Dutch Weekend: Den Haag

In the short span of time since moving to the Netherlands, A and I have been on a few weekend trips to various Dutch cities and even gone so far as to meet some friends for a good dose of climbing in Spain. This left me hardly much time to blog about cooking, (though I’ve still been experimenting lots in the kitchen) and even lesser time to upload and organise my holiday photographs. In a bid to get some writing done, I’m starting with one of our very first weekend trips and initiation into Dutch culture and way of life. 

Itinerary: 3D2N (Den Haag, Delft, Rotterdam)

  • Day 1:  Den Haag (via intercity train) / Delft (cycle)

  • Day 2: Delft
  • Day 3: Delft – Rotterdam (train) / Rotterdam – Kinderdjik (waterbus + cycle)

A shrill whistle marked the imminent departure of our train and my breath faltered – death by hoisting my heavy-assed bike up a train was not exactly part of the weekend travel itinerary. Granted, I was at first exuberant at the prospect of being allowed a bicycle on board a train (pardon my cheap thrill, I do come from an island where only foldables are allowed on public transport) but soon realised that this second hand bike of mine weighed like my roadie high on cheeseburgers. Nevertheless, having our bikes with us for the trip proved to be a wise choice as we zipped in and out of cities and provincial towns breezily, all the while enjoying the idyllic sights and sounds. I shall not get myself started on how safe and valued I feel as a cyclist in the Netherlands. With designated bicycle lanes, fietspad, our own traffic lights and right of way in many junctions, this country is a cyclist’s paradise.

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Bicycles loaded and ready to go! (6 Euros per bike ticket, valid all day on all trains)

Our first day was spent in Den Haag (Hague).  As one can imagine, a weekend here in the peak of summer could prove fatal to the wandering tourist since the Hague is best known for its proximity to the coast and famed for its seaside resorts. That said, we did not go to the beach due to a false forecast of rainy weather.

Let’s start the day with food. My knowledge of Dutch cuisine goes only as far as the quintessential Stroopwafel, and Stroopwafels we shall have for breakfast! I could literally hear its warm and gooey innards calling out to me.

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Stroopwafel stands are quite common in most Dutch cities. You can also buy them in nice packages, they make great gifts.
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In my opinion, there’s no better way than to enjoy it warm.

A and I spent most of Friday strolling and cycling through the city’s historical precincts and visiting landmarks and monuments.

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you know it’s summer when everyone is enjoying a beer while basking in the sun
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this mosaic tiled building caught my eye…love how colourful and mediterranean it looks
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some of the streets remind me of Paris…with double the floor area.

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We also spent some time roaming the city gardens before making our way to the Binnenhof which houses the parliament of the Netherlands.

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Many of the buildings within the Binnenhof date all the way back to the 13th century, though only a few are currently still in use for parliamentary purposes.

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The courtyard of the Binnenhof, once used for public executions. Fret not, a pretty water fountain now stands in the middle of it.

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A view of the Binnenhof from the Hofvijver

Another highlight of Den Haag would have to be the Peace Palace. The gardens are a sight to behold with its glorious blooms surrounding the majestic palace. One can take a free audio tour at the visitors centre to learn about this international icon of Peace and Justice, the Palace grounds however are only open to visitors on guided weekend tours. Hence, I could only snap some photographs from its perimeter so pardon the slightly blurry images.

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A view of the Peace Palace taken from the visitors centre

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Though the palace was quite far removed from the city center, I’d say it is worth a visit if you are ever in Den Haag. We had no problems navigating our way through the city, just make sure you have a good map – most train stations in Dutch cities provide a free and rather comprehensive city map with the iconic tourist sights marked out. If you’d like, you can also purchase a detailed map for 1 Euro at the tourist information centres.

We ended our tour of Den Haag with a quick lie-down on a grassy patch outside a pretty church.

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On the whole, I did enjoy our brief encounter here. It is a big city with a decidedly cosmopolitan vibe, yet tamed by the historical flair of its architectural sights. Though a tad touristy, the carefree strides of visitors enjoying what’s left of the summer holidays gave it an atmospheric hue. I was quite taken by the wide boulevards, intricately carved street lamps and pretty streets lined with numerous alfresco bars and cafes – this is exactly what a holiday feels like.

Next up, cycling to Delft! 

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