Top 20 Hidden Attractions in The Hague

There are  a lot of hidden gems and attractions  in The Hague, which the average tourist will miss out on, as they are not listed in any guide books. These hidden attractions in The Hague are know to locals only. Find out more about the 20 hidden attractions in The Hague or Den Haag, as it is known locally.

The Hague is a beautiful city, with a small town feel,  known for  its Gothic-style Binnenhof (or Inner Court) complex which is the seat of the Dutch parliament, and 16th-century Noordeinde Palace the king’s workplace. The Hague is also home to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, headquartered in the Peace Palace, and the International Criminal Court and many other international institutions and companies. The Hague is connected to the lively seaside city of Scheveningen and there is plenty to see and do in The Hague all year round.

The Hague has a split personality -ROYAL CHARM vs. Down to earth pragmatics

One thing I learned to love about The Hague (and the Dutch for that matter) is that they have their unique sense of humour and are down to earth. The Hague is the royal city, seat of parliament and loads of embassies and reputable institutions are based here, but the city has a bit of a split personality! The official symbol of the city if a stork (ooievaar in Dutch).

And the word “ooievaar” or “odevare” actually can also be interpreted to mean: good-luck charm. The official name of The Hague in Dutch is s’Gravenhage i.e. small forest of the counts of Holland. So far this makes sense, right? But then let me tell you what the inoffical symbol of The Hague is -The Haagse Harry.  There is even a statue dedicated to him on the Grote Markt in The  Hague city centre.

Who is the Haagse Harry? ” Haagse Harry is a Dutch comic  by Marnix Rueb. It shows the life of Harry, an unemployed loudmouth from The Hague, who swears and complains about everything. The comic is very much politically incorrect, showing offensive stereotypes of literally everybody starting with The Hague people.  ( source )”. And this is typical for Den Haag, walking the fine line between being a small average town of less than 1 million inhabitants, while being a big player when it comes to name recognition around the globe.

Top 20 hidden attractions in the hague

Having lived in The Hague for 15 years on and off, I am proud to fill you in on the Top 20 hidden attractions in The Hague. You won’t find the obvious tourist attractions as the Pier in Scheveningen or the Mauritshuis on this list, the 20 attractions listed are all  hidden gems of The Hague.

1 The Royal Waiting Room at Holland Spoor Train station 

I never knew that the Holland Spoor station has a royal waiting room, these rooms have been renovated recently after having been closed to the general public for many years. Holland Spoor Station itself is one of the stations where you can see it has a glorious past, but currently it is a bit run down, hence I was very surprised to find out about the hidden gem it hides.

Interior of the Royal Waiting Room on Hollands Spoor railway station in The Hague. The rooms, lobbies and toilets are abundantly decorated with sculptures, stucco, stained glass and natural stone. However, this part of the station is situated out of the sight of the 'ordinary' traveller. You can visit the Royal Waiting Room on a guided tour via www.artifex.nu. Photo: Arjan de Jager. More images on https://denhaag.com/nl/koninklijke-wachtkamer #thisisthehague #koninklijkewachtkamer #hollandsspoor #ns #nederlandsespoorwegen #koningwillemalexander #koninginmaxima #koninklijkhuis #architecture #netherlands #nederland #holland #denhaag #thehague #travel #instatravel #instatraveling #travelgram #travelingram #sight #sightseeing #tourism #thehaguebygaps #railwaystation #railwayarchitecture #royal #royalty #artifex

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Once a month Artifex.nu organises tours ( In Dutch, 1 hr) of the royal waiting rooms at Den Haag Holland Spoor Railway Station.

2. Bunkers & Atlantic Wall

During WW2 the Nazi’s constructed the Atlantic Wall. “The ‘Wall’ was in fact a strategically places line of  concrete bunkers, manmade barriers and natural obstacles like cliffs and rocks, stretching along the  North Sea and Atlantic coast from northern Norway to the Spanish border, altogether it was nearly 5000 km long.The occupied Netherlands were managed from The Hague, meaning the city had a great strategic importance to the Nazi’s and The Hague got an additional defence line. Over 135,000 people were forced to leave their homes and 2,400 buildings were demolished to make place for the Atlantic Wall. Nowadays information panels stand at notable points along the route of the Atlantic Wall and it is possible to follow an Atlantic Wall citywalk and visit some remaining bunkers. A map can be downloaded here.

3. The Lighthouse IN SCHEVENINGEN

The Lighthouse in Scheveningen can be visited only twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you need to reserve in advance.  For more information on how to reserve a tour visit the website of the Muzee Scheveningen. You can walk up the 159 steps of this lighthouse which has been operational since 1875. Its light still guides the boats along the shore and can shine up to 53km over the sea.

