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.