilded palaces, and world-class art museums. Exquisite Vermeers and Rembrandts hang in the Mauritshuis, while the Kunstmuseum Den Haag has a stellar array of Mondrian’s pioneering paintings.
Elsewhere, there are canalside cafés, cobbled streets and Art Nouveau gems, along with the Noordeinde Palace, where the king still rolls up for work. The Hague’s also home to the Peace Palace and International Court of Justice, which – like its rose-filled gardens – can be visited by guided tour. To see another side of the city, head for the coast at Scheveningen, famed for its dune-backed beaches, handsome pier and sculpture museum.
Our itinerary takes in art appreciation and oysters by the sea, a stroll along the city’s leafiest street, and dinner in a candlelit bistro.
With its marble bar, palm-fringed mural and green-velvet banquettes, this charming all-day brasserie is a stylish spot for breakfast. The menu’s short but equally polished; think Bloody Marys, shakshuka and vegan ‘smoothie’ bowls. Follow the regulars’ example and share the breakfast platter: a generous, impressively good-value spread spanning smoked salmon, pancakes and more.
It’s a five-minute stroll along the lake to The Hague’s most famous museum, which occupies a honey-coloured, Italianate palace. It’s the perfect showcase for a succession of Golden-Age treasures, including Vermeer’s tremulously lovely Girl with a Pearl Earring. Carel Fabritius’ tiny Goldfinch also draws the crowds, while a room of magnificent Rembrandts includes his last, unsparing self-portrait.
Next door to the Mauritshuis, there’s no missing the Binnenhof, the Dutch government’s turreted headquarters. Set around an imposing central courtyard and bounded by the Hofvijver lake, its oldest part is the 13th-century Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall). You’re welcome to wander the complex, which is dotted with benches and statues; to see inside, you’ll need to sign up for one of ProDemos’s tours.
It’s under half an hour by bike, bus or tram to the harbour at Scheveningen – still officially part of the city. For lunch, head to the quayside De Dagvisser, which buys its fish fresh every day at the nearby early-morning auction. Its menu runs from creamy Zeeland oysters to salt-crusted sea bass, along with more casual lunchtime snacks like kibbeling (cod fritters) and fries.
After lunch, wander past the boat-filled harbour to Scheveningen’s long, sandy beach. It takes around half an hour to reach the pier and Ferris wheel, past cheap-and-cheerful cafés, ice-cream kiosks and the grandly domed Kurhaus spa hotel. Back among the dunes, don’t miss the Museum Beelden aan Zee, with its striking collection of sculptures, backdropped by the North Sea.
Once you’ve had enough sea air, head back to the centre, and browse the shops and cafés on cobbled, historic Denneweg. Look out for Betjeman en Barton’s tiny tea emporium, or catch a free exhibition curated from the Heden Foundation’s eclectic collections. At the northern end of the street, turn left on to canalside Mauritskade, for a spot of vintage-hunting at Secondhand Rose.
Denneweg leads into the famed Lange Verhout, a stately L-shaped street framed by avenues of linden trees. Stroll past its elegant townhouses to the former winter palace, now home to the perspective-bending Escher in Het Paleis museum. The street also hosts a twice-weekly market from mid-May until late September, selling books, vintage vinyl, old maps and antiques.
On a street lined with excellent eateries, this sleek, all-day bistro’s a standout. Behind a dapper blue frontage, it’s chic but hospitable, with its green-tiled bar, stripped-back brick walls and gleam of candlelight. Affable, leather-aproned staff are happy to advise on the menu, which riffs on tried-and-tested classics: tarragon-laced moules-frites, perhaps, or steak with bordelaise sauce.