The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch) is home to many of the Netherland’s judicial and administrative buildings as well as the International Criminal Court. As such, this is a very government-oriented town and many of its residents work for either the Dutch government or the ICC.
While that can make it a “stuffy” place to visit, the city has fascinating architecture, an amazing array of parks and museums, a wide variety of restaurants, and even a beach that is hugely popular in the summer (head there for some tasty seafood restaurants on the boardwalk). The Hague may not be as cool as youthful Amsterdam, but it is no less interesting.
This travel guide to The Hague can help you plan your trip to this underappreciated destination and save you money in the process.
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in the Hague
1. Walk around the Plein
2. Tour Mauritshuis
3. Visit the Binnenhof
4. Go to the beach
5. See Madurodam
Other Things to See and Do in The Hague
1. Shop along Denneweg
This is one of the oldest streets in The Hague and many of its buildings date back to the 18th century. Because the Denneweg has been a shopping street for centuries, many of the shops sell antiques. In the summer, there is an open-air antique and book market every Thursday and Sunday. Although some of the restaurants in this area are pretty upscale, it’s worth a visit to browse and window shop.
2. Relax in Westbroekpark
If you want to get away from the touristy parts of the city, come to this serene park, which has over 20,000 types of roses that bloom from June through November (there are over 300 different types of roses here). Designed in the 1920s, the park is popular with people of all ages and there are a few cafes nearby where you can grab a drink or snack. For a few euros, you can rent a rowboat and paddle around the small lake.
3. Explore the Art Museum
If you’re an art lover, don’t miss the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. It contains some of the early works of Picasso, Monet, and van Gogh, but it’s best known for its collection of Dutch artists, including van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. The museum also has one of the largest collections of the iconic Dutch Delftware (pottery objects like plates, figurines, vases, etc.) in a permanent exhibition highlighting the Dutch “Golden Age” (an era that spanned from 1588-1672). Admission is 16 EUR.
4. Tour the Museum de Gevangenpoort
From the 15th century to the 19th century, this building operated as a prison. You can walk through and learn about medieval torture practices as well as the types of punishment for different crimes committed in Medieval Holland. Admission to the Prison Gate Museum is 15 EUR, or you can buy a combo ticket to also get entrance to the nearby art collection in the Prince William V Gallery for 17.50 EUR.
5. Stroll through the Japanese garden
Originally designed and constructed during the 1870s, this Japanese garden includes a tea-house, beautiful rocks laid out in manicured areas, Japanese lanterns and statues, and plenty of idyllic pathways lined by flowers. Located in Clingendael Park, there are clear pathways through the garden to keep the exotic and immaculate gardens safe. Admission is free.
6. Visit the Peace Palace
Home to the International Court of Justice (the judicial body of the United Nations), the Palace is a working court. Its visitors center provides an important look into the building and its role in history. There is a video and audio tour through the exhibition space, which includes information on the judicial bodies that work in the Peace Palace, as well as the history of the courts and their vital role in international affairs. It’s super informative as this isn’t really a topic most people learn about in school. Admission is free.
7. Check out the Escher Museum
Born in 1898, M. C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically inspired woodcuts and lithographs. His work became famous throughout the world and this museum is dedicated to his life and work. It features over 150 prints, highlighting his graphic work, optical illusions, and mathematical tessellations. It’s an insightful museum about an artist most people aren’t familiar with. Admission is 11 EUR.
7. Visit the Ridderzaal Knights Hall
Originally built between the 13th and 14th centuries, this castle once belonged to the Earls of Holland. Part of the Binnenhof building complex, the Ridderzal Knights Hall boasts a beautiful interior made of wood carvings reminiscent of Dutch ship-building (a staple of the economy for centuries). The hall is used annually for royal events and important parliament speeches by the monarchy. Guided tours are necessary to visit and cost 6 EUR.
9. See contemporary sculptures
Located along the seaside, the Beelden aan Zee museum has a subterranean exhibition space with a large sculpture garden. The sculpture museum exhibits contemporary international and national artists and is one of the only museums in the Netherlands that solely shows sculpture. The exhibition space is really impressive, with works from the likes of Mark Quinn and Atelier van Lieshout, and it’s an easy cultural activity to take advantage of near the beach. It’s 16 EUR to visit.
10. Hang out in the Malieveld
A large field and park in the city center of The Hague, Malieveld is the busiest spot in the city — especially in the summer. Because there are many government buildings in The Hague (despite Amsterdam being the official capital), there are often protests and demonstrations taking place in the city center and, specifically, at Malieveld. It’s opposite the main train station, so it’s worth checking out to see if there are any special demonstrations or events you might be interested in. From the field, you can easily walk (or cycle) along several walking paths through the forested section at the northern edge.
