Known to the locals as Den Bosch, s’Hertogenbosch is the capital of Noord Brabant and the city that few non-Dutch tourists have ever heard of. Translated into English, the name ‘s-Hertogenbosch means “forest of the Duke,” and it’s been around since 1196, though its city walls and artificial waterways were built during the 14th century.
The city was second to Utrecht in importance and had a musical reputation with several composers of their day living here.
The eccentric artist Jheronimus Bosch was born here and many of the local towns people unknowingly became immortalized in his paintings. The city grew during the 15th century and became fortified during the Eighty Years War, then fell several times to invading armies. Thankfully, the city survived World War II, saving the wonderful old buildings and the original ramparts from Allied bombing.
Centrally located, It’s an easy destination to get to from Amsterdam either by direct train or an hour’s drive via the A2.
Den Bosch has a rich history to explore and there are museums worth visiting including:
• Het Noordbrabants Museum ~ Here you can find some amazing art and wonderful exhibitions. You can also learn about Noord Brabants’ past and present. This is a major museum, with some ambitious exhibitions including a 2016 Jheronimus Bosch 500th Anniversary show that garnered global media attention. And their Van Gogh collection is always on display.
• Nationaal Carnaval Museum ~ Den Bosch – or to use it’s carnaval name Oeteldonk – is famous for its love of the Dutch carnaval and during the season people travel from far and near to experience the craziness of the celebration here. If you want to learn more the museum has all the answers about the local carnaval outfits, music and traditions complete with an English guide.
‘s-Hertogenbosch has some of the best shopping in the Netherlands, especially apparel stores and art galleries. Den Bosch has the usual High Street chain stores but if you wander around you can find streets filled with quirky independent stores.
One of my favorite streets, Vughterstraat, is home to the wonderful interior furnishings store MisterDesign, and JED Keramiek, an unconventional ceramic store. Closer to the town centre you’ll find Hoofs, two stores that having been supplying Den Bosch stitchers with metres of fabric, wool,
ribbons etc for years. They also own the Hoofs carnaval clothes store where you can buy your loud, crazy outfit for carnaval.
You can find second-hand books (there is a selection of English books) at Terre des Hommes. If you are looking for children’s clothes or preparing for a new arrival in the family a visit to Moeders Mooiste Kinderwinkel or Trots Junior Store is a must.
Finally, for those with hobbies you can find a few of stores worth a browse.
If you are a darts player, check out Bosch Darthuis for some new darts, De Kwast is the place to go for all your art supplies, Luthier’s Gitaren for the musical and ModeltreinCenter has everything you need if you love model trains.
Don’t just stick to the main shopping streets but wander to the area southeast of the Markt, where the little maze of streets have some great surprises such as womens clothing stores Juul, Juut, ART Den Bosch and American Vintage, all on Kolperstraat.
If it’s wine you are looking for, or good advice, then pop into Wijnkoperi Henri Bloem on Krullartstraat. Next door you will find a great bookstore, Adr.Heinen, that also has a small selection of English books.
Eating and Drinking
All the local tourists know Korte Putstraat as the place to eat in Den Bosch but there are some great places to eat elsewhere in the city.
• Viswinkel Visch ~ Primarily for fresh fish on Kolperstraat, this little store also has a few tables and serves great casual meals as well as a selection of readymade meals to take-out.
• Eetbar DIT ~ This fun restaurant on Snellestraat has an inventive sharing menu and is always crowded
• Tappunt Foodbar & Beers on Minderbroederstraat has a great selection of beers and a good menu from street-type food to steaks and BBQ. On the last Wednesday of the month, they have a “Tap Take Over” and Friday evenings has a DJ from 9 .m. to midnight. MEAT next-door is also linked to this restaurant.
• Crème on Snellestraat is small but serves breakfast, lunch, coffees and has a small sharing menu for dinner. I love this place! lThough the café is small, the staff is super friendly and the menu slightly different from the usual choices.
• If you are looking for a spot by the water, check out Bolwerk Den Bosch on Sint Janssingel. It doesn’t have a huge menu but is a lovely place by the Dieze River to relax with a cold drink on a sunny day.
• Another casual restaurant is BUURT on Koningsweg. The location can be a bit noisy if you want to sit outside but it has a great vibe inside and serves casual, delicious food.
• De Garage on Parklaan has an Italian flair and a lovely casual atmosphere. It overlooks the polder across the road and is a great place for coffee, lunch or dinner.
• For an expensive fancy dinner Pollevie on Hofvijver (the other side of the train tracks) is the place to go with a 4, 5, or 6-course menu to choose from.
• If you are looking for local craft beer the Bossche Stadsbrouwerij Jongens van De Wit (also on the other side of the train tracks on Hofvijver). The menu is beer and light snacks but there is nothing better than sitting next to barrels where the beer is fermenting!
• Bossche Broek polder, a huge tract of open land/nature preserve, is a stone’s throw from the city centre and provides a great place to walk or cycle, whether it is alongside the river, looking up at the fortifications of the city or through the marsh land. You can even take a hand-propelled ferry across from Pontje De Moerasdraak (a short walk alongside the river from the carpark on Wilhelminaplein). It’s great fun and I make all my guests crank the ferry across the water!
• Den Bosch has a lot of beautiful old buildings and history to explore. Den Bosch Free Tours give a wonderful, guided (in English) 2.5 hour walk around the city on a Sunday. All they ask is a reasonable tip at the end of the tour.
• Another tour that everybody enjoys is the Binnendieze. This is an electric boat tour of the original waterways of the old city, within the walls. Travelling under buildings and through dark tunnels you see the very foundations of the city. The tour is in Dutch, but you can get an English paper version. The boats leave from Sint Janssingel.
• Finally, the Verkadefabriek is a super venue for movies, food, drinks and art and theatre events. Located on Boschedijkstraat, about a 15-minute walk from the station, it is in an old biscuit factory and has a very individual, industrial style. The small cozy screening rooms make for a relaxing viewing of movies and often offer a more independent and foreign selection than many of the large movie theaters … even better they don’t have the irritating Dutch “pauze” (interval)!
‘s-Hertogenbosch is mostly unknown to foreign tourists but it has so much to offer. From the medieval city to events such as the Theatre Festival, Jazz In Duke Town, learning to paddleboard, boat trips, concerts and festivals the “Forest Of The Duke” is well worth a visit
Read more here about ‘s-Hertogenbosch in Dispatches’ archives.
Photographer/writer Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a long-time expat, she lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past 10 years.
Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.
Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.
She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.
She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.