Large brick building beside a pond, the Binnenhof

Discover The Hague: 21 Top Things to Do in the Netherlands Royal City

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With magnificent gardens, world-class museums, and a lively culinary scene, The Hague is a gorgeous and culturally rich destination. This city in the Netherlands has nearly 800 years of history and the monuments and sites to go along with it. There is never a shortage of interesting and fun things to do in The Hague.

The Hague (Den Haag) is the home of the Dutch royal family and the seat of government for the Netherlands. It is not only the location of the country’s parliament, but it also plays a critical role in the maintenance of world peace and justice with the presence of several international courts, some of which are open to visitors. Add in the nearby seaside, art, and live music throughout the squares and you have a city full of activities for every traveler’s interests.

Fun Things to do in The Hague

We spent several weeks exploring what to do and see in The Hague and developed this list of some of our favorites.

Peace Palace

Large brick building with a clock tower, the Peace Palace in The Hague
The importance of the Peace Palace is evident even from the outside

The Peace Palace (Vredespaleis) is the most photographed building in The Hague. It is home to the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and other institutions. Some of the most important disputes in the world are settled here. Just standing in front of it, it feels like an important place—a place of gravitas.

Largely financed by steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the construction of this Gothic and Neoclassical building began in 1907. Its materials come from around the world with marble from Italy, wood from Brazil and the US, and ornamental iron railings from Germany. To see the features up close, you need to book a guided tour, which is available on select weekends.

The Visitors Center has a detailed exhibit about the Peace Palace, its courts, and the international peace conferences that led to its founding before World War I. If you’re short on time, get an audio guide and watch the featured movie for a good overview.

Binnenhof

Gold ornametal fountain in a courtyard surrounded by a building
Ornamental fountain in the courtyard of the Binnenhof

The Hague is the Dutch seat of government, and much of that activity takes place in the Binnenhof in the city center. This collection of buildings alongside the picturesque Hofvijver pond dates to the 1200s.

The Binnenhof houses both chambers of Parliament and is the oldest House of Parliament in the world. The most notable buildings in the complex are the Gothic Ridderzaal, or Knights’ Hall, where the Dutch Monarch opens Parliament every year, and the official residence of the Prime Minister, which is located in the North Wing. Take a spin through the courtyard and admire the buildings and ornamental fountain

Plein

People at outdoor cafe on the tree-lined Plein square in The Hague
People enjoying a sunny weekend at the Plein

Hanging out in the Plein is what to do in The Hague on a nice day. Lined with trees and historic buildings, this square is a great location for dining al fresco because of the string of cafes and bars that comes alive on the weekends and in the evenings. There are occasional pop ups or promotional events as well, so there is often something unique to see. In the evenings, the Plein becomes one of the city’s nightlife hubs thanks to its trendy clubs.

Mauritshuis

Visitors looking at paintings in the Mauritshuis gallery
Visitors enjoying paintings at the Mauritshuis

A grand 17th-century count’s residence is the setting for one of the most important museums in The Hague, Mauritshuis. It houses over 200 works of art from the Dutch Golden Age, including pieces from masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, and Frans Hals.

Walking through the floors of the Mauritshuis feels like visiting the most glorious private collection ever. There is no cavernous, sterile gallery space here. Instead, the lavish interior provides nearly as many unique details as the works themselves.

Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft along with Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson are among the most notable artworks in the collection. A guided tour and the museum’s free app provide additional details and stories about the works.

Canals

A canal lined with trees and buildings
Above one of The Hague’s beautiful canals

Most people associate canals in the Netherlands with Amsterdam, but many other cities like The Hague, Delft, and Utrecht have them, too. In The Hague, many of the canals were filled in beginning as far back as the 17th century to help with sanitation concerns, but they have since been restored.

Now, it’s possible to walk along the canals, take a boat tour, or even rent your own boat to enjoy the waterways at your desired speed. If you happen to visit The Hague at the end of August, you can also see the annual Jazz in the Canal festival in which musicians play on waterside stages and on pontoons in the canals.

Escher in Het Paleis

Artwork of two hands drawing each other
M.C. Escher’s Drawing Hands

When I was a teenager in the ‘90s, I think everyone I knew had a t-shirt or a poster with drawings by M.C. Escher. The unique perspectives and the graphic, bold nature of his work have appealed to me since then, so I jumped at the chance to visit the museum dedicated to him—Escher in Het Paleis.

The museum dedicated to the Dutch artist houses some of M.C. Escher’s most famous works, including Drawing Hands and Hand with Reflecting Sphere along with about 150 other woodcut prints, geographic tessellations, and other mind-bending pieces. The exhibits trace Escher’s journey from a reluctant student to a famous artist, providing insight into his life and process. On the museum’s second floor, visitors have the chance to explore optical illusions for themselves.

