Den Bosch is a laid-back historical city in the south of the Netherlands. The capital of the province of North Brabant (Noord Brabant) is famous for the joie-de-vivre, hospitality, carnival and good food. Here you will find my recommendations for some of the best things to do in Den Bosch. Did you know that the complete name of the city is ‘s-Hertogenbosch, but only the Dutch can pronounce it.
Den Bosch is easily accessible from Amsterdam or from any place in general in the Netherlands. The best way to travel to Den Bosch is by train. The city has good connections with Amsterdam and other major Dutch cities. It takes only 1 hour from the Central Train Station in Amsterdam to Den Bosch, thus making Den Bosch a perfect destination for a day trip from Amsterdam.
The historical centre of Den Bosch is pretty compact and the city is absolutely walkable. I would recommend you just to take your time and walk around. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the city.
The map below includes all best things to do in Den Bosch and places to visit. You can downloa the map and use it offline.
- 1. Explore the Market Square
- 2. Check out the beautiful City Hall
- 3. Spot the oldest brick building in the Netherlands
- 4. Take a boat trip in the old city sewerage
- 5. Visit the Ramparts
- 6. Admire Sint-Jan and climb the church tower
- 7. Snap a shot of the Dragon Fountain
- 8. Marvel some art at the Noordbrabants Museum
- 9. See modern art and design at the Design Museum
- 10. Discover the weird world of Hieronymus Bosch
- 11. Spot the strange creatures
- 12. Try the famous Bossche Bol
- 13. Experience the ‘Burgundian lifestyle’
- 14. Go for a walk in the Bossche Broek
- 15. Find the hidden inner yards
- 16. Learn about Dutch carnival at the National Carnival Museum
- 17. Taste the hipster atmosphere at Tramkade
- Final words
1. Explore the Market Square
The Market Square (Markt) is the beating heart of the city. It’s a large square, surrounded by lovely buildings. There are also lots of restaurants and cafes, where you can grab a bite or to just hang out. Wednesdays and Saturdays the square gets even livelier, as the market is held there, hence the name of the square. On Fridays, there’s a special farmers’ market with lots of local and organic produce.
The Market Square has been recently restored to its Medieval look. If you visit the Noordbrabants Museum, you’ll find there a painting from the 16th century that served as a model for the well and the statue that stand now in the middle of the square.
2. Check out the beautiful City Hall
The city hall in Den Bosch is a marvelous building that dominates the Market Square. It was built in the 13th century and completely renovated in 17th century. The old council chamber is decorated with impressive tapestry. If you happen to say the “yes” word in this lovely baroque building in Dutch Classicism, you will do this in style, as the walls of the wedding hall are luxuriously decorated with golden leather. You can visit the city hall for free.
3. Spot the oldest brick building in the Netherlands
This reddish brick building with a turret located at the corner of the Market Square is one of the oldest preserved brick buildings in the Netherlands. It was built in the first half of the 13th century and is a typical example of a hall house. Through the centuries De Moriaan served various purposes: from a place for services of the Lutheran community in the 17th century to a theatre in the 18th century. Today it houses the City’s Tourist Office.
In the cellar of De Moriaan is located one of the hippest cafes in the city: Plein 79. They are open from Thursday till Sunday and each night there’s a live show, or a band playing.
4. Take a boat trip in the old city sewerage
One of the best things to do in Den Bosch is a boat tour on the Binnendieze. You will be able to go under the houses and see places which you won’t be able to see otherwise. The river Binnendieze used to be the city’s sewer in the past.
There are different routes of the boat tour and tickets can be booked via the Kring Vrienden van ‘s-Hertogenbosch website. The service operates only in April – October. Kring Vrienden van ‘s-Hertogenbosch is an amazing organization run by volunteers, who are passionate to tell you the stories of their city. They also offer guided city walks.
2020 Update: In the summer of 2020 the organization offers only one route: the Historical Route.
5. Visit the Ramparts
The city walls of Den Bosch are quite well preserved and restored together with some of the bastions and city gates. The first city walls were built between 1220 and 1250 around the today’s Market Square. The settlement grew rapidly and in the 14th century the city walls were drastically expanded. In the following centuries the city walls were turned into fortifications and Den Bosch became a medieval stronghold surviving a few sieges. At the end of the 19th centuries a great part of the fortifications was demolished to give way to the expansion of the city. However, the walls had remained almost intact.
6. Admire Sint-Jan and climb the church tower
St. John’s Cathedral (Sint-Janskathedraal), or simply Sint-Jan, the way it is locally called, is a fine example of the Gothic Architecture and the most iconic building in the city. The construction of the church began in 1220 and was finished in 1530. Initially, the church was built outside of the city walls. It was only in 1559 when the church became a cathedral and a seat of the bishopric of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. In 1566 during the so called Iconoclastic Fury (Beeldenstorm) a lot of the interior decorations were destroyed or removed by the mobs formed by Calvinist Protestants. In 1629 the Sint-Jan became a Protestant church. It was returned to the Roman Catholics in 1810 by Napoleon. The cathedral went through many restorations, the last one just finished recently in 2012.
The cathedral is still operating, so it’s open to visit outside of the mass hours. A must-do thing in Den Bosch is, of course, climbing the church tower to admire a lovely view of the city.
7. Snap a shot of the Dragon Fountain
If you come by train to Den Bosch, you cannot miss the Dragon Fountain. When you get out of the train station and head to the city centre, you will pass by this impressive fountain with a golden dragon on top. The fountain was built in 1903 and has a bit of a sad story. When the provincial governor P.J. Bosch van Drakestein died in 1894, he left the municipality of Den Bosch 10 000 Dutch guilders and requested the money to be used for the building of a fountain as a memorial for his deceased twin daughters (aged 16) and wife. The dragon on the top of the column is completely plated in gold. If you ask yourself, why exactly they chose a dragon for this fountain, well, the name (Drakestein) of the governor translates from Dutch (“draak”) as “a dragon”.
