Last weekend, I took a short winter trip to The Hague. Filled with beautiful architecture, fantastic museums, and many great local shops and restaurants, The Hague is a Dutch city to put on your bucket list. It’s also where the Dutch Royal family lives, the centre of Dutch politics, the seat of its government, and home to most embassies. The Hague is where you’ll find one of the best Christmas markets in the Netherlands, as well. If you’d like to experience its cosy festive atmosphere, treat yourself to the Royal winter trip to The Hague.
Winter Trip to The Hague
The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands, with a population just above half a million, is rather a unique place. With a huge international population, you’ll hear many different languages and encounter people from around the world while walking around it. However, it still has a strong Dutch feel with typical gabled houses, cosy cafes, restaurants, and lovely local shops. With numerous large parks, The Hague is also one of the greenest Dutch cities. There is so much to do and explore there, yet it’s much less busy than Amsterdam.
A few days ago, I went on a short weekend trip to The Hague to visit its popular Christmas market. Although I planned to stay there for three days, my flight was cancelled, so I unexpectedly cut my trip short to two days only. However, I still had plenty of time to stroll around the city and enjoy its beautiful festive atmosphere.
Winter walk around The Hague
The moment I arrived in The Hague, I knew it was a city that does Christmas well. The town is filled with Christmas decorations, festive lights, and numerous Christmas trees. Although the weather was gloomy, it fit the winter atmosphere I wanted to experience.
While wandering around the city, I could often hear Christmas carols, making a wonderful soundtrack to my trip to The Hague. The area I especially liked was Het Plein Square. Its numerous restaurants were lit with beautiful decorations, creating a Christmas oasis in the city centre.
I also enjoyed wandering around its shopping street, Grote Marktstraat, which is filled with public art and many statues. Windows of its department store, De Bijenkorf, offered a peak into the Christmas fairytale. De Passage, the oldest covered shopping mall in the Netherlands, was the highlight of my winter stroll through The Hague. Built in the late 19th century and home to some of the nicest shops and cafes in that Dutch town, it’s hard to resist taking a photo next to its gorgeous Christmas tree.
⤷ TIP: If you’d like to explore the city uniquely during your winter trip to The Hague, get on a special hop-on-hop-off historic winter tram. The one-hour-long ride will take you to the most exciting sites in The Hague and through its festively lit streets. Take a look here for more info about The Hague winter ride on a historic tram. To make your winter trip to The Hague even more royal, you can take a free hop-on-hop-off carriage ride each Saturday in December 2023 (read more about it here).
Binnenhof is an architectural highlight that shouldn’t be missed in The Hague. The city developed around this 13th-century Gothic palace. Located in the city centre, it used to be a residence of the Counts of Holland. Today, it’s the centre of Dutch politics, home to the Dutch Parliament (House of Representatives) and the office of the Dutch Prime Minister.
⤷ TIP: In fall 2021, an extensive renovation of the Binnenhof started. If you want to learn more about the 800-year-old building and the archaeological remains found during the renovation, visit the Binnenhof Renovation Information Centre (address: Plaats 22, 2513 AE The Hague/free entrance).
The Hague started becoming the international city of peace and justice at the end of the 19th century when the first global peace conference took place in The Hague. To mark that, in 1913, the Peace Palace, home to two international courts of justice and a library, was opened. Built in the Neo-Renaissance style, the fascinating building celebrates international friendship and peace.
⤷ TIP: If you’d like to visit the Peace Palace, you’ll need to plan your visit in advance. The Visitor Centre is open between 12 pm and 4 pm from Wednesday to Sunday. However, you can only visit the Palace and its garden during the guided tour. Read more and book your spot on one of the Peace Palace Guided Tours here.
Van Kleef Distillery
If you’d like to experience some unique Dutch products and warm yourself up during the winter days in The Hague, visit the Van Kleef Distillery. Founded in 1842, it’s the only remaining jenever and liqueur producer in The Hague. You can visit their historic shop in the city centre and enjoy tasting the special drinks they produce and sell. I especially liked their traditional jenever and walnut liqueur. However, if you’d like to try some unusual flavours, go for the 112 Pepperwodka or the liquorice liqueur. Visit their website to read more and book your tasting session.
The city of royals
The Hague is home to the Dutch royal family. Wandering around the city while exploring some of their current and former residences could be a great addition to your Royal winter trip to The Hague. The Dutch royal family lives in Huis ten Bosch, while the King’s working palace is Noordeinde Palace, located in the city centre. Two former palaces are also in The Hague. The Lange Voorhout Palace is home to the museum dedicated to Dutch artist M. C. Escher (read more about it below). Meanwhile the 18th-century Kneuterdijk Palace is home to the Council of State of the Netherlands.
Royal Christmas Fair in The Hague
The Hague started its Royal Christmas Fair a few years ago, quickly becoming one of the best Christmas markets in the Netherlands. The fair is located in the city centre, at Lange Voorhout Square. This year’s eighth edition of the Royal Christmas Fair is open from 7 until 23 December. You can visit it daily from 12 pm to 9 pm, except Monday, 18 December, when it will be closed to visitors.
