Hitting the beach may not be the first thing that comes to mind when visiting Amsterdam, a city better known for canals, windmills and cheese than sun, sand and surf. But with warm weather and long days finally here, it’s time to discover nearby spots where you can soak up some rays, including one with a name so difficult to pronounce, Dutchies use it to see just how ridiculous foreigners can sound—Scheveningen, a coastal resort just north of The Hague‘s wealthy northernmost district.
Since the debut of its new boardwalk in 2013, the popular tourist town has become known for the best sun, sand and surf on Holland’s western coast. In addition to a sandy beach, colorful esplanade, pier and lighthouse, there’s a SEALIFE aquarium, Pathé cinema, the Steigenberger Kurhaus hotel and music theater, Scheveningen Ship Museum and a Holland Casino. Water activities include bungee jumping, surfing and swimming—plenty to satisfy adrenaline junkies, surfers, and anyone who just wants to chill on a beach, beer and/or book in hand.
If you’re traveling by train from Amsterdam, allow about an hour to reach Scheveningen. Set off early and rent a bike when you arrive, opting for either a full or half-day excursion. On two wheels, head past the four-kilometer stretch of esplanade to Kijkduin Beach, a 20-minute ride along the coast. Pack a picnic with Dutch cheese and cold cuts, and stop along the way or eat on the sand.
If you prefer hiking to cycling, head for nearby sand dunes and forests where you’ll be far removed from the seat of government in The Hague. Beyond Scheveningen Beach, continue to Westbroek Park for more tranquil green space, plus a fragrant rose garden and children’s playground.
Chills and Thrills: Nightlife in Scheveningen
Some of Scheveningen’s clubs offer peace and seclusion with a tropical twist; others are more boisterous and better for watching dudes in the waves, strolling surfer girls and 2014 World Cup battles. On the beach side, enjoy drinks, snacks or a meal with a perfect view of crashing waves. Don’t get too loose, or you might wind up spontaneously getting hitched at The Blue Lagoon. Instead, chill out at Bora Bora‘s toasty fire pit, celebrate at Crazy Pianos or get raunchy at Club Live, previously owned by porn star Kim Holland. Join a poker game at the Holland Casino or gamble on a great show at the renowned Circus Theater.
One of the most whimsical attractions on Scheveningen Boulevard is Sprookjes Beelden aan Zee or Fairytale Sculptures by the Sea. Designed by architect Manuel de Solà-Morales, the outdoor installation features 23 playful sculptures by American artist Tom Otterness, including a sky-high Crying Giant, 12-meter Herring Eater, and sculptures depicting Hans Brinker and Hansel and Gretel.
The bronze figures reveal hints of Otterness’ critical attitude toward social structure. Best known for his works in subway stations and monuments, his most famous creation, The Real World, is a garden project with human and animal figures in Battery Park, New York. Visit the enchanting Scheveningen creatures anytime; the boardwalk is open 24/7.