The Hague (De Haag) is the third-largest city in the Netherlands but could be one of the most important cities in the world that promotes peace and international cooperation. Home of the Peace Palace, The Hague is recognized around the world as the International City of Peace and Justice.
Inside the Peace Palace are important international organizations, such as the World Court, Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Peace Palace Library. The Hague is a prominent city in Europe, which means it is not exactly a budget-friendly city. Yet, the city offers many unforgettable experiences that tourists and travelers on a budget can enjoy.
Below are the five best things to do in the Hague for free.But before we dive into our discussion, here’s a quick background about this wonderful city:
The Hague is calmer and quieter than the ever-thriving capital city of Amsterdam. It is often visited by diplomats, politicians, academicians, and business travelers, but regular tourists and families do not shy away from coming here for the city’s many interesting landmarks.
Holidays in the Netherlands are not cheap, especially in The Hague. However, there are free things to do in the Hague that visitors worldwide will definitely cherish. These are also the most important things to do in The Hague this weekend.
1. Stroll the city and admire the beautiful architecture
One of the reasons a Dutch holiday is not cheap is because of the country’s overall beauty. The cities, towns, islands, and villages of the Netherlands are all equally enchanting, magical, and picturesque. This is true in The Hague, as it is elsewhere in the country.
The Hague is very pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, making it easy for anyone to see all the important landmarks for free. This is good news because public transportation is quite expensive.
Architecture in The Hague is very beautiful – featuring palaces, churches, and medieval structures, dotted by flower beds and waterways. These are what Holland is known for.
From the center all the way to the beach, the entire city can be explored on foot in under an hour. In fact, over one-third of the city is beautifully covered with forests and parks, along with 70,000 roadside trees.
Walking and enjoying the outdoor air is a good idea during the pandemic, as the virus does not spread well in open spaces.
A stroll around the other side of the Centraal railway station will lead to a peaceful park where people can simply relax, sit on one of the benches, and feed the ducks. On the other side of the railway station is another park where deer frolic and relax on the grass.
2. Step inside beautiful Binnenhof
The Binnenhof (Inner Court), a spectacular 13th-century Gothic castle, is the crowning glory of The Hague. It houses the top government offices in the Netherlands, particularly the houses of Parliament, the Ministry of General Affairs, and the prime minister’s office.
Tourists can just walk into this Instagram-perfect destination through the famous entry gate for free, as it is found in the heart of The Hague’s city center. It is an important and iconic landmark and has been the center of Dutch politics for many centuries. Dutch parliament meetings have been held here since 1446.
There is so much history to the Binnenhof. In 1229, Count Floris IV of Holland purchased this land and built his mansion next to the Hofvijver lake or Court Pond. Several buildings were constructed around the court through the years, including Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall), where King Willem-Alexander holds his annual speech during the opening of the parliamentary year.
The most historically important events in the country took place in the Binnenhof. Within the court are monumental old buildings and several ample open spaces that are all freely open to the public. Freely stroll through the courtyard and admire the majestic halls.
Some of the attractions at Binnenhof are the Office of the Prime Minister tower, simply known as het Torentje (‘the Little Tower’), the large and modern House of Representatives building at the south side, the main square with a gold neo-gothic fountain and Dutch equestrian statues guarding the main Stadtholder’s Gate, the man-made Hofvijver (Court Pond) lake, and 17th-century buildings including the King’s Cabinet and the city’s historical museum.
Binnenhof is the oldest functioning house of parliament in the world. Its historical and political significance and its stunning Gothic-style architecture make it one of the Top 100 Dutch Heritage Sites.
Covid-19 update: As the Binnenhof is the political center of the Parliament, security measures have increased considerably since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. However, it remains open to a limited number of visitors and tourists. The primary reason for the heightened security is because protesters harass ministers on a daily basis.
3. People watch at the Grote Markt
Located in the heart of The Hague, the Grote Markt (Great Market) is one of the busiest spots in the city. Locals love hanging out here and frequenting the many bars and clubs. Dining and drinking come with a cost, though, but simply visiting and enjoying the lively atmosphere is perfectly free.
Before reaching Grote Markt, travelers may relish a stately stroll through the Passage. This lovely passageway is the only remaining example in the Netherlands of 19th-century covered shopping streets that were popular in major European and American cities.
An extension of the Passage, the Nieuwe Haagse Passage, was constructed for a hypermodern indoor shopping arcade. This is a shopping paradise that features the latest collections from top stores.
While shoppers are likely to spend money from buying souvenirs and other cool items, a visit to Nieuwe Haagse Passage is free of charge. This new section of the original Passage has a high glass ceiling, with a modern and open design architecture, creating an attractive connection between Grote Marktstraat and Spuistraat with countless unique stores.
4. Go to the beach
Another must-see destination in the Hague is Scheveningen beach, 15 minutes away by train from the city center. Locals and visitors freely stroll down the coastline, along the pier and the seaside Scheveningen Resort, all the way to the beach, some lush forests, and a large inland portion of the city.
Scheveningen: Tours & Tickets
Scheveningen is now open for visitors! Book your tickets now!
The port of Scheveningen is always alive with activities, although the number of visitors has lowered since the pandemic. More than 3.5 million visitors come here every year.
The beautiful scenery, including a fine view of the yacht harbor is for everyone to enjoy, but those ready to spend a little may grab a bite and drink at the many bars, restaurants and cafes. The place is teeming with attractions and activities, including a bungee jump and zipline, and special events such as concerts and festivals.
5. Visit the Japanese Garden
A rarity in the country, The Japanese Garden brings the best of Asia to the Netherlands with items, such as small bridges, lanterns, pavilions, and several plants that were brought into the country from Japan by the garden’s owner.
Built and curated by Lady Daisy, owner of the Clingendael estate, this is one of the world’s most beautiful Japanese gardens. Admission is absolutely free, but the garden is open only for a limited time in spring and autumn.
Meanwhile, Clingendael is one of the most beautiful estates in the Netherlands. It is located between The Hague and Wassenaar.
Behind the Clingendael residence is a large playground and field where children can play ,and families can enjoy picnics for free. There is also a tea room and several walking routes. The estate is open all year round, and admission is free.
Covid-19 update: The above are the most exciting things to do in the Hague during the lockdown. Visitors today are expected to observe the basic measures against coronavirus set forth by the Dutch government if they wish to come. As of early September 2021, the following are the basic rules to control coronavirus spread in The Hague.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water. Do this when you get home or visit someone. When visiting the above destinations, always cough and sneeze into your elbow and don’t shake hands with other people.
- Stay 1.5 meters away from other people. Although the number of people allowed to visit the Benninhof, Grote Market, and Scheveningen beach is now limited, it is important always to remember to keep your distance from people you do not live with, including relatives and friends. Also, wear a face mask where required, such as on public transport.
- Ensure a good flow of fresh air, as it is harder for the virus to spread in well-ventilated indoor spaces. Sit by open windows or doors when in shops, restaurants and bars. Ask for the manager to set the ventilation system so that enough outdoor air flows into the building.
- Finally, if you have Covid-19 symptoms, stay at home to avoid infecting other people. Make an appointment to get tested and stay at home while you are waiting for your test results.
The virus shouldn’t scare away people from enjoying visiting The Hague, as long as the basic rules are observed. Getting here is easy as the international airports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are just short distances away.
Also, the city has two international and well-equipped train stations that connect to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Belgium, France, and Germany. The five best things to do in the Hague for free await visitors from all over Europe.