The museum building is an attraction in and of itself—it’s the former winter palace of Queen Emma of the Netherlands. There are original furnishings and photos of the Queen Mother’s life, which adds a unique layer almost like a second museum.

Noordeinde Palace & Garden

People lounging in the grass under trees
Visitors relaxing in the Noordeinde Palace garden

Noordeinde Palace in the city center is a “working palace” for the King—you’ll know he’s there if the flag is raised. The building itself is modest from the outside, but locals love it because of the Palace gardens.

On warm days, a visit here is one of the best things to do in The Hague. With a lush garden full of trees, hedgerows, flowers, and a pond, it’s the ideal location for a picnic or just relaxing outside. It also has a view of the Royal Stables and a great location near one of the canals. If you’re feeling adventurous, see if you can find the semi-secret entrance.

Van Kleef Distillery

Bottles of liqueurs and genevers lined up on shelves
Just a few of Van Kleef’s products

Trying genever (jenever) is a must when you visit the Netherlands. We first discovered genever in Amsterdam several years ago and love sampling it whenever we can. This clear liquor flavored with juniper and spices—similar to gin—has been made by the Dutch for over 400 years, and Van Kleef Distillery is the place to try it.

The only genever distillery remaining in The Hague, Van Kleef is part tasting room, part museum. In the exhibits, visitors can learn about the long history of genever and the distillation process. The most fun part is tasting, and you can sample old and young genevers alongside the distillery’s bitters, vodkas, and large selection of liqueurs.

Grote Markt

People at picnic tables in Grote Markt square
Grote Markt is popular on Sunday afternoon

The Grote Markt (literally “main market”) in the city center is more compact than many market squares in other European cities. But, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere.

The square is ringed by bars, cafes, and clubs, so it is often full of people enjoying happy hour or lounging at night and on weekends. The middle of the square has regular events and popups year-round, and there is often live music thanks to the square’s location in the heart of the city’s music scene.

Street fairs and festivals

People at a street food fair at a tree-lined park
People enjoying a weekend street food festival

Many weekends of the year The Hague is filled with different types of special events. There are major festivals that draw from around the region and smaller street fairs that have fewer attendees but lots of fun.

The last Sunday in June, you’ll find thousands of people at Parkpop, the largestpop festival in Holland. August and September, respectively, bring the International Fireworks Festival and the Kite Festival in Scheveningen.

Throughout the late spring and summer, over 75 stalls fill Lange Voorhout for the twice-weekly antique and book market. A smaller but similar market happens Thursdays on the Plein in the winter. There is also an Easter market, a Christmas market, and regular food markets such as the Asian Street Food Festival JOY, which we loved.

Hofje

Flowers and plants in the lush courtyard of a building
Inside the ‘t Hooftshofje courtyard

Cities throughout the Netherlands have charming, hidden courtyards surrounded by almshouses. From outside, it’s often impossible to tell that these complexes—known as hofjes—are even there.  

Hofjes started in the Middle Ages as a way to provide housing, often for low-income, single adults, and that tradition continues in many Dutch cities today. The hofjes are generally private property, but the courtyards are sometimes open to the public during select times. We visited the lovely ‘t Hooftshofje, but there are others to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to visit one, make sure to be respectful, as they are people’s homes.

Kloosterbrouwerij Haagsche Broeder

Bottles of beer from the Haagsche Broeder on a shelf
Prior, a porter beer, is one of the popular offerings from Haagsche Broeder

The tradition of monks brewing beer goes back hundreds of years, but at Kloosterbrouwerij Haagsche Broeder, the practice is a little more recent. In 2006, one of the brothers of St. John began brewing as a hobby and the others joined him. That brewery turned into a small business.

The current brewery has a small capacity but regularly churns out porters, saisons, stouts, barrel-aged specialties, and more. If you’re able to visit the brewery shop in the center of The Hague, take a quick trip upstairs to see the chapel.

Landgoed Clingendael

Red wooden bridge over a stream surrounded by trees and flowers
One of the wooden bridges in the Japanese Garden

Landgoed Clingendael is the 16th-century estate just a few minutes from the heart of the city. The considerable grounds have ponds, walking trails, and a café. Visitors can also see the manor house and several gardens, including the rose garden and the azalea and rhododendron garden, making it a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

Our favorite part of visiting one of the most beautiful parks in The Hague was the Japanese Garden. It was created in 1910 by a previous owner of the estate using stone lanterns, sculptures, bridges, and other pieces brought from Japan. Because of its fragility, the garden is only open a few weeks each spring and fall. Put the Japanese Garden at the top of your list of things to see in The Hague, if your visit aligns with its opening time.