4. The EARLY MORNING Fish AUCTIONS AT THE HARBOUR

The harbour in Scheveningen is all about fish, several  thousand tons are traded here every year and daily there are fish auctions held. These auctions at the Visafslag are generally not accessible to individuals, but once a month they are. Every first Friday of the month at 0630AM a group of visitors is welcome to visit the fish auction.  The tour is in Dutch only and you will learn about the history of fishing in Scheveningen, which types of fish are traded and where in Europe they are sold to. For  more information about how to register for this unique behind the scenes tour, visit the website of the Visafslag United Fish Auctions

Met een klant naar de visveiling 🐠🐟🦐🦀🦑🐙

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5. Urban Farmers – The largest rooftop farm in Europe

The area between Rotterdam and The Hague is called the Westland. The Westland is the world’s “Silicon Valley” for plant growing and green innovation.The tiny Netherlands are the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value and are an agricultural giant.  And therefore it should come as no surprise that a unique agricultural project decided to open it is doors in The Hague. The Urban Farm project is Europe’s largest urban farm and has the capacity to grow 45- 50 tons of vegetables and raise 19 tons of fresh fish every year.The farm is situated on the 6th and 7th floor of an abandoned office building. Read about our visit to Urban Farmers or check out their website for booking a tour directly.

6. AN Old Catholic Church AND ATTIC CHURCH HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

In the 17th century the Netherlands  became largely Protestant and Catholic churches had to go into hiding, this church in The Hague hid in plain sight. These hidden churches looked like regular buildings from the outside, but had churches hidden in the attic or backyard. One of these clendestine churches is right in the city centre of The Hague, it’s called H.H. Jacobus & Augustinus parish church, aka the Old Catholic Church. A great review about the church can be found on Dutchgems.com  (English). For more information about the guided tour visit their website (Tour in Dutch, every Saturday).

Source: Dutchgems.nl

7. The hidden hofjes

Hofje is Dutch and refers to a courtyard which is sourrounded by almshouses (charitable institutions). The concept has been around since the Middle ages and there seem to be 100 existing hofjes in The Hague nowadays.  We visited 2 hofjes, in the city centre,  both are only open for tenants who are single women with a low income, hence keeping the tradition of a hofjes as a form of social housing alive in the 21st century. Read more about The Hague’s hofjes here

hofje den haag entrance archway

8. The Salamander Windmill in Leidschendam

The first wood saw mill was built in Leidschendam around 1643 and  was largely destroyed in 1773 due to a fire, it was rebuilt several times by the various timber merchants who owned it over the years. At one point the mill was modernised i.e. a steam machine was installed to keep the mill operating during calm weather times. It was closed down in  1953 and from then on it started to decay and fall apart. But thanks to  subsidies of various local stakeholders the mill was rebuilt in 1989 nearer to the river bank in the old beam hole. Since 1995 it is operational again and the sawmill cuts lumber in the old traditional way again. For opening times, entrance fees and access information visit their website.

source: molendatabase.nl

9. The Scottish Highlanders at Westduinpark

When biking or walking through the dunes in the Westduinpark area of The Hague, you might run into free roaming herds of Scottish Highland cows! Yes you read that right,  the Westduinpark (West Dune Park) between Scheveningen and Kijkduin is one of the largest nature reserves in The Hague. The park is adjacent to the beach and is a great place to go for a walk or hike, it offers dense forests and open spaces, dune valleys and high dune tops, bunker ruins from World War II and the Scottish Highland cows that roam about freely. The cows are easily approachable, but it is recommended to keep at least 25 metres away, especially when there are young calves in the herd.  Read more about Westduinpark and how to get there.

10. The NDT (Nederlands Dans Theatre ) Ballet Company

It is not a ‘place’ as such, but the NDT is a world reknown ballet dance company which calls The Hague home. It is a local institution and personally I think the NDT performances are nothing short of amazing. I have had the pleasure to see many of their performances over the years. My favourites often tend to be the pieces choreographed by Hans van Manen,Jiří Kylián and  The UK Guardian describes the NDT as:”Fifty years ago, Nederlands Dans Theater forged a middle path between classical ballet and modern dance, creating a “modern ballet” style and approach that spread across Europe. […]NDT has been enormously influential, not only as a pioneering company that established a particular style of modern ballet in Europe, but as a seedbed for new directors and choreographers.” So make sure to visit one of their performances when you are in town. Check out their schedule

11. Celestial vault

This permanent art work by James Tureell plays with an optical illusion. It was built in 1996 and it is in essence a crater, which you need to enter via a hobbit tunnel, and in the very centre is a concrete bench. The bench is flat and slightly angled to allow visitors to lie on it with their heads towards the lower end. This angle will allow you to see the edge of the crater and the open sky at an angle that makes the sky appear as a curved dome. Read more about the celestial vault and its location in Kijkduin.