2020 Update: The Dragon has a new home! As the fountain is undergoing complete restoration, the dragon has been removed. Now it can be admired at the square in front of the Noordbrabants Museum. The fun part about this, is that the Dragon is actually at home now. In the time when Van Drakenstein was a governor (1856-1894), the museum was the Governor’s Palace.
8. Marvel some art at the Noordbrabants Museum
If you are an art-lover another unmissable thing to do in Den Bosch is visiting the famous Noordbrabants Museum. The museum is housed in what once was a Jesuit Monastery. The first monastery was built in the early 14th century. In 1629 the building was appropriated by the State and became the Governor’s Palace. In 1984 after a short renovation the building was converted into a museum and it became the home of the Noordbrabants Museum.
The Noordbrabants Museum is the place where you can learn everything about Brabant’s history, art and culture: from the Romans that lived on the territory of today’s North-Brabant, to the famous medieval artist Hieronymus Bosch, to Van Gogh, and up to contemporary art and design. From the 30 000 objects only 15% are exhibited in the museum.
- Fee: adults – 15 EUR; students – 7,50 EUR; children (< 18 years) – free
- Opening hours: Tue – Sun from 11:00 till 17:00
9. See modern art and design at the Design Museum
Design Museum Den Bosch started in the 1950’s as a showcase for the students of the Royal Art Academy of Art and Design in Den Bosch and established itself as a municipal exhibition centre in 1972. It changed many places until it found its home in the brand new building especially designed to house the museum and its collections. In 2013 the museum moved to its new home adjacent to Noordbrabants Museum.
- Fee: adults – 10 EUR; students – 5 EUR; kids (< 17 years) – free
- Opening hours: Tue – Sun from 11:00 till 17:00
10. Discover the weird world of Hieronymus Bosch
The Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre is dedicated to the greatest medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516), famous for the fantastic figures and detailed landscapes. The Centre has in its collection all works of the artist in full-size reproductions. As the Centre is hosted in a former church, you can climb the 40-m high tower and admire the city from a bird view.
- Fee: adults – 7,50 EUR; children (4-12 years) – 3,75 EUR
- Opening hours: November to March: Tue – Sun 12:00 – 17:00; April to October: Tue – Sun 11:00 – 17:30
Tip: One of the routes of the Binnendieze boat tour includes a visit to the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre. You can book the boat trip with a visit to the museum, thus getting the entry to the museum at a discounted rate.
11. Spot the strange creatures
When you walk around in the city you will notice for sure those colourful sculptures of strange creatures. They are everywhere – standing in the park, hanging on walls or peeking out of the water! These sculptures are coming straight from the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and his wild imagination. They were placed there in 2016, when the city celebrated the 500th anniversary from the artist’s death.
12. Try the famous Bossche Bol
When visiting Den Bosch, there’s one thing you need to try and this is the Bossche Bol. It’s a large profiterole filled in with whipped cream and covered with dark chocolate. You can get the Bossche Bol at the bakery Jan de Groot, where it was created, or at one of the many cafés in town with the sign Original Bossche Bol in front of them. Those get their supplies from the bakery, so you are sure you will be eating the real thing.
13. Experience the ‘Burgundian lifestyle’
There is this expression in the Dutch language “Burgundian lifestyle” (bourgondische levensstijl), which means joie-de-vivre combined with good food and wine. It is usually attributed to the lifestyle in the province of North Brabant, as compared to the northern provinces. And Den Bosch, being the capital of North Brabant, won’t disappoint you on the culinary front. It’s bustling with great places to eat: from cozy cafés to fancy restaurants and international cuisine – Den Bosch has it all! The most restaurants and cafés are located on the streets the Korte Putstraat, the Uilenburg and the Parade.
14. Go for a walk in the Bossche Broek
Just outside of the city walls there is a lovely nature area, called Bossche Broek. It’s a bog land that served as a natural defensive line for centuries. Today, it’s a one of the most popular places to go for a walk. Locals just love it, as it is super close to the city centre. From the fields there’s a beautiful view of the city’s skyline and the St. John’s Cathedral.
In the area between Hinthamerstraat and the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal there are those charming inner yards. Wander the streets and try to find them. The big city is gone and it feels as if you are in a small village.
16. Learn about Dutch carnival at the National Carnival Museum
Den Bosch breathes and lives with carnival. There isn’t a better place to learn about this Dutch tradition than the National Carnival Museum (Oeteldonks Gemintemuzejum). During carnival Dutch cities change their names and Den Bosch becomes Oeteldonk. The museum is located in a cute building on the Binnendieze, which in the Middle Ages belonged to the Sisters of the Common Life. The museum showcases a collection of carnival costumes and posters and they hold also temporary exhibitions.
- Fee: adults – 7 EUR; children (6-12 years) – 3,50 EUR
- Opening hours: Fri – Sun 13:11 – 17:11
17. Taste the hipster atmosphere at Tramkade
Tramkade used to be an industrial area just outside the city centre. Today, it’s a nice place with lots of pop-up cafes and restaurants. Various creative startup have there offices there as well. In the summer, there are organized lots of events and there is even a city beach. Eye-catcher in this neighborhood are the silos painted with street art. The graffiti was created in 2014 as a project by the creative collective of Kings of Colors.
I am sure Den Bosch will not disappoint you. I have lived for 10 years just a few kilometers away from the city and I had it visited as much as I could. I can’t also hide that it’s my favorite city in the Netherlands. With lots of things to do and see, Den Bosch is a perfect destination for both a short one day visit or a longer stay.