‘s-Hertogenbosch, more commonly known as Den Bosch, is the capital city of the Dutch province of North Brabant. It is yet another example of how “medieval” meets “modern” in the Netherlands.
The history of Den Bosch dates back to the 12th century when Henry I, Duke of Brabant, pretty much founded the place. The duke envisioned Den Bosch as a fortress protecting his (inner) lands from invasion. Over the centuries, various “fortifications” would be built and destroyed. Today, visitors can still see many remnants of its medieval period, giving Den Bosch a unique charm.
So, is Den Bosch worth visiting? Absolutely! Please read below for our top tips on which attractions to visit.
What to See and Do in Den Bosch
1. Sint Janskathedraal (St. John’s Cathedral)
Sint Janskathedraal is a Gothic church many consider to be one of the unmissable architectural highlights of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Built between 1370 and 1529, it’s a testament to the city’s prosperity in its heyday. Visit the church and wonder at its rich sculptural detail, the pulpit (from 1560), and its enormous organ (from 1620). And don’t forget to climb its tower too!
De Wonderlijke Klim (The Wonderful Climb) is a tour-guided climb up the Sint Janskathedraal’s tower. At 43 meters high, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the city at the top. (Note: The climb entails about 200 steps through narrow passages, so it’s not for the faint of heart.)
2. Bossche Broek
The Bossche Broek (Bossche Marsh) is a 22-hectare nature reserve that’s about a 10-minute walk from St. John’s Cathedral. In the mid-17th century, the place was a deep swamp that protected the city from invasion. For this reason, it was nicked named the Invincible Swamp Dragon.
However, all of that changed when Prince Frederik Hendrik (of the House of Orange) built a dike around the city and had the swamp pumped empty so that his soldiers could attack and take hold of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Today, the Bossche Broek treats visitors to a wide variety of wet grassland flora and fauna. Its pools, wooded areas, and ditches offer great terrains for walkers, hikers, and cyclists alike. Also, just next to it is the Zuiderplas, a man-made lake that’s also great for walking, cycling, and swimming!
3. Museum Hopping
The Museumkwartier (Museum Quarter) is where you will find the most prominent museums in Den Bosch such as the Het Noordbrabants Museum (The North Brabant Museum) and Stedelijk Museum’ s-Hertogenbosch (Design Museum Den Bosch).
Het Noordbrabants Museum holds more than 30,000 objects highlighting the art, culture, and history of the province of North Brabant. It also showcases the masterpieces of known Brabant masters, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Jan Sluijters. In addition to the permanent collections, various art exhibitions are held throughout the year, so we recommend checking their calendar to see what’s on schedule.
Also, don’t just stay indoors. The Noordbrabants Museum has a wonderful beeldtuin (sculpture garden). Take a stroll along its manicured lawns and spot various unique art sculptures along the way.
Stedelijk Museum’ s-Hertogenbosch specializes in contemporary art. Here, visitors are treated to works by Picasso, Mendini, Bakker, Mendini, and others. The museum is also focused on how art and design influence each other through the years, so keep an eye out for temporary exhibitions that highlight this particular goal.
Other notable museums in Den Bosch are the following:
Hieronymus Bosch Art Centre is a museum dedicated to the life and art of Den Bosch master Hieronymus Bosch. The museum is located at the former St Jacob’s Church, so don’t forget to climb the church tower to get some fantastic city views.
Museum Het Zwanenbroedershuis (The Swan Brothers’ House) is a museum and the base of a famous medieval brotherhood. Built in the 14th century, it is where the Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap (Brotherhood of the famous Blessed Lady) was founded. A visit here will inform you of the history of the building and, of course, details about this ancient brotherhood itself.
The main shopping area in Den Bosch is Hinthamerstraat, which has a lot of historic buildings. Kolperstraat and Verwersstraat are where you should go if you want to shop at more high-end stores. Fonteinstraat, Vughterstraat, and Ridderstraat are great streets filled with various shops, restaurants, and delis.
5. Market Square
Like many Dutch cities, the Markt is a great place to explore. The square is surrounded by heritage buildings and lovely restaurants and cafes alike. It transforms into a big open market on Wednesdays and Saturdays where various wares are sold. A small organic market sets up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Dominating the Markt is the Den Bosch City Hall, which was built from the 13th to 17th centuries. It’s open to the public (free), so a quick look if you’re at the Markt is not to be missed.
By the way, don’t forget to try the famous Bossche Bol as you go around the various cafés and bakeries in Den Bosch. It’s a big profiterole filled with whipped cream and covered with dark chocolate. You can try one (or more!) at the Jan de Groot bakery, where it originated, or you can get one anywhere with the sign “Original Bossche Bol.” (It means that they got their bols from the original bakery.)
How to Get to Den Bosch
By Public Transport
There are direct trains to Den Bosch from both Amsterdam and Utrecht. A free bus (binnenstadbus or inner city bus) goes on a set route through the city. You can take this and get on and off as many times as you want! As of this writing, the free bus is available Tuesdays to Saturdays (10:00 AM to 5:00 PM) and Sundays (12:00 PM to 4:00 PM).
Also, please check the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Netherlands Railways) website to check how to best reach Den Bosch from wherever you are in the country.
You can drive to Den Bosch via the A2 for about 1.5 hours from Amsterdam. If you’re traveling from elsewhere in the country, the best way is to drive to ‘s-Hertogenbosch using Google Maps or any GPS system.
There are about eight (8) parking garages in Den Bosch, and rates are, on average, about €3 per hour or a maximum €20 per day. (Rates vary depending on what day of the week you visit and how close or far the parking garage is from the city center.)
If you want a more pocket-friendly option, then consider parking at one of the city’s P+R (Parken en Reizen or Park and Ride) locations. At P+R sites, you can park your car for free, but you MUST continue your journey into the city center using (paid) public transportation or rent a bike!
How to Get Around Den Bosch
Den Bosch is a lovely place to explore on foot. There are lovely inner yards between Hinthamerstraat and the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal. So even though you’re in the busy city center, you can go off and find a tranquil place between these areas.
The Zuiderpark (South Park) is another local favorite. Visitors can see the city’s medieval walls from the park’s northern edge.
The Kanaalpark (Canal Park) is a great place to bike through, and it connects all the nature reserves in Den Bosch and Rosmalen. During spring and summer, cyclists are treated to a wide array of flora and fauna.
If you have the time and stamina, you can take the 30 km Van Gogh cycling route. The route starts and ends at the Noordbrabants Museum and goes through the beautiful countryside of Brabant. Along the way, you will see many places that were important to Van Gogh’s life and work. You can ask there about the route at the museum or download a map here.)
Exploring Den Bosch by water is also possible. Beneath the old city is a network of canals called the Binnendieze. In the Middle Ages, the river Dommel ran through the town. As more people lived in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, they started building houses and roads OVER the river. In later years, the Binnendieze was used as a sewer, and it began to fall apart. Thankfully, over the last decades, a part of the old waterway system has been fixed up, and guided boat trips can now run through it.
Various boat tours covering different areas of the Binnendieze are available during the year. You can also sail yourself by renting a sloop.
Accommodations in Den Bosch
There is a place to stay in Den Bosch for everyone. There’s the boutique hotel and bistro ‘t Keershuys, the luxury B&B Achter de Sterren, which is in the garden of a former city farm from the 17th century, and various hotels to suit every budget. (Quick read: our favorite hotels in Den Bosch!)
In the Area
Want to go to a nearby place? Check out the following places: