Until fairly recently, the very idea of tracking down the best bars in The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands, may have provoked a wry smile among most locals. How things have changed. Nowadays, the city has a bar scene to rival any Dutch metropolis, perhaps even Amsterdam.
The Hague resident and Netherlands travel expert Suzanne Morton-Taylor would be reluctant to call herself a barfly – who could blame her – but she does know the best places to head for a drink, both in the city centre and its suburbs. There’s a wide choice, too, with anything from easygoing neighbourhood joints to fast-moving and very slick rooftop bars, but, as Morton-Taylor points out, “The hallmark of the city’s bar scene is its conviviality”, and this is exemplified by The Hague’s brown cafes (bruine kroegs), traditional Dutch drinking dens, which are invariably cosy, dimly lit and intimate. Helpfully, most bars have multilingual beer (or cocktail) menus to help you steer your way through the alcoholic reefs and rocks.
Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Beer, $$$
In an attractive location, beside a canal on the south side of the city centre, this is perhaps the best of The Hague’s specialist beer bars. An antique façade of red shutters and mullion windows announces the place, beyond which lies a low-lit interior whose nooks and crannies are jam-packed with bottled beers and their specialist glasses. De Paas offers a staggering range of draught and bottled beers, mostly from Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as a wide assortment of single-malt whiskys. There are also occasional live jazz gigs and, in the summer, when the sun finally appears, you can take your seat on the vintage boat that serves as the terrace.
Flanking the wide boulevard on the west side of the Grote Markt, right in the heart of Den Haag, stands Bleyenburg, a curious-looking, three-storey modern block that takes its name from the owner of the wallpaper shop that long inhabited these premises. With the shop well and truly gone, a couple of entrepreneurial locals have turned the place into a real hot spot with a club in the basement, a restaurant on the ground floor and, best of the lot, a rooftop terrace bar called Het Dak. Cocktails are the order of the day on the rooftop, which offers great views over the city centre, and there are themed evening specials, too – Thursday night is currently Taco Night with tacos, nachos and margaritas (€25, £20, for two) on offer. Morton-Taylor loves the place, praising its “cool vibe and tasty cocktails”.
In one of the quaintest corners of the city centre, down a narrow lane flanked by boho cafes and bars, this lovely little place is one of the most charming bars in the city. It’s basically a brown bar, but the owner has livened things up with all sorts of individual flourishes – from the brightly painted tables and chairs outside on the pavement to the ornate chandelier within. De Oude Mol has oodles of atmosphere and attracts an older clientele with the added benefit of occasional live music. They have an enjoyable range of beers with several on draught and a tiny tapas bar up above on the first floor. It’s one of the most convivial spots in the whole of The Hague.
Wicked Wines' Cocktail Menu | Courtesy of Wicked Wines
Elegant townhouses fringe and flank the streets to the north of the city centre, and it’s here that you’ll find Anna Pawlonaplein, an especially pleasant piazza, where a string of restaurants and bars attract the young and the well-heeled. The most appealing of these establishments is Wicked Wines, a chi-chi bar-restaurant with Art Deco trimmings that include several charming stained-glass panels. The restaurant focusses on Asian-inspired cuisine, but drinkers make a beeline for the wide and tree-shaded pavement terrace. As you would expect from the name, choice wines are the main pull here; Morton-Taylor recommends the sparkling wines, which start off with the Italian Torre dei Vescovi for €36 (£30) a bottle and push on up to the Frankrijk Chardonnay Champagne at €95 (£79).
Bar, Restaurant, Japanese, European, Middle Eastern, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, $$$
Tucked away among the narrow lanes of the oldest – and most atmospheric – part of The Hague’s city centre, Milú is pretty much the opposite of the traditional brown café, its glassy and tastefully decorated interior wide open and well-lit. A combined bar and restaurant, the food here is international – think sushi, Turkish-style pumpkin, and tandoori chicken – and the cocktails pull in a garrulous crowd, especially on Wednesdays when all cocktails are just €5 (£4.15). There are DJ sounds on most Friday evenings and a well-appointed pavement terrace, which makes for an ideal rendezvous on a warm summer’s day.
Steel-grey and austere, the tall and slender Hague Tower rises high above the city’s more southerly train station, Den Haag HS. Few would claim it as one of the city’s most charming skyscrapers – in fact, it’s really rather ugly – but its Sky Bar, on the 42nd floor, offers the very best of panoramic views and, as a consequence, has become a popular tourist attraction. The interior is ultra-slick and modern, while coloured neon lights illuminate the viewing galleries at night, all of which does something to compensate for the entrance fee of €9 (£7.50), which includes a complimentary drink from a drinks’ menu that includes a rather ominous-sounding ‘love cocktail’. You won’t get in if you look scruffy – definitely no sportswear – and it’s only open Thursday to Sunday from noon.
Somehow it’s always rather hard to leave Rootz, a boozy, busy café-bar with a generous pavement terrace and a large saloon-like interior, where the bare-brick walls and wood-beamed ceiling seem to suck you in – or glue you to the spot. It’s true that Rootz serves a more-than-satisfactory traditional Dutch menu, but the main event is the beer, with over 200 varieties to choose from, mostly bottled, but some on draught. They also have their own – very tasty – Rootz beers, but pride of place must surely go to the Belgian beers, with anything from that oldest of drinks, Gueuze, to all the famous abbey brews, Chimay, Rochefort and Orval, the last of which happens to be Morton-Taylor’s favourite tipple.
Handy for many of The Hague’s key sights, the Huppeldepub is one of Morton-Taylor’s favourite haunts, an inordinately cosy and welcoming brown café on one of the city’s most appealing streets. They offer around 60 bottled beers here as well as eight beers on tap, including their own huppALE, a tasty amber brew that goes down sweetly with the cheese and cooked-meat snacks that they provide at the drop of a hat. They also offer a good range of single-malt whiskeys. It’s no surprise, then, that the Huppeldepub has won several awards for being the best bar in The Hague.
Among the platoon of popular café-bars lining up along the Grote Markt, at the very heart of The Hague, is De Zwarte Ruiter (The Black Rider) a softly lit, wood-panelled affair with a scattering of picnic tables on its pavement terrace. There’s no gentrification here, and the earthy, gritty atmosphere is at its most striking when heavy metal bands perform, as they sometimes do, though when their website claims that “Mother and motorcycle gang are sitting side by side”, it somewhat stretches the point. All the same, it’s a popular spot at just about any time, but heaving on the weekend, and they offer an excellent range of bottled and draft beers. But be warned, the house specialises in tequilas and mescals to (often) devastating effect.