The Dutch, it turns out, are very good at keeping secrets. The Hague is one of them. Most of you may have have heard of The Hague; that city in the Netherlands famous for its Peace Palace and central to European governance in one form or another, but have you actually heard of The Hague? Here I will show you another side – a look at things to do in the city beyond the politics, hopefully whet your appetite to visit a place in The Netherlands beyond the obvious tourist spots.
See also Best Places to eat in The Hague.
The Hague – where is it?
It’s a city on the western coast of the Netherlands with a population of approx. more than one million. Many of these are expats relocated temporarily or permanently, including embassy staff as most foreign embassies are located here, including 150 international organisations including the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court. It’s also seat to the Dutch parliament, government and Royal Court.
As mentioned, The Hague is located by the coast, hence The Hague Marketing Bureau, The Hague Convention Bureau and The Hague Business Agency (a joint venture to market the city)’s slogan of ‘The City, The Beach, The Hague’ – showcasing this city as a tourism destination.
The best way to reach it is to fly into Amsterdam and then take a train (roughly one every half hour, sometimes more) from the train station located under Schipol airport. See here for train times and prices.
It’s also possible to fly to Rotterdam and take a train too, but Amsterdam is a bigger airport and may have more international connections.
Things to do in The Hague – Culture
The Hague has been described as ‘distinguished and cultured’ and certainly during my time there, I can see why it has this label: magnificent architecture, museums, canals…it has it all.
The Mauritshuis Museum is housed in the former home of Count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, Governor of the Dutch colony in Brazil between 1636-1644 and instrumental in the slave trade, unfortunately. You can read more about him here. Since 1822 is has been used as a museum and extensively restored in 2012-2014 to extend the collections on show here.
The main pieces on show are from the collection of Prince William V and depict work by Dutch and Flemish artists from the Golden Age – a time in the history of the Netherlands roughly spanning the 17th century in which Dutch trade, science, military and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.
Various pieces have been donated over the years, one of the most famous is the Girl With The Pearl Earring by Vermeer – she’s not actually a person, but a ‘tronie’ – a painting of an imaginary figure. They depict a certain type or character; in this case a girl in exotic dress wearing an oriental turban and large pearl in her ear.
‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ – Vermeer’s most famous painting as seen in @mauritshuis_museum in The Hague, Netherlands ?? She’s not an actual person but a ‘tronie’ – a depiction of a certain character, in this case a girl in exotic dress with oriental turban and, of course, the large pearl in her ear. What’s your favourite painting? – – @thisisthehague #ThisIsTheHague @travwriters #bgtw #MauritshuisMuseum #visitthehague #GirlWithThePearlEarring #travelwriter #travelblogger #instagramnetherlands #instanetherlands?? #netherlandsgram #lifebeyondborders
What I loved about the Mauritshuis Museum is its grandeur and I personally loved the Pearl Earring ‘tronie’ – a rival to the Mona Lisa in my opinion. Why? The crowds were much less, no-one pushing and shoving to get so close to the paintings in general.
Even if you’re not an art aficionado, I would suggest a visit to the Mauritshuis to appreciate the calm and the building’s architecture and magnificence, including the ceilings:
The Mauritshuis building in The Hague is where the painting of the Girl with the Pearl Earring is housed. It’s a stunning building and dates back to roughly 1633 as a residence for Count Johan Mauritis of Nassau-Siegen, a Dutch colony in Brazil where he was military commander and governor for eight years. It’s been a Museum since 1822. Have you been? What’s your favourite Museum? I love the paintings on the ceilings here. – – – @travwriters @thisisthehague @mauritshuis_museum #mauritshuismuseum @visit_holland #thisisthehague #bgtw #lifebeyondborders #travelblogger #travelwriter #instagramholland #instaholland #hollandgram
- Entry fee €15.50 for adults, free if you are under the age of 19.
- It’s open 7 days a week from 10am – 6pm, except Monday’s when it’s 1pm – 6pm.
Now for a completely different type of culture. Haagse Markt is one of the largest open air cultural markets in Europe. You can buy anything here: fruit, vegetables, washing machines, candy floss, hair accessories, underwear and bring your mobile phone to get fixed or unlocked, to name but a few stalls. It’s entry is free and it’s an easy tram ride away from the centre.
As I like to discover places not too touristy, it was an intriguing find.
Warning: it gets extremely busy so look after your belongings, and if you’re a little claustrophobic, maybe go early morning or about half 4, a half hour before it closes.
Things to do in The Hague: The sea
As mentioned earlier, The Hague is a city by the sea and when the weather is good, one of the nicest things you can do is to travel down to Scheveningen, the area of The Hague that is by the sea. It’s Holland’s most famous seaside resort with long sandy beach, pier, paved esplanade and lighthouse. Remember though, it sits on the North Sea so don’t expect Mediterranean climates. It’s an interesting place to visit if you’re wanting to see an alternative side of the city and once again proves how eclectic The Hague is.
You can travel by tram from the city centre in only 15 minutes. There’s an abundance of activities for all the family: a ferris wheel on the pier, zip line, Sea Life centre or if the weather is good, simply enjoy the sand. You can read more about what to do at Scheveningen here.
Scheveningen reminded me a little of Bournemouth in the UK.
Things to do in The Hague: Travel to Scheveningen by canal boat from the centre
I elected to travel to the sea resort by canal boat from the centre and then back by tram. The family company of Willemsvaart welcomed me on board one of their open boats (so I’d suggest travelling in good weather or take a rain mac – they operate all year).
For only €10 for a trip that took just over an hour, it’s a lovely way to travel down to the sea and experience the different districts of The Haague with the houses and different architecture, the bridges and wildlife on the way.
Once you exit the boat, it’s a short walk to the coast – and a lovely way to spend a day.
On a canal boat trip from the centre of The Hague down to Scheveningen which is by the coast. You can see how low some of the bridges are! @thisisthehague #thisisthehague @travwriters #bgtw #instanetherlands #instagramnetherlands #visitthehague #netherlandsgram #lifebeyondborders #lifeofatravelwriter #lifeofatravelblogger #travelwriterslife #netherlandscanals
Things to do in The Hague – some facts
- Transport: Excellent. Efficient, on time, easy to use and cheap. The Hague Marketing Bureau – located in the centre of The Hague in the big library at Spui metro or tram stop – can provide you with metro and tram map. They also gave me two Day tickets worth €6.50 each and you tap in and out at a machine every time to enter and exit a train/tram.
If you’re staying longer, invest in an OV – Chipkaart. You buy the card and then top it up with money…a bit like a London Oyster card. Once again, you tap it in and out.
- Money: Take CASH! This is my only real grumble about The Hague and it’s something I find very odd for an international place; most shops don’t take Visa or Mastercard Debit or Credit cards. So you either spend cash, or make sure your card is registered to Maestro.
A couple of much smaller eateries I visited (admittedly not in the real tourist centre) – didn’t even take cash…but by that time they had to make an exception for me because I had ordered and eaten my food.
Be prepared for this – it’s an oddity as I say as most countries in the world at least take Visa and/or Mastercard – but not The Hague. I think this will change though as their tourism grows as it is not like this in Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hague as an alternative destination to visit, and I hope you are tempted to go too.