Known for its great mix of century old history and modern innovation, the Dutch city of The Hague (Den Haag) makes for a popular day trip from Amsterdam or other cities in The Netherlands. Being the only city of the country located directly at the ocean, there is a wide range of activities you can take part in and many events are finding their way to The Hague all year round.
The Hague is recognised globally as the home of international justice, with the Peace Palace being the location for world-level conferences and summits. People of more than 160 organisations world on a better world from The Hague every day.
Being the seat of the Dutch government, you’ll always have the chance of spotting a minister on a bike, or even a member of the Dutch royal family browsing in one of their favourite local shops. There are also many historical monuments, palaces, royal stables and gardens and a wide range of galleries, fashion, antique and art shops you can visit.
While The Hague might be a city breathing style and allure, the overall feeling is never stiff. Especially at the 1st of January, where over 100.000 people run into the freezing cold waters of the North sea for their ‘nieuwjaarsduik’ (‘new years dive’), it shows that The Hague is more than just the political center of the country. In fact, The Hague houses the most visitor attractions per square meter in the entire country!
While there are many great attractions and museums in The Hague, definitely don’t miss ‘Panorama Mesdag’ (The biggest and oldest existing 360 degree panorama painting of the Netherlands), ‘Mauritshuis’ (A collection of 800 brilliant works by Dutch, Belgium and German painters. Most famous piece is the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ painting by Vermeer) and ‘Vredespaleis’ (The Peace Palace visitor center has a very informative free audio guide, guided tours of the palace only on request, book well in advance!).
Also don’t miss the yearly summer festival ‘TREK’, where the best food trucks from the area gather to serve you unique food and drinks for a week.
The Hague is a very easy city to navigate and has a great public transport system that will get you everywhere. From Amsterdam, take the intercity that goes directly to Den Haag Centraal (The Hague Central Station), it’s about 50 minutes.
The city center is very compact and you can walk everywhere. To reach the Peace Palace, you can take tram 1 or 24, to get to Scheveningen Strand (Beach), take tram 1, 9 or 11. The ‘OV-Chip Card’ can be used to travel all across The Netherlands (train, bus and tram lines) and you can buy and top-up one at either of the two train stations in The Hague (‘Den Haag Centraal’ and ‘Den Haag HS’), or from the Tourist Information.
You’ve probably heard of the Dutch ‘King’s Day’ (previously Queens Day) celebrations, but a lesser known big royal event is ‘Prinsjesdag’. Held every third Tuesday in September, the royal family travels in golden horse and carriage alongside a military parade with many marching bands from the Noordeinde working palace to the ‘Ridderzaal’ (Knight’s Hall) in the Binnenhof (the seat of the government).
Here, the royals are joined by members of parliament and the king delivers the ‘Troonrede’ (Speech from the Throne), in which he announces the financial plans of the government for the next term to the public. After the speech, the royals make their way back to the Palace, where there is a quick balcony scene. Then it’s all over, so on to exploring beautiful The Hague itself!
Prinsjesdag is a celebration for everyone -young or old. Who doesn’t like to see a golden coach with horses and wave to a king and queen? While at King’s day pretty much everyone dresses up in orange from head to toe, this isn’t really necessary at Prinsjesdag, although a lot of people still wear something orange and you can get free hats and paper crowns from all along the route, in case you change your mind.
If you arrive two days before the event, you can watch the practice run of the horse parade at the courtyard of the Binnenhof. It’s fairy quiet then, although the royals, marching bands and golden carriage are missing. The day before Prinsjesdag, you can head over to Scheveningen beach to see the cavalry train the horses to stay calm by shooting off smoke bombs and encouraging people watching to make as much noise as possible. Quite the spectacle!
Money Saving Tips
- At Prinsjesdag, you don’t really need to buy a ticket to get a seat along the route of the royal parade. When you show up early, you can just stand along the ‘Lange Voorhout’, there is plenty of space to get a good glimpse of the royals.
- It is very normal in The Netherlands to bring your own food and drinks (even tea and coffee in a thermos) to open events like this. Find a local supermarket and create your own packed lunch. After the event, why not head to the back of the Noordeinde palace and picnic in the royal garden?
Did You Know?
- Many women attending the yearly Speech from the Throne at Prinsjesdag these days wear striking hats (often to get attention for current political themes of their party), but this tradition only just started in 1977 when politician Erica Terpstra announced she didn’t want to disappear into the grey mass of politicians.
- The Hague is filled with hidden gardens and ‘hofjes’ (courtyards). Behind many doors and gates, you’ll find small oases of peace. There are also many great restaurant gardens, such as those of ‘Schlemmer’, ‘It Rains Fishes’ and ‘Het Heden’.
- At the ‘Pizza Hut’ in the Noordeinde area, you can still see an original ceiling of the Noordeinde Palace!
Want to find out more about the Dutch Royals and Politicians or learn about Dutch history in The Hague? Head over to The Travel Tester‘s website to read more about locations to soak up that Royal feeling and see her live report from Prinsjesdag in The Hague.