Forget about tiny red-brick houses standing near a windmill in the misty vegetation. The Hague is not your so typically Dutch city. Just like Rotterdam, The Hague stands as a symbol of the WWII aftermaths, with a completely renovated urban area counting myriads of tall, grey buildings. But thou shall not fear: this dive into concrete won’t take anything away from the cheese-and-clogs experience. Among the skyscrapers and greyness, there’s much variety and colors in The Hague – much more than I’ve found anywhere else in the Netherlands. My aim here is to help you find and live the uniqueness this city has to offer, so you can leave with the best feeling a visitor can catch: nostalgia.
1. All hail to the great Scallys
Any guide on the planet mentions the Chinatown of the Hague – a place that, to be honest, gives me a great number of mixed feelings. Yet, you won’t find a word anywhere else about the true gem hidden inside this little district. The English café Scallys brings you on a journey all the way into Queen Elizabeth’s quarters. I know, why would you even want a British taste to your Dutch journey? Yet, believe me when I say this will become that one place you’ll always remember fondly. Scallys is the temple of anything that’s kitsch and quirky, in all the good ways. Walls, tables, even the menus, are covered with pictures of Diana, the prince, the Queen; newspapers and postcards, umbrellas, flags and weird murals, everything here screams the UK. Let the kind owner bring you a delicious scone and sip your tea the notes of ‘good-ol’-times’ music.
2. Sky and existentialism: the Celestial Vault
In the area of Kijkduin, not far from the shore, lies the perfect spot for your afternoon of contemplation. Although it’s located away from the city center, it’s still heard to miss: the Celestial vault the Celestial vault is a huge crater, a sort of noodles bowl dug into the soil. Don’t worry, you won’t need a special code to enter. This weird monument was built by a guy named James Turrell in 1996, and it absolutely gives off Gattaca vibes. A few meters walk into a tunnel will get you to the main attraction – a couple of cleverly devised benches. Here, you can rest your head and observe how the edges of the crater make the sky looks like it’s bent! This place is the holy grail to the ultimate contemplation: no one knows about this gem secluded amidst nature.
3. Panorama Mesdag
While you’ll definitely find lots of information about Panorama Mesdag on the internet, it’s amazing how little people visit it. Being a small exhibition, the price might look a bit inflated; but given the choice, I’d totally head here – right after the Egon Schiele’s museum. Mesdag’s circular painting is a 120 meters long, 14 meters high view of Scheveningen in the 1800 (the bay area). You’ll be surrounded by dunes, boats, clouds and tiny figures on the beach, with the actual feeling of being inside this mesmerizing landscape. It’s a priceless feeling, with all sorts of emotions kicking in. There’s also a brief introduction to the painter’s work leading to the panorama if you’re interested in the painting process.
Despite its name, Bookstor is not just a simple book shop. If the Scheveningen pier is 1 on my list, this is a close second. This café-store is a whole mood: from the tiny elephant as a logo, to the hundreds of plants, the chill music in the background, the vinyl records, the shelves filled with books, the posters; it’s hipster-land, and I’m 100% digging it. It’s the perfect spot to try a cappuccino cake, discover new readings and even do some of your digital work, as the place comes with wifi and plugs. It’s an incredibly quiet place – besides the music, duh -, and the flowery patio in the back is just the cherry on top. If you visit the Noordeinde palace, make sure to walk a bit further and stop for a cozy drink here!
5. Park Sorghvliet
If the hustle and greyness of the city are draining your energy, Park Sorghvliet is the place to go. Located between the beach and the city center, this huge park counts creeks, bridges, fragrant vegetation and little to no tourist. You’ll need a special pass to enter the park, which you can get at the tourist information office in the Hague. So make sure to hit the city center before heading here, or you will be denied entry! It sounds a bit of an exclusive park, yes, but you’ll be grateful for the quiet and peace that it grants.
6. Not a church but a church: de Barthkapel
Located right in the heart of the city, de Barthkapel goes unseen to the most. Once part of a monastery, this little yet fascinating chapel is not such a holy place today. Every week, the location gets booked for concerts, workshops, even a vintage market! You’ll find the entrance along Brouwersgracht street, and then you’re in for a beautiful afternoon.
7. Get your greens at Greens
This nature-friendly gem is hidden in Westbroekpark, one of the prettiest park in the Hague. Greens is a special, organic café, able to cuddle its customers and guarantee heartfelt care towards its products. The menu here is seasonal, as they change recipes based on the seasonal veggies they grow themselves: you can have a little tour of their pretty vegetable garden. One of my favorite activities was soaking up the sun while sipping a tea on their special terrace. The lush nature and delicious treats are not the only thrills here: the place often holds green-themed events, which help them taking care of their top products and spread awareness on organic cultivation.