Whether you’re visiting the Netherlands and Amsterdam is your base or perhaps live here and are looking for something different to do, you should consider a trip to Den Bosch.
I’ve put together posts on my recent trips to Delft, Den Haag/Scheveningen & Rotterdam, therefore, I thought I should put together one on Den Bosch. Plus it is my “adopted” home city here in the Netherlands for the past 2+ years. After you read this post hopefully, you’ll agree, it’s worth spending one day [or even a weekend] here in charming Den Bosch.
Den Bosch is a city in the South of the Netherlands. Officially named ‘s-Hertogenbosch, except during Carnival when it becomes Oeteldonk and as you may witness the entire city turns “rood, wit & geel“! Red and white refer to the checkered flag of the province of Noord-Brabant, yellow and white allude to the Pope. Moreover, red represents fire, love, and blood and yellow (or gold) represents richness and purity; white (or silver) then stands for wisdom.
It is a small, yet charming city and because of its size, it is a city you can easily see and enjoy in just one day. But it is large enough you can make a weekend out of it. More historical information on Den Bosch can be found online on these wiki pages here & here and of course, tons more in the Brabants Historich Informatie Centrum (bhic.nl) located at the Citadel.
WHY DEN BOSCH WORTH VISITING?
While Den Bosch has a fair amount of tourists coming through, it certainly is not as popular as Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, or even one of the smaller cities like Haarlem, Delft or Leiden. And those of us who live here are thankful for that. Most tourists stick to Amsterdam as their to-go destination for short trips as it has incredible architecture, endless canals, lovely atmosphere, countless world-renowned museums, vibrant nightlife, and let’s face it, Amsterdam really the BEST choice of restaurants.
Sure, occasionally in Den Bosch, we have “foreign tourists” walking about but mostly the tourists I see, as a person living here, are other Dutch visitors coming from different areas of the country for a weekend trip of shopping & dining. I’ve been told that people love to come to discover the “Bossche hospitality and the unique Burgundian culture”. According to this article in the Dutch News, the city ranks #1 with the proudest locals.
Den Bosch is a city that has a bit of everything. Beautifully historic cobblestoned streets, a handful of museums, a stunning cathedral, trendy cafes/bars, and restaurants, abundance of boutiques, and a few iconic Dutch canals which are luckily not filled with private boats. Then again, I’d personally love to own a little boat (or a boat share) and go around the canals like I see locals do in Amsterdam and Utrecht. So cozy!!
Den Bosch is known for its many festivals, events, and the huge part the city plays in the Dutch carnival every year – “Oeteldonk” being the most popular. The frog aka Kikker is the symbol – so be sure to stop in the ‘ Opkikkertje Markt 38 for a visit & see the crazy collection of frogs. I have a friend who hates frogs and this place skeeves her out! 🙂
If you are coming to the Netherlands, consider including it as a day trip away from the madness of Amsterdam – it’s only 55 minutes on a non-stop train from Amsterdam Central station!
Den Bosch is a very walkable city. We do not have a tram or a Metro – you walk or bike everywhere it’s that small. When you get off the train or bus at Central Station, you simply walk straight out past the famous golden dragon fountain and you’ll be in the Markt in no time. [Not to confuse you, the dragon is currently housed in the Noordbrabants Museum courtyard while the fountain is being renovated.] Of course, you can rent an OV-Fiets at the station but it’s not necessary if you want to just stick to the city centre.
A great way to discover the secrets of the city and take in the beautiful architecture is with a guided walking tour. Unfortunately, GPSMycity.com doesn’t have walking tours like they do in Delft or Rotterdam or two dozen other Dutch cities. But I think we can all agree, there is no better way to learn about a city than from someone who knows it like the back of their hand.
The tourist information center VVV, organizes guided tours on Saturdays at 2.30pm. The tours last 1 hour and 15 minutes and five people need to have signed up for them to go ahead. So, make sure you sign up on time! You’ll find the tourist VVV) at the Markt in a little building called – De Moriaan (will write about it below just above the music cafe P79)
If you fancy discovering the city by yourself, just grab a map at the VVV and then go get lost in the tiny streets filled with cute boutiques. There are some free maps and they also offer some more detailed walking and biking maps starting at €2.95. In any case, walking around the city and taking in the sights is a must!
Alternatively, you can also check the Free Den Bosch Walking Tours Facebook page to see if Cora is offering tours when you are visiting. They were canceled due to Corona but I saw they started up again but capping at 12 people and you need a reservation. I blogged about them before here – highly recommend her tours. She is a high school teacher but her family is from Den Bosch so is very Speaking of tours there is another new tour of the city now – a bike tour.
DEN BOSCH BIKE TOURS
Her review (in Dutch only) makes it look fun and something fun to do with a group. If I ever end up doing it with some friends, I’ll be sure to post here. The highlight tour is 8 km and takes about 2 hours. You can book online for €22. They also rent their bikes per day for €10 so an alternative for an ov-fiets – nicer looking and you’re supporting a local entrepreneur.
STEPSPEURTOCHT & OUTINGS
While I’ve never done this or do I have any interest in this, I’ve seen groups of people going around the city on red steps doing the Stepspeurtocht.
Doe Den Bosch does this and other activities to do around the city like Solex riding. These are mostly done by hen & stag parties but have other things geared towards families too like Bossche Bol making, Escape Room, and even a Cluedo City Game.
TOUR THE CANALS BY BOAT
If you’re visiting the city between the months of April and October, you can book a boat tour through Den Bosch canals. It’s a really fun and unique way to see the city and experience the canals in a different way. If you’re visiting outside of those months (or aren’t interested in the boat tour) you can be walking down a few streets and see some of the canals such as Molenstraat and behind the Hinthamstraat.
The river Binnendieze was also used as water supply, a place for laundry and fishing, and as a waste yard. Up until 40 years ago, the river used to be an open sewer. Due to the construction of a sewage system, the river Binnendieze almost disappeared. This was prevented in 1972, when the Binnendieze was recognized as a protected city area. Only 4 kilometers, out of the original 22, remains. The water underneath the city now is one of the biggest tourist attractions of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
We did this a few times – last time our friends were in from Ireland we did a different route but the boys were able to take turns steering the boat – once we got outside the city walls – they LOVED this.
Tours are only in Dutch. However, a (written) translation in English is available at the information desk or online in PDF format.
If you do take the tour, just an FYI – the boats and tours are organized by volunteers who are simply passionate and do this in their free time so tip them a couple euros per person for their time and effort, when possible.
But unlike many of the larger cities, we only have one canal with a couple living boats, (small haven) we don’t have rows and rows of canals like you do in the bigger cities and many of them are under buildings and houses so that adds to the uniqueness. Also, it’s prohibited to drive a private boat around the inner city canals.
BOAT AROUND THE CITY
There are other options to go around the city and beyond like Heusden and beyond. You can rent your own boat at Sloepvaren Den Bosch and Zelf Varen Den Bosch, including cute swans, but you can take more organized trips at these companies you can go on an organized excursion on the Rederij Wolhuis and Zoete Lieve Gerrit.
Doing some searchings, I found the Donutboat – I think this would be the one my kids would prefer.
BASTION ST. JOHN
As you are coming from the station into the city, as you pass over the first canal (well Dommel) you cross a bridge. Look down immediately right and you’ll see the Bolwerk Sint Jan. In 1528 Bastion St. John was constructed. The city wall used to have an entrance gate, Koepoort, which at the time was a fragile point at ‘s-Hertogenbosch’ defense. Therefore, Bastion St. John was built. In 2015 the fortification is expanded and is now home to a brand new information point. Bastion St. John is located next to St. Johns canal. In there, you’ll find the café Bolwerk Sint Jan – enjoy a drink or a meal and watch the boats pass. In fact, we were recently having a drink and some nibbles there with the kids and saw a few going by. You can SUP on that water and rent a boat from a couple companies and go around the outside of the city walls. This is on my bucket list of things to do this summer”.
The one thing we don’t have a shortage of is cafes, bars & restaurants. You have so many choices here – just deciding on the place to go will be the hardest part – I’d say first decide on the area you want.
The Korte Putstraat is not only characterized by the diversity of catering establishments, but the atmosphere can also be called idyllic and almost village-like.
“>video to see the vibe.”>video.
Some of my favorite places to dine on the KP are Allerlei & Visserij, Brasserij Breton, Oh and just for the summer, Zoete Lief has a rooftop terrace worth checking out. Haven’t been but on my list 🙂 I highly highly recommend you look on the KP website, find the place you want to eat, then book a table. Waking up on a busy night, you’ll find yourself disappointed and turned away.
