Ever since moving to the Hague, I’ve been busy trying to exploring this beautiful city. Although to many people that I’ve met from elsewhere, the Hague is boring and they’ve “been there“.
However, the Hague is full of secrets in plain sight and this city has a lot more to offer than people realize. Keep reading for my favorite off the beaten path places in the Hague.
I’ve broken this list in a two main sections, first ‘secret’ places in Den Haag and hofjes in the Hague. Not all are truly secrets, but when you meet someone from the Hague (or who lives here long term), they might mention one of these to you. I’ve not been to every single one of these off the beaten path places in the Hague yet, however I’ll be updating this post as I do. (I consider it my personal bucket list for the Hague!)
Secret places in Den Haag
The Barthkapel is a chapel and garden that used to belong to a nunnery. The church was built in a beautiful neo-Gothic style. Today, the church is used for cultural activities and non-religious activities. You can find the entrance along Brouwersgracht down an alleyway.
Kloosterbrouwerij Haagsche Broeder
The building here housed the church of St. James parish. It was used previously by the nuns who helped run schools in the Hague. The chapel inside dates back to 1928. Interestingly enough, you can visit their public room two days a week as one of the monks has started making beer at the cloister.
The beer is fantastic, so be sure to stop in the afternoon on Friday or Saturday to pick up a bottle as well as organic soaps and other goods produced by cloisters around Europe. I particularly enjoyed their slightly sour Prior while my husband loved their darker Postulant, closer to a triple.
I’m not sure if I’d call the Haagse Markt a secret, but based on the way that everyone asks everyone, “have you heard of the Haagse Markt?”… It might be. This lovely multi-cultural market is over 80 years old. It’s an amazing place to experience as well as do your grocery shopping as it’s cheap, seasonal, and fun. I usually bring ten euros, which buys enough vegetables for a week with two people who cook a lot.
Hidden inside of this former church are tramplines… Planet Jump is a former church that now houses 32 trampoline fields. Why not?
Syndicaat secret bar
Syndicaat has weird hours as the owners are supposely taking the summers off, however this cool speakeasy bar with a hidden entrance will transport you instantly back in time. Their cocktails are fantastic, so check their website to see if they’re open.
A lot of people don’t realize that the Binkhorst is full of interesting things. Most importantly, you’ll find Kompaan, one of the best breweries in the Hague. It’s hidden behind a warehouse, so park your bike and head into this warehouse for some of the most experimental beers in the Hague. Proost.
Nutshuis (Riviervismarkt 5)
If you enter this building, which is used for organization and performances, ask for the Juni cafe or just follow the stairs on your left down into the cafe. This building built in the 1920s was used as a bank (Nutsspaarbank).
The cafe is really lovely to visit and I enjoy just sitting out there on a nice day. It’s good to note that you have one of the most loveliest views in the Hague if you enter the garden and look towards the Grotekerk. This view is accessible via a side entrance that I’ve not found after the time that I exited.
A secret spot with a view! Many people don’t realize that there’s a rooftop bar in the middle of the Binkhorst complex. Enjoy a beer and being in the know. 😉
Russian Orthodox Church / H. Maria Magdalena Kerk
The Russian Orthodox church is the oldest active Orthodox church in the Netherlands. When Anna Paulowna, a Russian royal married William II, she asked to keep her faith. Within two of the palaces of the Hague, there is a chapel for this purpose. This chapel was built in accordance to Anna’s will in the 1930s.
I have not successfully visited yet, but this secret park in the Hague can be visited if you purchase an annual pass for 15 euros, which allows entry for three people although you can also buy a ticket at the VVV (in the main library) for only 7.50.
The park is technically owned by the government, however this 25 hectare park is being preserved for the future, so admission is not easy to come by. The park was created by Jacob Cats who created a farm on the estate here as he felt that there wasn’t enough green space in the Hague at this time.
The Catshuis is the official residence of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and although not all Dutch prime ministers have chosen to live here, many have chosen to do so. You can view it from the interior of Park Sorghvliet. Notably, there was a G7 summit held here that Barack Obama and Angela Merkel attended.
The house was built in 1651 by Jacob Cats. Although it was originally only one story, it’s been built upon over time. You can at least see the gate although your odds of seeing the house up close are extremely low.
