Gamified city discovery with our travelling content creator Filipa continues in The Hague, marking the final stop in the Netherlands.
The Hague (or Den Haag, in Dutch) is a metropolitan city by the sea, which makes it a very special city in Holland. It is a home to the International Court of Justice, which makes it the only city outside of New York with a UN main body. Besides being a stately city, it’s also rich culturally. The Hague is known as the “City of Peace” due to the fact that there are many national and international peace organisations based here. I found it a fascinating city to visit with all its royal palaces and monuments, and lovely squares. It has a unique combination of city life and beach vibes (that I hope to take advantage of in another time there!). Entering The Hague feels like going through a time machine since it’s a multicultural city with many sides to it – from antique chemist shops that still sell original homemade healing remedies, to neoclassical decorated buildings, you can experience a lot of different decades in one city.
By the way, here are some interesting facts that I want to share with you. Did you know that there are still many people living in boats in the canals of the city? Or that The Hague has a Chinatown and a big percentage of the Chinese people living in the Netherlands are based in the city? Or even that the candy necklaces we all remember from our childhoods were invented in The Hague? These are all curious things that I did not know about and learnt when visiting the city.
Our favourite non-touristy things to see and do in The Hague
Get lost between books and globes
Any adventurer would feel like a kid in a candy shop inside Stanley & Livingstone travel bookstore! Alongside with an amazing array of globes, you would find there local and world maps and an impressive collection of travel books. It was truly a pleasure to wander around the shop for some time, while talking about The Hague with a friendly and expert staff member.
Find a “candy box” in the middle of the city
This colourful building known as Candy Box is a shopping complex that opened in 1999. It was designed in neoclassical style by British architect John Outram. I found it to be one of the really Instagrammable places in the city centre.
Meet one of the most famous “Haganees” near the tram tunnel
The iconic comic book figure Haagse Harry was created by Marnix Rueb and speaks the local dialect. This peculiar and funny-looking statue is placed right above a famous tram tunnel in The Netherlands.
Taste Traditional Dutch "Potions"
This is small, delightful and tucked-away spot in the Hague, founded in 1842. Van Kleef is the only remaining genever and liqueur still in use today! It sells a wide variety of local liqueurs. Tip: Even though you don’t have a formal reservation for a tasting experience, you can try their drinks for a reasonable price (also, the first shot of traditional genever is free) and it’s the perfect place to hear more about the history of spirits and The Hague’s old traditions. You would find it while playing the Secret City Trails game in The Hague’s Naval Quarter: The Secrets of Sailors.
Spot the many storks around the city
In the Middle Ages, storks were domesticated to clean the area around the Binnenhof and the Groenmarkt. The Haganees still believe they bring good luck and prosperity to the city. Nowadays the white stork is the symbol of The Hague and you can find it all around the city, in all different shapes and sizes. I tried to count how many different storks symbols I could spot during the day and easily lost count … I have to let you know that’s also a challenge.
Follow the motto “‘A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet”
From hipster hangouts to charming bars, The Hague has a relaxing and friendly atmosphere and it’s perfect for meeting new people, even though you don’t have time to go to a proper social event or meeting. I can recommend the Grote Markt (Big Market) as a cool place to go for a drink. There, you will find lots of popular bars and restaurants where locals usually go. All the bar’s terraces in the Grote Markt square make one big terrace since all of them are owned by the same entrepreneur.
Spot the details of the remarkable 19th century Binnenhof Fountain
The richly detailed neo-gothic fountain at the Binnenhof (the ‘inner court’ on the site of the former castle of the Counts of Holland), was originally designed for the World Exhibition in Amsterdam in 1883 by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. He is well known for designing also the Amsterdam Central Station and the Rijksmuseum I talked about in my Amsterdam post. You would love to admire this wrought-iron fountain’s minimalist design and decorative gargoyles. The golden statue on the top is from William II, Count of Holland, since the fountain was donated in his memory.
Watch the flags fly proudly on the shore of Hofvijver Lake
The Hague celebrates pride every day with a permanent rainbow pride flags placed on the shore of Hofvijver Lake, outside of the magnificent Dutch Parliament building, at the Binnenhof (where before you could find the Netherland’s provinces flags). Seeing it was one of the highlights of my day in The Hague! Also, you probably don’t know that The Hague is one of the cities in the Netherlands with the most places to hang out for the LGBT and QIAP community (I found a lot when I googled it!). The city also hosts The Hague Pride Walk event and the Hague Pride Festival.
Ready for an adventure in The Hague?
Time to get playful!