Urban Pixxels » Connecting the dots in a new city

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Mauritshuis museum in Den Haag with paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer (Girl with the Pearl Earring)
Most people assume that because I’m from the Netherlands, that I must be from Amsterdam. I know we’re a very small country, but there are other beautiful cities as well. Such as Den Haag. Or The Hague. Or ‘s Gravenhage if I wanted to make things extra complicated for you. (They’re all the same city). But let’s stick to Den Haag for now. I lived in Den Haag for eight years before I moved to London. And even though I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else right now, I love going back.

But let me tell you, blogging about a city you know so well is something else! I’ve seen it all a million times. And where do you start? I wasn’t a blogger in the Netherlands, so I never looked at my city ‘that way’. Anyway, maybe the best place to start is to show you the city centre. It’s also where you’ll find most of the tourists, so not a lot of hidden gems I’m afraid, but still very worthwhile. 

Statue of
Mauritshuis in Den Haag and

With only 500.000 residents Den Haag is quite small, but still the third largest city in the country, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. One thing I love about Den Haag is that you can walk almost everywhere. Or cycle of course. Since I moved to London I started noticing the crazy amount of bikes that are everywhere (!). When you live in the Netherlands it’s so normal that you’d never notice or think it’s anything special.

My first stop was the Mauritshuis, which has been closed for two years but opened its doors again two months ago. It’s one of my favorite museums with Dutch masterpieces such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (Meisje met de Parel) and many famous paintings by Rembrandt.

Binnenhof in Den Haag

Two common ways of transportation in Den Haag: the tram and cycling
The museum is located between Het Plein, a town square where you’ll find many nice bars and terraces when the sun comes out, and Het Binnenhof, the meeting place of the government and the office of the prime minister. Het Binnenhof is something you don’t want to miss when visiting the city. And if you’re up for a real Dutch food experience, have some raw herring with onions when you exit Het Binnenhof on the other side. So good! 
Coffee hotspot in Den Haag: Lola Bikes and Coffee on the Noordeinde
You know how much I love finding new coffee places in London, so why not do the same in Den Haag? Lola Bikes and Coffee is located close to the Noordeinde Palace (the King’s place of work) and combines their love for great coffee and cycling. A bike / coffee shop: what’s not to like? It’s a combination that works really well. I didn’t buy a new bike, but just had a flat white for now.

De Graaff chocolate in Den Haag

Hooikade in Den Haag
Beautiful canals in Den Haag
I continued my walk on the Lange Voorhout, one of the most elegant streets in the city with its 18th century houses and many trees, passed Hotels des Indes (great spot for an afternoon tea in style) to the Denneweg. The Denneweg is a chic shopping street with mostly furniture, design and antique stores. I usually focus on the window shopping and people watching part. And I always have a look at the beautiful canals on the Hooigracht which are just around the corner.

And there you have it! You’re now still within walking distance from the Central Station, and you’ve seen most part of the city centre. Of course Den Haag has a lot more to offer, and some very nice other neighborhoods that you should explore. Plus don’t forget the beach! But I’ll save that for another visit.

Notes Trafalgar Square is one of London
Notes Trafalgar Square is one of London
Notes Trafalgar Square is one of London

Notes Trafalgar Square is one of London
Notes Trafalgar Square is one of London
Notes-Coffee-Trafalgar-SquareNotes Trafalgar Square is one of London

Time for another coffee break at one of London’s best coffee shops. Working my way through the London Coffee Guide’s top 30, I decided to go to Notes this time. There are four Notes coffee shops in the city and since I didn’t have the guide with me, I went to the one in Covent Garden first. Of course they’re serving the same coffee, but the venue I was looking for – and the one that I think is nicer – is the one near Trafalgar Square. They’re only a short walk apart, so a few minutes later I was having my flat white at Notes Trafalgar Square.

This place has more to offer than just specialty coffee. During the day you’ll see all sorts of people, from hipsters to suits sipping their coffee, but in the evening it turns into a wine bar. One place for coffee, food and wine…I don’t think you need to go anywhere else when you’re visiting London.

Even though I had to work my way through the Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square crowds to get here, the place itself was clearly not yet discovered by the tourists. So you can have a seat and take your time to enjoy your coffee. The interior is beautiful and bright with high ceilings and large mirrors.

I can’t say it was the best flat white I’ve had so far, but absolutely good enough. And the venue does add something to the whole experience, so I understand why they made it to the top 30. So the question now is: who’s up for some wine tasting?

map31 St. Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ER London

Village in the City: Shepherd Market - G.F. Trumper Hairdresser
Village in the City: Shepherd Market - G.F. Trumper hairdresser

It’s funny. Whenever someone asks me why I like living in London, I usually answer something along the lines of you’re never done exploring this city, there’s so much to do, there’s always something exciting happening. When a man is tired of London, he’s tired of life right? But when I woke up Saturday morning I actually had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do. Bored in London? No way! 

Village in the City: Shepherd Market
Village in the City: Shepherd Market - Shepherds Bookbinding Shop

So for a second I thought about doing a Netflix marathon in bed. But then I figured that I probably just needed to get some coffee to get my weekend started. Oh, I do know myself so well…(Well, I have my moments.) There was one place I wanted to check out after again spotting some great photos on Instagram which is the new Curators Coffee Gallery. If you’re in Fitzrovia (near Oxford Circus) go and treat yourself to a flat white. That place plus the coffee was all I needed to get my energy back. No time to be bored, I have some London exploring to do!

Village in the City: Shepherd Market
Village in the City: Shepherd Market London

Even though London is huge, after so many months you’re kind of sticking to the same areas. Oxford Circus is definitely well known territory and not recommendable on the weekend (or any day for that matter). So after I finished my coffee I started walking and within about 15 minutes away from all the shopping craziness I found this picturesque, almost hidden London village: Shepherd Market. 

Village in the City: Shepherd Market London Market Tavern
Village in the City: Shepherd Market, Le Boudin Blanc restaurant

It’s so amazing that every time you turn the corner in London, it can look completely different. Shephard Market is only a small area in West London that’s part of the chic Mayfair neighborhood. I recognized one – really good – French restaurant that I had been to before (Le Boudin Blanc), but other than that it was all completely new to me.

Most of the boutique storefronts look very original and you don’t see many chains in these streets. It feels a bit like a maze walking around here with narrow alleys. With people eating outside the restaurants on the pavement and waiters in their fancy uniforms, you’d almost think you’re in Paris. It’s hard to believe that Piccadilly is just around the corner and that you’re still in central London.

So you now know next time a (wo)man is tired of London…get up and have some coffee!