Explore The Hague, Netherlands
Explore Hague, 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, and 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 stateliest of the country. Just outside the city centre, posh neighborhoods 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 neighborhoods 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.
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 neighboring cities of Zoetermeer and Rotterdam.
A major redevelopment project is 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 Hague shares an airport with Rotterdam.
About the Hague
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 center. 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 centered 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 center 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.
- Evening of the 29th of April. While Amsterdam is generally known for having country’s largest celebration of Dutch Queen’s Day on the 30th of April, in recent years The Hague has held the largest anticipatory party the night before. KoninginneNach (Queens’ Night in The Hague dialect) has bands and DJ’s giving shows in 5 different locations in the city center.
- Scheveningen International Sand Sculpture Festival. May.
- Scheveningen International Fireworks Festival. August.
- Last Sunday of June. Huge, free, one-day pop music festival held in Zuiderpark. Attracts nearly 400.000 visitors each year, nearly as many people as actually live in the city, making the festival the largest of its kind in the world.
- North Sea Regatta. End of May / Beginning of June. An international sailing contest held off the coast of Scheveningen.
- Tong Tong Fair. End of May/beginning of June. This claims to be the largest Eurasian festival in the world. Since its first edition in 1958 it has been the quintessential event and meeting place for the country’s sizable Dutch-East-Indian community. The festival also attracts lots of outsiders though, who come to sample Indonesian cuisine in the huge food halls, listen to music, buy foodstuffs, Indonesian clothes and parafernalia and inform themselves about Indonesian culture. The festival is held in large tents on the Malieveld, opposite Centraal.
- Den Haag Sculptuur. June, July and August. Free sculpture exposition on Lange Voorhout with different themes each year.
- North Sea Jazz Festival. Second weekend of July. After having been held in The Hague for 30 years, this world-famous jazz festival has now (2006) moved to Rotterdam because of accommodation problems in The Hague.
- Live Jazz. There are a lot of jazz musicians in The Hague, and you can hear them and other (inter)national musicians play around town!
- Third Tuesday in September. Prinsjesdag or ‘Princes Day’ marks the beginning of the new parliamentary year. On this day, large crowds are drawn by the traditional journey that King Willem makes from his palace at Noordeinde to the Knight’s Hall at the Binnenhof. He makes his trip in the Gouden Koets (Golden Carriage), a gift from the people of Amsterdam to his great-grandmother Wilhelmina from 1903. The carriage is used only for this special occasion. In the Knight’s Hall, the King then performs his duty as the formal head of state by reading out the Troonrede (Throne Speech) to the gathered chambers of the parliament. The throne speech contains a summary of the policies the cabinet is planning to implement over the next year.
- Crossing Border Festival. November.
- Today’s Art Festival. Last weekend of September. International Festival beyond Art.
What to buy
The lively and historical centre of The Hague is perfect for a day of shopping. The shopping area around the Spuistraat and Grote Marktstraat is busy seven days a week. Most of the main department stores are located in this shopping area.
- Maison de Bonneterie, Gravenstraat 2. An opulent fashion store inside a glass-domed building built in 1913. Stores such as Burberry, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, and others cater to an upscale crowd. They also have purveyors to Queen Beatrix herself!
- De Bijenkorf, Wagenstraat 32 (corner Grote Marktstraat). This middle-priced to expensive department store is housed in a large building from 1924, built in a unique expressionist style with brick and copper. Have a look at the glass-stained windows in the staircase. The restaurant ‘La Ruche’ in the third floor has a good view of the surrounding area.
- You can find the best shopping in The Hague on the side streets that circle out from the city centre. While lots of them are upscale, you can find a few bargain stores dotted here and there.
- De Passage – A unique covered shopping gallery built in 1882, with a sister-building in Brussels. Here you can find specialty and upmarket fashion shopping. Check out the outdoor cafes just outside on Buitenhof.
- De (The Candy Box), (next to the Oude Stadhuis). This building is near the up-market Hoogstraat shopping area. Locals call it “The Candy Box” because of its unique exterior. Completed in 2000, it’s one of the newer buildings in the city.
- Prinsestraat – Specialty shops, delicatessens and restaurants in the area around this street, located between Grote Kerk and Noordeinde palace.
- Pedestrianized, shopping streets with mainly smalll chain stores. Other streets bordering the area with similar shops are Vlamingstraat, Venestraat and Wagenstraat.
- The American Book Center, Lange Poten 23. This unique store sells new and used English titles and caters to both expats and locals. If you’re dragging extra copies of books across Europe, but don’t want to throw them away, try trading them in here.
- Denneweg and Noordeinde. These shopping streets lie parallel to one another from either side of the Binnenhof. The former has antiques, bric-a-brac, and several interesting restaurants and specialty food shops, while the latter is known for its boutiques and haute couture.
- Lange Voorhout. This street doesn’t have many shops, but there it’s a beautiful old street that has a weekly returning market.
- Antique & Book Market. 10.00-18.00. Now if you are looking for great original souvenirs to bring to your friends, then this is a great place to go: Every Thursday and/or Sunday there is an Antique and Book Market, where you can find original Dutch gifts. Most of the time, there is also a man there (Cornelis) who sells tiny hand painted paintings of Dutch landscapes for only €5 a piece that make a great gift. The market is not that big, so look out for him and you will easily spot him.
What to eat
Just as Indian restaurants abound in the UK, the Netherlands has an excellent tradition in Indonesian and colonial Dutch-Indies cuisine. After Indonesia became independent from the Netherlands in 1945, the country received a large number of former colonials from Dutch and mixed descent that had been forced to leave the newly independent colony. The Hague received a relatively large number of these people and is still a centre of the Dutch-Indonesian community.
Bars and Pubs
Grote Markt is the place to go for drinks and food when you visit The Hague. Many different bars, restaurants and pubs are located at this unique location, right in the city centre of The Hague.
On “Plein” you will find a variety off nightclubs. Most of the clubs here are actually restaurants that turn into a club on Friday and Saturday night (some clubs are open on Thursday as well). Entrance is usually free, except with special parties. Prices of drinks are quite similar in every club. “Plein” is a little trendier than the “Grote Markt” area so expect girls in fine dresses and boys with casual party outfits. Usually clubs open around 23:00.
Explore Hague, the Netherlands but also get out
- Quaint cities like Delft, known for its famous blue pottery, and the university town of Leiden are just 15 minutes by train.
- Delft – Arguably the country’s most picturesque canal-lined town. Home of the famous Delft Blue pottery (or Delftware), and the home of Baroque painter Johannes Vermeer.
- Leiden – This town lays claim to the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden University, which was founded in 1575. It is the second largest 17th-century town centre after Amsterdam. Home to many interesting museums.
Official tourism websites of the Hague
For more information please visit the official government website: