What to Do in Den Bosch: a gorgeous, often forgotten, medieval city

Den Bosch is one of our favorite cities to visit. And after you’ve tasted their famous pastry  - The Bossche Bol - we’re sure it will be yours too.

Bossche Bol with a cup of tea at a cafe in Den Bosch

Bossche Bol with a cup of tea at a cafe in Den Bosch - © Hidden Holland

Plus there is much more to this city than a pastry alone. The architecture of the old town is just beautiful. It's a different style than tyou see in other Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Delft.

One of the main attractions of Den Bosch (other then a Bossche Bol),  is a boat tour on the "Binnendieze". Sure almost every city in Holland offers a boat tour, but only here you can pass right under buildings.

Den Bosch (formally called 's Hertogenbosch) is a beautiful city full of historic buildings, excellent museums, many great shops, and a lot of inviting cafés and restaurants. It was voted the most hospitable city in the Netherlands (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) for a good reason.

Interested? Grab a drink and keep reading…

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Money tip #1: A low cost  travel debit card is the best way to pay for a Bossche Bol. A card like this can hold different currencies, to use when you travel. Our favorite is the Transferwise Bordeless Debit Card. We use it ourselves on every trip we take. Click here to learn more.

Where is Den Bosch?

Let’s start with the basics: Den Bosch is a city in the southern part of the Netherlands. In this part of the country people seem to enjoy life just a bit more than elsewhere. Good food, good wine (or beer), good company. It's more a French way of life. Den Bosch is no exception.

Den Bosch is ideally located between Amsterdam and Maastricht

This medieval city is so easy to reach, it only takes one hour from Amsterdam. There is a direct frequent train connection from Amsterdam. The city has enough to offer to fill a full day. Or even a few.

This post will help you to see the main highlights of this beautiful city. When you're short on time, or you're on your way to Maastricht, then we still urge you to stop at the Den Bosch ('s Hertogenbosch) station for an authentic Bossche Bol. It will just slow you down by 30 minutes. You won't regret it.

If we're completely honest with you, when we're short on time, eating a Bossche Bol is sometimes the only reason for us to visit too. However, if you have time, do give Den Bosch some extra time to explore!

's-Hertogenbosch or Den Bosch, what is the correct name?

The official name of the city is 's-Hertogenbosch. 's-Hertogenbosch is the name you need to use in your travel planner or that you'll see on road signs. You will not see Den Bosch on any sign.

Still, Den Bosch is the name most people use in daily conversation. It's much easier to pronounce and spell, even for us Dutch!

So what is the big deal about the Bossche Bol - The famous pastry from Den Bosch

You may, or you may not have heard about the Bossche Bol before reading this post. In Holland they are famous! Everybody knows what they are. And for a good reason. If you get the original, there is nothing quite like it. The spin-offs you see elsewhere in the country are not the same.

A real Bossche Bol

Den Bosch Bossche Bol - Photo: Franklin Heijnen - CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

What is a Bossche Bol?

The Bossche Bol is like an oversized puff pastry. The pastry is filled with a velvety soft, super fresh, sweetened whipped cream, and topped with a generous coating of semi-dark chocolate.

The taste of the chocolate is unique. It's what most people love the most — followed by the texture of the whipped cream. You'll see many look-a-like pastries in the country when you visit Holland. But none taste like a real Bossche Bol. You have to get out here to try one.

The company that makes them never expended outside the city. Instead of bringing them to the people, the people came to get them. From all over the country actually, in large numbers!

Where to get a Bossche Bol?

Once in Den Bosch, getting your hands on a Bossche Bol is easy. They make the original at "Bakkerij Jan de Groot," right near the station.

Shop window of Bakery "de Groot" home of the famous Bossche Bol in Den Bosch

The shop window of "Bakkerij de Groot" - home of the famous Bossche Bol in Den Bosch - © Hidden Holland

To get there, exit the railway station at the city center side (Centrum). Cross the road and walk straight ahead towards the center of town. 

After you've crossed the roundabout, look for the pink signs a bit further down the road, to the right. And for the many people waiting in line. If you find this place quiet, you're a lucky person. They sell about 1,500 Bossche Bollen every DAY, except on Sunday when they're not open.

Don't worry though about the line. It moves fast. It helps, if you have your payment card or cash ready in hand. (see our money tip #1 above, for our advice on the best travel payment card for Europe).  

You can also choose to sit down in the tearoom and enjoy a Bossche Bol there with a cup of coffee or tea. However, often, they are full. 

Bakkerij Jan de Groot. Stationsweg 24, Den Bosch

(This recommendation is unsolicited - We’ve never received a discount or compensation from Bakkerij de Groot.)

Where else in the city can yo get a AUTHENTIC Bossche Bol?

Thankfully many restaurants nearby in the city center also serve the real "de Groot Bossche Bollen." Just look for the pink signs outside the restaurant telling you they got the original from "Bakkerij de Groot."

If you see this pink sign in Den Bosch, you know this restaurant sells the authentic Bossche Bol

If you see this pink sign in Den Bosch, you know the restaurant sells the authentic Bossche Bol - © Hidden Holland

Take a Boat Trip on the Binnendieze in De Bosch

We know we've said the Bossche Bol is enough reason for us to visit. But there is a lot more to do in this city. One of our next favorite things to do is to take a boat tour on the "Binnendieze."

Take a boat tour on the Binnendieze in Den Bosch

Take a boat tour on the Binnendieze in Den Bosch. It's a unique experience - © Hidden Holland

The Binnendieze is a narrow river that meanders through the city. What makes it unique is that it also runs below buildings. It's pretty uncommon in the Netherlands for buildings to span over water. And that is what makes this boat trip so different.

It's a great way to explore the most beautiful sites of the historical city center. And it will offer you many postcard-perfect picture moments. Volunteers run these tours between April till October. Trips take about 50 minutes, and boats depart frequently.

Internet reservations can be made up to one hour before departure. You can check current prices and sailing times on their website

Purchasing a ticket on the spot is possible, but we would NOT recommend that since these tours are popular and, therefore, often sold out. Especially on the weekends or on a beautiful sunny day.

Boats leave from the Molenstraat. Finding them is easy. From "Bakkerij de Groot," you keep walking towards the center, cross the water, and make a right at the "Lepelstraat" (it's the next small street after the Jumbo City market). The Lepelstraat will become the Molenstraat after a short while. You'll see a gate with the name "Binnendieze" (see photo above) and boats lying in the water.

You'll have to descent by a staircase to reach the vessels. A stairlift is available. Tours are only in Dutch. However, a (written) translation in English is available at the information desk.

Molenstraat 15a, Den Bosch

(This recommendation is unsolicited - We’ve never received a discount or compensation from Kring Vrienden.)

Money tip #2: the best way not to lose time while finding the departure location is to have an affordable data bundle for Europe on your phone. That way you're able to use Google Maps on the go. Read our post about the best SIM card for Europe here to find the best deals!

Shopping in Den Bosch is excellent for some retail therapy

Den Bosch may not be as fancy as Maastricht. But Den Bosch is well known for shopping. And with such a beautiful city center, it has the perfect backdrop for spending some time treating  yourself to some retail therapy.

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The most famous shopping street is the Snellestraat. The Snellestraat is full of specialty shops. And if you need a break, then an excellent option to sit down is "Eetbar DIT". A locals favorite. Get a sandwich or a beer with a "borrelhap." They will serve you a specialty of this region: a worstenbroodje (served here on a stick). 

A "worstenbroodje" is a savory sausage roll. It's different in flavor and texture than a Sauzijzenbroodje and only available in this region. We really like them! PS you can also get a good one on to go at the Jumbo City market).

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Finally, another pleasant shopping street is the Verwersstraat. It's more upscale.

We're not really shoppers, but many people come to Den Bosch to do just that. And whatever street you pick around the central square, you won't be disappointed. 

If you like craft beer, you'll love Den Bosch

As you may know, in the middle ages beer was the beverage of choice for the people. It was no different in Den Bosch. In later years local beer breweries closed shop and disappeared from the scene.

However, due to an increase in interest for craft beers, that has all changed. Den Bosch is now a perfect place to enjoy a locally brewed craft beer. Some places you can visit are:

  • Jongens van de Wit, Hofvijver 4, Den Bosch
  • Bossche Brouwers, Tramkade 29, Den Bosch. The Bossche Brouwers is open Thursday (evening) to Sunday. And they often offer live music and beer tastings on the water (weather permitting and when there are enough reservations).
  • Brouwerij Boegbeeld, Uilenburg 1, Den Bosch. You find this brewery above a very cool store in a beautiful old building right in the city center. It's owned and run by a woman: Janneke Pieters. If you can't choose what to get, you can get the "Un Bietje van alles." It's local slang for a tasting package with a selection of their beers. PS they even have a chocolate beer to celebrate the Bossche Bol!

Den Bosch is home to some excellent museums

Den Bosch is home to a few excellent museums. Two of them enjoy national popularity. The often feature exhibitions that attract people from around the country.

The Noordbrabants Museum

If you love culture, you should not miss the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch. This museum houses art from local artists. Who happens to include Vincent van Gogh (one of our personal favorites), Jheronimus Bosch, and Jan Sluijters. Also, the museum has often temporary exhibitions which get a lot of publicity around the country.

Inside the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch

Inside the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch - The Story of Brabant / Photographer: Joep Jacobs

As a bonus, it's located in another beautiful building on the Verwersstraat. The shopping street we mentioned above. Did you know this building first housed monks and later the governor of the King and then the commissioner of the Queen before it became the city's iconic museum? It has quite a history.

