The Hague is nothing like Amsterdam. While Amsterdam is the city of the Republicans, has canals and 17th-century merchant houses, The Hague is the city of royalty and aristocracy. The Hague is a great city for a day trip. Here are Ten Things to See when in The Hague.
Amsterdam Side Trip: What to see in The Hague?
1. Het Binnenhof
The Hague, and more specific: Het Binnenhof, is where the Dutch government is seated. One of the first rulers of Holland built his castle in 1248 along the water now called Hofvijver (the pond next to the Binnenhof). When the first Dutch republic, the Seven United Dutch provinces, was claimed in 1588, the government chose The Hague as the ruler’s city.
The Binnenhof is Dutch for an inner courtyard. For a long time, the Binnenhof was sealed from the outside world with thick walls and gates. Nowadays, visitors are welcome to roam around the century-old buildings around the court.
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The most special things to see at the Binnenhof, The Hague, are the Ridderzaal (‘Knight’s Hall’) and the Treveszaal. This room (see photo below) was built around 1600 for the peace talks during the Eighty Year War with Spain. Nowadays, this is where the Dutch Ministers gather every Friday.
2. Mauritshuis Museum
Next door to Binnenhof, just outside the gate is the museum Mauritshuis. The Mauritshuis has a superb collection of paintings from the Dutch 17th-century masters.
Yes, on these walls hang all the paintings that are not at the Rijksmuseum: Vermeer’s ‘Girl with pearl earring’, Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’, Fabritius’ ‘The Goldfinch’ and Potter’s ‘The Bull’. And many more.
3. Panorama Mesdag
Panorama Mesdag is a very popular thing to do in The Hague among families. This strange exhibition centers around an enormous panoramic painting made by Hendrik Willem Mesdag in 1880.
The painting depicts the landscape of the Scheveningen dunes in a cylindrical shape. When you stand in the gallery and look around, you will have the feeling you are walking in the sand dunes of the beach. The illusion is made even stronger by the sounds of seagulls and the terrain of sands and shells surrounding the canvas.
Visiting a panoramic, landscape painting was a popular form of amusement in the 19th century. In Europe, many panoramas recreated historical events and battles. Few of these panoramas survived.
In this case, the painter himself bought his own panorama, including the location, keeping the painting safe from decay, thereby making the Panorama Mesdag the oldest surviving panorama in its original location.
4. Escher Museum
Famous all over the world are the surreal, paradoxical drawings of M.C. Escher. Few tourists will realises, however, that M.C. stands for Maurits Cornelis. Escher was Dutch. On a day trip to The Hague, you have the opportunity to see Escher strange, optical illusions in real life.
Escher in the Palace is a museum in The Hague where you can be puzzled by the strange work of artists Escher. The Escher museum displays over 150 originals of Escher’s work, like ‘Belvédère’, ‘Ascending and Descending’, ‘Day and Night’ and parts of the ‘Metamorphosis series’.
On the top floor of the museum, there is a more general exhibition about optical illusions. There are also animations and a virtual reality room which makes the Escher Museum also a lot of fun for children. The Escher collection is housed in a former winter palace of Dutch Queen Emma.
Not just the work, but also the location of the Escher exhibition is magical, as it is in a real royal palace. It’s the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands.
Cold, rainy and windy? The amazing dome theatre of Omniversum is great for children and adults. The Omniversum is a film theatre where the images are projected through a fish-eye lens on an enormous dome screen.
The film takes place around you and above you which makes the film much more impressive. Before, the Omniversum screened films about the universe, the dome taking the positing of the nightly sky. Nowadays, films are much more about nature. English translation is given by an earphone. Check the website calendar for programming.
6. Hotel Des Indes
During the Golden Age (17th century), the Dutch trading corporation VOC traded with kings and rulers on the many islands in ‘the East’ (around India, Indonesia, China and Japan). From 1816 until the Second World War, the Dutch East Indies (‘Nederlands-Indië’) were an official colony of The Netherlands.
Civil servants who worked in the Dutch Indies often stayed in The Hague when they were on leave. One of the most famous hotels in those colonial times was the Hotel Des Indes.
Originally, the hotel was built as a palace for a baron in 1858, with stables, servant quarters and a grand ballroom. In 1881, after four years of renovating, the Hotel Des Indes was opened. It was a hotel with refined taste and elegance where decadent parties and exclusive banquets were held.
Jewish hideout in the attic
An interesting anecdote comes from the time of the German occupation. While the German soldiers enjoyed many festive occasions in the Hotel, the management actually hid Jewish people on the top floor (they all survived the war).
The Hotel Des Indes is now part of an international hotel chain, but the interior of Hotel Des Indes is still fantastic. Definitely stop here for a coffee on your side trip to The Hague, it feels like you go back in time a 100 years.
7. Scheveningen beach
Scheveningen, a rather unpronounceable district of The Hague is definitely worth a visit. The seaside resort Scheveningen has a long beach boulevard to stroll or you can take the promenade on the 300-meter long pier. You can stroll to the view deck with an amazing view on the sandy dunes onshore or kilometers on the North Sea.
Along the promenade, there is also an indoor shopping arcade and a casino. In summer, Scheveningen beach is long and broad and you can find an empty beach seat at one of the many beach pavilions, bars, and restaurants. You can reach Scheveningen beach easily by tram (9,1 or 11) or bus (22).
Madurodam is a famous miniature park near The Hague. It’s really funny to see all of Holland’s most famous buildings and attractions in their mini-version: the Rijksmuseum, the tulip fields, the Amsterdam canals, they are all there.
The park also has some interactive attractions that are fun and educational, especially for children. Like Nieuw Amsterdam, where you board a 17th-century ship and sail to the East. And ‘Waterwolf’ where you can help out with the draining of Holland.