11. Visit the Prince William V Gallery
Prince William V of Oranje-Nassau built this room in 1774 to show off his priceless paintings. The walls were entirely covered in artwork, including the likes of The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man by Peter Paul Rubens. Today, there are more than 150 masterpieces on display, enhanced by the room’s opulent decor of silk wall coverings and crystal chandeliers. It’s 17.50 EUR to visit.
For more information on other cities in the Netherlands, check out these guides!
The Hague Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostel dorms with 6-8 beds cost 21-27 EUR per night while private rooms cost at least 65 EUR. In the off-season, prices are a little cheaper, with dorms starting from 18 EUR per night (private rooms stay about the same).
There aren’t a lot of options for hostels in the city (no matter the season) so it’s best to book in advance, especially during the peak summer months.
For those traveling with a tent, camping is available outside the city. A basic tent plot without electricity for one person costs around 16 EUR per night.
Budget hotel prices – Budget two-star hotels that are centrally located cost 65-90 EUR per night. Prices are consistent year-round. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, private bathrooms, and air-conditioning.
On Airbnb, you can find private rooms from 50 EUR per night. Entire homes/apartments average around 90 EUR (you can find some for as little as 60 EUR if you book early).
Food – Dutch cuisine typically involves lots of vegetables, bread, and cheeses (gouda originated here). Meat, while historically not as prominent, is a staple of dinner meals. Breakfast and lunch usually involve open-faced sandwiches, often with cheeses and cold cuts. Dinners are very much a “meat and potatoes” meal, with meat stews and smoked sausage being two popular choices. For those with a sweet tooth, the stroopwafel (a waffle cookie with a syrup filling) is the go-to choice, though apple tarts/pies are also local favorites.
Falafel and shawarma shops are your best bet for cheap food. Quick meals here cost around 5-8 EUR. Cheap meals at fast food joints or places like Maoz or Walk to Wok cost around 10 EUR. A combo meal at McDonald’s is around 9 EUR.
There are a lot of international food options in The Hague because of the international workers and government buildings in the city so it’s one of the better cities to eat out in if you want to splurge.
A three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant serving traditional cuisine costs about 30 EUR with a drink. If you really want to splash out, expect to pay at least 30 EUR per entree at some of the city’s finer establishments.
Beer costs around 4 EUR while a latte/cappuccino is 2.85 EUR. Bottled water costs 1.75 EUR.
If you cook your own meals, expect to pay around 40-50 EUR per week for groceries including pasta, rice, vegetables, and some meat.
Backpacking The Hague Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking The Hague, expect to spend about 60 EUR per day. This budget covers staying in a hostel dorm, taking public transit, cooking most of your meals, limiting your drinking, and doing free activities like lounging in the parks and hitting the beach. If you plan on drinking, add 5-10 EUR per day to your budget.
On a mid-range budget of about 140 EUR per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eat out at cheap fast food places for most meals, have a few drinks, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do paid activities like visiting the museums and galleries.
On a “luxury” budget of about 295 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out as much as you want, drink more, rent a bike or a car to get around, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you spend more, some days you spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.
The Hague Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
The Hague can be expensive, especially considering the fact it’s a government city with many professional and business visitors from around the world. Fortunately, a visit doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some ways to save money in The Hague:
- Rent a bicycle – Bikes are a big part of Dutch culture and most people use them to get around. You can rent a bike starting at 8.50 EUR for a full day. Donkey Republic is a bike-share app that has stations all over the city. You can get a bike with them for around 3.30 EUR per hour or 13 EUR per day.
- Get the Museumkaart (Museum Card) – Good for one month for non-residents, this card gets you into several museums in the Netherlands for only 64.90 EUR. With the Museum Card, you get access to more than 400 museums throughout the Netherlands, though the temporary card available to tourists can only be used at a maximum of 5 different museums. Depending upon your trip through The Netherlands, though, it can save you money if you choose which museums to use it at wisely.
- Stay with a local – Couchsurfing is a service that lets travelers stay with locals for free. Since a lot of travelers use this service, make your requests for hosts early. It’s a great way to meet locals and get insider tips and advice!
- Cook your own meals – Dutch food isn’t going to win any culinary awards so head to the supermarket and buy groceries instead of eating out. You’ll save a ton.
- Take a free walking/bicycle tour – If you want an overview of the city, take one of the free walking tours via The Hague Greeters. This is a network of local volunteers who want to show you around their city. You can request a walking or bike tour, just be sure to plan one at least two weeks in advance through their site. You get paired with a local who can show you the hidden gems of The Hague. They don’t accept tips but do welcome donations to their head office.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and is the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi.
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in The Hague
The Hague doesn’t have as many hostel options as other Dutch cities, but there are still a handful of budget-friendly places available. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in The Hague:
How to Get Around The Hague
Public Transport – The Hague has a reliable public transit system of buses and tram lines that connects the whole city. The buses and trams run on a network called HTM, while the light rail network is part of RandstandRail. You can buy a day pass for 7.10 EUR or a single ticket for 4 EUR.
There is also the tourist day ticket, which lets you travel on all trams, buses, metros, and water buses in the province of Zuid-Holland for 13 EUR per day.
Cash fares are not accepted on public transit; you need a reloadable or single-use transit card, which are available at stations and kiosks all over the city.
Bicycle – Like other cities in The Netherlands, cycling is one of the most popular ways to get around. You can rent bikes starting at 8.50 EUR per day (note that most places require a deposit for bike rentals). Donkey Republic is a bike-sharing app that has stations all over the city. You can get a bike with them for around 3.30 EUR per hour or 13 EUR per day.
Taxi – Taxis cost a minimum of 3.20 EUR and charge 2.42 EUR per kilometer. They add up quickly so skip them if you’re on a budget!
Ridesharing – Uber is available in The Hague but again public transportation goes everywhere, including the beach, so you shouldn’t need them.
Car rental – Car rentals start at 30 EUR per day for a multi-day rental, however, you’ll only need a car if you plan on leaving the city to explore the region.
When to Go to The Hague
The Hague’s peak season is in the summer, from June to August. This is when the city is liveliest and busiest (though it’s not nearly as busy as Amsterdam). Expect daily highs around 21°C (70°F).
In June, the city comes alive with the annual Holland Festival, an international performing arts festival that takes place across The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. Expect lots of street art performers and fringe shows during the same period. It’s a fun time to visit if you’re interested in art and culture, just be sure to book your accommodation in advance as the city fills up!
Visiting during the shoulder season (late spring/early fall) offers temperate weather with fewer crowds, making it an ideal time to visit (though you’ll miss out on the beach). You may get a bit of rain though so bring a rain jacket.
The average daily temperature in the winter is 40°F (4°C) so I’d avoid visiting during this time unless you’re just planning to go museum hopping.
How to Stay Safe in the Hague
The Hague is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel – even if you’re traveling solo. Violent crime is rare though pickpocketing can occur on public transit and at the beach so keep your belongings close and your valuables out of sight just to be safe.
As always, if you go out at night be sure to keep an eye on your drink and never walk home alone if intoxicated. Incidents are rare, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
There are also a few common scams you’ll want to be aware of as well, such as people trying to sell you public transit tickets that have already been used. Additionally, be wary of purchasing a really cheap bike from someone off the street as it likely means it’s been stolen.
You can read about other travel scams to avoid here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they know where you are.
Remember, if you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in The Hague!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
The Hague Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to The Hague. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or in their spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can share the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Eurail – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long-distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B in the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, and boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German-based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR. Their buses include Wi-Fi and electrical outlets too.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers for a small fee. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way to travel than by bus or train!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home-cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
The Hague Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
The Hague Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Dutch Wife, by Ellen Keith
In 1943, Marijke de Graaf is sent from Amsterdam to a concentration camp in Germany with her husband. On arrival, she faces a choice: death, or join the camp’s brothel. It is there she encounters SS officer Karl Müller. Keith’s ability to seamlessly combine different timelines and narratives as well as paint the emotions that come from tough choices is superb (and why this book topped the Canadian best-seller lists when it came out!).
Why the Dutch Are Different, by Ben Coates
Ben Coates got stranded at Schiphol Airport, where he called a Dutch girl he’d met a few months earlier and asked if he could stay over the night. He never left. Fascinated by his adopted home, this is a travel book wrapped in a history book wrapped in a memoir. It’s also a look at modern Dutch culture and society, as well as how it got that way and what the future holds for the country. It’s one of the better books on the Netherlands I’ve read!
Amsterdam, by Russell Shorto
Written by Russell Shorto, one of my favorite writers, this book illuminates life in one of my favorite cities in the world. Shorto moved to Amsterdam with his wife and children (as he did in his book on Manhattan) and has written a phenomenal tale of the city’s history. I’ve read a lot of books about Amsterdam and this book is by far one of the best, providing a wonderful overview of the city and its culture as told through the stories of its famous and not-so-famous residents.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
This is a definite must-read before you come to the Netherlands. Anne Frank’s diary was discovered in the attic where she spent the last years of her life during World War II. When the Nazis invaded the country, Anne was just 13 years old. As a Jewish girl, her life was very much in danger so she and her family fled their home and went into hiding in an old office building. They faced hunger, boredom, and the desperation of living in a confined space — until the horrible end. If you go to Amsterdam, you can visit the annex where she lived.
My ’Dam Life: Three Years in Holland, by Sean Condon
Australian comedian Sean Condon is married and living in the Netherlands…jobless, homeless, and completely careless. In true deprecatory humor, Condon dissects his expat experience of pure laziness and leisure. Condon takes us through a city of cannabis, high culture, canals, bicycles, and international cuisine. It’s a light-hearted read that most expats can relate to!
The Hague Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling the Netherlands and continue planning your trip: