In 1966, Zoetermeer was appointed to be an expansion area for the nearby The Hague. In 1962 the village had around 10 000 habitants. March 2008 brought the 120 000th habitant. Nowadays, the city is no longer a so-called satellite city of The Hague, but a city of its own. Locals sometimes jokingly call their city "Sweet Lake City", which is a literal translation of it's name.
Being set up as a commuter city, Zoetermeer has a very good infrastructure.
From the A12 highway, take the "Zoetermeer-Centrum", "Zoetermeer" or "Bleiswijk" exit. The "Zoetermeer-Centrum" exit/ramp is only accessible from/to The Hague, "Zoetermeer" also from Utrecht. Bleiswijk is a neighboring town who's exit gives easy access the the most recently build part of Zoetermeer: District Oosterheem.
From The Hague you can take the sprinter train to Gouda or Utrecht. Jump out at "Zoetermeer" or "Zoetermeer Oost". Please note: The Intercity Services do NOT call at Zoetermeer Stations.
You can also take the "Randstadrail", which is somewhat a crossover of a light rail and a tram. This system runs throughout the city. It also connects Zoetermeer with the Hague, Rotterdam and Leidschendam.
Station "Zoetermeer" has a Randstadrail platform, a train platform and a bus platform. Station "Zoetermeer Oost" only has train and bus platforms. Station "Zoetermeer" is best served by these types of transport.
Zoetermeer has a excellent transportation system. The "Randstadrail" runs throughout the whole city. Parts that are not covered by it are easily reachable by bus.
When coming from The Hague or Utrecht you probably end up at "Zoetermeer" train station, part of "Mandelabrug" (Mandela bridge), which is also a bicycle/footbridge. You can walk across the footbridge to any other desired platform. You can find the Randstadrail, which can bring you to "Zoetermeer Centrum West". All buses depart there. You can also find the police station, shops and town hall a moments walk from "Centrum West". Some bus lines also service the bus platform of station "Zoetermeer".
You can buy a ticket on the bus from the driver: Note that this is quite expensive, between €2 and €4 for a one-way ticket! Like the rest of the Netherlands, all buses, trams and trains otherwise require a OV-chipcard. These can be bought at most train stations, kiosks and some supermarkets. The cost of a blank card is €7,50, after which you will have to top them up using special vending machines.
The "Randstadrail" has a ticket machine on board, but beware, they will only take coins. If you don't have any, or the machine is broken, walk up to the conductors as soon as they come in. If you are a foreigner, they will either let it be, or require you to buy a (more expensive) ticket with them. Probably the first option though.
Zoetermeer is not that much when it comes to sightseeing material. There are some, listed below, but the most interesting thing about Zoetermeer is Zoetermeer itself. Since it's truly a planned city constantly expanded over a 50 year span, it's a museum of ideals and concepts in it's own right. Every district is conceived and build in a different era, reflecting what was perceived as the perfect neighborhood structure at the time.
Zoetermeer likes to see itself as a fun city. Its possible to do some snowboarding or skiing, ice-skating, see movies, rockclimbing, do some rafting or white water canoeing.
Zoetermeer has an excellent shopping area called 'het Stadshart' (meaning city heart). It's easily reachable by public transport, just go to station "Centrum West".
It has the usual set of brands and shopping chains: H&M, WE, C&A, Primark, Hema, V&D, Xenos, Kruidvat, Apple store, Media Markt, etc.
Just a short walk from the Stadshart, you will find the Dorpsstraat. This is the oldest part of the city and offers a wide variety of specialty shops and boutiques.
There are a lot of small restaurants in Zoetermeer, these are just a few of the decent ones:
Like restaurants, there are few pubs in Zoetermeer.
You will find some in the old centre (Dorpsstraat), mostly open at daytime. Some noticable bar's are 'Class by Jofel' and 'The Old Blind Mole'. Futhermore there are some small and very local cafe's around practically every small shopping centre - which means practically every district has at least one small cafe.
Around the 'Stadhuisplein' there are some pubs and bars, like the popular 'Queen of Hearts', the cozy 'The Old Pall' and theater café 'Vrienden' (Friends). Recently, the city of Zoetermeer has started a complete renewal of the Stadhuisplein. Together with that, new bars are opened, like the immensly popular 'Clooney', newcomer 'Vrienden van de Burgemeester' (Friends of the Major) and Italian restaurant 'Pavarotti'.
Also, this area of the city centre gives you the opportunity to dance, with cafe 'Vrienden' turning into a dancehall late night, and Dutch Dance Club 'Spetters' (meaning Hot Shots), which is located opposite of 'Vrienden'. Underneath the Stadhuisplein, 'Club Cobra' is located, formerly known under young students as 'Amphion'. This is a high class club in a different price range as the two named above. It's located at the Amsterdamstraat.
Zoetermeer is also famous for club 'Locomotion', which was one of the most popular clubs in Holland. Nevertheless, they went bankrupt a few years ago because of a bad image. The venue is stil visitable, because nowadays restaurant 'Eten & Zo' is located here. They left one of the two dance halls completely intact, which brings the place a lot of nostalgia for the younger Zoetermeerders.
Recently, 'Club NoLimit' was shutdown do to various reasons.
The most of the bars and pubs are opened until 2:00 a.m. in weekends, until 00.00 at weekdays (Sunday-Thursday). Clubbing is possible on Fridays and Saturdays. Most of the times, it is started to get crouded around midnight and the clubs will be open until plusminus 5 or 6 o'clock.
It is strictly forbidden in the centre of Zoetermeer to have any opened cans, bottles, etc. containing alcoholic beverages. There is strict police enforcement and a fine will set you back at least €60!
There are some hotels in Zoetermeer, they mostly cater to businessmen. Here are a few:
Alternatively there is:
And there's couch surfing.,The community is quite active and sufficiently large. This is also advised if you are having troubles finding a host in, for example, The Hague, since its only 20 mins by train or Randstadrail from downtown to downtown.
The international calling code for the Netherlands is 31. The netcode for Zoetermeer is 79. The Dorpstraat and the Stadshart feature government-sponsored free WiFi. There's lots of wireless connectivity elsewhere too.