I’ve flown into Amsterdam and been to Amsterdam, and that is pretty much all I’ve done in Holland. I didn’t know a vast amount about it, I didn’t really think to investigate it and I certainly didn’t explore Holland any further. So, I decided to take my next travel adventure further from Amsterdam and head to The Hague or as it is known locally, Den Haag. The Hague, known to be the city by the sea on the western coast of the Netherlands, is quaint but full of activities, you’re definitely not going to be bored, and if you do want some downtime, you have the beach to go to. So it’s basically a winning option for heritage and culture, but also to get that sand and sea fix we all love from a trip away. But the best thing? It won’t take you long to get to The Hague from the UK, so this trip makes for an ideal weekend getaway – let me to tell you why…
I was flying into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol then from there I’d be taking public transport to my hotel. Very easy to do as the train station is connected to the airport, so it really is a case of getting your luggage, going through passport control and hopping on your train. I did get mildly confused on trains initially, but a local was quick to point out which were the speedy ones to get. I learnt very fast that the Dutch loved a good transport link and my half an hour train ride took me to where I would then hop onto a tram, and make the last part of my journey to the direction of my hotel. You can do taxis if you really wanted but honestly, this was the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to get about the area, you can buy day tickets for the tram making it a smart choice. If you’re travelling solo like I was and you become unsure of where you need to go, ask! I asked locals pretty much everywhere to clarify things for me and they were some of the warmest and friendliest people I’ve ever had on a trip. They just didn’t mind at all and I would then get into a chat about something completely off topic. You can walk everywhere very safely, although if you ever change direction check around you, there will always be bikes! The Dutch love to cycle which is fantastic, but my gosh, they just go and you need to keep out the way! So the best advice is to look where you are going! You can find bikes you can use for, pay and go (similar to those in London) should you wish to explore via bicycle – apparently you’ll definitely look like a tourist if you are wearing a helmet, as nobody seems to there!
By The Sea
Whilst I would be exploring the city centre to see some of the historical hotspots, I was actually going to be staying in an area of The Hague called Scheveningen. I hadn’t heard much about it before travelling here, but it was such a welcomed surprise. My tram stopped a stone’s throw away from my family run, (and adorable) hotel called The StrandHotel, and there in front of my eyes was the beach on this North Coast city. I was in Holland and at the beach – it felt somewhat surreal after passing through quite a built-up city only 10 minutes ago. There was this glorious pier with a Ferris wheel, and a couple of beachside bars and next to the beach along the walkway were some incredible street art designs. I was situated in the ideal spot because it wasn’t ridiculously busy like some beach locations, but by simply walking along the path by the beach you will be spoilt for choice of where to go. Lots of beach restaurants and shopping, there was a buzz about the place, and the constant row of places to sip on cocktails seemed endless. In fact, after I’d started to approach halfway along, it had started to remind me of when I was in Cannes, with all these hip little beach bars, cafes and restaurants, but I wasn’t in the South of France, I was in the Netherlands! I’m not sure if it was particularly busy due to the end of the Volvo Ocean Race, (which was reaching the end as I was visiting) or this was just how it was. I know quite a few are simply pop-up ones for the summer holidays, so I’d double check before travelling.
With all these activities so close by you could quite easily have a holiday or a weekend break in Scheveningen without even going into the centre. There is so much going on, with a number of activities happening nearby during the busy seasons. As I say, I was staying at The Strandhotel Scheveningen which was 50 metres away from the sand, so I took full advantage of that and did a beach run and a spot of yoga before I would take my tram back into the centre. I loved this non-chain family run hotel, I mean, they had a restaurant/breakfast area that looked out at the beach and they even had a room for you to help yourself to tea and coffee in. It was adorable and really welcoming, the only thing I will highlight is that there is no lift, so if like me you back a lot, note you’ll need to carry it up the stairs! So pack your case well! There isn’t any kettles or iron in your room, but you can help yourself to as much coffee as you like downstairs and you can use the iron too, you just need to ask at reception. Due to it being a boutique hotel they lock the doors at 10 pm, but don’t worry, you can just use your key card to get yourself in. This was great, especially as on this trip I was off out in the evenings, and coming back in the dark, I was worried about it to start with, but it was absolutely fine with lots of people doing exactly the same!
