You can be forgiven for knowing little more about The Hague than the fact that it's home to the Peace Palace. The reason that you've not heard much about it is not because this little city is under-rated but rather, by some miracle, that it's still relatively under the radar. Picture-perfect houses, spotless streets, impressive embassy buildings, a buzzing and beautiful beachfront and a growing hipster scene – what's not to love? Let my quick guide help you to get acquainted with the Netherlands' lesser-known gem:
This pint-sized boutique hotel is certainly one-of-a-kind: housed inside a historic building which dates back to the 1800s and with only 25 rooms in total, each as unique as the next, Hotel Mozaic succeeds in bringing the quaint feel of the rest The Hague within its four walls. Indeed, Mozaic's small size makes it seem more like home than a hotel, and this feeling is furthered by the welcoming staff who greet guests with a warmth akin to a friend.
Inside the rooms, there's everything you could need for short stay: a fluffy robe and slippers, C.O. Bigelow toiletries (a welcome change from all-to-frequent combined shampoo and body wash), tea and coffee facilities, a mini fridge for all your sweet Dutch snacks and yes, they even fit an iron in there if you need to give your fancy frock the once-over before you head out. Add to that the mellow tones of the walls and furnishings, coupled with a comfy bed, and Hotel Mozaic is a shining example of how good things really can come in small packages.
The location is also perfect for solos – the hotel is situated a short 10-minute walk from The Hague's historic centre, or alternatively, a brisk 3km bike ride ride away from the beach. Speaking of bikes, Mozaic has its own available for hire, for guests who fancy zipping around on two Dutch wheels rather than their own two feet. This option is a welcome bonus to those who don't have much time but still want to see as much of the city as possible – well, that, and its also perfect for those who want to pretend to be part of the Dutch crowd, pop a picnic in their bicycle's front basket and head off to the coast for the afternoon (*ahem* I definitely didn't do that...) And oh yes, you may be surprised to learn that rooms start at as little as 69 Euros – I know, I couldn't believe it either.
1. HART BEACH
Highlight: salads & surf
If you're visiting in the summer, then the best place to grab a killer salad is out along Scheveningen's coastline at Hart Beach. This surfshop-cum-surfschool-cum-restaurant-bar is most certainly where it's at – The Hague's true cool kids are everywhere to be seen. Unsurprisingly, thanks to its surfer roots, Hart Beach is decidedly laid back –comfy and colourful surrounds inside and out make it inviting from the get-go. The menu changes depending on the season, but the array of fresh juices, smoothies, salads and, yes, acai bowls, is a giveaway that this is a somewhat of hipster foodie joint. Hipster or no though, you're sure to be happy after whatever you've tried on the Hart menu – everything coming out of the kitchen induced food envy of the highest levels.
Highlight: cake meets ice cream
If visiting in summer – oh heck, if visiting anytime – then make sure to stop off at Florencia for some of the best ice cream in town. Make sure to try the 'cake' flavour, it's to die for!
3. DE BIEB
Highlight: balls and beer in an old library
The Hague has canals too, and luckily one of the best places to get the country's 'dirty' snack Bitterballen is right alongside the water, so you can enjoy two famous Dutch things in one go. There's no doubt that De Bieb, which used to be a library, is one of the city's trendy spots – beers can be enjoyed out on bar's own canal boat, which is moored alongside the street. The bar strives to use local and organic produce, which means that you can enjoy your Bitterballen that little bit more (and I'm pretty sure this is one of the reasons that these particular Bitterballen taste so good!) If you've had your fill of balls already by the time you arrive at De Bieb though, then never fear, there's plenty of other delicious light bites on the menu to satisfy the even strongest beer-fuelled snack desires.
1. PEACE PALACE
You can't visit The Hague without paying it's most iconic landmark a visit: the Peace Palace. This elegant building houses the International Court of Justice, as well as other legal courts, and is a place where history has been – and continues to be – made.
The majestic frontage of the Binnenhof, set against Hofvijver lake, is a sight that demands to be beheld by anyone visiting The Hague. The Binnenhof is the Netherlands House of Parliament and it is still in use today. Book a guided tour or simply admire it from afar across Hofvijver's waters.
3. LANGE VOORHOUT
The Hague's answer-in-minature to the Champs-Élysées, Lange Voorhout is a pleasant tree-lined avenue which also serves as the home of some of the city's most prominent institutions. Take a stroll along it – making sure to take time to soak up its impressive buildings, too.
1. RENT A BIKE
By now you know that my favourite way to explore a city is either by foot or by bike – and the Netherlands, famous for its Dutch two wheels, is the place to do the latter. You won't struggle to find places to rent one, but I highly recommend Rent a bike The Hague. Borrowing a classic dutch bicycle will only set you back 10 euros for the day and the shop's location is conveniently central so you won't have to cycle miles outside of the city to return it – tick and tick. Oh, and did I mention that its also a coffee and bookshop? That leads me to my nicely to my next point...
2. DISCOVER HIPSTER HANGOUTS
Rent a bike, pick up a book, enjoy coffee and cake or sit outside in the little suntrap – you can do all this under one roof at Rent a bike The Hague. It's decidedly hipster, and there's more where that came from. Just a short walk down the street will lead you to the next wheels and whipped foam joint: Lola Bikes & Coffee. Add to that bars housed inside old libraries such as the aforementioned De Bieb and an array of delicious-looking foodie joints, and it's clear that The Hague is a hipster hotspot in the making.
3. VISIT MEIJENDEL SAND DUNES
Once you've got your wheels, make your way towards the coast. Scheveningen is super seaside kitsch, but keep on pedalling past the crowds and you'll reach Meijendel Nature reserve. Here you'll smell fragrant pines, cycle through expansive dunes and find secret, windswept beaches. It really is as good as it sounds. And, its the Netherlands, so of course there are cycle paths all the way and a convenient 'bike park' where you can leave your Dutch wheels so you don't have to drag the across the sand.