The Hague boasts a bevy of enjoyable cafés | Tromp Willem van Urk / Alamy Stock Photo
Imminently appealing, but often neglected by tourists, The Hague’s busy, bustling centre boasts some of the Netherlands’ finest art galleries plus a bevy of enjoyable cafés. Culture Trip tracked down local foodie and one-time city tourist officer, Suzanne Morton-Taylor, for her top tips on where to go for a coffee in The Hague.
Although Den Haag (The Hague) is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, Morton-Taylor explains that it doesn’t always receive the recognition that the Dutch capital does: “The Hague may not have as high a profile on the tourist agenda as Amsterdam, but make no mistake it boasts some of the best cafés in Holland.” These come in two main types – the daytime, pâtisserie-style cafés, many of which are slick and modern, and the quintessentially Dutch “brown cafés” (bruine kroeg), really café-bars that are almost always cosy, dimly lit, intimate places with boho furnishings and an infinitely relaxed atmosphere. And ordering a drink at The Hague’s cafés is rarely a problem: almost every menu has an English translation. Read on to discover Morton-Taylor’s pick of the best cafés in The Hague.
If you are after a splash of Dutch authenticity, then Huppeldepub should be high on your itinerary for The Hague. This is one of the nicest café-bars in the city centre, a typical brown café that welcomes a mixed and often garrulous clientele. There is nothing fancy, but the cheese and meat snacks are first-rate, the atmosphere is great and the coffee is good – never mind the wide range of beers. Morton-Taylor points out that the Huppeldepub has won several awards for being the best bar in The Hague and, perhaps more importantly, they organise a fun Christmas bingo.
Right in the centre of the city, footsteps from some of The Hague’s most popular attractions, this ultra chic café does a fine line in snacks and light meals – try, for example, the smoked salmon sandwich or the quiche – but it’s the cakes and pastries that steal the show. Prepare to swoon with delight as you admire the sheer creativity of their offerings, which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – a Christmas favourite is a sweet treat with Santa’s legs sticking out of the top, and there are, of course, heart designs for Valentine’s Day and chocolate eggs for Easter. Prices are surprisingly affordable with sandwiches costing around €8 (£6.75).
Any suggestion that The Hague is a little staid is thoroughly debunked at this large and popular café-bar, whose good-looking, shuttered façade and pavement terrace are a prelude to a saloon-like interior with bare-brick walls and a wood-beamed ceiling. There’s coffee and snacks, of course, but the place comes into its own with its exemplary range of Belgian and Dutch beers – they stock over two hundred and then some. That said, Rootz does do a great uitsmijter – that ever-so-traditional Dutch breakfast of eggs, bacon or ham and toast with or without tomato and cheese.
Blossom is one of The Hague’s most enjoyable cafés. A light and airy place located in one of the more prosperous parts of the city, it’s a quick tram ride from the city centre and within easy walking distance of the Peace Palace. They bake their bread daily in the traditional French style, and their meat is sourced from a local free-range butcher – indeed, they avoid unnecessary additives and source their ingredients locally wherever possible. It’s a great place for breakfast, with options including eggs on toast with mashed avocado, spinach and chilli flakes or American pancakes. Prices are reasonable – the pancakes, for instance, cost just €7.50 (£6.30).
Occupying an old and cavernous brick-vaulted weigh-house, where butter and cheese were once carefully parcelled out, this delightful café-bar pulls in a vibrant, youthful crowd, who enjoy the inexpensive bar food from a menu that covers all the Dutch basics – waffles for breakfast and apple tart for mid-morning, for example. The menu is strong on locally sourced ingredients – eggs, ham and beetroot and the like – but perhaps the best time to visit is when the sun is out and the locals gather to shoot the breeze on the spacious outside terrace.
Always in tune with the latest trends, Morton-Taylor recommends this new café-cum-restaurant and describes it as a marker as to how the food scene is developing in The Hague, with environmental awareness increasingly to the fore. The place takes its name from the philosopher Spinoza’s Ethics, and the couple who own it are indeed ethical in their approach: they follow an 80/20 rule in their cooking – 80% plant-based food, 20% meat. The meat served here has ethical roots, too; for example the geese on the menu come from birds that are shot for aircraft safety around Schiphol Airport. Ethica is located on the south side of the city centre, beside a canal, has a pleasant summer terrace and is decorated in a pleasantly folksy style. It’s an ideal spot for an early evening snack with light bites a real snip at around €6 (£5).
In one of the more interesting parts of The Hague’s city centre, at the entrance to the Noordeinde Palace, this long-established café-bar does a good line in snacks. The menu includes anything from risotto mushroom croquettes to Mexican nachos, all at very affordable prices – think €6-10 (£5-8.50). The interior is a little spartan, but there’s more than adequate compensation in the agreeable outside terrace, which abuts one of The Hague’s canals. Café de Bieb has moored its own houseboat on the bank – and on a warm summer’s evening it heaves with revellers till late at night.
Of all the cafés in and around The Hague’s city centre, Lola Bikes & Coffee is probably the most idiosyncratic, blending New Age style with a love of cycling – hence the faded Persian rugs on the floor and the bicycles glued to the walls. It’s all very Dutch – albeit a rather youthful, alternative-lifestyle Dutch – and the owners are passionate about their coffee, serving up some of the tastiest brews and blends in town. They have their own cycling club, which visitors are welcome to join, or you can just stick to the coffee – proudly single origin from Colombia – rounded off with a toasted sandwich: the goat’s cheese toastie is especially tasty.
Off the beaten track, Koningsplein, a large and leafy square surrounded by a medley of attractive old red-brick buildings, was once shabby and run-down. But it’s now on the up, not least because of Sint Joris en de Draeck (St George and the Dragon), a neighbourhood café-bar par excellence, where locals gather during the day to chitter and chatter. There is a pleasant outside terrace. and a very competent, daytime menu of Dutch snacks and light bites at bargain prices. In the evening, try the spare ribs, which are a house specialty. Far away from the tourists, just a twenty-minute walk from the city centre, you can anticipate a warm and hospitable welcome.