The Design Museum Den Bosch

The Design Museum is right next door to the Noordbrabants Museum. The museum specializes in ceramics and jewelry. We enjoy a different type of museum more. But if you like modern art and design, then this museum is definitely worth stopping by.

The Slager Museum

The smaller but charming Slager museum is just a few minutes away.

We've stumbled upon this small museum not too long ago and liked it a lot. We especially enjoyed the private collection of this family with local paintings from the city of Den Bosch from a time long past.

And while the prominent museums have (expensive) cafes, this museum serves you a free cup of coffee or tea during your visit, it's a great way to meet other visitors, often locals.

Painting at the Slagers Museum Den Bosch

Painting at the Slagers Museum Den Bosch - © Hidden Holland

(These recommendations are unsolicited - We’ve never received a discount or compensation from any museum in this list.)

Enjoy a drink at the Parade and appreciate the view of the Cathedral

We can't end this article without mentioning the Parade. It's a big square lined with chestnut trees. It's full of restaurants and outside terraces in summertime. Perfect for a drink outside on warmer days. (Ps: Another square great for a drink is the Markt).

St Jans Cathedral Den Bosch

At the Parade you'll also have a good view of the majestic and beautiful St. Jans Cathedral, which is worth a visit by itself. The St Jans Cathedral was erected between 1370 and 1529. The decor of this Gothic cathedral is famous for its extraordinary sculptured detail. And you're free to take a look around.

You can enjoy the church daily on the inside between 9 a.m and 5 p.m. But access can be limited or changed due to events and church services.

The interior of the St. Jan Cathedral in Den Bosch - Photographer: Anja Disseldorp - CC BY 2.0

The interior of the St. Jan Cathedral in Den Bosch - Photographer: Anja Disseldorp - CC BY 2.0

And why not climb the tower of the St. Jans cathedral when you're here?

The group of volunteers that run the boat tours on the "Binnendieze" also offer a daily opportunity to climb the St. Jans cathedral tower with a guide (except for Mondays).

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Tours leave in the afternoon up to 3 times daily. During the climb, your guide will tell you all about the tower itself, like the belfry, the clock mechanism, and an exhibition showing the history, the construction, and restoration of the tower.

Please note that tours are officially in Dutch only. Depending on the proficiency of your guide, you can always ask to give some explanation in English too. Or ask a fellow group member to help you understand what the guide is saying.

Also note that it's a stiff climb on small, centuries-old stairs to reach the top at the height of 43 meters (140ft). Once you are up there, it's important to first give yourself a pat on the shoulder. Then you're rewarded with a magnificent view of the city. And the surrounding villages as well. You can watch for miles on a clear day.

You can check current prices and times on their website

(This recommendation is unsolicited - We’ve never received a discount or compensation from St. Jans cathedral.)

How to get to Den Bosch?

Den Bosch is just one hour south of Amsterdam. 30 minutes from Utrecht. Less than 30 minutes from Eindhoven. And about 90 minutes from Maastricht. So from every direction it's easily accessible. Once in Den Bosch, you don't need to use public transportation. Everything is within walking distance.

Front entrance train station Den Bosch

Front entrance train station Den Bosch © Hidden Holland

The easiest way to plan your trip, look up prices, and to buy a ticket for your train journey is from the official NS Xtra App on your phone. It's available in English and you can use your credit card for payment (or better use the Transferwise Debit travel card we recommend and use ourselves). Tickets will be digital, so you don't need a printer. The App is free to use and tickets are €1 cheaper compared to a paper ticket. We advise a 1st class ticket for extra comfort.

Screenshot of NS Extra App for Apple and Android

Download the NS app on your phone. It's available in English, you can use it for planning your journey and for buying your tickets (it accepts credit cards (the machines do not) and you avoid the €1 surcharge for paper tickets.

Where to stay in Den Bosch?

If you want to spend more then a day in Den Bosch, it will be a lot more convenient to stay nearby. Thankfully there are many different types of accommodation to find in and around Den Bosch. Whether you're looking for a romantic bed & breakfast, a hip design hotel, or a full apartment or holiday home, Den Bosch has something that will suit your taste and budget. Check out the selection and book your perfect getaway to Den Bosch from our partners at Booking.com!

See all the places we recommend in this post in the Goole map we created below (click on the menu icon (top left) for more details, and the names of all the places we've mentioned:

Did this post about Den Bosch help you?

If you enjoyed our travel tips in this post about Den Bosch then please join the conversation and let us know in the comments at the bottom of this page. We'd love to hear what you think. Have you been to any of these suggestions? Are you planning them for your next trip? We want to know.

Looking for more inspiration just like this post about Den Bosch?

We have written more one day itineraries for Holland. They're well worth a read.

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Schiphol Airport See Buy Fly offer €5 shopping discount.

Schiphol Airport See Buy Fly offer €5 shopping discount.

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