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The Hague  (Dutch: Den Haag or ‘s-Gravenhage) is a city in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. It is the seat of the Dutch parliament and government, and the residence of King Willem-Alexander, but it is not the capital city, which is Amsterdam. The municipality has about 500,000 inhabitants, with the greater urban area numbering about one million. The Hague lies on the North Sea and is home to Scheveningen, the most popular seaside resort of the Netherlands, as well as the smaller resort of Kijkduin.
Internationally, The Hague is often known as the “judicial capital of the world” due to the many international courts that are located in the city. Among these are the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and, since 2004, the International Criminal Court. Beside these institutions, The Hague is home to more than 150 international organizations, as well as many EU institutions, multinational companies and embassies. This gave the city a distinct international character — one that is noticeably different from Amsterdam. Rather than having the many foreign tourists and fortune-seekers attracted by Amsterdam’s reputation for excitement and liberalism, The Hague generally has more expatriates working and living in the city because of the number of international institutions and companies. Because of this, The Hague has a reputation as a wealthy, conservative and somewhat sedate city.
The Hague has very little of the edginess and excitement of Amsterdam; however, it provides well for its inhabitants in different ways, such as large areas of green space, 11 km of coastline, attractive shopping streets and an extensive multicultural scene. Rather than having canals like other Dutch cities, The Hague has streets and avenues that are just a little bit wider than those in the rest of the country, giving the city a more continental feel. Instead of the typical Dutch renaissance 17th-century step-gabled houses, it has 18th-century mansions in baroque and classicist styles. The city is considered by many as the most stately of the country. Just outside the city centre, posh neighbourhoods effuse a more 19th century look with eclectic and art nouveau architecture.
The farther you get from the sea front and the city centre, however, the more neighbourhoods tend to become less well-off. One dividing line between affluent and sketchier areas is drawn by some at Laan van Meerdervoort, which runs parallel to the seaside. Areas away from the sea tend to have much less in the way of green space. An exception to this is one centrally located park, Zuiderpark, which also used to contain the stadium of the local football team ADO Den Haag. Some of its supporters were known as the most notorious hooligans of the country, perpetuating a stereotype of “lower-class” for the inhabitants of that area.
The Hague offers great architecture, from the picturesque government complex of the Binnenhof, to the grand and stately mansions on Lange Voorhout. Museums like the Mauritshuis rank among the best in the country. For food aficionados, The Hague offers some of the country’s best Indonesian cuisine, due to large-scale immigration from this former Dutch colony. The city also offers good opportunities for outings, such as extensive green spaces for walking and bicycling as well as dunes and seaside recreation areas just a few tram stops away from the city centre. The Hague also offers a few attractions especially appealing to children, such as the miniature city of Madurodam and the 360 degree Omniversum cinema.
Over the past 10 years, the city has undergone an extensive amount of development in the form of modern architecture projects. Recent constructions include the City Hall and Central Library by American architect Richard Meier, De “Snoeptrommel” (known by the locals as Candy-Box) – a round shopping centre next to the old town hall, and a collection of post-modern, brick-clad office towers in between the city hall and the Centraal railway station, which provide new housing for a number of ministries. A major infrastructural development has been the construction of an underground tram tunnel underneath Grote Marktstraat, which is used by regular trams, and a new light-rail system, known as RandstadRail, linking The Hague with the neighbouring cities of Zoetermeer and Rotterdam.
A major redevelopment project is currently underway in the area around the Centraal railway station. Here, skyscrapers like the 142 m Hoftoren rise up over the city and several other high-rise towers are currently under construction.
The heart of the city contains most of the historic architecture from the medieval, renaissance, and Baroque periods and is easily accessible on foot. You’ll also find lots of outdoor cafes and shopping near the Plein on the Lange Poten or just east of there on the Hofweg.
- Plein, (southwest from Centraal Station along Herengracht and Korte Poten). This square — Plein simply translates as ‘square’ in English — is one of the most elegant in the centre. Located right next to the Binnenhof, it is lined with historic government buildings on three of its four sides. The north side is lined with bars and cafés, which spill out onto the square in summer. These sidewalk cafés are quite popular with politicians from the neighbouring Binnenhof, and even Prime Minister Mark Rutte can be spotted here with a pint regularly. The square is also the scene for demonstrations against government policies. The statue in the middle is that of William of Orange, heralded as the founding father of the Dutch nation.
