So, you’ve planned a trip to the other Dutch capital and now you’re looking for things to do in the Hague? If you’d never heard of the Hague before planning your trip to the Netherlands, or you already live here and consistently overlook this quaint little city, you would be forgiven.
Often overshadowed by its sister cities, ever-trendy Amsterdam and oh-so-cool Rotterdam, the second capital of the Netherlands is a beauty best appreciated up close. From afar, you might see her as the home of Dutch parliament and a hub for international law. But up close, she sparkles with hidden gems, like the Kurhaus and the Peace Palace, and unrivalled natural features, like expansive nature reserves and a bunch of beaches.
Whether you’re on the hunt for historical attractions, art museums, adventure or the great outdoors, the Hague will satisfy your cravings with its rich cultural history and bountiful pockets of nature. Without further ado, let’s dive into the top 21 things to do in the Hague.
Things to do in the Hague for history lovers
1. Visit the Peace Palace in the Hague
Possibly one of the greatest symbols of international peace, the Peace Palace in the Hague was commissioned in the beginning of the 19th century by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. And contrary to what its name may suggest, the Peace Palace is not and never was a royal residence.
The Palace was built to house a court of arbitration which would settle international disputes peacefully. To truly bring home the message of peace and international cooperation, the Palace was built with and decorated in gifts from the countries that signed on to be members of the court of arbitration. For example the clock tower was a gift from Switzerland, the marble used in the supporting columns and the floors was a gift from Italy, and a statue of Lady Justice in the front hall was a gift from the United States.
Today the palace hosts not only the permanent court of arbitration, but also the International Court of Justice and several other international law organisations and initiatives – including the largest international law library in the world.
Fans of architecture and Art Nouveau will appreciate the impressive facade and richly decorated interior of the peace palace, and international law fans will thoroughly appreciate the significance of this extraordinary building.
Top tip: If you’re visiting in the spring or summer months, make sure you ask your guide to include a quick tour of the Peace Palace gardens in your visit. With several fountains, a rose garden and a range of sculpted hedges, the gardens are a treat to behold.
2. Discover centuries of crime and punishment at the Museum of Gevangenpoort
Overlooking the Hofvijver pond in front of the Binnenhof and situated just off Noordeinde (a shopping street boasting high-end brands, cute boutiques and top-notch restaurants), the Museum of Gevangenpoort is a great way to break up a day of shopping, wandering and cafe-hopping through the Hague.
The Prison Gate Museum was originally the entrance gate to the castle of the Counts of Holland. When the Court of Holland was established, the building was transformed into the prison for the court. Today, you can visit the museum to learn about the history of crime and punishment in the Netherlands. Wander through its centuries-old rooms to peer at old torture devices and hear stories of what it was like to be a prisoner in 17th century Holland.
3. Get to know the Hague a little better with the Hague’s Historic Museum
From why the city of the Hague is decorated in storks to its origins as a symbol of peace and justice, the Hague’s Historic Museum has all the answers. It’s also situated in a 17th-century archery house which will delight architecture fans.
The museum not only tells the story of the history of the Hague, it also features prized artefacts like a massive, five-metre wide painted view of the city by Jan van Goyen, and (rather oddly) the preserved finger of one of the De Witt brothers – whom you’ll find out more about when you visit the museum.
If, however, you’re visiting the museum to buff up on your Hague history and not to gawk at a collection of artefacts, you’ll not be disappointed. A digital chronological map of the city shows you how the Hague has developed over time and you can feast your eyes on a series of townscapes that show the Hague in different periods throughout history, giving you a real sense of the rich political and administrative history of the city.
Like many museums in the Hague, the Historic Museum is not overwhelming in size, making it a good addition to a day of gallivanting around the city. It’s also close to other cultural and historical attractions like the Mauritshuis and the Museum of Gevangenpoort.
4. Read between the lines at Museum Meermanno
If you’re fanatical about the history of the print industry, Museum Meermanno or Huis van het Boek (House of the Book) is a must-visit when you’re looking for things to do in the Hague. From papyrus scrolls to a collection of miniature printed books, and some of the earliest books ever printed, this museum is paradise for those who love the look of a good cover design, the sound of the turning of the page, and hate being told how far into a book they are in percentages.
One wander through this museum’s wondrous collection of medieval manuscripts and yellowed, dog-eared pages and you’ll be setting aside your kindle, and falling back in love with good old hardcovers and paperbacks.