Places to Eat
I got to eat out was at a Vietnamese restaurant, located in The Hague’s Chinatown called Little V, which was super trendy and very chic place to dine at. They have a restaurant in the Hague and one in Rotterdam. As I was eating here after a lot of travelling I wasn’t too hungry, so only sampled a bit, but what I did try was delicious. A very traditional Vietnamese cuisine and one I’d highly recommend, after all, they know what they are doing as they’d been open since 2006 with their Rotterdam venue opened in 2009. For lunch on one of the days I went to a place called Instock, next to Hofvijver, this was one of my favourite places to eat because it was very much a brunch style place although they do all meals. The best part for me was learning that they make their food from unsold produce in supermarkets, including things like ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables or imperfect items. So, they basically create tasty food so there is no food waste. That seems like a big winner to me! And for my final evening meal, I went to a restaurant called Waterproef which had been previously described by Michelin as, a jewel on the quay. I knew I’d be in for a treat, especially as they’d apparently got a great range of seafood and I love nothing more than having seafood, by the sea! This was my real treat on the trip for food, it was all just spot on and this 2007 restaurants service was fantastic.
In The City
If you love to explore a city, then you’re in for a treat as The Hague is bursting with heritage and culture. Beyond it’s International Criminal Court, (which apparently a lot of people only seem to know it for) there are some fantastic museums and galleries to visit. I went on the Royal Tour starting from the Carlton Ambassador hotel, taking a lovely stroll over to Mauritshuis museum. I was particularly excited to come to this museum because it has a wonderful collection of artwork, you can get around the museum quite quickly as there is only a small collection, but it plays host to some famous pieces. You’ll have heard of the Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer – remember the Scarlett Johanson film? Well, that original painting is here! It was quite surreal to be able to get up so close to such an iconic piece of art, but it doesn’t stop there, it is also The Goldfinch by Fabritius and The Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt. I’d really recommend going to the museum, the artwork is quite incredible you may want to go around twice! Afterwards, we walked to Escher in the Palace museum for a different kind of art genre. This is the collection of artist M.C Escher, a man who got viewers talking and puzzled over his incredible graphic designs. The artist born in the late 18th century created what is called Mathematical art with a lot of geometry and two colour designs. You think you’ve figured out one his creation on first glance, but by the second and third you’ll have seen something completely different. This was absolutely fascinating, so I’d highly recommend going to see this dutch artists collection.
Beyond the historical side of The Hague, you have one of my personal faves, Hofkwartier (Court Quarter), also known as the place to shop! This area is the perfect location to stroll along, you can admire all the stunning architecture, cobbled streets and history of this International City of Peace and Justice. Everywhere you look in the city centre there is always an Instagram perfect shot! It’s all well kept and very safe wherever you go, which is always refreshing for a big city like this one. As I say I got to see part of the Volvo Ocean Race where the entire community came together in celebration of the epic event. It was wonderful to see how much work had gone into welcoming the boats back after their long journey. I didn’t get to see the very end but the build-up and buzz in the local area were wonderful to be part of, and even though I didn’t get to see the boats finish, I did note that The Hague clearly makes a huge effort with any event they do!
Overall I’d say The Hague was a welcomed and surprising little gem! The ideal spot for a weekend getaway with flights from most airports direct to Amsterdam. Flights take about an hour, the transports links are so good that you don’t have to worry about overpriced taxis, just hop on the train or tram! But the best part for me, is not many people seem to realise there is a beach so close to the city, and it almost seems to feel like a secret as I hardly heard any British people nearby – so shhh it’s our weekend getaway secret!