I arrived in The Hague within a 20-minute train ride from Rotterdam. One of the greatest things about this western section of the Netherlands is that so many cities are so close together. You get a variety of local culture in a small travel radius.
In my days in The Hague, I also took day trips out to Leiden and Delft. Both are beautiful, typically Dutch small cities. Filled with canals, bikes, cheese shops, fish markets, and tiny, winding alleyways, they are definite destinations for a trip to the Netherlands. They are also surprisingly lively, with busy bars and nightlife, as both are university towns.
Both cities are great for a day trip. But as neither have anywhere to stay on a traveler’s budget, I based myself in the nearest wonderful and larger city – Den Haag.
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The Golden Stork Hostel
My first stop was The Golden Stork Hostel, where I was staying for two nights. Dennis greeted me and told me about a beer tasting happening that evening. It was a fantastic place to stay with personal vibes, also acting as a local café. The small space quickly filled with beer tasters. Throughout the evening, they tried from local breweries and created a new selection for the hostel bar. My favorite was from Kompaan Brewery. Located in The Hague, you can go for tastings and events in the warehouse or find its bottles throughout town. Their American wheat ale was one of the top selections for The Golden Stork and my own preferred choice. In general, Dutch beer is amazing, as many local breweries challenge the Heineken monopoly!
Found on a cute, canal side in the center, The Golden Stork is indubitably the best place to stay in the city center. It’s comfortable and friendly, maintaining an ideal, Dutch image on a fairy-lit, cobblestoned street. Wonderful locals and travelers work as staff. Clean and comfortable, cozy and social, and snuggled in-between the commercial center and alternative Chinatown, it’s everything you need for a special stay in The Hague.
The next morning, I hunted down some coffee. I needed to do some work and it’s not always easy in Dutch cafes to stay for hours. So I googled some student-friendly places and found Bagels and Beans. It’s a big, light and spacious café in the middle of The Hague. Great bagels, great coffee. They have a cheap breakfast option or the choice for some more elaborate bagels. Either way, it’s definitely worth a visit. I stayed for a while, left alone and free to work for a few hours. When I later visited Leiden, I was slightly heartbroken to see Bagels and Beans is actually a chain cafe. But still, it’s a great chain.
The central library was another fab place to work. With views over the traffic of the city, it’s quiet but energized, with lots of space to work slowly. The weather of the Netherlands was similar to England. Drizzly and unpredictable. It was a good excuse to get work done. And I realized digital nomad-ing is a lot easier in the winter. The library is also where the tourist info is, for a free map and smaller details about the city.
The Hague isn’t an overwhelming city, and it was simple to walk and enjoy. It’s small, with lots of space in the center, and many beautiful features. The water around Het Binnenhof, the political center of the Netherlands, is stunning and refreshing. Nearby is Het Plein, The Square, an old-city open space surrounded by grand architecture and cute bars to pass time.
Fans of art can also have a great time in The Hague. The famous Girl with the Pearl Earring is in this city, kept in the Mauritshuis, a gallery of 17th and 18th Century paintings. Or, for more contemporary artwork, visit the Escher in the Palace permanent exhibition. Maurits Cornelis Escher, a master of graphic art, created drawings steeped in optical illusion, puzzling images and scenes of infinitely creative imagination. You can get lost in his wild mind in this gallery.
Right outside The Golden Stork Hostel is a transport stop. From here, tram 1 and bus 22 both head to the beach, the pier and the wonderful town of Scheveningen.
Scheveningen was a special place I could have stayed in for much longer. It has everything you might want – a local, small-town feel, access to a buzzing city, the sea, beach, harbor, great fresh food, beautiful nature and fantastic people. The only thing that stopped me was that England was just across the water. I hadn’t traveled very far at all yet.
The seafront is about an hour’s walk from The Hague city center. If you have time, it’s a good walk to take. You can pass through the suburbs and towards Peace Palace, a grand, uniquely-designed building holding the International Court of Justice for the Netherlands. From there, you can journey through Scheveningen Woods and embrace the waterfalls, streams, and leafy walkways of the park.
Nearby is Madurodam, a center of activity and attractions. It holds a miniature model of Holland, capturing the essence of the culture in tiny scenes, no more than 60 centimeters high. You can wander around Amsterdam, see the windmills of Kinderdijk and visit a local cheese market, all in a few hours.
Don’t feel like a big walk? Alternatively, do it the Dutch way – rent a bike and cycle!
The pier dominates the waterfront. It juts out beyond the wide beach, with a large white wheel on the walkway. You can even zip line from the tower at the end, traveling above the pier, past the wheel, and over the beach. From the 55-meter high tower, you can fly over a distance of 350 meters for a unique perspective of the seaside town.
The sheltered inside is full of surf shops, clothing stores, frites stalls and food kiosks. Although Dutch frites might look standard from the outside, they taste far more exceptional than your average chip. And the pier is a fantastic place to eat them. On a windy, grey winter day or a sunny, blue summer one, be sure to stand at the pier end, at the western edge of the Netherlands, and try a couple.
When looking up local events, I kept seeing a weekly comedy event that happens on the pier. It’s called Tasty Comedy and combines a delicious four-course dinner with guest comedians from the Netherlands and around the world. It might be a bit of a pricier option, but as a treat or with another person, it would be a pretty cool experience. And gives you a great panoramic night view of the Dutch coast.
Harbour and Beach
On my last day in Scheveningen, I took a long walk. The whole area is great for a stroll. Footpaths merge between the windy, open beach and the sheltered harbor with winding walkways between old warehouses.
Some amazing food options are scattered around the harbor. I had exceptional, fresh fish then walked along to the lighthouse and saw fishermen catching it. You can also try typical Dutch pancakes called poffertjes at numerous places. Oma Toos, a harbor-side café, is an especially good choice.
Other bars, cafes, and restaurants spread along the promenade. The beach is busy with playgrounds, surf stations, and coastal shops. You can tell there are many activities in the summer. But even on a winter day, families were enjoying the windy sand and kitesurfers were gliding along the horizon.
Jorplace Hostel is the place to stay by the beach in The Hague. It’s one of my favorite hostels in Europe. You can only grasp its uniquely wonderful vibes through experience. It’s not only an amazing hostel but also a local’s favorite bar and hotspot of the town.
I spent the evenings in the cozy bar, one night enjoying a local party and the next meeting other travelers around a fire. It’s such a social hostel, designed for people to meet each other. It’s run by a small and super friendly team, and their cat, Prince. Quiet and comfy in the winter, it’s a party hub in the summer. They open their amazing garden to BBQs, surfers, and travelers enjoying the beach scene.
Whatever time of year, this is the place to go in Scheveningen. Busy, fun and very, very social, it’s what every hostel should be. I can’t wait to return in the summer!
The Hague was nearly a perfect city for me. And I met quite a few people who had visited and never left. There are plenty of smaller trips to take in the area. You have a calm, pretty city that comes alive with energy in the evening. A historic center with typical European streets and squares. A beautiful beach surrounded by parks and nature. A lively summer lifestyle and a snug winter routine. Wonderful people and places.
But I still wasn’t too far from home. So I got a train, at least slightly further away, 40 minutes up the road to Utrecht.