The Hague’s Royal Christmas Fair is just a bit more sophisticated than other Christmas markets in the Netherlands. You’ll find locally made products like special-shaped candles, jewellery, clothes and food products. Everything is carefully selected to show the best this city has to offer.
I especially liked the variety and quality of food at this Christmas market. You’ll find traditional drinks like mulled wine or warm chocolate with whipped cream there. But, with the international feel The Hague has, many food stalls are selling ethnic food, as well.
So much is going on at the Royal Christmas Fair in The Hague. You can meet Santa Claus and take a picture with him. Numerous choirs are performing around the market. It’s a wonderful event, and I loved wandering around it and exploring the sellers’ stalls while sipping delicious hot chocolate.
⤷ Read more: Christmas markets in the Netherlands – 2023 edition
Enjoy some fantastic art in The Hague museums
I looked for warmth at some of The Hague museums when it got too cold outside. The city is home to fantastic museum collections that art enthusiasts will enjoy exploring.
If you visit only one museum in The Hague, make it the Mauritshuis. It’s home to one of the most famous Dutch paintings, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. They display a fantastic Dutch Golden Age art collection on its two floors. The museum isn’t too large, so exploring its collection won’t be overwhelming.
Next to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, this is the best place to see some of the masterpieces of 17th-century art from the Netherlands. Rembrandt’s paintings, among which the most fascinating is the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulp, are among its highlights. One of my favourite paintings there is Hendrick Avercamp’s Ice Scene from 1610, which will show you how the Dutch enjoyed their winters in the past.
Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Kunstmuseum Den Haag is located in a fascinating Art Deco building, and it’s dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It’s home to one of the most extensive art collections in Europe. Kunstmuseum Den Haag is also home to one of the best collections of Piet Mondrian’s artworks. If you are interested in the development of his unique style, be sure to pay a visit to this museum.
The museum hosts fantastic temporary exhibitions regularly, so check out their agenda before your visit. In a moment, they host the ‘Royals & Rebels’ exhibition, dedicated to British fashion design with a special tribute to Vivienne Westwood. You can also see the ‘Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian’ expo until 25 February 2024, which I wrote about in my Best Exhibition in European Museums in Autumn 2023 guide.
⤷ Read more: Best museums in Europe to visit in 2023
Escher in het Paleis
Escher in het Paleis is another unique museum in The Hague worth visiting. Dedicated to the artwork of Dutch artist and printmaker Maurits Cornelis Escher, it’s a special place to explore his artwork. The museum is located in one of the former royal palaces, so paying a visit to it fitted perfectly into my Royal winter trip to The Hague.
Escher especially liked exploring unusual perspectives and infinity in his art. He worked with convex mirrors and unusual points of view, making his artworks unique and enjoyable.
Winter in Scheveningen
Another part of The Hague winter story is outside the city centre, at a nearby Scheveningen. It’s Benelux’s most popular beach area, with around ten million visitors annually. Scheveningen is where you can enjoy winter activities like ice skating or curling. Its Cool Event Scheveningen is home to the 600 m2 large ice skating rink. It will remain open until 11 February 2024, making it a perfect spot for winter activities in The Hague. They will also organise special ice skating events you can check on this link.
Scheveningen is home to the vast sandy beach, a beautiful place to stroll after all the hot chocolates you had at the Royal Christmas Fair in The Hague. It’s also the location of a fun event happening each 1 January at 12 pm. This is when the brave ones put on their festive swimming suites and run into the cold North Sea.
While there, I had lunch at a wonderfully festively decorated Foodhall located at the beach. I love these kinds of places because you can choose from many different types of food. And if you’re there with a group of people, as I was, it’s great because anyone can take what they want and have their food together at one of the tables.
If you’d like to enjoy a panoramic view of Scheveningen and The Hague, ride its Ferris Wheel. It was a bit foggy during my visit, so the view wasn’t the best. However, I still had lots of fun (and a bit of fright) riding on it, especially with Christmas music playing in the background.
Tips for your winter trip to The Hague
Where to stay in The Hague
I stayed at Moxy The Hague Hotel, located just a five-minute walk from The Hague Centraal Station. And a few minutes away from the city centre and the Christmas market.
It’s a modern hotel with cosy rooms, comfortable beds and a nice breakfast. It was friendly and pleasant, and I recommend it for your stay in The Hague.
How to get to The Hague
The Hague is well-connected and easily reachable. It has an airport (Rotterdam – The Hague Airport), a smaller airport connected with some European destinations. However, you can also fly to Schiphol Airport, which is well-connected to many destinations worldwide. It will only take around 30 minutes with a direct train to get to The Hague.
If you’re arriving in the Netherlands by train, you can get to Amsterdam or Rotterdam and change the train to The Hague. The train system in the Netherlands is very good. My favourite part is that you don’t need to buy a paper ticket for the train. Instead, you can check in and out with your debit card.
The Hague is a beautiful destination to visit all year round. However, being home to one of the best Christmas markets in the Netherlands, having a festive feel, and so many things to do, it’s a great destination to visit during winter.
I visited The Hague during the press trip organised by The Hague and Partners. Many thanks to them for organising such a wonderful trip for me.
Cover photo by Alireza Parpaei on Unsplash