If you’re sick and tired of pushing crowds off your way in Amsterdam, you should definitely try Den Haag! Let’s be honest, Amsterdam is way too full with tourists and the prices are through the roof. While on the other hand, Den Haag is a perfect balance between busy and calm – the city centre is always booming with people, but there are many locations which you can enjoy in total silence.
this is the most beautiful tram underpass I have ever seen!
Let’s not forget the added bonus of an amount of tourists who have no idea where they are going in such cities as Amsterdam! Experiencing road rage when walking in Amsterdam is a real thing, while in Den Haag…hmm…not very potential.
you see, not that many people!
So here I come with some spots, an entire tour to be more particular, so you can enjoy Den Haag to the fullest. And as always, with the gauge point at the Centraal station.
If you hadn’t known already, Den Haag (The Hague in English) is the third largest city in The Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and it is most notable for being the seat of the Dutch government. However, what most people don’t know, is that the town is also rich in history, culture, and especially art – there are numerous museums and beautiful architectural structures I’m about to show you. Let’s begin!
- Ministerie VROM
The Ministry of VROM was established as the ministry of Reconstruction and Public Housing in 1947, to coordinate the reconstruction of the Netherlands after the Second World War. Its main goal in this period was to build enough housing. In 1958 the ministry was renamed Public Housing and Construction Industry.
In the 1965 the ministry was renamed Public Housing and Spatial Planning. Spatial planning and land management became more important. The high level of population growth in the densely populated Netherlands made centralized coordination of land use necessary. The ministry began to publish coordinate the land use policies of provinces and municipalities. Urban renewal also became an important issue for the ministry.
In 1982 the ministry was renamed Public Housing and Spatial Planning and the Environment. The environment has previously been a part of the portfolio of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. With rising environmental consciousness the environment became the most important issue for the ministry. The ministry also bears responsibility for international environmental policy.
- Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Justitie
The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is the Dutch Ministry responsible for Domestic policy, Civil service, Public administration, Elections, Local governments, Intelligence and Kingdom Relations. The Ministry was created in 1798 as the Department of Internal Police to monitor the state of dikes, roads and waters of the Batavian Republic. In 1876, it became the Ministry of the Interior and had several name changes before adopting its current name in 1998.
VROM on the left, BZJ on the right
- Het Plein
Het Plein is a town square in the old city centre, located adjacent to the Binnenhof, the meeting place of the States General of the Netherlands.
Het Plein was originally a garden, forming a part of the Binnenhof castle, residence of the Counts of Holland. It was used to grow vegetables for the court. The garden was surrounded by a ring of canals and intersected by ditches. As a town square, Het Plein was constructed in 1632 and was inspired by the Place des Vosges in Paris.
- Willem van Oranje
The statue of Willem van Oranje is is the oldest open-air monument in the city, being created already in 1848. One is located right here, in the middle of Het Plein, other one is situated in Noordeinde district.
- Old Ministerie van Oorlog
The Ministry of War is a former ministry in the Netherlands. From 1959, the ministry has been definitively incorporated into the Ministry of Defense, as it also used to be between 1928 and the Second World War. Before 1843 this was the department of War with a Director-General at the head. The Navy did not fall under the department.
- Old Ministerie van Justitie
The Ministry of Justice and Security is the Dutch Ministry responsible for justice, imprisonment and public security. The Ministry was created in 1798 as the Department of Justice, before it became in 1876 the Ministry of Justice. In 2010, it took over the public safety duties from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and became Ministry of Security and Justice. In 2017 the Ministry was renamed to Ministry of Justice and Security.
- Tweede Kamer
The House of Representatives represents the inhabitants of the Netherlands. It controls the government and makes laws. You’re the most welcome there, no matter whether you come alone or with a group, because it’s always possible to be present at public meetings of the “Tweede Kame”.
The Mauritshuis is home to the Best of Dutch painting from the Golden Age. The compact, yet world-renowned collection, is situated in the heart of Den Haag, right next to the government centre. Masterpieces such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt, The Goldfinch by Fabritius and The Bull by Potter are on permanent display in the intimate rooms of this seventeenth-century monument.
More than two hundred top works from Dutch and Flemish masters are on display in the historic yet intimate interior, with its silken wall covering, sparkling chandeliers and monumental painted ceilings. Genre paintings by Jan Steen, landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael, still lifes by Adriaen Coorte and portraits by Rubens offer a rich and varied representation of the best of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painting.
The Mauritshuis offers a varied programme of exhibitions in the Royal Dutch Shell Wing, connected to the historic building by a light-filled underground foyer, which also houses a brasserie and a well-stocked museum shop, the Royal Dutch Shell wing, built in Art Deco style, also houses the Art Workshop (for education), an auditorium, library and several rooms available for hire.
- Kabinet van de Koning
Overlooking the historic Court Pond in The Hague, The King’s Office forms a small government organisation which assists the Dutch King Willem-Alexander in the performance of his constitutional duties. It is not to be confused with Noordeinde Palace where the King actually works himself, about 700 metres further on. The beautiful house opposite the famous Mauritshuis museum is the only building in the Korte Vijverberg street that still has 17th-century features in the façade. The King’s Office is not accessible to the public, except for Heritage Days in September, on which dozens of historic buildings in Den Haag open their doors to the public.
The Hofvijver is a pond adjoined in the east by the Korte Vijverberg (road), in the south by the Binnenhof and the Mauritshuis, in the west by the Buitenhof and in the north by the Lange Vijverberg (road). In the middle there is a small island with plants and trees which has no name, it is usually referred to as “the island in the Vijverberg”.
Jantje is a statue of a little boy, always being dressed up in different clothes, usually in a fottball jersey since the Netherlands is a country of football lovers!
- Jan van Oldenbarnevelt
Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was a Grand Pensionary of the States of Holland during the Eighty Years’ War. For a long time he worked with Maurits van Oranje (the son of William of Orange), but because of his obstinate behavior he became the victim of a political process controlled by Maurits and subsequent execution.
His statue is situated right nex to a little Jantje.
This is the place where the most important events in the nation’s history took place. It’s also where the future is created. The Inner Court in Den Haag is studded with monumental old buildings testifying of eight centuries of governing in the Low Countries, but it also has several ample open spaces, all freely open to the public.
Take a stroll through the courtyard and admire the fairytale-like splendour or take the time to take a tour through the various halls. You won’t be disappointed.
- Eerste Kamer
The Senate, or literally “First Chamber” is the upper house of the States General, the legislature of the Netherlands. Its 75 members are elected on lists by the members of the twelve States-Provincial every four years, within three months of the provincial elections. All provinces have different electoral weight depending on their population.
- De Fontein
The Hall of Knights is the main building of the 13th century Binnenhof, used for the state opening of Parliament on Prinsjesdag, when the Dutch monarch drives to Parliament in the Golden Coach and delivers the speech from the throne. It is also used for official royal receptions, and interparliamentary conferences.
The Little Tower, located at the Binnenhof right next to the Mauritshuis museum, has been the official office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 1982.
This small octagonal building at the Hofvijver is first mentioned in chronicles in 1354 and probably dates from the first half of the 14th century. At the edge of the Parliament Buildings was originally a summer gazebo for Counts of Holland. It was connected by a drawbridge with the count’s garden. At the site of this garden, later east of the Tower the Mauritshuis was built around 1640 as the residence for John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen.
totally on the left!
The Statenpassage is the central hall of the extension of the House of Representatives. The Statenpassage is often the setting for interviews with MPs, petition offers and exhibitions.
The passage between Het Plein and Hofplaats is 100 meters long and 24 meters high with a glass roof – with light that symbolizes the openness of democracy. The floor is made of two different colours of marble that show abstract ebb and flow.
It was designed by architect Pi de Bruijn, who also designed the other modern extension of the Chamber. De Bruijn originally had a free passage through the passage in mind, but this idea was abandoned for security reasons.
The Prisoner’s Gate is a former gate and medieval prison at the Buitenhof, situated next to the 18th-century art gallery founded by William V, Prince of Orange in 1774 known as the Prince William V Gallery.
- Noordeinde 66
Noordeinde 66 is a property owned by the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency. It’s located next to Paleis Noordeinde and has been made available as a pied-à-terre and secretariat to Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands. The living space is 640 square meters. From 1995 to 2003 it was the home of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and from his marriage in 2002 also of his wife Princess Máxima.
- Paleis Noordeinde
Noordeinde Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family. It has been used as the “working palace” for King Willem-Alexander since 2013.