The Japanese Garden has been part of the Clingendael estate, one of the largest parks in the Hague. This stunning garden was created in 1910 and it’s the only Japanese garden in the Netherlands. The former owner of the Clingendael estate, known as Lady Daisy, traveled to Japan many times and ended up bringing up a number of Japanese artifacts to create a garden with.
The garden is absolutely stunning to visit although I’d advise visiting in the evenings or a week day as it’s absolutely mobbed with people taking photos on the weekends. It’s only open for a small period in spring (end of April through early June) and in fall for about two weeks. Click for more information about visiting the Japanese garden in spring and fall.
Van Kleef is one of the most unique places in the Hague and although it’s not truly a secret as it’s well known among residents, not everyone knows about the last jenever producer in the Hague that began in 1842. It specializes in jenever, bitters, as well as local spirits. it’s free to visit although if you don’t purchase a bottle and try more than a few samples, you may be asked to pay a fee of 50 cents per sample. (Van Gogh was a fan!) In the back is a stunning garden. Be sure to try the Kruìde Baggâh although the knowledgable staff will be happy to explain the options to you.
I finally saw the city wine garden, where volunteers are creating a wine from the vineyards that you can see from the street. The creator of the Haagse Stadswindgarrd wanted to create something sustainable to show the possibilities of urban agriculture. In 2013, the vineyard was founded and in 2015, the first bottles were sold. Now, this vineyard is run as a cooperative.
Stichting De Besturing
This former warehouse is now a large artist studio housing some of the studios of some of the most famous artists in the Hague. It was founded in 2006 to give affordable studios to artists–and although I haven’t visited, it’s a secret place that many residents don’t know about.
Molenstraat / Paleistuin secret entrance
If you’re visiting the center, you might find a street called Molenstraat. This street was named after a flour mill that disappeared with time–and it’s one of the oldest streets in the Hague. As you wander above, admire the stunning Rijksmonument house above you. (I almost had that apartment, but didn’t end up getting it….) As you reach the end of the street, you’ll reach the old city gate, the King’s Gate. Be sure to press the buzzer and walk through until you get to the Paleistuin (the royal garden). I don’t consider this much of a secret, however it’s a lovely place for a walk.
Hofjes in the Hague
After starting to make this list, I realized that a significant portion were hofjes. Hofjes are generally historic alm houses where someone would endow a building to be used for charity housing. These patrons were generally able to set the terms of who would be allowed inside. Some of these historic courtyards in the Hague are still used for charity housing while others are privately owned. Getting into these hofjes isn’t an easy feat as the owners are very protective of their privacy. The Hague has over 110 courtyards, mostly dating back to the 1800s. I’ve featured my favorite courtyards in the Hague here.
De Hof van Wouw / Tuin der Hesperiden
I finally got here as this hofje is only open to the public about five days per year. It’s inhabited by residents care for it, so you can still see the back of the hofje, a garden, through a hole in the fence near de Barthkapel. If you hope to enter, check their website for more information about their open days.
The hofje was founded in 1647 by Cornelia van Wouw with the goal of housing single women, so the seventeen houses are relatively small. Even today, the houses are still chosen on the basis of the original will. Hofje van wouw is one of the most beautiful–and well preserved hofjes in the Hague due to significant efforts to keep it in good condition.
Tuin der Hesperiden was a vegetable and flower garden with flair designed for Cornelia van Wouw. It was actually a fruit supplier in the Hague. When the hofje was restored, the decision was made to fully restore this garden to its original purpose in the 1800s. You’ll find a number of fruit trees here and it’s absolutely stunning if you’re able to visit. This garden is being protected for its cultural heritage, so you can only visit some days.
Hofje van Nieuwkoop
This hofje dates back to 1661 and includes 62 houses. The original owner, Johan de Bruijn van Buijtenwech, intended for elderly women of any age to live here. The hofje is one of the largest in the Netherlands and it cost over 100,000 guilders to construct at that time. The hofje is private and the public is not allowed in at this point although a kind resident let me in after seeing me admiring the building.
