Last week I finally had the chance to visit the Netherlands, something I had been looking to do for a long time. I went first to The Hague for the weekend then spent a few days in Amsterdam. I will mainly talk about The Hague here since I feel like less has been written on it (usually, everyone goes to Amsterdam), and I absolutely loved it. However, as I cannot hope to write the perfect guide to The Hague after spending three days there, I will write about the few things I most enjoyed. You can find the address for all the places in bold at the bottom. I arrived there on a sunny afternoon, which quickly turned into a very rainy evening. After a stroll around the city centre, me and the friend I was visiting went to the former fishermen village of Scheveningen to enjoy freshly caught fish at the iconic Simonis Aan de Haven. From kibbeling (a kind of Dutch traditional fish and chips) to grilled salmon and herring sandwiches, Simonis offers a large selection of seafood, in a corny yet charming sea-themed décor (think sea shells and sand on the tables and fake sharks and stingrays hung to the ceiling), and I very much recommend you pay it a visit.
We then walked along the beach from the fishing port to the other part of Scheveningen where the leisure port is. Despite the rain, the walk was very pleasant: there are plenty of sculptures and interesting buildings to keep you entertained, aside from the beautiful beach. We went past a colourful surf village, which was as empty as they are crowded in the summertime, but nonetheless enchanting. We reached the Kurhaus, in which the Rolling Stones played their first European concert in 1964, now a hotel surrounded with fancy restaurants and tacky entertainment centres.
We then went back to The Hague, which is only a short tramway ride away (take the number 1 or 17), and went to the local art cinema, the Filmhuis, which is the equivalent of our Mancunian Cornerhouse. You can relax and have a drink and some food while waiting for the film to start, in a cosy yet spirited atmosphere. We went there randomly with no particular idea as to which film we should watch, and ended up seeing Une Nouvelle Amie (The New Girlfriend), the latest film starring French actor Romain Duris. What we thought would be a typical French rom-com turned out to be a psychological thriller, about love, death, and gender identity. It was an interesting film, and Romain Duris, along with the very talented Anaïs Demoustier are truly remarkable. You can watch the trailer here.
The following day, we all went to Delft, which is about 20 minutes on the tram from the city centre. I would not be honest if I did not say that I fell in love with this place. Although it is a pretty big town, its vibe is that of a small village, with cool pubs, restaurants, and, as I soon found out, lots of vintage, antique, and second-hand charity shops. Colin, the friend we were visiting goes to Delft every so often just to go to those shops, where you can find absolutely anything, from old (functioning) cameras for 2€ to handbags and liquor glasses. My favourite find is a 1980 mug commemorating Queen Beatrix’s crowning, which I found in a second-hand shop on the picturesque Markt, where the Nieuwe Kerk Cathedral is located. The Terre des Hommes shop offers an interesting selection of clothing, kitchen items, and books. If you take a stroll around the centre and along the canals, you will be able to find plenty more. We also stopped at the public library where we had a delicious appeltaart, the traditional Dutch apple tart with whipped cream on the side. On the cultural side, Delft has been the main centre for Dutch pottery manufacturing for centuries, and is where William of Orange was assassinated in 1584. It is also a very student-y city, as it boasts the prestigious Delft University of Technology.
In the evening, back to The Hague, our first intention was to go to de Boterwaag for dinner, but it is a very popular venue especially on a Saturday night and we couldn’t get a table. We thus ended up going to Rootz, which is reputedly the best Belgian restaurant in the Netherlands. The menu is laid out in such a way that whichever dish you order, you can choose the suitable beer or wine, which is actually an excellent idea. The chips were to die for, and so was the accompanying handmade mayo. Three of us had the runderstoof, which is a traditional Flemish beef stew, and my dad had mussels cooked in white wine. It was all delicious and of excellent quality and I do recommend you go there. On the Sunday, after visiting the Mauritshuis, which exhibits paintings by the best Flemish artists, we had a stroll around the city centre and came across the most amazing vintage shop, called Acendi. Located on Papestraat in the Royal Palace district, among posh designer shops, this small boutique is a real treasure. There you can find sophisticatedly yet unpretentiously curated vintage pieces of clothing at a very reasonable price, and especially when I went because they had sales going on. For less than 100€ I managed to get a faux sheepskin coat, two skirts, a dress and a blouse, all in excellent condition. They had a large selection of lovely blouses, leather trousers, extravagant dresses, among other things, and I definitely would have bought more if I hadn’t been worried about airport luggage restriction…
After these three days in The Hague I went to Amsterdam for another couple of days and although it was my first time there I came across a few very good places, which I am going to share with you. The hotel was located in Amstel, near a street called Utrechtsestraat, where you can find a lot of Indonesian restaurants as well as a few Indian places. There are also plenty of boutiques, which all have that cool vibe I quite like. Also, go have a look at Marqt, a large organic/health food shop which sells delicious bread among other things, located on that same street (there are a couple more around Amsterdam). On the last day before leaving we also had lunch in the café downstairs from Hotel Toon. In this tastefully decorated café-bar, you can enjoy Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as Shakshuka (a kind of omelette with lots of tomato sauce, spices, and different toppings of your choice), and a roasted aubergine salad (which was supposed to have pomegranate, but they had ran out so we got red currants instead, and it worked well). They also have different types of bagels, salads and cakes at a reasonable price. For drinks you can have beer, wine, and tea/coffee. The atmosphere is very pleasant, and I particularly liked the music, which was a mix of Latin and Eastern-European inspired tunes. Just round the corner from the hotel was the Bar Lempicka, a rather sophisticated yet really welcoming brasserie where you can enjoy nice wine and nibbles, or a more substantial meal if you feel like it, and the staff is very friendly.
Near the Rijks Museum is a great little street called Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, on which there are plenty of antique shops and art dealers, and two shops that retained my attention. The first one is Episode, which sells, yes you guessed right, vintage clothing. It is more messy than Acendi but the choice is enormous, and if you’re not too much in a hurry, take the time to look through the racks, you might find some great pieces in there. Episode also has three other shops in Amsterdam, one in Utrecht, Haarlem, Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris. The second one is Van Roselen, a family-business that sells all sorts of fine chocolates and chocolate from around the world, which would please even the fussier chocolate-eater (you can buy chocolate with up to 99% cocoa for instance).
And finally, I must add that this trip was the occasion for a museum marathon (7 in 5 days!), and although I recommend you go to Mauritshuis and the Rijks museum because of they show beautiful pieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt among others, there is a less famous museum I strongly recommend. The Tropenmuseum is a large ethnographic museum located in East Amsterdam, a bit out of the city centre. It is nonetheless worth doing the extra mile for if you like the study of non-Western cultures. From India and Morocco to Mexico and Papua, the history and culture of the peoples of the world is presented and explained, and there are also special sections on the colonial history of the Netherlands. Suitable for people of any age (there are special activities for children), I strongly recommend you go to this captivating museum.
Here are the addresses of the different places I mentioned all along this entry, sorted by city and alphabetical order. I hope you enjoyed reading about this trip, and if you have any questions, recommendations or opinion on the matter please let me know.
Bar Lempicka – Sarphatistraat 23
Episode – Nieuwe Spiegelastraat 61
Marqt – Utrechtsestraat 17
Toon – Utrechtsestraat 18
Tropenmuseum – Linnaeusstraat 2
Van Roselen – Nieuwe Spiegelastraat 72
DOK Delft Public Library – Vesteplein 100
Terre des Hommes – Nieuwe Langendijk 33
Kurhaus – Gevers Deynootplein 30
Simonis – Visafslagweg 20 (you can also find Simonis in the centre of The Hague at Gedempte Gracht 405H)
Acendi – Papestraat 3
Filmhuis Den Haag – Spui 191
Rootz – Grote Marktstraat 14