The Hague’s City Center
The heart of the city contains most of the historic architecture from the medieval, renaissance, and Baroque periods and is easily accessible on foot. You’ll also find lots of outdoor cafes and shopping near the Plein on the Lange Poten or just east of there on the Hofweg.
- Plein, (southwest from Centraal Station along Herengracht and Korte Poten). This square — Plein simply translates as ‘square’ in English — is one of the most elegant in the centre. Located right next to the Binnenhof, it is lined with historic government buildings on three of its four sides. The north side is lined with bars and cafés, which spill out onto the square in summer. These sidewalk cafés are quite popular with politicians from the neighbouring Binnenhof, and even Prime Minister Mark Rutte can be spotted here with a pint regularly. The square is also the scene for demonstrations against government policies. The statue in the middle is that of William of Orange, heralded as the founding father of the Dutch nation.
- Binnenhof, (northwest of the Plein, trams 1 and 9 (Spui stadhuis stop), trams 2, 3, 6, & 10 (Spui stop)), ☎ +31 070 757 02 00 (firstname.lastname@example.org). M-Sa 09:30AM-5PM. Since the 13th century the Binnenhof (‘Inner Court’) has subsequently been the seat of the government of the county of Holland, the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It used to be a castle, surrounded by moats on all sides. Since then it has been modified countless times to accommodate the expanding Dutch government. The moats have been filled, but the castle still borders on the Court Pond (named Hofvijver). In its waters the old buildings continue to mirror themselves. Today, the Binnenhof houses the two chambers of the Dutch parliament and the Prime Minister’s office in a small round tower opposite the Mauritshuis. Enter through one of the gates on Plein or Buitenhof and you will find yourself in a medieval enclosed courtyard, surrounded by architecture from the 13th up to the 19th century. There may be crowds gathered here on occasion because of public demonstrations, TV airings or receptions for foreign officials. In the middle stands the Knight’s Hall, the original centrepiece of the castle, used for ceremonial purposes. The houses of parliament and the Knight’s Hall are accessible in guided tours. It is also possible to attend the meetings of the parliament. The Tweede Kamer (second chamber) of parliament meets on tuesday, wednesday and thursday and has a new gathering room since 1992. The Eerste Kamer (first chamber) meets monthly, and does so in a splendid 17th century Dutch-styled interior with a lavishly painted ceiling.
- Mauritshuis, Korte Vijverberg 8 (next to the Binnenhof), ☎ +31 70 3023456 (email@example.com). T-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM, and also M 10AM-5PM from Apr-Aug.. Housed in a 17th-century palace overlooking the water of the Hofvijver pond, the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis contains the former collection of last Dutch stadtholder, William the V. While the museum is quite small (a complete tour takes a little over an hour) it contains some of the most famous work from the old Dutch Masters, including Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft), Rembrandt van Rijn (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp), Andy Warhol (“Queen Beatrix”), Rembrandt self-portraits at ages 20 and 63, and others. Adult incl. audio tour €11.50, under 18 get in free.
- Bredius Museum, Lange Vijverberg 14, ☎ +31 70 3620729 (firstname.lastname@example.org). T-Su 11AM-5PM. The private collection of Abraham Bredius, a 19th-century art historian contains Dutch Baroque art, as well as drawings, porcelain and crafted silver. €5.00.
- Museum de Gevangenpoort, Buitenhof 33, ☎ +31 70 3460861. T-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 12PM-5PM. Built in 1370 as an entrance gate to the Binnenhof complex, the Gevangenpoort (Prison Gate) was converted into a prison in 1420. In 1853 the prison shutdown and it was turned into a museum. For a taste of medieval justice, have a look at their collection of torture instruments and get locked inside an original medieval cell block. €10.
- Lange Voorhout, (northwest along either side of the entrances to the Binnenhof). This former extension of The Hague Forest is now a large tree-lined square, bordered on all sides by grand 18th century townhouses. The large Baroque building on the west side is the ‘Huis Huguetan’, home to the Dutch supreme court. The square is especially pretty in spring, when its crocuses are in bloom. On Thursdays and Sundays there is a very good antique and book market. Every summer, the square hosts The Hague Sculpture (Den Haag Sculptuur), a free outdoor sculpture exhibition. The fortified building on the corner is the US Embassy and has been a point of contention among locals and embassy officials because of the heightened security.
- Escher in Het Paleis, Lange Voorhout 74 (trams 16, 17 (Korte Voorhout stop)), ☎ +31 70 4277730. T-Su 11AM-5PM. This former royal townhouse was recently converted into a museum dedicated to the famous Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. The first three floors display prints, sketches and archive material showing how Escher progressed from realistic pictures to his later works of optical illusion and geometrical pattern. The top floor offers a trip through Escher’s worlds through 3D graphic headsets. €9.00.
- Denneweg. This street is a prime area for finding antique and specialty shops. It also has some good pubs and upscale restaurants to recharge in after shopping. Parallel to the Denneweg run the Hooigracht and Smidswater canals, which are two of the very few canals in The Hague compared to other major Dutch cities and towns.
- Paleis Noordeinde, (near Prinsessewal). This is the royal palace that Queen Beatrix uses as her office. While the inside is not open to the public, the 17th-century façade can be seen from Noordeinde street, which also has a large number of art galleries. The gardens on the opposite side of the palace are accessible to the public for walking.
- Panorama Mesdag, Zeestraat 65, ☎ +31 70 3644544 (email@example.com). M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 12PM-5PM. The Panorama Mesdag is a cylindrical painting from 1881, more than 14 m high and 120 m in circumference. One of the most famous painters of The Hague School, Hendrik Willem Mesdag, created a vista of the sea, the dunes and Scheveningen village. It is the oldest 19th-century panorama in the world that’s still in its original site. €6.
- De Verdieping van Nederland, (north side of Centraal Station next to platform 12, inside the Royal Library). W-Sa 9AM-5PM, T 9AM-8PM, Su-M 12PM-5PM. A free exhibition showcasing the history of the Netherlands through original copies of historically significant documents. It has the original copy of peace treaty of Münster with Spain, marking the end of the 80-year Dutch independence war in 1648, and the original sales act of the Dutch purchase of Manhattan from the Indians.
- Oude Stadhuis. The original town hall is a small building from the 15th century when The Hague itself was a small settlement around the Royal Court. In the 18th century it was expanded upon and now has a grand facade facing the 15th-century Grote Kerk (Big Church), originally used as city’s main place of worship, but now primarily functions as an exhibition space.
- Stadhuis. In the early 1990s, the municipality moved to this enormous white building by American architect Richard Meier, nicknamed by locals as the Ice Palace. Walk in to have a look at the lofty main hall, which has exhibits on various topics related to the city. The two air bridges through the hall connecting the various offices had to be fenced off to prevent suicides, but still make for a nice view of the atrium below. The city hall borders a large, somewhat barren modern square with a fountain. It contrasts sharply with the Baroque Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), located in a small park in the other side of the road.
The Statenkwartier area, located between the dunes and the center, has leafy avenues and 19th century housing and is very popular with The Hague‘s large expatriate community. The area is nice for walking tours of the 19th-century mansions, which showcase architectural diversity in The Hague. All kinds of neo- and modern-styles are represented here, especially Art Nouveau architecture. Good shops, delicatessens and restaurants are to be found on Statenkwartier’s main street, Frederik Hendriklaan, or ‘Fred’. The area also has a number of tourist attractions, which make it worth a visit, most of them being clustered around the Gemeentemuseum on Stadhouderslaan.
- Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Stadhouderslaan 41 (tram 17 (Statenkwartier stop) or bus 24 (Kijkduin stop)), ☎ +31 70 3381111 (firstname.lastname@example.org). T-Su 11AM-5PM. The Gemeentemuseum (Municipal Museum) has a small collection of classical modern art (Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Monet, Sisley, Degas, Bacon). It boasts an especially large collection of Mondrians, showcasing the entire career of this painter known for his works with red, blue and yellow shapes. The Gemeentemuseum also has a large selection of paintings of the Hague School, a 19th century movement of landscape artists, in addition to period rooms and collections of fashion, musical instruments and decorative arts. Rotating exhibitions on 19th and early 20th century art held here are also quite popular. The museum is housed in a yellow brick building built in 1938 by Dutch architect Hendrik Berlage, a pioneer in modern architecture and best-known for his Beurs van Berlage – the exchange building on the Damrak in Amsterdam. Next to the Gemeentemuseum are the GEM, a museum with rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, and the Fotomuseum Den Haag, which has rotating photography exhibitions. €8.
- Museon, Stadhouderslaan 37 (next to the Gemeentemuseum), ☎ +31 70 3381338 (email@example.com). T-Su 11AM-5PM. An interactive science museum, very popular with school groups and younger crowds. €7.50.
- Omniversum, President Kennedylaan 5 (behind the Museon), ☎ +0900-6664837 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Cinema with a round screen, offering a 360 degree viewing experience. Runs IMAX/Discovery-style documentaries; some are aimed at children. €9.
- Vredespaleis, Carnegieplein 2 (bus 24 (Kijkduin stop), tram 1 (to Scheveningen Noorderstand)), ☎ +31 70 3024137 (email@example.com), . The Peace Palace was built in 1913, to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which was hoped to provide a means to legally settle international disputes. Ironically, World War I broke out just a year later. Today the Peace Palace also houses the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the UN, which settles disputes between countries only. 5€.
- Madurodam, George Maduroplein 1 (tram 9 or 22 (toward Scheveningen Noorderstrand), ☎ +31 (0)70 416 2400. 9AM-6PM daily. This miniature city contains a selection of Dutch architecture, ranging from Amsterdam’s canals and church spires from Utrecht and Den Bosch, to modern architecture from Rotterdam and the enormous Delta works that protect the country from the sea. Madurodam also has an airport, a seaport, beaches, and little cars, trams and trains running through the entire town. A great attraction for kids and adults. €14.50 for adults, €10.50 for children.
- Paleis Huis ten Bosch, The home palace of former Queen Beatrix, Huis ten Bosch, is in the middle of the vast Haagse Bos park. (The Hague Forest). While the surrounding park is open, the palace itself is not open to visitors.
- Louwman Museum (Nationaal Automobiel Museum), Leidsestraatweg 57 (Between benoordenhoutseweg and N44/A44), ☎ +31 (0)70 – 304 7373 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +31 (0)70 – 383 5587). Daily, except mondays, from 10AM-5PM. Opened in juli 2010. This private collection contains a century of history of the car. Price: € 13,50, 6-12 year € 7,50, Parking € 5,-.