When we hear about trendy cities The Hague is never on the list. Den Haag (its name in Dutch) entails an aura of bureaucracy, international justice and government policies for those who don’t know it well.
However, there are a lot of trendy places in The Hague where you can enjoy food, drinks, cultural events and live music with the same level of quality than in bigger cities like Berlin, London or Barcelona, with the advantage that the places are not so crowded and, above all, paying decent prices.
In a selfish way I prefer people to keep thinking The Hague is a boring bureaucratic city where there’s nothing to do, so it doesn’t become another swanky tourist destination like many other places nowadays where we find hipsters everywhere and prices increase at rocket speed.
Maybe I shouldn’t share this list with you then, but I will do it nonetheless, just out of my love for this wonderful city.
My list of cool places in The Hague
1. Het Paard van Troje
This is the best venue to see live music in The Hague. It has an amazing all-year-round program of rock and pop music but also electronic. Very important international artists have passed by Het Paard during the 45 years that it’s been opened. It started as a youth culture centre in the beginning of the 70s and it’s now the coolest concert venue in the city. It has two stages, the main one with capacity for a thousand people and a small venue with capacity for 300. There is also a café in the next building where they host different DJ sessions in the weekends.
I just read on Wikipedia that U2, Pearl Jam and Prince played their first Dutch performances in this venue. In reality it doesn’t surprise me since I have seen myself here gigs of not so well known bands that later on became quite popular, like Bombay Bicycle Club or the Danish Reptile Youth for instance. This is the perfect place to enjoy great artists from a close distance before they become mainstream.
Het Paard also hosts the renowned Rewire festival which is attracting each year more people from all different parts of the world due to the originality of the line-up and interesting events. This festival features interdisciplinary performances, commissioned projects, special collaborations, club nights, talks and screenings. The festival presents several thematic focus and context programmes that connect music with wider cultural and social issues. In this last edition one of the main names was SURVIVE creators of the original music of Stranger Things, the Netflix series.
2. Scheveningen beach bars
The Hague also has a long beach where tens of beach bars are rebuilt in April and disassembled in October. When my friends come to visit and I tell them that all those bars are rebuilt every year they think I’m joking, since they are not just mere “chiringuitos” (Spanish word to design the typical shabby wooden hut on the beach) but proper chic bars and restaurants.
My favourite one is not so chic though, but I love it because of its hippy vibe and its location, on the dunes and far from the noisy pier. It’s a modest wooden beach bar with super friendly people and delicious food. Het Puntje.
Many of the trendy beach bars house DJ sessions and parties during the summer months which are very popular among the locals.
But the chicest thing of all it’s to contemplate the sunset with a beer in your hand siting on the sand
3. The Filmhuis
I’m a cinema lover, so I was delighted when I first moved to The Hague and discovered the Filmhuis. I think I have spent more time there than in any other place in this city. This independent cinema screens arthouse films from all around the world and hosts interesting film festivals like Movies that Matter (featuring films of political and social subjects) and Eastern Neighbours (films from Eastern Europe).
Its screening halls are small and cosy and you can take your beer with you. Its bar is open all day and it has a beautiful restaurant upstairs as well.
4. Second hand shops
For those of us who enjoy finding chic bargains in vintage shops we can certainly spend quite a long time looking through the clothes ranks of various shops in the city. There are tens of them spread around the city centre and they are definitely worth a look.
During the spring and summer months there is also a street market called Swan Market where you can find trendy clothes and crafts. You will also find the inevitable but so handy food trucks and even a stage with live music. Swan Market takes place around the Grote Kerk, check their web site for dates.
5. Crossing Border Festival
This is genuinely my favourite festival of all because it is about music and literature, two of my passions after cinema.