- Gotische Zaal
The Gothic Hall is located opposite Noordeinde Palace. Built in the mid 19th century, at the request of King William II to house his painting collection, the Gothic Hall today forms part of the Council of State (‘Raad van State’) in conjunction with Palace Kneuterdijk. The Bätz organ is one of the most important aspects in the hall and recitals often take place. The Gothic Hall borders on a garden open to the public throughout the year, a small remainder of the royal garden that originally extended much further. The entrance to both the garden and Gothic Hall is slightly concealed opposite Noordeinde Palace.
not my photo as you can tell. 😀
- Paleis Kneuterdijk
Kneuterdijk Palace is a former royal palace of the Netherlands, nowadays the seat of the Council of State. Built in 1716 in the Louis XIV style by architect Daniel Marot, it was commissioned by Count Johan Hendrik of Wassenaer-Obdam, member of the House of Wassenaer. The palace served as a residence for King William II of the Netherlands and his wife Queen Anna Paulowna in the first half of the 19th century, when he was still the crown prince. William II added several buildings designed in the English Tudor style, of which only the Gothic Hall has survived. The hall was designed after the great dining hall of Christ Church, Oxford, of which William II was an alumnus.
Their grandson Crown Prince William used the palace from 1858 till his death in 1879. In the 1930s the place was occasionally used by Princess Juliana. After World War II Dutch war criminals were tried in the former ballroom, some of whom were sentenced to death. Then the Ministry of Finance used the building for many years. Since restoration work was completed in 2001 the palace has been in use by the Netherlands’ Council of State (Raad van State).
- Het Pageshuis
The Pageshuis, one of the few houses in Den Haag with a stepped gable, was built in 1610 as an official residence for the master gunman of the cannon foundry, which was located right next door.
- Hoge Raad der Nederlanden
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands, officially the High Council of the Netherlands, is the final court of appeal in civil, criminal and tax cases in the Netherlands, including Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba. The Court was established on 1 October 1838.
- Escher in het Paleis
Escher in Het Paleis is a museum featuring the works of the Dutch graphical artist M. C. Escher. It’s housed in the Lange Voorhout Palace since November 2002.
- Haagse Hopjes
Hopjes are a type of Dutch sweets with a slight coffee and caramel flavour that originated in the 18th century.
The hopje is named after Baron Hendrik Hop who was recalled as an envoy in Brussels when the French invaded Belgium in 1792. He moved into rooms above the confectioners Van Haaren & Nieuwerkerk. He was addicted to coffee and the story goes that one night he left his coffee with sugar and cream on the heater, where it evaporated. On tasting the resulting substance, he loved it. His doctor advised him not to drink coffee so he asked the confectioner Theodorus van Haaren to make him some “lumps of coffee”. After some experimenting, Van Haaren created a sweet made of coffee, caramel, cream and butter. The enthusiastic Baron Hop was keen to let his guests try his ‘Hopjes’, which quickly gained popularity. Van Haaren’s successor eventually even got orders from abroad.
In this building you’ll find a museum dedicated to these lovely sweets and Baron Hendrik Hop himself.
- Koninklijke Schouwburg
The Royal Theater was built in 1766 and has been in use as theater since 1804. From 2017 it is one of the theaters in use by the national theater company Het Nationale Theater, but also other companies perform in the Schouwburg.
The main room of the Schouwburg is relatively small for current standards, and can seat 680 people in total with the main room and three balconies. The stage has a 1929 antique revolving stage that is still functional but no longer in use.
It’s considered as one of the most prestigious theaters in the country.
not my photo neither, I couldn’t find it!!
The Court Tower, nicknamed De Vulpen, is a 29-storey, 141,86 metre high building, situated near the Centraal station (yup, we made a circuit around the city centre. It is the third-tallest building in the city, and the eighth-tallest in the country. The Hoftoren was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) in New York City, and built by Heijmans Bouw BV, and is home to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (the latter having taken up temporary residence in the Hoftoren in 2012) of the Netherlands.
it’s that red high building behind
Maybe you won’t find any “grachten” and coffeeshops in Den Haag, but one thing is sure: if you feel like having a calm and relatively silent day off, just hop on the train and head to The Hague, you won’t regret.
Another thing worth of mentioning (and also the reason why I love Den Haag) are the book markets. You’ll find them everywhere where’s enough place for a stall. You can get there many books for just a couple of euros, last time I bought 6 books (4 of them I was looking for, two of them just caught my eye) for 6 euros altogether.
Of course, if you would have wanted to see Madurodam or Scheveningen beach, that would be quite full, if not even more crowded than Amsterdam’ attractions, but these spots I’ve listed…there’s no chance you would have to wait in lines or hack into people, trust me!
Have a great day!
One thought on “Amsterdam Alternative: Den Haag!”
Lovely old buildings.
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