There is so much history in The Hague that its significance in Europe is hard to ignore. Not only is it an enchanting and romantic city, but it is also the seat of power and home of the Royal Family, making it one of the most important cities in the Netherlands.
Although Amsterdam is the official capital, The Hague is the administrative centre of the country, where you will find important government institutions and organizations. When in the Netherlands, come see The best things to do in the Hague. It is only about 50 km away from Amsterdam, and you can get there in less than an hour by train.
When in the Netherlands, you can’t and shouldn’t miss The Hague for several reasons, some of which are the sights, landmarks, and friendly locals. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in this captivating city. Here is a little history to get you started.
In the 17th century, the Dutch Republic was a prominent political power in Europe. Diplomatic dialogues and negotiations took place in The Hague, and very quickly, it prospered and rose in international importance. One of the most significant international conferences, The Hague Convention, was held here. As a result, this city is now widely recognized as the home of international law and arbitration. You can find here the world headquarters of Royal Dutch Shell, leading Dutch companies, and most foreign embassies in the Netherlands.
The most historic and prominent building is the Binnenhof, which is actually a castle compound built by Count William II in 1248. It still stands today and is the perfect representation of The Hague – historic, magnificent, and a delight to the eyes. It never fails to mesmerize local and foreign tourists.
Binnenhof is a must-see when visiting The Netherlands, but it is just one of the many places you should check out. Here are the best things to see in The Hague.
The Peace Palace – The best things to do in the Hague
As mentioned, The Hague is a symbol of international peace and understanding. When visiting, it is just right and fitting to see the Peace Palace, a relatively new structure amidst ancient and medieval castles, buildings, and palaces. This establishment “embodies the values of peace and justice,” says the European Commission “It is often called the seat of international law”.
Built between 1907 and 1913, the Peace Palace is hard to miss, especially its steeply pitched roof, high tower, and long arcade facade. Featuring a mix of Gothic and Neoclassical styles of architecture, the palace is mostly made of bricks, and inside are fixtures from different countries, such as wood panelling from Brazil and the United States, marble from Italy, and ornate iron railings from Germany, making the palace truly beautiful to behold.
True to its name, the Peace Palace is the country’s centre for international law and justice, which are what the entire city is known for in the first place. Within the palace, you can find the International Court of Justice, Academy of International Law, Permanent Court of Arbitration, and an international law library. Construction was mostly paid for by Andrew Carnegie, the world-famous philanthropist.
You can visit the Peace Palace on weekends. Book your visit at the visitor centre, which is open every day.
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The Hague Tower
The Hague Tower stands out because there are not many skyscrapers here. It is the tallest structure in the city, 132 metres tall with 42 floors, and one of the tallest buildings in The Netherlands. Some refer to it as The Flatiron, as it is modelled after New York’s Flatiron Building.
A residential and office building at the same time, The Hague Tower received the Hague New City Prize and the international Emporis Skyscraper Award in 2007. According to the award-giving body, the tower deserved the honor for “its elegant reinterpretation of classic high-rise architecture, its contextual approach to a limited site, and its efficient program for accommodating new entrants to the housing market.”
Come to the Hague Tower not only to dine at its restaurant and sky bar, but also to enjoy a stunning view of the entire city and the ships on the North Sea from the highest vantage point possible. Take a lift from the ground floor that goes straight up to the panoramic terrace on the 42nd floor.
The Hague things to do – Scheveningen Resort
You know about the tulips, canals, and medieval buildings, but you may not be aware that the Netherlands is also home to a number of beautiful beaches. The seaside Scheveningen Resort and pier promises an enchanting coastline. The resort covers lush forests and a large inland portion of the city, but it is the beaches that make this tourist destination a must-see.
You will definitely enjoy a stroll down the pier. Shop from the local markets to take home artisanal and handmade goods as souvenirs, take part in special events such as concerts and festivals, enjoy the rides, and satisfy your cravings at several restaurants and places to eat. The most popular attractions here are the zipline, bungee-jumping facility, and the SkyView de Pier, an observation Ferris wheel with gondola cars that serve a meal and high tea to passengers.
Also very popular is the Sea Life Scheveningen aquarium, where guests can enjoy viewing sharks, stingrays, otters, turtles, penguins, and other ocean animals. Come during the summer months, when Scheveningen Resort is teeming with local and foreign tourists. The beach is one of the fun things to do in the Hague.
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Haagse Bos and Huis Ten Bosch
As with all other landmarks in this list, Haagse Bos is definitely a must-see, as it offers visitors a chance to be one with nature in a most serene and unforgettable way. Haagse Bos is a vast natural park, a two-kilometre open space with beautiful winding avenues, and home one of the oldest forests in the Netherlands that has been protected from deforestation since the Middle Ages. Haagse Bos extends from the old city centre all the way to Wassenaar.
When strolling and beholding the beauty of Haagse Bos, check out Huis ten Bosch, the park’s most notable attraction, although it is not open to the public. Huis ten Bosch, a palace surrounded by a moat, received international fame after hosting the world’s first international peace conference in 1899. Constructed in 1646 as a royal country residence, Huis ten Bosch is the official residence of King Willem-Alexander.
Haagse Bos is also home to Noordeinde Palace, another medieval castle to enjoy viewing even just outside. You can enter its gardens for free to get a satisfying glimpse of the palace and the Royal Stables. Haagse Bos is one of the best free things to do in the Hague
The Hague attractions – Mauritshuis Museum
The Mauritshuis is one of the most important museums in The Hague and in all of the Netherlands. It used to be an elegant classical-style residence and hotel for high-profile guests. The Mauritshuis was built in 1641. Today, it is known to have a small room (they call it “cabinet”) that contains valuable treasures, which include Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson, Jacob van Ruisdael’s View of Haarlem, Vermeer’s View of Delft and his world-famous Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Rogier van der Weyden’s Lamentation.
Other than these, the Mauritshuis boasts a collection of 800 masterpieces by a variety of artists, making it a very important museum for 17th and 18th-century art.
You don’t need to be an art expert to enjoy this museum. Even from the outside, the building’s architecture is a must-see. Once inside, you will be welcomed by an English-speaking guided tour, and do take time to enjoy the high-end restaurant and shop.
Japanese Garden at Clingendael
If you wish to see something different, check out the Japanese Garden at Clingendael and be transported to Asia. The Hague may be a long way from Japan, but it does have one of the world’s most beautiful Japanese gardens. The gardens were built and curated by Lady Daisy, owner of the Clingendael estate.
Lady Daisy had frequented the Land of the Rising Sun, and from her many travels, she brought back small bridges, lanterns, pavilions, and several plants. Heavenly-holland.com describes the garden as the “crown jewel of the Clingendael estate”. Admission is absolutely free, but the garden is open only for a limited time in spring and autumn, so make sure to visit here during those times.
As mentioned earlier, one of the leading attractions in the city is the Binnenhof (“Inner Court”), a group of medieval buildings constructed around a central courtyard. It was completed in 1250 and was the home of the ruling family.
Among the different buildings within Binnenhof, perhaps the most important is the exquisite Ridderzaal or Knight’s Hall. The Ridderzaal’s stunning architecture makes it difficult to miss. It is now the official residence of the Prime Minister.
If there is just one place to see in The Hague, come to Binnenhof. The monumental old buildings and open spaces are so spectacular and fairy-tale like they will keep you in awe for days. The place is open to the public.
Other important buildings to see in Binnenhof are the First Chamber for its painted medallions depicting the portrait of King William II, the Second Chamber, the Rolzaal Court House constructed in 1511, and the Lairessezaal, which is home to 17th-century paintings by Gerard de Lairesse.
Located at the very heart of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver, Binnenhof is also where the States-General of the Netherlands, the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands come to meet and conduct their business. It stands as one of the oldest functioning parliament buildings in the world. Its historical and political significance, as well as its stunning Gothic-style architecture, make it one of the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites.
Where to stay in the Hague
Accommodation in The Hague comes in all shapes and sizes for singles, couples and families. You will find a range of hotels, apartments and hostels to stay in during your visit to The Hague. You can stay in the city centre, one of the funky neighbourhoods or at the seaside. The map below provides you with booking options for locations that suit the best things to do in the Hague
How to get to the Hague
Den Haag is located on the west coast of the Netherlands, located 64 kilometres south of Amsterdam. The nearest airport is Amsterdam Schipol You can hire a rental car at any major airport in Europe and travel to see Den Haag attractions.
- If you are coming from England by car get the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk and follow the E40 highway
- If you are travelling from Northern France by car follow the A1
- If you are coming from midwest Germany by car follow the A12
The Hague is serviced by both long distance buses and trains.
When is the best time to visit The Hague?
The best time to visit Den Haag is during the summer, which is from June to September. The Netherlands is known for its rain so the summer months are a must for a visit. During the summer the weather is only warm to hot with plenty of sunshine.
We hope this article from us here at Wyld Family Travel has you inspired to plan holidays in the Netherlands. There are so many cool things to do in the Hague during your visit that will have you entertained and inspired on your vacation. For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in The Netherlands click through to our Netherlands Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration.
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Ask The Dutch Guy is your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands. The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy at https://askthedutchguy.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.