After Rotterdam, the third-largest city of the Netherlands and located close to Rotterdam is the ‘The Hague’. In fact, Rotterdam and The Hague share a common airport. “The city of peace and justice”, The Hague is located at a distance of 70 kilometres from Amsterdam and 23 kilometres from Rotterdam.
What to expect
The Hague is an ideal example of a Business Travel destination. This city is situated on the western coast of the Netherlands by the North Sea and to the southwest of Amsterdam. Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands but the cabinet seat of the Netherlands is at The Hague. This city is the seat of the Supreme Court, the States-General and the Council of State. Over 150 international organizations and most of the foreign embassies in the Netherlands are located in this city.
The Hague is among one of the major cities along with New York, Geneva, Vienna, Rome and Nairobi hosting a few UN organizations such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. The Hague is also the house of the king of the Netherlands Willem Alexander (Huis ten Bosch).
In 1242 the name Die Haghe first emerged. During the 15th century, the name was changed to des Gravenhage which means the private hunting ground of The Count. Nowadays in all Dutch communications, the name Den Haag is being used to represent The Hague.
There are no full-proof documents on the origin of this city. However, it has been assumed that The Hague was founded by the counts of Holland and was used as the administrative centre since the 13th century. During the Eighty Years’ War Spanish troops invaded the city and they planned to demolish the city, but after persuasion by William I (the main leader in the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs), the proposal was shelved. The city became the permanent seat of the States of Holland and the States-General of the Dutch Republic in 1588.
During World War II the city suffered huge damage and witnessed massive killings of Jews during the German occupation. During the post-war rebuilding of the city took place and The Hague expanded to the southwest.
With two distinct beach resorts, The Hague is now the largest Dutch city on the North Sea. In the North-West part of the city, the main beach resort Scheveningen is a popular tourist attraction which sees around 10 million visitors a year. In the South West of the city, the second beach resort is a smaller one.
The city layout is more spacious than other Dutch cities. With its various parks and green zones around natural streams, it has become the number one green city in the Netherlands. The Hague also has a canal system mainly around the old city centre and is a popular tourist attraction point.
Among major International and European organizations in The Hague are Eurojust, European Patent Office, Europol, The Hague Academy of International Law, Hague Conference on Private International law, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, NATO Communications and Peoples Organizations, The European Library etc.
Places to visit
You can take part in various activities in The Hague, the cultural treasure chest by the sea. One of my favourites is Museum hopping.
Louwman Museum is a private museum where you will find an exhibition of cars from the past hundred years which are part of the Louwman’s family collection. Located at Leidsestraatweg near A-44 highway to visit this museum you do not have to be an automobile fanatic. Around 250 cars, wagons and motorbikes are on display from a 1910 ‘Swan’ to an Aston Martin DB-5 and a car of Winston Churchill. This DB-5 is known as the James Bond car. Actually, this car was used in two of the James Bond movies Gold Finger and Thunderbolt. The museum is open for visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm.
Mauritshuis Museum is situated at Plein which is a 10 minutes’ walk from Den Haag Central railway station. This 17th-century palace houses the highest number of masterpieces per square metre in the Netherlands. Paintings from the Dutch golden era include the works of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Van Dyck and Adriaen Coorte. You will find a collection of 800 paintings, 50 miniatures, 20 sculptures and various other drawings and prints.
This palace Museum is one of the most beautiful examples of Dutch architecture. It is open every day for visitors. On Mondays, it’s open at 01:00 pm and on other days from 10:00 am. On Thursdays, it is open until 08:00 pm. To avoid rush you may visit the museum during afternoon time.
Another interesting museum in The Hague is Museum Escher, situated at the Lange Voorhout lane in the city centre. The museum is housed in the palace of Queen Mother Emma is a permanent exhibition of artist M. C. Escher. Born in 1898 the Dutch genius Maurits Cornelis Escher was a master of drawing optical illusions.
I suggest you take a closer look at his works and then you would understand what immaculate and scientific masterpieces these are. The second floor is a place for special experience and presentation. Here you will witness various themes in which Escher was involved like reflection, perception and perspective. This museum remains open for visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 am to 05:00 pm.
The Peace Palace is the most photographed building in The Hague and is situated at Carnegieplein. This palace is the seat of the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration. The design of the palace is a result of an architecture competition held in the early nineteen hundreds. The worldwide recognition of the International City of Peace and Justice is earned by The Hague because of this building and the organisations it houses. Just beside the entrance, you can see the Eternal Peace Flame burning. To visit the palace an advance booking is required and you need to be accompanied by a guide. It remains open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00am to 04:00pm.
Located in the heart of The Hague’s city centre Binnenhof or The Inner Court is a place of Netherland’s one of the most historical importance. Freely open to the public, the place will leave you amazed with its monumental old buildings and ample open spaces. It is a must-visit destination in the city. Walk through the courtyard or take a tour through the various halls, you can listen to lots of historical tales from your guide.
Visit the House of Representatives or climb the stairs to the Hall of Knights and find out the historical details of this place. Do not forget to see the throne of King Willem Alexander. Since 1446 it was the location of meetings of the Staten-General or the Dutch Parliament and for many centuries remained as the centre of Dutch politics. Hofvijver or the ‘Court Pond’ is situated just next to it. Since 1982, the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands is located in one of the towers named Torentje (i.e. the little tower). Another spectacular attraction of Binnenhof is the golden Neo-gothic fountain.
One more great thing to see is the Panorama Mesdag. It is a painting on a circular canvas which is the largest in Europe. The building where this canvas is housed is built especially for it. In the centre, artificial dunes have been created. Take a 360-degree view from the viewpoint above the dune to experience the Scheveningen Seaside and the old fishermen’s village from 1881. The view and lights are never the same. This magical illusive painting is a masterpiece of H. W. Mesdag. Watching the painting will take you to the 1881 Scheveningen.
The 1680 square metre canvas was painted by Mesdag in four months with the support of several fellow artists. Panorama Mesdag remains open 7 days a week. From Monday to Saturday the opening and closing times are 10:00 am and 05:00 pm respectively. Whereas on Sundays the closing time is the same but it opens at 11:00 am.
You can’t perhaps complete travelling the whole of the Netherlands. But, you still want to get the flavour of the country? Then you must visit Madurodam located between The Hague city centre and Scheveningen… this place is well connected by train, bus and trams. Within two hours you can get the impression of the Netherlands. This miniature park consist of canal houses, tulip fields, a cheese market, a wooden shoe factory, windmills, the peace palace and the delta works all in miniature form.
There are interactive touch screens also available at this park to tell you all the stories about this country. These stories are available in Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese languages. From here you can discover the interesting stories behind the Dutch icons. The park is open 7 days a week from 09:00 am to 08:00 pm.
The beach resort area Scheveningen is located only 15 minutes from the Hague city centre. You can take a stroll along the shore, enjoy the sunset over the North Sea, sip a drink or dine in any of the beachside eateries. Visit the marine museum Sea Life right near the beach to discover the undersea world. Here you can watch sea turtles, jellyfish and other sea life floating around you. Apart from exhibiting diverse marine life this place also offers lessons on the importance of nature conservation.
There is also a tropical forest here with the animals from Amazon. The sea horse breeding program here is a massive success. If you can reach at the right time you can witness the feeding of sea creatures. This place remains open from 10:00 am to 07:00 pm 7 days a week from April to June and September to October. It closes at 8pm in July and August, and at 6pm between November to March.
Other activities include bicycling around the town, boat rides on the canals, watching a 3D movie or visiting Holland Casino for great nightlife. This casino is located 6 kilometres from the city centre and very well connected. Here you will find 600 slot machines, American roulette, Punto Banco, Black Jack and Poker to play with. Multiple bars and restaurants are available. The casino remains open from 11:30 pm to 03:00 am and the restaurant remains open from 05:00 pm to 01:30 am.
A few words about The Hague’s business district Beatrix Kwartier… hundreds of international organizations and multinationals operate from here. With a World Trade Centre and other financial service providers, oil and gas companies and tech companies Beatrix Kwartier can be referred to as a destination of ‘Business Tourism’.
Another must-visit on the list should be The Royal Palace of Noordeinde. In the Dutch language, it is ‘Paleis Noordeinde’. Located on one of The Hague’s shopping streets, Noordeinde Palace was restored in 1815 and became the residence of King William I. Nowadays this Palace is the office of present King Willem Alexander and is not open for Tourists. However, you can adore its beauty and architecture from the outside.
I suggest visiting the Palace on a Wednesday to witness new ambassadors attending a ceremony with King. You can watch the grand arrival of horsemen escorted state coaches. You can listen to the military band and the national anthem from outside the Palace.
You can also visit the Palace Garden behind. This garden is open to the public daily. The garden landscaped in the seventeenth century was known as Princess Garden. Now sketched with romantic flower beds, ponds, fountains and marbles statues is a great place for a picnic during summers. This place is easily accessible by tram, car and bikes. You can take a 15 minutes’ walk from the Central station to reach here.
The Hague City Centre has many shopping streets. Old City Centre has a wide range of shops including flagship shops. Located on Princestraat you will find brands like Laura Ashley, Oger, Roberto Botticelli, Karen Millen etc.
Located in the city centre another interesting shopping place is the Passage with its exceptional architecture. Built in 1885 this is the oldest shopping arcade of the Netherlands with countless speciality stores. Now it’s on the list of UNESCO monuments.
For diverse and high-end shopping you can visit Noordeinde just 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre. With brands from international designers, the catchline of this place could easily be “Get away from the masses and discover”.
Wining & Dining
The Hague is a great place for wining and dining with various options like sidewalk café, upscale restaurants, casual meals in one of the many eateries and China town.
The Penthouse is the highest restaurant of the Netherlands located in The Hague at an elevation of 135 metres (42nd floor)… even higher than the Eiffel Tower restaurant. Located at Haagse Toren, it’s only 1.3 kilometres from the city centre. This is a perfect place to visit for quality dining along with a breathtaking view of the city.
In the oldest and charming street of Princestraat, you can try Japanese delicacies at Oni. Sushi and traditional way Sashimi are their specialities.
Trendy hotspot Oker will surprise you with its dishes as well as a wide range of wine collections. You can choose from wide varieties of white, red and rose wines here. It’s open 7 days a week and is located 3.2 kilometres from the central station towards the northeast.
Getting to & around
From Amsterdam Central, it takes only 1 hour 10 minutes to reach The Hague. The Hague is also well connected by air to several international destinations as well to various cities in Europe. The flight time from London to The Hague is only 55 minutes.
Inside the city, the public transport network is very strong. You can avail Bus, Tram, Randstad Rail and Trains to move around from one place to another. Tram and Randstad Rail especially have a very good network within the city. Moreover like Amsterdam and Rotterdam you can easily rent a bicycle and roam around the city. ‘I Amsterdam City Card’ for hassle-free travelling is also helpful for visiting The Hague.
When to Go
Like other coastal areas of the Netherlands the Hague also has a very temperate climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. So Climate never gets extreme. You can enjoy a cool summer and moderate winters here. There is no particular monsoon season, you can expect rains any time, so carry a raincoat.
April to September is relatively dry and travellers prefer to visit The Hague during this period. However, you can visit any time of the year. Being a business city and also an important place of international interest The Hague is visited by people of various interests throughout the year.
So why the name of the city has a ‘the’ before its name? The name of the city is derived from ‘des Gravenhage’ which means “the private hunting ground” of The Count or “The Counts’ Hedge”. That is the reason there is a “the” in front of the name…