12. Sorghvliet Park AN UNTOUCHED OASIS IN THE CITY

This 25hectar park is pretty much in between Scheveningen and The Hague within walking distance to the Peace Palace. The unique thing about it is, that people bike, walk or drive past it hundreds of times without realizing that you can actually visit it. It is surrounded by a high stone wall and only accessible with a valid annual ticket, that cannot be brought at the park entrance. It is an untouched and well preserved oasis in the city. I had lived in The Hague for 12 years and had never visited the park, always thinking it was part of the Catshuis, which is situated in the park ( Catshuis has been the official residence of the Dutch prime minister since 1963).  The annual pass cost 7, 15 EUR (2017) and  can be purchased at the local Tourism Office (VVV) or Paagman bookstore.

13. JARREAU – A WORLDCLASS PATISSERIE

In the quiet residential neighbourhood of Benoordenhout you will find a pattiserie, which can rival many of the big names in France. The owner Roel van Everding has won national and international awards. Several times a year they organize patisserie masterclasses and macaron making workshops. If you are a foodie, these are workshops you do not want to miss. You can also visit their shop or Paluco lunchroom , next  door.

14.  Japanese Garden in Clingendal Park

A Japanese Garden is hidden in the Clingendael Park in The Hague , this magnificnent garden can be visited only during 2 short periods in spring and autumn each year, due to its fragility. It was opened in 1910 and has a high historical value, as it is the only Japanese garden in the Netherlands of its kind. It has original lanterns, statues, a shrine and water features and can be visited free of charge when it is open.

Japanse Tuin Clingendael Den Haag. #denhaag #thehague #japansetuin #clingendael

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15. Library  in the parlament

Unfortunately it is not open to the public, also not on Monumentendag ( Open Day for Monuments around the country), but I am hoping that one day I will get to see it for real. I am a sucker for libraries, and the fact that I walked past the building that houses it millions of times, but have never gotten to see it, bugs me a little.

16. Lourdes Chapel

Scheveningen it a busy beach resort with the pier, the casinos, the circus musical theatre and a multitude of bars and restaurants, but locals will tell you that you can escape the hustle and bustle at the local Lourdes chapel. It is a replica of the famous Southern French Lourdes Grotto that attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. The Lourdes chapel in Scheveningen is a place for silence and meditation. It is at Berkenbosch Blokstraat in Scheveningen and open daily from 9am-6pm.

source: tripadvisor.nl

17. Bonfires on New Years Eve at the Beach

The Bonfires (Vreugdevuur) on new years eve even made it into the Guiness Book of World Records. Every year, on the North and South beaches of Scheveningen between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the towns of Scheveningen and Duindorp compete with each other and try to build the largest bonfire. When I say largest bonfires, I mean stakes that are as high as 3-4 story houses. In 2015 the Scheveningen bonfire was 8,695 cubic metres (307,061.03 cubic feet) tall.

source: winkelstraat-scheveningen.nl

18. YI JuN Peace Museum In Chinatown

The Yi Jun Peace Museum is a homage to the Korean independence fighter and diplomate Yi Jun.In 1907 he was send to the Hague to a Peace Conference to  announce to the international community that Korea was an independent state and that the Japanese invasion was unlawful. However Japan blocked the participation of Korea at the conference and Yi protested against the decision. He was later found dead at the  Hotel De Jong in the Wagenstraat, which nowadays houses the museum. The small museum is one of the most quirkiest local attractions. It is focused on welcoming visitors with an interest in Japanese and Korean history or heritage and most information available is in Korean.

19.  De Haagse Markt

The Hague Market (‘De Haagse Markt’) is one of the largest multicultural markets in Europe and is visited by more than 120.000 visitors each week on average. It is a melting pot, you can find exotic fruit and vegetables, halal butchers, a fishmarket and visitors can also buy electronices, flowers, bikes, clothes and many more household related items.  It is easy to reach with public transport, has a underground parking garage and is open 4 days a week. Visit their official website for more info.

Source: Haagse Markt Facebook

20.  Het Spaanse Hof

It a UNESCO monument with a long history dating back to 1469, over the years it has been the residence to many ambassadors and nowadays it is a popular meeting and wedding location. This city palace oozes old glamour and has a big inner courtyard and a big catholic church (Kerk van Teresia van Avila) within its grounds. In the Spaanse Hof you can currently also find a great yoga school, which offers rooftop yoga during the summer months.

Den Haag masquerading as Southern Europe. #denhaag #architecture #church

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I could list plenty more of local attractions in The Hague, but lets stick with these 20 for the time being. The 

Any hidden gems and quirky local attractions in The Hague that I should add to the list? Let me know!

This blog is part of my Staycation project  Being a tourist in your own city -The Hague/The Netherlands, check out our other posts about things to do and see in The Hague on our where we have been page.

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