As the rent exceeds the amount of what is required of the social sector (925 euros), prospective residents must earn more than 38,000 euros per year and promise not to have a cat/dog prior to going on the waiting list.
Wijnand Esserhof is a beautiful hofje located in Schilderswijk, a historically working class community. As you’re biking to this hofje, the architecture is very modern (and a bit ugly), so I found myself taking a sigh of relief when I entered the historic hofje here.
This courtyard has 202 houses, making it one of the largest hofjes in the Hague. This stunning hofje built in the Neo-Renaissance style was built around 1885 to help poor Jewish residents. However, the Van Ostad houses were not taken by the Jewish community and others moved in.
The hofje’s exterior is carefully maintained by a resident who was born in the hofje. To live in these houses, you must have a low income, so be prepared for a lot of competition as the rent here is also very affordable (around 220 euros). This hofje is open to the public although finding the entrance takes a bit of work.
This public park that was actually quite recently built (2011) functions more like a park at this point although volunteers keep this public courtyard beautiful. It’s nestled between a number of streets in the location of a building that was demolished. It’s considered one of the best secret places in the Hague and it’s open during business hours.
Kleinste Hofje (Hooikade 24)
The Kleinste hofje is the smallest hofje in the Hague. Right off the canal, you’ll find this hofje dating back to the 18th century. It has only four houses within it and the gate is generally open during the day.
This lovely green hofje was built in 1870 and marks one of the first major expansions of the Hague. At the time that it was built, no permission was needed if you built behind the public street, however you can imagine how this caused issues later on. The hofje was primarily intended for the employees of the barracks that it was hidden behind that is now a park. The hofje is relatively small with two rows of white single story houses.
This hofje was founded by Elisabeth Groen van Prinsterer – van der Hoop, a wealthy woman who dedicated her life to Christian charity. In 1841, this almshouse was built with the goal of helping older single and destitute women.
An organization was created to oversee the efforts to provide low-income housing as well as teach sewing to women in need, so a sewing school was created at 43 Rusthof. In 1930, the sewing school closed.
Today, the hofje is overseen by a charity (Stitching Rusthof) and rents out the homes within this hofje to women 55+. The hofje is generally open to the public between 10am and 5pm although you will be asked to leave if you’re loud or do not respect the privacy of residents.
2e de Riemerstraat 105A-105g
This hofje was used for housing those in need. There are seven houses here, so be sure to follow down this lovely little hofje while respecting the privacy of the residents.
Mallemolen and Schuddegeest
Two hofjes in one! Mallemolen is a stunning hofje with whitewashed brick dates back to 1868 and it’s one of the best preserved hofjes that I’ve seen in the Hague. This was a courtyard created for workers hidden behind the buildings and it’s considered one of better attempts at providing affordable housing to workers in lower socio-economic classes.
Next to Mallemolen is another hofje, hofje Schuddegeest was built in the same period. Although the entrance is a bit harder to find, you need to make a left prior to entering Mallemollen prior to following the brick into the hofje entrance. Both hofjes are publicly accessible although you’ll miss them if you’re not looking carefully!
Spinozapoort / Dunne Bierkade 29
I just love the entrance to this scenic hofje, which dates back to the 1700s. This hofje was used for workshops where tables, chairs, and textiles were produced for the city’s wealthy citizens. If you’re close to De Paas, be sure to stop off here.
Stichting Het Heilige Geest Hofje
This hofje, very close to the red light district in the Hague, is the oldest hofje in the Hague dating back to 1616. It’s absolutely large and absolutely stunning. You can find it along Paviljoensgracht 51-125, which actually used to be a canal. The stunning gate house, which you can spot from the exterior dates back to 1647. Inside is the oldest pear tree in the Netherlands, dating back to 1638. I have not gotten inside, but I hope to visit soon on Momentendag. (Note: it’s actually possible to stay here overnight for about 45 euros with an additional cleaning fee (45 euros). For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
This stunning hofje in the Hague was built in 1755. This home was intended for widows who were Protestant as well as elderly women. The hofje still rents house these stunning houses within this hofje, hidden behind a door, to single women with limited income. You can enter most days although please be considerate as the sound can echo.
Any secret places in the Hague that I missed?
I’ll be updating this post as I find new favorite places in the Hague.