- Binnenhof, (northwest of the Plein, trams 1 and 9 (Spui stadhuis stop), trams 2, 3, 6, & 10 (Spui stop)), ☎ +31 070 757 02 00 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . M-Sa 09:30AM-5PM. Since the 13th century the Binnenhof (‘Inner Court’) has subsequently been the seat of the government of the county of Holland, the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It used to be a castle, surrounded by moats on all sides. Since then it has been modified countless times to accommodate the expanding Dutch government. The moats have been filled, but the castle still borders on the Court Pond (named Hofvijver). In its waters the old buildings continue to mirror themselves. Today, the Binnenhof houses the two chambers of the Dutch parliament and the Prime Minister’s office in a small round tower opposite the Mauritshuis. Enter through one of the gates on Plein or Buitenhof and you will find yourself in a medieval enclosed courtyard, surrounded by architecture from the 13th up to the 19th century. There may be crowds gathered here on occasion because of public demonstrations, TV airings or receptions for foreign officials. In the middle stands the Knight’s Hall, the original centrepiece of the castle, used for ceremonial purposes. The houses of parliament and the Knight’s Hall are accessible in guided tours. It is also possible to attend the meetings of the parliament. The Tweede Kamer (second chamber) of parliament meets on tuesday, wednesday and thursday and has a new gathering room since 1992. The Eerste Kamer (first chamber) meets monthly, and does so in a splendid 17th century Dutch-styled interior with a lavishly painted ceiling.
- Mauritshuis, Korte Vijverberg 8 (next to the Binnenhof), ☎ +31 70 3023456 (email@example.com), . T-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM, and also M 10AM-5PM from Apr-Aug.. Housed in a 17th-century palace overlooking the water of the Hofvijver pond, the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis contains the former collection of last Dutch stadtholder, William the V. While the museum is quite small (a complete tour takes a little over an hour) it contains some of the most famous work from the old Dutch Masters, including Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft), Rembrandt van Rijn (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp), Andy Warhol (“Queen Beatrix”), Rembrandt self-portraits at ages 20 and 63, and others. Adult incl. audio tour €11.50, under 18 get in free.
- Bredius Museum, Lange Vijverberg 14, ☎ +31 70 3620729 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . T-Su 11AM-5PM. The private collection of Abraham Bredius, a 19th-century art historian contains Dutch Baroque art, as well as drawings, porcelain and crafted silver. €5.00.
- Museum de Gevangenpoort, Buitenhof 33, ☎ +31 70 3460861. T-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 12PM-5PM. Built in 1370 as an entrance gate to the Binnenhof complex, the Gevangenpoort (Prison Gate) was converted into a prison in 1420. In 1853 the prison shutdown and it was turned into a museum. For a taste of medieval justice, have a look at their collection of torture instruments and get locked inside an original medieval cell block. €10.
- Lange Voorhout, (northwest along either side of the entrances to the Binnenhof). This former extension of The Hague Forest is now a large tree-lined square, bordered on all sides by grand 18th century townhouses. The large Baroque building on the west side is the ‘Huis Huguetan’, home to the Dutch supreme court. The square is especially pretty in spring, when its crocuses are in bloom. On Thursdays and Sundays there is a very good antique and book market. Every summer, the square hosts The Hague Sculpture (Den Haag Sculptuur) , a free outdoor sculpture exhibition. The fortified building on the corner is the US Embassy and has been a point of contention among locals and embassy officials because of the heightened security.
- Escher in Het Paleis, Lange Voorhout 74 (trams 16, 17 (Korte Voorhout stop)), ☎ +31 70 4277730, . T-Su 11AM-5PM. This former royal townhouse was recently converted into a museum dedicated to the famous Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. The first three floors display prints, sketches and archive material showing how Escher progressed from realistic pictures to his later works of optical illusion and geometrical pattern. The top floor offers a trip through Escher’s worlds through 3D graphic headsets. €9.00.
- Denneweg. This street is a prime area for finding antique and specialty shops. It also has some good pubs and upscale restaurants to recharge in after shopping. Parallel to the Denneweg run the Hooigracht and Smidswater canals, which are two of the very few canals in The Hague compared to other major Dutch cities and towns.
- Paleis Noordeinde, (near Prinsessewal), . This is the royal palace that Queen Beatrix uses as her office. While the inside is not open to the public, the 17th-century façade can be seen from Noordeinde street, which also has a large number of art galleries. The gardens on the opposite side of the palace are accessible to the public for walking.
- Panorama Mesdag, Zeestraat 65, ☎ +31 70 3644544 (email@example.com). M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 12PM-5PM. The Panorama Mesdag is a cylindrical painting from 1881, more than 14 m high and 120 m in circumference. One of the most famous painters of The Hague School, Hendrik Willem Mesdag, created a vista of the sea, the dunes and Scheveningen village. It is the oldest 19th-century panorama in the world that’s still in its original site. €6.
- De Verdieping van Nederland, (north side of Centraal Station next to platform 12, inside the Royal Library). W-Sa 9AM-5PM, T 9AM-8PM, Su-M 12PM-5PM. A free exhibition showcasing the history of the Netherlands through original copies of historically significant documents. It has the original copy of peace treaty of Münster with Spain, marking the end of the 80-year Dutch independence war in 1648, and the original sales act of the Dutch purchase of Manhattan from the Indians.
- Oude Stadhuis. The original town hall is a small building from the 15th century when The Hague itself was a small settlement around the Royal Court. In the 18th century it was expanded upon and now has a grand facade facing the 15th-century Grote Kerk (Big Church), originally used as city’s main place of worship, but now primarily functions as an exhibition space.
- Stadhuis. In the early 1990s, the municipality moved to this enormous white building by American architect Richard Meier, nicknamed by locals as the Ice Palace. Walk in to have a look at the lofty main hall, which has exhibits on various topics related to the city. The two air bridges through the hall connecting the various offices had to be fenced off to prevent suicides, but still make for a nice view of the atrium below. The city hall borders a large, somewhat barren modern square with a fountain. It contrasts sharply with the Baroque Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), located in a small park in the other side of the road.
The Statenkwartier area, located between the dunes and the centre, has leafy avenues and 19th century housing and is very popular with The Hague’s large expatriate community. The area is nice for walking tours of the 19th-century mansions, which showcase architectural diversity in The Hague. All kinds of neo- and modern-styles are represented here, especially Art Nouveau architecture. Good shops, delicatessens and restaurants are to be found on Statenkwartier’s main street, Frederik Hendriklaan, or ‘Fred’. The area also has a number of tourist attractions, which make it worth a visit, most of them being clustered around the Gemeentemuseum on Stadhouderslaan.
- Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Stadhouderslaan 41 (tram 17 (Statenkwartier stop) or bus 24 (Kijkduin stop)), ☎ +31 70 3381111 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . T-Su 11AM-5PM. The Gemeentemuseum (Municipal Museum) has a small collection of classical modern art (Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Monet, Sisley, Degas, Bacon). It boasts an especially large collection of Mondrians, showcasing the entire career of this painter known for his works with red, blue and yellow shapes. The Gemeentemuseum also has a large selection of paintings of the Hague School, a 19th century movement of landscape artists, in addition to period rooms and collections of fashion, musical instruments and decorative arts. Rotating exhibitions on 19th and early 20th century art held here are also quite popular. The museum is housed in a yellow brick building built in 1938 by Dutch architect Hendrik Berlage, a pioneer in modern architecture and best-known for his Beurs van Berlage – the exchange building on the Damrak in Amsterdam. Next to the Gemeentemuseum are the GEM, a museum with rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, and the Fotomuseum Den Haag, which has rotating photography exhibitions. €8.
- Museon, Stadhouderslaan 37 (next to the Gemeentemuseum), ☎ +31 70 3381338 (email@example.com), . T-Su 11AM-5PM. An interactive science museum, very popular with school groups and younger crowds. €7.50.
- Omniversum, President Kennedylaan 5 (behind the Museon), ☎ +0900-6664837 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Cinema with a round screen, offering a 360 degree viewing experience. Runs IMAX/Discovery-style documentaries; some are aimed at children. €9.
- Vredespaleis, Carnegieplein 2 (bus 24 (Kijkduin stop), tram 1 (to Scheveningen Noorderstand)), ☎ +31 70 3024137(email@example.com), . The Peace Palace was built in 1913, to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which was hoped to provide a means to legally settle international disputes. Ironically, World War I broke out just a year later. Today the Peace Palace also houses the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the UN, which settles disputes between countries only. 5€.
- Madurodam, George Maduroplein 1 (tram 9 or 22 (toward Scheveningen Noorderstrand), ☎ +31 (0)70 416 2400, . 9AM-6PM daily. This miniature city contains a selection of Dutch architecture, ranging from Amsterdam’s canals and church spires from Utrecht and Den Bosch, to modern architecture from Rotterdam and the enormous Delta works that protect the country from the sea. Madurodam also has an airport, a seaport, beaches, and little cars, trams and trains running through the entire town. A great attraction for kids and adults. €14.50 for adults, €10.50 for children.
- Paleis Huis ten Bosch,  The home palace of Queen Beatrix, Huis ten Bosch, is in the middle of the vast Haagse Bos park. (The Hague Forest). While the surrounding park is open, the palace itself is not open to visitors.
- Louwman Museum (Nationaal Automobiel Museum), Leidsestraatweg 57 (Between benoordenhoutseweg and N44/A44), ☎ +31 (0)70 – 304 7373 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +31 (0)70 – 383 5587), . Daily, except mondays, from 10AM-5PM. Opened in juli 2010. This private collection contains a century of history of the car. Price: € 13,50, 6-12 year € 7,50, Parking € 5,
- Boat trips The Hague (Salonboot),  Enjoy The Hague during a boat trip on the canals.
- Boat trips The Hague (Ooievaart – Dutch site only),  Enjoy The Hague from the water. Special rates for groups and also the possibility to rent a boat with a captain.
- Bike and walking tours (Elswheretours.com),  Schedule or join in on a fun and informative tour of The Hague! See the city through the eyes of a passionate, knowledgeable local guide. English, German and Dutch. Private tours and free tours also offered. Let’s go Elswhere!!
Since The Hague was founded on a former hunting manor, there are a variety of parks and green spaces that are ideal for exploration. Like the majority of cities in the Netherlands, The Hague is extremely bike friendly and it’s easy to get from one place to another on a bicycle if you feel like stepping outside the city centre. Scheveningen (and to a lesser extent Kijkduin) is a busy seaside resort filled with boardwalk cafes and close to the dunes. The prime months to get out and see The Hague on foot or by pedal are in the late spring, summer, and early fall months; just note that the beachfront area can get extremely crowded as vacationers from all over Europe come to visit and bask along the North Sea coastline.
- Park Clingendael – Once a former estate, the park is best known for its Japanese garden, one of the oldest (1910) in Europe. While the garden is open only from late April to mid-June, the surrounding area is open all year long and is free for visitors.
- Westbroekpark – An English-style park from the 1920s. Renowned for its Rosarium or rose garden, with 20,000 different varieties of roses blooming from June until November. The park includes a restaurant with lovely views.
- Haagse Bos – This park is the oldest forested area in the country. It stretches from the suburb of Wassenaar to the northeast and goes right to the doorstep of Centraal Station, where there is a small fenced off area with deer. Haagse Bos also has a large birds-nest built on top of a pole with which the local municipality has succeeded in attracting a pair of storks, since the stork is in the city’s emblem. The Haagse Bos also contains the Queen’s palace of Huis ten Bosch.
- Scheveningse Bosjes – A park near Scheveningen centred around a small lake, the Waterpartij. Home to the Indiëmonument, which commemorates Dutch victims of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies.
- Wassenaar – This suburb of The Hague is the wealthiest municipality in the country. Large wooded areas contain cycling and walking paths and are interspersed with huge estates. The village centre has a few restaurants and shops and is fairly close to the beach.
- Duinrell, (near Wassenaar village), . This amusement park is mainly aimed at children but has accommodation as well for longer stays since it is right near the beach. The surrounding dunes and forested areas are great for walking, cycling and mountain biking.
- The North Sea coast resorts, . Resort facilities at Scheveningen and at Kijkduin have access to the beach, the dunes, as well as seaside restaurants and cafes. Be sure to check out the Scheveningen Pier, the largest pier in the Netherlands, which has a 60 m (200 ft) lookout tower, bungee jumping, and a casino and restaurant. Scheveningen gets crowded in the summer, so try Kijkduin if you’re looking for something a little more peaceful.
Find Out More
If you would like to find out more about visiting The Hague, see the following websites:
DenHaag.com: an independent tourist guide to The Hague, Scheveningen and Kijkduin.
Holland.com: Tourist information that has a section on visiting The Hague.