Here’s our top spots to find the best fish in The Hague:
Scheveningen harbour restaurants
From fishermen setting out to catch the best fish, yachts mooring in the marina, or visitors getting in on the action, Scheveningen harbour is a hive of activity. Attracting over 3.5 million visitors each year, the harbour is a hub for the Dutch fish trade and is one of the most visited attractions in The Hague’s Scheveningen district. Until the 1960s, the area’s principle purpose was a fishery, but it has grown into a unique spot known for its excellent fish restaurants and cafés. Grab a table at one of the restaurants that line the quay and watch the yachts come and go as you dine on a selection of some of the country’s best fresh fish.
Catch by Simonis
Owned by the well-known Simonis family, Catch by Simonis offers a large selection of fresh seafood. These fourth-generation fishmongers started their business as an eel smokehouse at the end of the 19th century, and now have multiple locations around the city. The menu changes by season, with a different catch of the day offered daily. Divided over four floors, including a second-floor outdoor terrace, the restaurant has space for an impressive 500 guests and great views of the harbour.
This award-winning restaurant and wine bar serves excellent seafood as well as an extensive selection of quality wines. A household name in The Hague since 2006, its well-rounded menu offers plenty of fish options, meat dishes and vegetarian choices, while their curated chef’s menu offers three-, four- or five-courses and changes daily. With its spacious terrace offering views over the harbour, Lemongrass is the perfect spot for a reasonably priced lunch or dinner.
Located just around the corner from the Scheveningen fish auction, De Dagvisser has been serving fresh fish for over 20 years. The family restaurant, owned and run by a husband and wife team, only uses fresh seafood of the season and buys their ingredients every day at the fish auction. Every two to three weeks, the chefs of this harbour-side location create a completely new three- and four-course menu incorporating surprising flavour combinations using seasonal ingredients.
Scheveningen’s fish stalls
When in need of a quicker snack, try the famous Dutch herring at one of the many fish stalls in Scheveningen. Brought in straight from the early morning fish auction, tip your head back and slip a herring down your throat – or eat it with chopped onions and pickles (uitjes en zuur) on bread. Local families flock to these humble establishments, such as Henk Kraan, Roeleveld, Het Haringhuisje and Simonis aan de Haven. But if herring isn’t your thing, be sure to try the fried cod – a classic yet delicious dish of fluffy and lightly battered cod – or kibbeling, the ever-popular chunks of fried white fish that is best eaten dipped into a garlicky tartar sauce. For the more culinary adventurous, the smoked eel sandwiches are a surprising delicacy.
Scheveningen’s fish auction
Scheveningen is well known for its daily fish auction, which is essential in helping the morning’s catch make its way from the North Sea to the plate in a matter of hours. As one of the few remaining fish auctions in the country, most of the local restaurants and many traders purchase their fresh seafood here. Early risers can watch the first boats weaving their way back into the harbour at 6am to unload their late-night catch. The lively auction begins at around 7am with the striking of a traditional auction clock. Although visitors can’t take part in the auction, you can still enjoy the boisterous atmosphere. Join a guided tour, held on the first Friday of each month, for a behind-the-scenes look at the auction.
De Haagse Markt for fresh food and more
Fondly called the open market by locals, De Haagse Markt (The Hague Market) is one of the largest multicultural markets in Europe and is known for its diversity and range of both local and exotic products, including fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, meat, herbs, clothing, electronics and antiques. And, of course, a huge variety of fresh and fried fish. The market has been operating since 1920 but recently underwent considerable renovation and reopened in 2015 with new stalls and fresh offerings. Its location in the centre of the city means around 35,000 shoppers – both tourists and locals – visit the 500 stalls each year. Open Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 17:00.
The new herring season
Tradition dictates that Hollandse Nieuwe (New Dutch herring) can only be caught when the herring’s fat content reaches at least 16%. This happens between mid-May and the end of June when there is more available plankton for them to feast on. The fish are gutted and salted aboard the fishing boats after being caught, but the pancreas, containing an enzyme that helps the fish ripen, is left in place. This process – known in Dutch as haringkaken – dates back to 1380. The official start of the new herring season occurs in early June and is marked by the traditional auction of the first barrel of the season’s herring. The fish are often bought by local businesses for extraordinary prices, with the proceeds going to charity. The start date of the next year’s herring season is usually announced at the end of November.
Flag Day in the Hague
After the opening of the herring season, the fish are sold in supermarkets and fish stalls, and herring feasts are organised throughout the country. One of these such festivals is Vlaggetjesdag, or Flag Day, held in mid-June in Scheveningen. The day of the little flags harks back to the 16th century when the herring fleet returned to the harbour with their first catch of the season. The main event features a herring race with six traditional fishing ships decorated with flags, as well as other sailing boats moored in the harbour and open to the public. Fish stalls, herring-eating contests, music and dancing ensure visitors get a true taste of Dutch fishing culture – just be prepared to eat fish to your heart’s content!