Wassenaar, South Holland. Heard of it?
No worries if not. Wassenaar is a bit of an understated, under-the-radar destination. Geographically speaking, part of The Hague but you wouldn’t know. Wassenaar has retained its small town charm.
A wealthy town with royal residents- the King of the Netherlands and his family live here and can be spotted around town- Wassenaar is a pretty place where you can find an authentic Dutch experience. And despite a largely unremarkable history, some lovely historic spots.
My favourite things to see and do? Oh glad you asked, I’d love to share.
A handful of streets giving a glimpse into where it all it began.
Historically speaking, Wassenaar was very quiet up until WW2. This was a land of country estates and elegant villas, rural living and a gentle pace of life. Remaining are old streets lined with traditional red brick buildings, a tree lined square and the historic water pump or plein.
The old water pump. A beautiful monument, originally both the literal and social centre of village life. A place where news was exchanged, celebrations started and people gathered. I imagine there was many a nugget of gossip exchanged by that pump.
In the warmer months, nearby bars layout seating. The perfect place to stop for a drink and watch the world go by.
Love a good church, love a good churchyard everywhere I go. Wassenaar gave me the Dorpskerk, or village church. Medieval in origins but added to over the centuries and benefiting from a major restoration in the 1940’s, both the church and yard are worth a wander.
Shopping in Wassenaar
Well, sort of. I’m not a big shopper when travelling but I do love a good browse and a wander. Wassenaar’s main street runs from the old village through to the heart of the modern town, and the side streets running from it are full of boutiques, cafes and pretty corners.
Being a wealthy town, there’s high end places if you want to blow the budget. But also plenty of indy shops and quirky places. Pretty florists, cheese shops, boutiques selling things you never knew you needed.
Of course, you don’t even have to shop at all. Just wander, enjoy the pretty streets and the (sometimes historic) shopfronts.
Ice Cream @ Luciano’s
Every flavour of ice cream and sorbet imaginable, cakes and the cutest interior. This place also features a Willy Wonka-esque chocolate tap. What’s not to like?
Alongside the sweet and creamy treats, this is also a good spot for breakfast with a menu running from the virtuous to the indulgent. Great coffee, too. A Wassenaar institution, not be missed.
The Windlust Windmill, Wassenaar
What would be a trip to Holland without some windmill love? The Windlust is a beauty, a heritage workhorse that could have been lifted straight from the pages of a storybook. But it’s also still functioning and adapting use of space to serve the community.
The mill grinds flour which is sent to the local Kaptein family bakery. Cakes and breads made from the flour can be enjoyed just round the corner from the mill at Bakker Kaptein. It doesn’t come much more locally sourced than that.
A gallery within a monument, the ground floor of the mill houses an exhibition space for local artists and host space for events.
The Beach & Dunes
A short cycle out of the town centre and you’re in a different world; the coastline of the Wassenaarslag beach and the wild dune landscape of the Meijendal nature reserve. Both offer up plenty of opportunities to get active with miles of cycling and hiking trails. At the beach, plenty of watersports if you’re up for braving the North Sea chill.
Historically speaking, Wassenaar has been a quiet place. During WW2, this place made up for the quiet years. There is much that remains to discover, including the touching Waalsdorpervlakte Resistance memorial and the the Atlantic wall defences (now a bat sanctuary and so enjoying full protected status).
The Pancake House: Pannenkoekenhuis ‘s-Gravesande
You can’t miss this place in Spring and Summer, just look for the flowers. The Pannenkoekenhuis ‘s-Gravesande terrace blooms beautifully with hundreds of planters of pretty flowers. Including, of course, plenty of tulips for that extra bit of Dutch-ness.
The pancakes are spectacular, huge and loaded to your liking, sweet or savoury. Syrup and icing sugar on the table for you to add as you please. A budget friendly place serving up delicious food, highly recommended.
These are just a few of my favourite things in Wassenaar, to find out our more about this lovely Dutch town, have a look here.