A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Time is honey, the best cheese is soaked in Belgian beer and is made out of especially creamy milk from special cows. The best chips are not Pringles, but those that are homemade in a little fabric from farmers that didn’t want to produce their potatoes on market prices anymore. On the borders of China Town, there is a wonderland for backpackers and future volunteers. And the very best: you can find it all in The Hague.
Last week, the Act Aware Committee of the Leiden University College (LUC) organized an eco-tour through the city. This committee was founded because at LUC we talk a lot about sustainability, social justice and the environment. However, in our daily lives not much is done. Our student housing is fairly unsustainable, we don´t have recycling, proper isolation or environmental friendly heating. As a lot of students dislike this situation, they are trying to implement some sustainability in our student lives. One of the steps is to know the shops where you can get sustainably made products.
At the first glance, The Hague seems like a rather posh city, with all the fancy shops and restaurants around the palace. There are many international organizations and institutions here, but if you look for a more alternative lifestyle, you have to search a little bit longer. This is also due to the lack of a big campus with more students in the city. However, on our tour we discovered a lot of nice places that you might want to visit, too.
If you are into organic, local or just special food, there are various places you can go. You can do normal grocery shopping at one of the four EkoPlaza stores in the city. Ekoplaza is an organic supermarket chain in the Netherlands that provides a high variety of goods. The shop at Grote Marktstraat is apparently the biggest one in the country and prices are fair. Of course the food is more expensive than at Aldi or Jumbo, but it is organic food and often even fair trade.
Around the corner you find De Vegetarische Slager, a vegetarian budger, where they make vegetarian meat of such good quality that some people say they could not distinguish it from real meat. They also sell algae products that provide you with essential minerals. Another really nice but also really expensive grocery store is Marqt across the Hofplaats. There the focus lies not only on organic food, but on local food that often comes from small producers that cannot sell their products to the big supermarkets. This store is really great, so make sure you tell your parents to go there once they visit you! Not to forget is the organic Wednesday Market on the Hofplaats where they sell the best cheese, veggies and bread in town. Especially the bread is really worth the investment!
If you are too lazy to cook by yourself, go for lunch or dinner to the Grote Markt. There you find for example the café “Zwarte Ruiter” with a rather small menu, but nice food. They also have vegetarian and vegan dishes. Some of the other cafes at Grote Markt have organic products as well. If you want to have something quick, Café EXKI on Plein is the right place for you. They have really nice fair trade coffee and yummy sandwiches to take or you can stay for a hot soup. Prices are reasonable here.
Once you are not hungry anymore, you might be in the mood for some culture. You can have a look at Waar, a typical fair trade shop that sells about everything: they have books, bowls, furniture, jewelry, hammocks, spices, wine and a lot more. You will always find a present here or something to upgrade your home. But this is only another shop, so if you want to experience real art go to Stroom, a great art center with changing exhibitions focused on urban sustainability. The whole building is an experience and the newest projects are concerned with food in the different neighborhoods of The Hague. They set up a permaculture-building at Zuiderpark and they have a honey bank in the backyard. This means that they literally have bee stocks in order to make the city a more fertile place. The people that take care of the bees get paid with honey.
The right place to escape the city for a few hours is the World Experience Center of JoHo at the end of China Town. The center is an oriental wonderland where you can drink a coffee or a cheap cocktail. In the back they have a big shop for backpackers with everything you might possibly need during your adventures. The JoHo Organization also provides you with information about internships and volunteer work all over the world. So if you feel like a globetrotter today, that´s your place to be.
These places gave me a new perspective on The Hague: if you keep your eyes open, you can find a lot of interesting and sustainable places. So go out and discover!
Here you find a map of the places mentioned in the text:
Thanks to Fabian Kemps for the map and Johanna Renz for the pictures!