Top tip: Yes, you’re there to appreciate the wonders of print, but don’t miss the assortment of old objects featured in the museum’s collection. Keep a lookout for the mummy of a cat, a cork model of the Temple of Vesta, and the matrices (the molds in which printing types are cast) of the Zilverdistel Press.
Don’t miss these landmarks in the Hague
5. The Binnenhof
Built in the 13th century for a couple of Dutch counts, the Binnenhof has got to be one of the prettiest government buildings in all of Europe thanks to its gothic architecture and its placement next to the picturesque Hofviijfer pond. Today, the buildings in the Binnenhof complex house the States General of the Netherlands, the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
Take a walk along the promenade next to the Hofvijver for stunning views of the 700-year-old buildings and make sure you wander through the courtyard in the middle of the Binnenhof to get a view of the Ridderzaal. You might even spot Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cycling to, or from, his office.
What was that bit about the Ridderzaal? The Ridderzaal, or the Knight’s Hall, is the main building in the inner courtyard of the Binnenhof. Take a seat near the fountain and spend some time admiring the splendid facade of this 13th-century building, with its lovely rose window and heaven-bound spires, before you move onto more things to do in the Hague.
7. Noordeinde Palace
If you came to the Hague for a sneak peek at how King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima spend their days, you’ve come to the right place. The Hague houses one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family, and Noordeinde Palace just happens to be the official workplace of the king. There’s not much to see, but if you’re already taking advantage of the shopping opportunities on Noordeinde street, you might as well take a moment to see if you can spy the king through the gates to the palace.
Top tip: If you were hoping for a peek inside the palace, you better time your visit well. Noordeinde Palace and the Royal Stables (behind the Palace Gardens) are open to the public for just a few days in the summer each year. Tickets go fast, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled and your fingers ready to book your tickets.
8. The Old City Hall
This is another one of the landmarks that you just can’t miss thanks to its convenient location in the middle of the city. Or perhaps that’s what makes it so easy to walk by? Surrounded by more modern-day eye candy – think shops like The Sting and H&M and restaurants like the cocktail-serving Milu and great-for-people-watching ‘t Goude Hooft – the Renaissance-style Old City Hall might be easy to wander past. But make no mistake, it’s well worth stopping for.
The former government residence is characterised by bright red shutters and an imposing facade – an excellent Instagram backdrop.
9. Grote of Sint Jacobskerk
It wouldn’t be an old European city centre if it didn’t have a church. And sure enough, just around the corner from the Old City Hall is the Grote of Sint Jacobskerk, the Great Church or the Church of St James. Characterised by its tall tower and very musical bells, this 14th-century church is a beloved feature of the city. It’s not always open to the public, so you’ll need to check that it’s open before you plan your visit. Top tip: Try and make sure you’re in the vicinity of the Great Church between 12:00 and 13:00 so that you can hear the bell tower’s daily carillon concert. The carillon players belt out an impressive range of songs, from well known hymns and Christmas carols to Tears for Fears’ Mad World (very apt these days).
Things to do in the Hague for art lovers
10. Deep dive into the Dutch Golden Age at the Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis is home to some of the most famous paintings created during the Dutch Golden Age. From Fabritius’ The Goldfinch to Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, there is simply no shortage of masterpieces to fangirl over.
Added to its wildly impressive collection of paintings by Dutch masters (did we mention this is where the Girl with a Pearl Earring spends its days?), the Mauritshuis is also a gorgeous building to hang out in. Built in the 17th century as a private residence for Count Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen, the Mauritshuis still has a stately feel to it.
Top tip: With over 800 paintings on display, a visit to the Mauritshuis can be more than a little overwhelming for those who are not bona fide art lovers. If you’re mainly visiting the Mauritshuis to gawk at Girl with a Pearl Earring, make sure you head to the top floor first (which is where she hangs out) and then work your way down so that you’re not fatigued by the time you lay eyes on this fabulous artwork by Vermeer.
11. A museum curated by artists: explore the Mesdag Museum
Established by artists Hendrik Willem Mesdag and Sientje Mesdag in 1887, the Mesdag Museum is the love child of two 19th-century Dutch artists. Today the collection features French and Dutch artworks and is exclusively made up of the paintings collected by Hendrik and Sientje. When they first started the museum, people could visit by appointment and Hendrik would guide visitors first through his and his wife Sientje’s studio and then through the paintings they had collected.
Nature-themed artworks form the bulk of the collection, so if you like seaside scenes and pastoral pictures, this lovely little art museum will be right up your street.
12. Experience the seaside with Hendrik Mesdag’s 360° seaside panorama painting
Sticking with the Mesdag theme, around the corner from the Mesdag Collection is the Panorama Mesdag Museum, which highlights just one painting by Hendrik Mesdag. Yes, just one. Before you turn up your nose at the notion of an entire museum for just one painting, hear us out. Panorama Mesdag is a 360°, cylindrical, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling depiction of Scheveningen, a beach in the Hague.
As you may have guessed, the Panorama Mesdag Museum is quite unlike other art museums. Here’s what you’re in for… To fully immerse you in the 360° seaside scene, a just-loud-enough-to-be-heard-but-not-annoying seaside soundtrack plays in the room where the painting is displayed. You can climb up onto a wooden viewing platform and slowly walk around it to appreciate every angle of the painting.
13. Get lost in the illusions at Escher in het Paleis
The master of illusions, M.C. Escher was a pioneer when it came to the world of graphic art. Famous for his incredible pattern work and his printmaking, Escher’s sketches and artworks are not to be sniffed at either. He played with perspective and space in a way that is still relevant in art and design today.
For those looking for a little more fun in their art outings, Escher in het Paleis will tick boxes too. As Escher was such a master of illusion, the museum features an entire floor of optical illusions for visitors to interact with. From rooms that use perspective to make people in the same picture look either ridiculously tall or short, to giant mirror balls that make the observer look like they’re inside a globe, there is no shortage of fun and intrigue in this museum.
And just in case you needed another reason to add the Escher Museum to your list of things to do in the Hague, it’s also housed in a gorgeous 18th-century palace that’s played host to famous figures like Napoleon (for a mere 14 hours in 1811) and a number of Dutch royals including Queen Emma, Princess Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana. Expect sumptuous interiors – copper staircase railings, a skylight in the hallway to illuminate the stained glass windows, and gilded detailing on the walls in the library, to name just a few luxurious accents.
14. Art out at the massive KunstMuseum with Mondrian, Monet, Kandinsky and Picasso
If you’re looking for an art museum to really get lost in, the Hague’s KunstMuseum is the kind of place you can spend all day in and still feel like you haven’t seen enough.
With over 160,000 pieces ranging from fine arts to fashion in their collection, the KunstMuseum’s curators mean business. Over the course of your visit to the treasure trove of art, you can deep-dive into impressionism, expressionism, cubism, art deco, art nouveau, 18th-century fashion, ‘90s fashion, and many more realms of the art and art history world.
Temporary exhibitions at the KunstMuseum are frequent and excellent – and a great way to justify returning to the museum time and time again to slowly discover more of the permanent exhibition. For your first trip, make sure you don’t miss highlights like Piet Mondriaan’s signature primary colour panes, van Gogh’s Poppy Field, the museum’s Royal Delft collection, and for a peek into history, the period rooms.
Top tip: A collection this big wasn’t curated in a day, and it certainly can’t all be seen in one! Make sure you get the most out of your visit to the KunstMuseum by choosing sections you’d like to see most and prioritising those. And, if you’re visiting with a group with varying interests, you’ve chosen the right museum! There truly is something for everyone, so you can all pick a section you’re interested in and visit a few together or separate and get lost in your respective interest areas.
15. Get a dose of modern and contemporary art at the Voorlinden Museum
Located in Wassenaar, a less central suburb of the Hague, the Voorlinden Museum may not be the easiest art museum to add to your list of things to do in the Hague – but for fans of modern and contemporary art, it certainly is worth it.
The Voorlinden Museum is packed with immersive and Instagrammable artworks, many of which will play tricks on your mind. Stand in a seemingly full swimming pool – without getting wet. Observe the giant and very life-like sculptures of two elderly beachgoers. Walk through rooms boasting life-size, colourful pieces of modern and contemporary art that will make you stop and wonder if you’ve unwittingly stepped through the looking glass and into Alice’s Wonderland.
Intended to give visitors an immersive and playful experience of art, this museum will delight children and adults, art lovers (and mere tolerators), and everyone in between.
Things to do in the Hague for thrill-seekers
16. Bungy jump off Scheveningen’s pier
Looking for a little action on your holiday in the Hague? Head to the popular Scheveningen beach, march right up to the pier and book your death-defying bungy jump experience!