Indonesian food

Lots of Indonesian food dishes in bowls on a table
Some of the items of a rijsttafel

Some of the most traditional food in the Netherlands is Indonesian, and it’s a must-try when you visit The Hague. The food of the former Dutch colony has lots of different flavors and textures. A great way to try a lot of options is by sampling the rijsttafel, a Dutch word that literally means “rice table.” You’ll receive small portions of at least a dozen items like satay, egg rolls, and vegetables.

Scheveningen

Large pier and Ferris wheel stretching from the beach out to the ocean
The Scheveningen pier offers shopping, bungee jumping, and a Ferris wheel

As soon as the weather gets sunny (and often even before then), crowds begin to flock to Scheveningen, one of the top places to go in The Hague. The beach resort on the North Sea is just 15 minutes by tram from center city, which means you can explore The Hague attractions in the morning and have your toes in the sand in the afternoon.

At Scheveningen, you can spend your time relaxing or walking along the beach or checking out all the different activities available. Walk through the Art Nouveau-style Kurhaus, the beautiful hotel along the beach, or wander the pier, which has a Ferris wheel, shopping mall, and even bungee jumping and zip lining. Surfing and windsurfing are also enormously popular.

If all of that sounds like too much activity, scope out a good spot to hang out at one of the seaside restaurants. There are dozens to choose from, and many offer music, cocktails, and some of the seafood specialties the Netherlands is known for like herring and kibbeling.

Lange Voorhout

People walking under a row of trees
People walking on tree-lined Lange Voorhout

In the old city center of the Hague is Lange Voorhout. For 700 years, this tree-lined street has been home to city residents, and it later welcomed statesmen and nobles as a fashionable area where people came to be seen.

Today, the area is still upscale, but it has a quieter elegance. The boulevard is lined with regal hotels, embassies, and galleries, and the adjoining park is typically filled with people out for a stroll. It’s a lovely place to come for people watching and a quiet afternoon or evening walk.

Prison Gate Museum

Coat of arms and sign for "Hollandia" hanging over a brick city gate
The prison gate

One of the unusual points of interest in The Hague is just beside the Binnenhof at the Prison Gate. Constructed in 1296, it was converted into a prison for the Court of Holland in 1428.

The Prison Gate Museum (Museum De Gevangenpoort) is filled with the stories of the unfortunate souls who found themselves here due to debt, political conspiracies, assassination plots, and other unsavory activities. Once inside, they were often subjected to torture to encourage confessions. The instruments of that torture—stocks, branding irons, and other devices—are all on display.

As you walk through the old spaces and original cells of this interesting museum, you’ll learn all about the history as well as the intrigue of escape plots, murders, and other tales of 400 years of “justice” in The Hague. 

Skybar

Person holding a cocktail overlooking the skyline of The Hague
Overlooking the city from the Skybar

The Hague Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the city and the place to drink and dine above the skyline. The top floors are home to The Penthouse (42nd floor) and the appropriately named Skybar (40th floor) from which you can see panoramic views of the city. Visit for dinner, a drink, or afternoon tea (aka Highest Tea).

Chinatown

Gate with Chinese characters and decorations at the entrance to Chinatown
The entrance to Chinatown on Wagenstraat

Two striking gates mark the unmistakable entrances to Chinatown. A neighborhood filled with restaurants, supermarkets, and specialty stores, this is the place to go for anything Asian. There is a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Thai cultures present in the food, decorations, and items sold here.

Woeng Kee and Full Moon City are popular for dim sum. St. Anny Tea House is the best choice for pastries, and Asian Street Food by Momiji has a little bit of everything, including fruit teas.

MingleMush

People eating at tables beside a wall decorated with posters
People enjoying lunch at MingleMush

MingleMush is all about fun. Right outside Den Haag Centraal Station (the central railway station) this food hall brings together flavors from all over the world. The 15 food stands include Hawaiian poké bowls, Polish specialties, tapas, and lots of other dishes. Our favorite was the amazing Pad Thai at Lime Leaf & Red Pepper. There are also three on-site bars with different specialties, which make MingleMush a great stop for coffee, a cocktail, or a specially crafted gin and tonic. 

In addition to the food and drinks, there’s almost always something going on here. Whether it’s the arcade games, jazz, swing dancing, or kids crafts, there are lots of things to keep you entertained.

Delft

Town hall building with red shutters and gold decorations
The gorgeous Delft City Hall

Only about 15 minutes from The Hague, Delft is a fun place to explore for a few hours. It’s most well-known for its Delft Blue pottery, which has been produced in the same way for centuries. A short walk will take you to Royal Delft (De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles), a 17th-century pottery factory where you can see historic pieces and watch artisans paint the earthenware in its famous shade of blue.

The center of Delft is small and easy to get around, so it’s possible to stroll along the canals and see some of the city’s highlights in a short amount of time. The 17th-century Delft City Hall is stunning and ringed by cafes that provide a great view. For a lesson in the royal history of the Dutch, don’t miss Nieuwe Kerk which houses the tomb of William of Orange.

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