Our 1st full day of Netherlands travel was spent on a short daytrip to the city of Den Haag (The Hague) and the village of Gouda, a 40 min train ride from our base Utrecht. The main reason for visiting The Hague was the Escher Museum but we went on to enjoy Gouda, the Mauritshuis museum and our top meal in the Netherlands on the same day. Gouda in particular, is unmissable especially if you love eating cheese.
Top tip: The traditional cheese market in Gouda (dating back to 1395) runs only on a Thursday, try to visit if you can (we missed it by a day).
We kicked off our day by realizing that train travel in the Netherlands is pretty expensive (22 EUR return for a short journey, no discounts). Plus, the train was packed and standing room only even though trains are big & frequent. You’ve been warned! We reached Den Haag Centraal and walked for about 10 minutes to the Escher Museum (9.50 EUR, Museumkaart not accepted). And what better introduction to the museum than a quick video showing the full Metamorphose piece presented as a circle!
Could you keep up with the transitions? Even if you’re not a fan of art but like science / math / puzzles, you’ll enjoy this museum. For us, one of the most interesting things were seeing photographs taken by Escher, he would have been an IG star in today’s generation. The sad part is that the works on display are not originals and instead prints 😦 Nevertheless, worth a visit to check out a lot of Escher’s work in one place including some cool hands-on exhibits and fun light fixtures.
A superb lunch at De Basiliek
By this point, it was past noon with the mercury as well as hunger levels rising. A quick search helped us pick the restaurant De Basiliek, it is just off the central square which is chock full of tourist trap restaurants. This restaurant on the other hand was pretty empty and had a much more interesting menu at the same price point as the ones we passed. We both chose the 30 EUR 3 course lunch menu and were completely blown away.
If we were to describe the food here in one phrase, it would be “an explosion of textures & flavours”. It was the 1st time we were having proper fusion cuisine after Seattle, Dutch ingredients made with international techniques. Their take on sushi – amazing, the steak & fish cooking skills – perfect, desserts – the perfect ending. Portion sizes were just right, we were quite full after the meal. This restaurant is barely 1 minute past the square and is a gem, do not miss it for anything else, it is most definitely the best meal we had in the Netherlands (and one of the best in quite some time). Top service too!
Dutch masters at Mauristhuis & Binnenhof
Our final stop in our Hague visit was one of the top art museums in the Netherlands, the Mauristhuis. It has a lot of Dutch Masters works from the Golden Age including Vermeer & Rembrandt. We bought a jigsaw puzzle for ourselves of the painting of an art gallery which we plan to make this summer. The unfortunate bit was that we paid the entry fee (14 EUR) which we could have avoided if we bought our Museumkaarts here (we instead bought them the next day). The museum comes recommended, it’s like a smaller version of Amsterdam’s Rijkmuseum.
Just outside the museum is the government complex called Binnenhof. It is good for a stroll and taking pictures of the architecture. The church in particular has a very interesting look. We snapped some pictures before deciding to get some icecream and walk back to catch our train to Gouda.
We did no research at all before deciding to visit Gouda and it showed. The church in the old town was closed by the time we arrived (5:30 PM) so we did the obvious – find a place to buy some cheese. The store ‘t Kaaswinkeltje exceeded all our expectations with its massive cheese selection. We bought some flavoured cheese because they tasted good before asking what locals get from the store. We then got a taste of the unpasturized Gouda cheese straight from the wheel and reached Cheese heaven, it was so soft & delightful to eat. A bag of 20 EUR worth of cheese was bought and we left happy!
We then walked around the beautiful old town before deciding to cool down by entering one of the town’s ubiquitious cafes. The Koffeefabriek was actually a place that we’d normally call a cafe as they had a large variety of coffee including iced (thank God). Dalek stuck to buying some Belgian beers and both of us were super happy to spend some time indoors with cold drinks and aircon 🙂
Getting in and around
- Buy tickets from the station itself. Utrecht – Gouda – Den Haag are on the same line and you can break your journey. Fares & timetables – NS Website.
- As mentioned before, costs 22 EUR return between Utrecht & Den Haag.
- We really wanted to visit the Den Haag beachfront (Kijkduin Strand) but it was too hot. If you plan to do so or are based in the area, consider buying a HTM Dagkaart for 6.50 Euro valid for the tram to Delft as well.
- All the attractions mentioned above are walking distance from the central rail stations.
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