I’m so excited to welcome Caitlyn of With Caitlyn to share some of the best things to do in The Hague. Although Caitlyn currently lives in Spain, she originally hails from near The Hague, so is here to give us a local’s perspective on the city. If you enjoy this post, you should definitely check out her travel blog and follow more of her adventures!
The Hague is the third-largest city in the Netherlands. It is located on the western coast and is the capital of South Holland. The government is located in The Hague instead of the capital Amsterdam. There are more than half a million people living here.
People always want to visit Amsterdam, when they decide to visit the small country in Europe. There are however a lot of locals that prefer Rotterdam or The Hague over Amsterdam. I personally don’t like Amsterdam as much because it is so big and touristic. The Hague would be my choice anytime. So let me tell you why you should also include a few days in The Hague when you are in Holland.
History of The Hague
There are not a lot of things sure about the history and origin of the city. Floris IV, who already owned two houses in the area, wanted another residence, which is now known as the Hofvijver.
His son William II turned the court into a ‘royal palace, now known as the Binnenhof (translated as the Inner Court). The place was finally finished when his son Floris V added the Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall). The Ridderzaal is still used nowadays.
Around the palace, a city formed. As it grew, more and more cities wanted to work together with The Hague. This is the reason there are a lot of embassies and is it the location of the government.
During the Second World War, a lot of damage was done. The city was bombed, but after the war, it became the largest building site in Europe. Officially, the city never received city status, but nowadays ‘city rights’ are not important anymore.
The city is divided into a total of 8 districts, which are again divided into neighborhoods. To keep it easy, I will just talk about the difference between the two biggest areas.
The wealthier areas: Statenkwartier, Belgisch Park, Marlot, Benoorderhout, and Archipelbuurt are closer to the sea and located in the northwestern part of the city.
You can discover where someone is from by the way they talk. The more affluent citizens are called ‘Hagenaars’and talk ‘
Things to Do in the Hague
Clearly one of the most visited tourist sites. The former castle from the Counts of Holland and the historical center of government in Holland. There are two possibilities to visit the Binnenhof.
A lot of the tourist only walk through the gates and look at the buildings. This is beautiful, as it is a historical site with old buildings. But if you really like history, I recommend going on a guided tour.
With the guided tour, which is in Dutch (but there are English audio tours available), you will also visit the Ridderzaal and the Tweede Kamer (The place where all the debates are held).
The tours are 90 minutes long and the most expensive one is €11,-.
The Mauritshuis is a museum with mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings. The building is from the 17th century. You can find a lot of Dutch artists here. Like Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring), which is probably the most famous one. But you will also find Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Paules Potter, Jacob van Ruisdael, and others.
The current collection is almost 800 paintings and goes by the name Royal Picture Gallery. The Mauritshuis is directly next to the Binnenhof, so why not walk inside for a bit and enjoy.
3. Scheveningen beach
To be honest, you can spend a weekend in Scheveningen alone. It is one of the eight districts and is directly next to the sea. The beach is very popular in summer and the pier and promenade are always busy. They have something to do everywhere and whenever.
There is a museum with sculptures, but you will find them everywhere on the promenade.
Find casino’s, amazing restaurants (The fish is super fresh here, straight from the harbor) and other entertainment.
You can also visit the Bunker Museum, which is very nice! It is also the location for the Circustheater. One of the biggest theaters of Holland. The shows are in Dutch, but I would recommend it anyway.
4. Het Plein (the square)
Probably the best square in The Hague. It is close to the Binnenhof and Mauritshuis. Het Plein was originally a garden and part of the Binnenhof castle.
This is a nice place to enjoy a drink and the view. A lot of locals come here for a drink in the evenings.
5. Paard van Troje
In English the Trojan Horse. It started as a center for youth culture and it was one of the first places where you could buy and use cannabis, even though hard drugs were not allowed.
It started getting funding from the Music Center The Netherlands and grew. The first Dutch shows of U2, Prince and Pearl Jam were played in this venue.
There are two stages. One for 300 people and the big stage for 1100 people.
There is a themed party almost every weekend.
Who does not want an 80’s themed evening?
Imagine having only a few days to visit Holland. Would you believe me that it is possible to see all the beautiful and important things?
Madurodam is built on a 1:25 scale and offers a lot of different things. You can find the Rijksmuseum, Schiphol Airport, Binnenhof, the Port of Rotterdam but also tulip fields and windmills.
It is also possible to get a view behind the screens and see how they make all the figures.
Madurodam is located between The Hague
7. Sea Life
On the promenade in Scheveningen, is Sea Life. It is not that big, but the animals are to die for. You can enjoy the turtles, sharks, jellyfish, and rays. Or visit the penguins and otters.
You are in and out in an hour, but it is worth it. Take a minute and watch the sharks get fed.
8. Escher in the Palace
A museum fully focused on M.C. Escher, a Dutch graphical artist. The building was a winter palace for Queen Emma from 1901 to 1934. The chandeliers are specially made for this museum and are made to look like a shark, skull, spiders and a seahorse.
Escher is known for his drawings where something is not right. I can actually spend hours here trying to figure out every drawing.
Can you figure it out?
9. The Gevangenpoort
This is definitely my favorite. I think I visit this museum at least once a year if not more. Please don’t think that I am crazy when I explain what it is.
The Gevangenpoort or the prisoner’s gate used to be the prison close to the Binnenhof. This was so they can easily get convicted and hanged on the square. The jail cell from Cornelis de Wit, a famous Hollander, was built over the road forming a gate.
His cell was actually bigger than a standard student room. His view was toward the square where every prisoner got hanged. Nice view right?
In 1882, the prison turned into a museum. Since 1923, the gate is not in use anymore. You can still go under it, but there is a street next to it now. There are some small parts of the building that has been rebuilt in the original style because it was not safe. The atmosphere is still horrible, do not worry.
If you visit is now, you will be locked in one of the cells. No light, one toilet that does not flush and 30 people in a very small room. They will actually try to have a group big enough, that you will feel how it was.
You will also see all the torture devices they used for the prisoners to confess. Some are so brutal, you would confess even if you were innocent.
10. The Haagse Markt
Visit the Hague Market. This is one of the biggest markets of Holland and you will find absolutely everything here! From fresh fish to flowers and clothes. You can even find used washing machines and fabrics.
It might not be branded and the best souvenirs, but it is so fun to visit. There are so many different kinds of people walking here, that it is fun just to sit down and watch.
The prices are also very good. I always buy my fabrics and ingredients in bulk here.
Because (almost) everyone in Holland speaks English and they are quite some tourist, you can get help or information in English practically anywhere. This is always handy and one of the many great things that Holland has to offer.
There are 10 things in the Hague you should definitely visit or do. Next to trying Dutch food and trying not to get hit by a bicycle of course…
About the Author
Caitlyn is a Dutch traveler and currently living in Spain. She writes about destinations and all her crazy travel stories. Food travel is one of her favorite things. You can find all her adventures on her site (https://withcaitlyn.com) and her Instagram @withcaitlyn here.