‘Hospitable’ - that is a trait that Den Bosch likes to promote as part of its inherent character. Rightly so, Hanneke tells us. She works at the Noordbrabants Museum and has only recently moved to Den Bosch. In the short time she has lived there, she has already become a fan of this city and its inhabitants.

‘People enjoy life here’, she says. ‘And they make you feel welcome. If you sit down on your own at a pavement café in Den Bosch, nobody feels sorry for you. And if you come back a second time, they will strike up a conversation: “Are you new here?” People are friendly, helpful and above all proud of their city. They display a kind of charming chauvinism that you no longer see very often and that never becomes intrusive.’

Sights and attractions that typify Den Bosch

The river Binnendieze, which flows under the houses and the Bossche Bol, which is a huge chocolate-topped cream puff made in heaven. The cafés and restaurants in the city's main entertainment area, De Uilenburg, and those lining Parade and Korte Putstraat. The immortal words uttered by Wim Kersten (one half of Carnival duo De Twee Pinten) in 1966, which are proudly displayed on the side of a house in Hinthamerstraat: ‘Ik zou ut van de daken willen roepen, dèt ik un Oetel ben!’, which translates roughly as ‘I'd like to shout out from the rooftops that I'm an Oetel!’, Oetel being a reference to the name Den Bosch adopts during Carnival: Oeteldonk.  The people of Den Bosch were just as proud of their city back then as well. Via a narrow street, quaintly named In den boerenmouw (in the farmer's sleeve), you walk to Jeroen Bosch Tuin, a beautiful garden known as the ‘green oasis of the city’ that local residents help maintain.

So what are Hanneke's favourite spots in Den Bosch? ‘The small square near the Sint Jan, our imposing cathedral in Den Bosch,’ she answers, ‘where you can also find the entrance to Museum Slager. You feel as though you will meet Hieronymus Bosch in person at any moment as you walk around there’, she says, referring to the most famous son of Den Bosch. Another tip: Stadspark Mariënburg. A sunny spot right next to a monastery, just a stone’s throw from cafés and restaurants, where you can sit down and relax among the ‘locals’ because tourists and day-trippers are not such a common sight here. 

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Cherishing a rich past

Den Bosch cherishes its rich past like no other city. You enter a time warp that takes you centuries back into the past. The centre of Den Bosch is one of the oldest and most well-preserved city centres in the Netherlands, the inner city area is the largest walled fortification in our country, and all kinds of monuments remind us of the city’s most prosperous period - the late Middle Ages. Duke Hendrik of Brabant founded this new city in 1185. Den Bosch was granted generous trading rights and grew rapidly to become a strong and prosperous settlement. This encouraged businesses to set up here, including a busy cloth making industry. A sixteenth-century panel in the Noordbrabants Museum depicts Saint Francis handing out cloth to the poor on the market square around 1530. Today's Puthuis is a reconstruction of the historic town well shown in this painting. Wherever you look, the centre of Den Bosch is a busy patchwork of attractive alleys, beautiful façades and impressive architecture. And the care with which they cherish the past here is evident in this text on one of the façades: ‘Maatschappy van brandverzekering voor het koningrijk der Nederlanden, anno 1838' (Company for insuring against fire in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, anno 1838).

Bastion of culture in the South

Den Bosch remained a garrison town until 1877, and many soldiers were stationed here. The middle classes thrived as a result and the presence of high-ranking military personnel sowed the seeds for a busy cultural scene. Den Bosch still calls itself ‘the bastion of culture in the South’. High-profile exhibitions are one of the Noordbrabants Museum's trademarks and they attract more than 200,000 visitors from the Netherlands and abroad every year. The Noordbrabants Museum and the Design Museum Den Bosch are located in the same building in the Bossche Museumkwartier. Further cultural mainstays include Willem Twee, which combines music and the visual arts, and the Verkadefabriek, which has been a hotbed of activity for the past fifteen years thanks to film, theatre, music festivals and photographic exhibitions.

Even so, the presence of the garrison also held back plans to expand the city. But when it became possible to demolish the fortifications of past times, the city council hesitated. That had economic consequences: Philips chose Eindhoven as its base and Nijmegen was judged more suitable for a university. But after the Second World War, Den Bosch rapidly made up lost ground. Because, even though the people of Den Bosch cherish the past, they were not born yesterday.

Technology that makes sense

Nowadays, Den Bosch also likes to call itself a ‘leading data city’. There is reason enough to do so: a rapidly growing number of ICT companies, the number 1 Data Science University (JADS) and the Den Bosch Data Week. In Den Bosch, they understand that modern science is based on the enormous mass of data that is generated today. In the light of this, ‘data science’ and entrepreneurship are the driving forces behind innovations. But they have not lost themselves in a maze of technical gadgets and high tech in Den Bosch. The focus is very much on ‘what data does for you’. One example is the Spark Makers Zone, where organisations attend master classes in the field of innovation, prototyping, design thinking, organisational change and customer experience. In Den Bosch, they look at what can be done (responsibly) and whether doing something actually makes sense. Everyone (entrepreneurs, residents, students and visitors) needs to benefit. Because people always come first in Den Bosch.

Facts and figures

  • Number of inhabitants in 2019: 110,790
  • Popular (unofficial) name: Den Bosch (this name is actually older than 's-Hertogenbosch, the official name). Name during Carnival: ‘Oeteldonk’. Name during the Eighty Years’ War: ‘Moerasdraak’ (due to the city's location between two areas of marshland).
  • City rights since: 1185, which makes Den Bosch one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands.
  • Keywords: Burgundian, social, hospitable, city of culture, data city. 
  • Main eye-catcher: Sint-Janskathedraal, the imposing cathedral, which epitomises the late Brabant Gothic style.
  • Famous sons and daughters of Den Bosch: Jheronimusch (Jeroen) Bosch (painter), Frans de Waal (biologist), Marcel Brands (former footballer, technical director), Mijntje Donners (hockey player), Esther Verhoef (writer).

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Article last updated on: February 20th, 2020.

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