Nom Nom was the first place I met my friend Carrie – we had lunch there and of course, during Carnival, I love this street. Eet Bar DIT and Meat (around the corner, Legends Sports Bar and Bobby’s Gin Bar are here too. This street is also home of my daughter’s best friend, so it’s extra special.
I NEVER go out on this street – to me it’s where the “younger crowd goes (19 year olds – as a 46 year old, I am THE mom 🙂 ” but there are some options here. The Stamp hotel is worth mentioning.
Just opposite the Sint Jan, this large square that hosts Oktoberfest, the Winter Paradise, the Kermis, and many other events each year. It’s also home to the Parade theatre and a half dozen terraces. I have never eaten in any of them only had a few drinks here & there so I cannot mention any worthy. But just up the same street towards Hinthamstraat is Nul073 – I had lunch there not too long ago and enjoyed it.
NATURE AREAS NEARBY
We are very lucky to have a few lakes and different nature areas on so close. Just on the edge of the south of the city is the Bossche Broek Nature Reserve. One of the nicest things about living in the city centre is this nature reserve just on the city’s edge. You can walk, bike and birdwatch but you can also swim at the Zuiderplas. A popular hotspot all ages – on warm days, you’ll find a good mix of older generation, families, and younger generation altogether. There are even bathrooms and a beach bar that serves beer, ice cream, and snacks – a favorite of the kids. There are other lakes in the area like Vught’s Ijzerenman, Rosmalen’s Groote Wielen, Strandbad Engelermeer, Oosterplaas and I’m sure there are more which I don’t know about.
Just a bit past the hospital is the Moerputten Nature Reserve when the bugs are not biting and the ground is not too muddy it’s worth a walk. Fort Isabella in Vught is just down the street and of course, the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park is just a short drive or nice bike ride away – perfect for a day trip.
One of the most popular things to do in Den Bosch for visitors is to go to one of the museums. They all off tours or you can visit at your own pace – I personally prefer going at my own pace.
In addition to art, you can also learn about the history and culture of North Brabant at the Noordbrabants Museum. I’ve only been here once, and that was when I accompanying Soren’s class so had to watch the kids more so than the art. 🙂 I’ll have to return again soon – heard they have a nice terrace too in the summer.
The tickets cost €15 for adults and kids under 18 are free. And you can enter free with your Dutch Museumkaart.
Design Museum Den Bosch
Formerly called the Stedelijk Museum’s-Hertogenbosch, it is located in the same building as the Noordbrabants Museum so you can easily do both in the same day. Here you’ll discover magnificent pieces of modern art by famous artists such as Picasso and Mendini and learn about the influence that art has on society. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum features around ten contemporary exhibitions each year to demonstrate the cross-pollination that occurs between art and design. You can also attend lectures, concerts, and workshops. They even do some kids workshops.
The tickets cost €10 for adults and kids under 17 are free. And you can enter free with your Dutch Museumkaart.
I visited this museum on time before when I was a chaperone for Maehb’s class during Oeteldonk – and it was great! Read about it here. This museum while informative and is not that big so you only will spend about 1 hour there. Take a tour with one of our host women/men, who will tell you all about the rich history and details of the carnival in your own way. Find out everything about the carnival, also outside Oeteldonk – far beyond the borders. A special overview of an (inter) national multi-colored party!
The tickets cost €7 for adults and kids under 3-12 are €3.50. Dutch Museumkaart holders receive a 50% discount.
Oteldonk itself deserves its own post which is just far too time-consuming and well I don’t celebrate it enough to do it justice. Here is one photo of a small group of us this year. Note the dragon and the frog are actually Dutch :). I’ll just add that Oeteldonk carnival has been discovered by tourists, who are dressed as clowns, monkies, strawberries, cows, and other odd costumes – but if you do come I’d suggest you NOT try and be one of those guys. Chances are that some of the bars won’t let you in and you’ll be forced to buy cans from the local AH and drink on the street. Oh and if you are not around in February, you can also witness the opening of the season “d’n Elfde van d’n Elfde” which takes place on 11/11 at 11:11 am at the Parade. This only started is 2010 but it is now a huge day here in Den Bosch.
This year my son was a frog in the Princess Carnival parade – he loved it!
This day it was cold, windy and wet this year so I didn’t take many photos during the entire Carnival.
If interested in knowing more, you can check out Cora’s post here about How to Make Sense of Oeteldonk and another one about the great stuff you’ll find the parade = Carnival Signs in Oeteldonk – Reading the Parade.
Here is a small collection of some photos of my daughter celebrating and the parade – she loves it!!
My neighbor, who is very active in Carnival, wrote a children’s book about Carnival, so you can check that out too!
Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre
In the centre of Den Bosch, in the former St Jacob’s Church, you’ll find the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center. A museum dedicated to the famous artist, Hieronymus Bosch, who was best known as an innovator of the pictorial tradition. This museum displays paintings and objects by this renowned artist that draw viewers into a world of fantastic creatures, faith, and symbols. Together with the interior of St Jacob’s Church, it makes for a “unique experience”. You’ll find sculptures of his works throughout Den Bosch and once you see one, you’ll find them all around the city.
Tickets cost €7.50 for adults. Kids under 12 are €3.50 You cannot use your Museumkaart here. But you do get FREE entrance to the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center with the Jheronimus Bosch boat tour.
Of course, you have the major chain shops around Markt and the Hinthamerstraat (the main shopping street) but what Den Bosch has an abundance of are boutiques and concept stores, where you’ll find things that you can’t buy anywhere else! For the best shops, you should visit Vughterstraat, Snellestraat, Verwersstraat, and Kerkstraat. During Oeteldonk a visit to Hoofs is essential – even just to check out the merchandise. . On the Snellestraat you’ll find two shops Karakter & Wanderwood – both have beautiful items for you, your home, and great places for unique gifts. And there is the unique shop Boel Bazaar on the Hinthamerstraat. Need a coffee or a smoothie to keep you going check out the urban jungle cafe Oerwoud or the new shop on the corner of the Vughterstraat and Schapenmarkt called PLANT.
There is a lively market on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the center of the city (in the Markt square). You can find fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, fish, textiles, and various other things. There is throughout a very laid back atmosphere. Fridays there is a smaller organic market worth mentioning.
FAMOUS BOSSCHE BOLLEN
Den Bosch is known for its famous delicacy, the Bossche Bollen. A dough crust covered with chocolate, which is filled with the sweetest whipped cream. Essentially a huge profiterole.
Over the past few years, tourist trinkets to take home like socks, mugs, and even Christmas tree ornaments. They have a display of items for sale at all of the VVV.
Okay so now that I’ve said this I have to come clean – YES guilty – I do own the orange socks Bosse Bol socks. I put a pair into the Xmas grab last year and I won them. And yes, I do have a glass ornament for my tree, as I collect glass ornaments from places I visit. So when a friend visited from Ireland, we both bought one for our trees. But, NO, I have no mug – and am no not interested in that.
Now some places around town claim to have the “best Bossche Bol in the city” but the best place to get is the ORIGINAL bakery Jan de Groot near the central station. You’ll see a long line – can take it to go or sit in their café – your choice.
But either way, it’s an absolute must when in Den Bosch! Even most of the attractions like a boat trip or the Giant Ferris wheel here for the summer season, which I’ll post about below, includes a drink a Bossche Bol.
It’s hard to miss the massive cathedral in the city center. This stunning cathedral was built between 1380 and 1520 and is an absolute must-visit when in Den Bosch.
During the weekends and some days during the summer, you can climb the 43-meter tower. A guide will show you during the ascent of the tower various points of interest: the belfry, the clock mechanism, and an exhibition showing the history, the fire of 1584, the construction, and restoration of the tower. After a climb using small age-old stairs, you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of not only the city center and on a clear day the surrounding villages for miles around. We took the tour on Tuesday afternoon and loved it. There were 6 of us in total and the guide Nik, who was very informative.
While the view is not as grand on the top as it was from the tour of the Dom Tower in Utrecht, but it is still lovely and worth the easy climb.
The exterior of this cathedral is highly ornate and features remarkable details.
They are constantly doing external repairs to the building due to toxic rain damage and it’s age – but do walk around and look for the angel with jeans and a cell phone!
It’s free to enter the church and have a walk around – they do ask for a €2 donation on the way. The cathedral is very active with weddings, funerals, and other activities around the Catholic holidays and during the winter holidays, they have quite a nativity scene display. It’s a tradition for the schools to bring the children there to view it. During the Christmas break 2016, I took the kids to Den Bosch for the day and we visited the nativity scene. I’ll never forget Soren asked if the confessional booth was for a “puppet show” – clearly we are not religious.
As for the tour, you can book online as there are limited spaces available – and even less with Corona. Tickets cost €6 for adults and €3 for kids ages 4-12.
Here are two videos I took during our visit to the top.
WHERE TO STAY IN DEN BOSCH
If you want to spend more then a day in Den Bosch there are options. Like every city, you can find accommodations ranging from a romantic bed & breakfast, a hip boutique hotel to an Airbnb, just search the web and you’ll find tons of options.
A few hotels I know about a few hotels have researched for out of town guests. Book ahead if you’re visiting over a holiday weekend.
For something really totally unique, check out De Bossche Kraan You get to sleep in an old crane looking out over the city. Inside the yellow box, you have a double bed and a bathroom with a shower and toilet. The shower room is
equipped with bathrobes, towels, shampoo, shower gel, and a hairdryer. There is also a small kitchen with a refrigerator, coffee, and tea making facilities. Breakfast is available at an additional cost but the accommodation includes 2 free bicycles. How cool right?!
This whole Tramkade area has really changed in the last year. It’s now called Kop Van t’ Zand and has a lot of old warehouses turned into shared workspaces and bars. In the same area is Verkadefabriek – which is not new but worth visiting. Also, Barkade and Bossche Brouwers.
INTERSTING BUILDINGS IN DEN BOSCH
This is the oldest brick house in the Netherlands. The house was built in the 13th century and now is home to VVV ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Tourist Information Centre) en P79, a bar located in the basement which hosts lots of cover bands.
The Moriaan was built in 1220 by duke Hendrik I van Brabant. At this time, more buildings were built in this shape. Nowadays, these buildings can no longer be recognized as such, or are demolished. In 1965, the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch wanted to break down the Moriaan to make room for the traffic. However, this plan was refused by the minister. In the ’60 of the last century, the Moriaan was restored completely. Later, the building was recognized as a national monument. Would you like to visit the Moriaan? You can go inside, the local VVV (Tourist Office) will tell you all about the building and the city.
Another place on the market square that is worth a visit is the Town Hall. It is located on the south side of the square next to the old Hudson’s Bay department store which is now Shoeby.
If you look up at the building you’ll see a special horse display which goes around on the hour. When it goes off, we still stop and watch it. The present City Hall dates from 1670, and is in actual fact three connected residential housed. The interior of the City Hall is greatly decorated and furnished in several historic styles. Interested in visiting this building? Book a guided tour on a Wednesday here. I’d like to do this tour in the near future, so when I do it, I’ll come back and post photos.
The Citadel is a 17th-century structure. In 1637 this pentagonal fortification with ramparts was built at a strategic point where the rivers Aa and Dommel flow into the Dieze. The Citadel’s nickname, De Papenbril (The Papist Glasses), is due to the fact that the building was created to keep an eye on the Catholics of Den Bosch, who were still loyal to the former ruler of the area, the King of Spain. So the canons were not only aimed at the enemy, but also at the town’s own inhabitants! In later centuries the building also functioned as a military prison, a barracks, and an artists’ workshop, before it was transformed into the Brabant Historical Information Centre (BHIC). The view of the city from the walls is nice and you can almost feel its rich history come to life.
De Bossche Zomer
A special summer program, De Bossche Zomer, was created this year to include food & drink, entertainment, and loads of fun things to in pop up locations all around the city for those visiting and those enjoying staycations. I think one of the best initiatives was Smakenrad (tasting wheel)- the largest Ferris wheel in the Netherlands which was set up at the Petterlaarse Schans from July 1 – August 30. We took the kids on it one day, where we had a choice of a Bossche Bol or a Worstenbroodje and a drink. They offered other sessions for high tea, lunch, and even an evening meal with sushi and oysters!!
Then one day suddenly there were TWO Ferris wheels…and then a day later only ONE – not the Samkenrad. Well turns out the Smakenrad is had to stop completely. According to the municipality, the permit is not in order; 1500 seats canceled. The wheel was been shut down in consultation with the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). One of these days, we’ll go for a bike ride and check out the replacement wheel. Glad we got on when we did, in the even the “real” wheel cannot return.
When we first saw it being built we rode our bikes over to check it out a couple nights in a row so getting to go on it was extra cool.
The city and the people are lovely. I personally think it’s a city worth visiting during your time here in the Netherlands no matter what the season! 🙂
Do you have a tip or suggestion of a great place to see, restaurant to try, or something off the beaten path to do in Den Bosch which I didn’t highlight? I KNOW there are tons of things to do in the city that I have not touched upon here. Send me a message and let me know.