‘’Oh oh Den Haag, mooie stad achter de duinen… (oh oh the Hague, beautiful city behind the dunes)’’ – Harrie Jekkers
This time, I’ll be taking you on a journey to The Hague: the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. You get my point. It’s quite the show-off city.
When exiting either The Hague Central station or The Hague Hollands Spoor, you’ll notice the skyscrapers that grace the sky. This is the area that breathes business. In their grey and black suits, with their briefcases and Iphones in hand, the business men run past like there’s nothing more important in the world than closing that one particular deal. Welcome to The Hague! Or is there more?
The skyline in the business district is in sharp contrast with the historical buildings in the area of the Buitenhof, or Outer Court. Looking out over a beautiful pond, you can gaze at the governmental buildings of the Binnenhof and you will also see Mauritshuis, the famous art museum. The museum features mainly art from the Golden Age, by artists such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Frans Hals.
The square behind the facades of the governmental buildings is called the Binnenhof, or Inner Court. Upon entering this area, you might run into some famous politicians. I almost dropped my camera the other time when we ran into the Dutch Prime Minister. His office is in a small tower (therefore also nicknamed ‘the little tower’) at the Binnenhof, so there’s always a chance that you will see him on a lunch break or riding his bike on his way home. Still, it was quite impressive to see him there.
Not only politicians are the prominent people you can find in The Hague. The Royal City of the Hague, as the city in South-Holland is nicknamed, has been a welcome retreat to Royal guests for centuries. When you turn onto the Noordeinde street and pass all the fancy looking boutique shops, you will end up facing Palace Noordeinde. This is the official working palace of King Willem-Alexander. Look out for the Dutch flag. If it’s up, the King is present.
If you are a big fan of everything royal, you might want to consider driving around in the green outskirts of The Hague, where you can find the former residence of Princess Beatrix (Huis ten Bosch Palace). Villa Eikenhorst, home to the King and Queen, can be found in Wassenaar, also not far from The Hague. Even though both residences are not open to public, you can see them from a distance. If that’s not even enough royal for you, you can consider taking part in the self-guided The Hague Royal walking tour.
I’ve just only briefly introduced the boutique shops in the Noordeinde street (aka Hague Chic). Of course there are many more shopping possibilities in and around The Hague. There is for example the Haagsche Bluf, a blend of buildings and facades in different architectural styles, boasting many one brand stores. My personal favorite in the shopping category definitely has to be the Passage, a gorgeous covered shopping street, dating back to the late 19th century. Here you can find large brands such as Apple, Mango and The Sting, but also some smaller and more unique shops and boutiques.
From the heart of the Hague, we’ll now take a tram ride (tram 1, 9 or 11) to Scheveningen. This is probably Holland’s most well-known seaside resort ánd the hardest word to pronounce. We Dutchies love to make foreigners pronounce the word ‘Scheveningen’. Jay, over at Jay’s Oddysey did a very weak attempt the other day, and you can listen to the result in the interview he did with me. I’m sorry Jay, better luck next time!
Scheveningen is the perfect starting point for a pleasant day at the beach. However, you might want to make a stop at Madurodam first, which is located right in between The Hague’s city center and Scheveningen. Especially when you’re traveling with children, this is a wonderful museum to visit. Or if you haven’t enough time to explore the entire Netherlands, this is the place to be. All the Dutch highlights from the canals in Amsterdam to the tulip fields are replicated on miniature scale in this lovely open-air museum.
Obviously, just like London, the Netherlands is known for its unpredictable weather. The tons of beach clubs in Scheveningen that offer meals, drinks and fun parties are there only during summer time. But even when the weather is dodgy, there is enough to do in this The Hague suburb. Sea Life Scheveningen for example is located right off the beach and has a large collection of sea animals and plants. Another option would be to have a drink or a bite to eat at Crazy Pianos, where the most talented piano players play all songs you’d like to hear.
One of the most striking landmarks in Scheveningen is the Kurhaus, which has been part of the Amrâth Hotel Group since 2014. Built between 1884 and 1885 by two German architects, the Kurhaus originally was a hotel and concert hall. However, the final concert given at the Kurhaus was the controversial concert of the Rolling Stones, back in 1964. The majestic building still hasn’t lost its visual appeal and overlooks the wide Scheveningen beach and the North Sea.
The Hague, a city behind the dunes, but it is also so much more than that.
Note: all photos and opinions in this post are my own