Europe’s hidden beaches: Scheveningen Beach
Though summer is months away, it will soon be creeping up on us. As you make your summer plans, you might be torn as to where to head off on your next vacation. Either a big city with its attendant “big C” cultural offerings such as museums, famous landmarks and theaters, or the simplicity and fun of a beach getaway with soft sands, dips in the sea, and partying the night away. The answer is clear: opt for a place where the two vibes meet just a stone’s throw one from the other.
Where to: Scheveningen Beach, Netherlands
Scheveningen Beach is the warm-weather playground for those in The Hague, a city of 500,000 perhaps best known as home to the International Court of Justice, the high court of the United Nations. The Hague is also the seat of the Dutch government, home to its royal family, and the location of the Mauritshaus museum, where Jan Vermeer’s most famous painting, the “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” casts her wide-eyed gaze. From the city center, tram number 9 whisks visitors past Madurodam, a model of the Netherlands in miniature, and some 15 minutes later, deposits them in front of the elegant Kurhaus and the heart of the action.
Why we love it: Over 50 beachside cafes and cocktail bars buzz day and night and between; they’re also known for spectacular sunset views. Most establishments offer casual dining, but a handful offer truly upscale experiences, particularly for seafood lovers. There’s a boulevard for strutting, a stadium for beach sports, and jutting out to sea are the contours of The Pier. This houses a Ferris wheel and the resort’s latest attraction, a 1,150-foot zip line. From its start atop the Bungee Tower, brave riders can achieve speeds close to 50 miles per hour. Families with children can enjoy the Sea Life aquarium or munching pancakes on the pier. For a more natural experience, head north, where the beaches thin out and parents sprawl on their beach blankets as the kids play with their pails and shovels in tidal pools. Or take a stroll through the Oostduinpark, a peaceful, pretty landscape of hilly, grass-topped dunes.
Don’t miss: For an unforgettable day out with a history lesson built in, rent a bicycle and pedal the safe and scenic bike trails to the city of Leiden. The 15-mile ride takes good riders under an hour and a half to complete. Not only does Leiden offer all the delights of a medieval Dutch town; it’s from here that the Pilgrims embarked on the first leg of the voyage that would eventually take them across the Atlantic and to the New World: learn about their way of life and journey at the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. En route home, stop by the Wassenaar beach for a quick swim, then take the time to cycle through the Meijendel Reserve. South Holland’s largest interconnected dune area is a fairyland brought to life with twittering birds and scampering rabbits, scrub pine forests, lakes and sweeping views to the sea.
Go there: The Hague lies 65 miles southwest of Amsterdam and is just over an hour’s journey by car; by train, the ride takes under 50 minutes. Personal preference should dictate whether you stay in The Hague or Scheveningen; as the latter may prove expensive in peak season, consider renting an entire house through Airbnb or similar platforms. Nearby sights of interest include the Haagse Bos parkland and the Huis ten Bos, a palace with moat, the well-preserved Duivenvoorde Castle, or the town of Gouda, famous for its cheese.
When to visit: Scheveningen’s don’t miss events include the season-opening Bonfire Beach Fest April 19-20; North Sea Regatta May 8-20; Flag Day historical celebrations and the arrival of the new herring May 15; Park Pop and free rock and pop concerts in The Hague June 28-30; the International Fireworks Festival Aug. 9-10 and Aug. 16-17, and the International Kite Festival on Sept. 29.