The bungy tower at the end of the Pier is the only bungy jumping centre in the Netherlands – so if this is something on your bucket list for the Netherlands, here’s your opportunity to get high (not like that) in one of the world’s flattest countries. At 60 metres, the jump is high enough to make your toes tingle and your heart leap into your throat, but not so high that you need question your sanity levels.
17. Try your hand at kitesurfing, windsurfing or just plain surfing at Scheveningen beach
Lovers of watersports will feel right at home on the Hague’s most well known beach. Scheveningen is a prime spot to do a little surfing – wind, kite, or whatever you fancy.
Adrenaline junkies might be a tad disappointed by the more gentle North Sea – the waves in the Hague are no match for those in Hawaii or Cape Town – but those who are looking to try out some watersports or are still relatively new to them will appreciate what Scheveningen has to offer.
18. Get high (no, we mean literally) at the Hague Tower
If standing atop the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower or the Burj Khalifa qualify as thrill-seeking for you, a visit to the Hague Tower will not go amiss. At 132m, this mini skyscraper by international standards (the Burj Khalifa is 828m) is the third-tallest building in the Hague and offers spectacular views of the city.
Ascend to the 42nd floor for drinks or dinner and an excellent overview of the Hague. After a day of gallivanting through art museums, taking in historic landmarks or slip and sliding your way through a kitesurfing lesson, you’ve earned it!
Things to do in the Hague for outdoorsy folks
19. Spot the Highland cows on a walk or a cycle through the dunes
If your idea of a holiday includes bracing walks and animal spotting, the Hague can satisfy you too. Thanks to its coastal location and a conscientious municipality the Hague boasts several stunning nature reserves complete with well maintained cycle paths, picturesque dunes and some very cute Highland cows.
If a dash of forest, a sprinkle of dunes and a bit of seaside are what you’re after, a visit to Meijendel will serve up what you’re looking for. If you opt for a walk through the reserve you won’t be able to enjoy all the landscapes it has to offer, but if you cycle you’ll easily be able to pedal through some forest, cruise through the dunes and land up on the beach.
If you’re keen to spot some of the elusive Highland cows, a walk or a cycle through Westduinpark’s dunes, between Scheveningen and Kijkduin, will stand you in good stead. While the cows are generally quite docile, it’s still recommended that you keep a distance of around 25m – you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of those horns!
20. Life’s a beach in The Hague: Scheveningen, Zuiderstrand, Kijkduin and more
There’s more to the Hague’s seaside offering than Scheveningen. If you’re after a quieter beach experience, skip the bustling Scheveningen promenade and go further south.
Just south of Scheveningen, you’ll find Zuiderstrand. This expansive beach has only one beach bar and restaurant, and is great for those of you looking for a more remote beach experience without veering too far away from the city. It’s also close to the Hague’s nudist beach, worth knowing whether you’re keen to go al fresco or keen to avoid those who plan to go swimming without their swimmers.
Further south, you’ll find Kijkduin. This beachy suburb is on the outskirts of the Hague and offers a smaller, cosier version of Scheveningen’s beachfront experience. There’s a small promenade with a couple of restaurants and shops, a weekend market and play areas for kids.
21. Picnic in one of the Hague’s many parks: Scheveningse Bos, Clingendael, and Westbroekpark
Another fantastic outdoor activity in the Hague is most certainly spending some time in one, or more, of the city’s parks.
If you’re after a pretty setting and plush gardens, make your way over to Clingendael. This massive park features a small Japanese garden (the only one in the Netherlands!) that opens for a few weeks every spring. And if you’re visiting during another part of the year, don’t worry, there’s still plenty to see. The gardens throughout Clingendael are beautifully maintained and the 17th-century manor on the estate is a sight to behold.
For those who are after a more rustic experience, the Scheveningse Bos is your best bet. The woods that stretch from the edge of the city centre right out to the beach are great for cycling, running and picnicking. Park out in one of the sandy clearings on a picnic blanket, or alongside one of the playgrounds if you’ve got kids in tow.
And if you like your park experience to come with a restaurant and the option to hire a boat, Westbroekpark is a blissful place to be any day of the week. This well-kept park has three restaurants dotted across its manicured lawns – a tea house by the river, Rosarium (an all-you-can-eat restaurant) and Greens (a cute cafe serving breakfast and lunch). You can rent a boat from the staff at the tea house and row your way along the river that snakes through the park – tea and cake at the tea house afterwards are optional.