The Hague in the Netherlands is where seagulls welcome you to the city and where the large, majestic trees live a relatively short life, catching too much of the salty sea wind. The Hague is where beaches get cozily crowded in summer and where in winter locals battle the weather on long beach walks.
The Hague is more than a windy seaside city, though: it is the country’s political and diplomatic capital. Government and parliament reside in historic buildings in the small city center, and international embassies are nestled around them in beautiful mansions. The Hague is a city with grandeur. It’s not your average Dutch person you find here, but young people on bicycles carrying briefcases, hoping that someday they’ll be in that far right hand tower of the government building where the Prime Minister holds office.
To this grandeur add a spirit of community, as it’s not unlikely to find locals cheering for the local soccer club in bars. Make sure you don’t mention “that other Dutch capital” or their local soccer club, as you may find yourself in an argument you won’t win.
Another essential ingredient: Indonesian immigrants. Indonesia was a Dutch colony and in no other Dutch city is its heritage more present. For their delicious food there is no better place to go than The Hague, where this exotic culinary component is often sprinkled into the local dishes.
If you’re visiting the Netherlands make sure to go beyond Amsterdam, and visit the following delicious places to eat and drink in The Hague.
Once you try just one meal, you’ll realize why no Netherlands travel guide would be complete without mentioning this exciting Dutch city.
1. Simonis in de Haven (Simonis in the Harbor)
After a beach walk head to Simonis, a seafood takeaway and eat-in that serves fish straight from the sea (their herring is especially delicious). There are many more fish places on Simonis’ “fish auction street.” This is where locals buy the best fish for a reasonable price. Go for a mid-morning herring, and you will find a taxi driver and a prison guard taking a break, young mothers munching on fish with their children, and retired locals enjoying a snack while reading the morning newspaper.
Address: Visafslag 20, The Hague
I have been told this is where the Prime Minister drinks a morning coffee and reads a newspaper. Former market squares in Dutch city centers tend to get overly commercial, and you tend to pay a high price for mediocre quality. Café September is an exception. The ambiance is relaxed, the staff is helpful and the food is simple but good, especially considering its price. They also use local and organic where possible. For lunch, I would try the soft bun with artisan frikandel (a Dutch meat snack), Japanese mayo, green union and curry sauce. For some weekend fun, check out their live music lineup.
Address: Grote Markt 26, The Hague
“Het Binnenhof” (literally: The Inner Court) is where the Dutch government and parliament house. You can visit the government buildings, or the close by Mauritshuis arts museum where you can admire Dutch Golden Age paintings like Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” The accessibility of the government terrain might feel strange to some foreigners. ProDemos, right across the street, organizes guided tours of Het Binnenhof. Hungry? Try Dutch herring, poffertjes (small pancakes) or oliebollen (fried dough balls with raisins) right outside Het Binnenhof.
Please dress up, as it’s a fancy place (the most fancy in the city, in fact). Their High Tea is famous.
Address: Lange Voorhout 54-56, The Hague
Belgians and Swiss eat three times as much chocolate as the Dutch do. At Hop & Stork they set out to change this. Their goal: to introduce a chocolate and coffee (and tea) culture in the Netherlands. Their strategy: working with a famous Dutch pastry chef named Hidde Brabander, offering top quality products, sensational experiences and “moments of pleasure.”
Their chocolate store and coffee room is located in “De Passage,” a 1885 monumental building. Transparency is their cup of tea: you can see the chocolate makers crafting delicious confections right before your eyes. Order a coffee and you get chocolate mousse and praline with it. Their “break-off” chocolate bars and pastry of the day are their most popular products.
Address: De Passage 82, The Hague
6. Where to buy Dutch cheese
Award-winning specialty cheese shop, Ed Boele, is considered one of the best cheese specialty stores in the Netherlands. It’s the perfect place to try creamy young cow’s cheese or strong, crumbly, and flavorful old cow’s cheese.
Address: Fahrenheitstraat 625, The Hague
A kroket, or croquette, is meat ragout covered in breadcrumbs and then deep fried. It is one of the most popular fast food snacks in the Netherlands. The Dutch eat an average of 29 kroketten per person per year. Their popularity led to a trend of bread crumbing and deep frying other kinds of ingredients like rice, noodles and kidneys. The Queen Mother also likes them, buying her royal kroketten at Dungelmann.
Address: Hoogstraat 34, The Hague
Two former prisoners, happy upon their release, opened a mobile snack restaurant they named “De Vrijdheid” (The Freedom), as an ode to their newfound liberty. It’s a mobile home, although it never moves, standing right next to the ministry of foreign affairs — very close to the central train station.
“They have all been here,” the owner says nodding in the direction of the ministry. “All ministers and all other important politicians. Everybody who is up late at night comes here. I feed both whores and prime ministers.”
De Vrijheid is a good place to go for the friendly folksy side of The Hague, and another excellent venue for sampling a “broodje kroket,” a croquet sandwich. Another recommendation: a typical egg and onion sandwich or French fries with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and onion.
Address: Bezuidenhoutseweg 74, The Hague
When Indonesia, a former Dutch colony became independent after the Second World War, the Dutch government allowed all Indonesian born Dutch and Indo-Dutch citizens access to the Netherlands. They settled all over the country, but in no other place do you find more Indonesian influence as in The Hague.
This influence spices up the city, literally: spices were the reason the Dutch were in Indonesia in the first place. Those spices remain an important part of the Dutch culinary heritage. Indonesians know how to use them, and their rice dishes with spiced meats and vegetables have been integrated in Dutch cuisine. Family restaurant Garoeda is a must-visit for local Indonesian food.
Address: Kneuterdijk 18, The Hague
If by the end of all this, you still haven’t felt that typical The Hague feeling, don’t worry. Go to De Posthoorn, an all-day and all-meals traditional café with a green wooden interior. It has a splash of the typical The Hague grandeur combined with a dash of laid back folksiness. Find people catching up on the latest news in the morning, going for business lunches in the afternoon, and eating affordable meals paired with live music and poetry at night.
People from all walks of life have found their way to the legendary De Posthoorn: businessmen, students, mothers with young children, retirees, politicians, expats and travelers. Bartender and manager Michael Meeuwisse receives them all with a smile, putting on his best suit every day before going to work. For lunch find out how Dutch cafés make eggs sunny side up. At night, try Dutch Jenever (the Dutch liquor that inspired the British to make Gin). You know that you are in The Hague because Gado Gado (an Indonesian vegetable dish with peanut sauce) is on the menu.
Address: Lange Voorhout 39a
Have you dining in The Hague? Share your recommendations in the comments below.
*Photos courtesy of the author, Anneke Kooijmans, unless otherwise noted.
About the author
Anneke Kooijmans is a Dutch food researcher and writer living in Madrid, Spain. She previously lived in Mexico and received her PhD investigating its food culture. In Mexico she also guided travelers through the culinary traditions of a small Mexican mountain village: from mole to tortillas and traditional markets. In Spain, and writes about what she sees, cooks and eats on www.lentilsonfriday.com. She is developing a website on which she shares the culinary traditions of Spaniard and the best places to eat in Madrid with travelers and other visitors: www.ieatmadrid.com. You can book her as your local (culinary) guide through Madrid. (forthcoming on the website, now by emailing to [email protected]).
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