The Crossing Border festival takes place every October in several venues distributed around the centre of The Hague. To give you an idea of what you can expect I will tell you some of the random experiences I have lived during the different editions of the festival: chatting with Michael Madsen about his last book, seeing The National at the last minute with a fake bracelet because the Saturday tickets were sold out, asking Almudena Grandes questions about her erotic first book The Ages of Lulu, listening to PJ Harvey reading her poetry in a beautiful church illuminated with candles, being enchanted by the kinky movements of the Shears brothers from The Garden and talking about my lovely Edinburgh and fried Mars bars around a beer with Mr. Irvine Welsh.
I know, you now want to go as well!
6. Sky High building
I’m not a big smoker myself but I love the idea of being free to do so if I want to. In The Hague you can of course find plenty of coffeshops around the city but my favourite one is Sky High. Not for anything in particular regarding the quality of the merchandise or the atmosphere but just because it amuses me to see people buying marihuana inside a historical building.
This is the place to be in The Hague specially if the weather is warm and you can seat in the terrace. The trendy people of Den Haag gather here, pub-crawling among the 7 bars around this charming tiny square, where drinks and food are served all day. Some of the bars host live music and dancing evenings in the weekends. Check the program
8. Kompaan Beer
No city can proclaim its hipsterness without having its own craft beer and The Hague is no exception. Kompaan Bier is the project of brothers Jasper and Jeroen Kompaan who in 2012 created the Hopped Blond which quickly became a success. Now, 6 years later, you can find their more than 20 types of beers in most bars around The Hague and surroundings and they even have their own cool bar and restaurant with a great terrace, always busy in sunny days. The food is amazing!
9. Restaurants and Street Food
The Hague is one of the best places in Europe for eating out. I’m serious. There is a wide choice of superb restaurants, with an excellent quality-price relationship and an incredible food diversity. You can find first-rate restaurants from almost all corners of the globe, including an Eritrean restaurant, and for all kind of budgets.
And it isn’t only about the quality of food but also about the interior design, in The Hague restaurants’ owners take extreme care about the atmosphere and comfort of the places. There is a great choice of restaurants to enjoy an excellent dinner in a gorgeous place at affordable prices.
Some examples are the spectacular Mama Kelly, SET, EAT company or Phonsawan
If you want to eat a bite between beer and beer you can choose one (or two) among the different street food stands at Mingle Mush. This space was recently opened and it’s a big success due to the quality of the food, the diversity, the affordability and the cool atmosphere. There are 15 stands with food from different countries (Mexico, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Poland, Vietnam…) Check it out by yourself!
This museum has little to be jealous about other important museums in bigger cities. And it´s not only due to its superb permanent collection with works by Mondrian and Kandinsky among others, but also due to its building which is a masterpiece of the Art Deco architecture. It was designed by architect H.P Berlage between 1931 and 1934, and opened its doors after the architect´s death, in 1935.
Its walls hold temporary modern painting, textile, ceramic and photography exhibitions, many of them of great relevance. Through its doors have entered pieces of Rothko, Rodin, Klimt, Egon Schiele, Jan Sluijters, Hans de Jong, Karen Appel, James Ensor and Pablo Picasso, just to name some of them!
Not bad for a museum placed in a city with only 600,000 inhabitants.
11. Summer Festivals
And of course if a city wants to be crowned as a trendy destination needs to host at least a couple of open air festivals. The Hague has lots of them, and many of them are for free!
To name only some of them: Life I live (Dutch pop and rock bands) in April, BonFire Beach Fest (Pop and rock for all ages) also in April, Sniester in May (International pop bands), Den Haag Outdoor (electronic music) in August, Park Pop (Pop music for all ages) also in August and many more
12. China Town
And if you still doubt of the trendiness of The Hague you will like to know that there is a proper China Town in the city centre with restaurants, supermarkets, doctors, massages’ centres and even Chinese bakeries. You really have the feeling of being somewhere in the far East.
13. Cool Hostels
Do you now also think The Hague is a trendy city? If you do and want to come over but need affordable accommodation, check one of its cool hostels, like King Kool Hostel.