The Hague (Den Haag) and Amazing City to Visit
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Visitors to the Netherlands usually concentrate on seeing Amsterdam, however there is so much more to the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. This blog will concentrate on another great city to see in the Netherlands - The Hague (Den Haag). It is a perfect place to spend a few days. It’s smaller than Amsterdam and much easier to bike around. As well, it has about 10 km of coastline on the North Sea with fabulous wide sandy beaches, which are wonderful on a warm summer day.
The Hague is considered the International City of Peace and Justice. As a result, it has a number of International Courts (including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice) and the Peace Palace. It is also the city where the Dutch government sits and where the King officially lives and works. The Royal Family’s palace (Huis Ten Bosch) is in the Haagse Bos, not far from the Central Station, and the King’s working palace (Paleis Noordeinde) is not far from the parliament buildings. The city boasts many European and International organizations such as Europol and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won a Nobel Prize for Peace.
This will be my first post about the Hague, but more will follow as the things to see and do in this city are so numerous. This write up will concentrate on the City Centre and the many things that can be seen there. I’ve set it up as a self guided tour and provided links to the museums as well as links to more information.
We will start out at the Stadhuis (City Hall) (A). It is the huge white building behind the library at Spui 70. It is sometimes called the Ice Palace because of its cold appearance; though I think it has a nice open feel. If you step inside you can see all the open bridges and stairwells running through it. This was used in a scene in Ocean’s 12 where a man is seen running through the Interpol Building.
Go back outside in front of the library. Note the large underground bike parking. Looking right with your back to the Stadhuis you will see Primark. The building itself is new, but it is called the Amadeus Building as Mozart lived at that location for a year or so in the late 1700s. There is a plaque at the side of the building on Kalvermarkt, if you would like to walk over and look at it. Just be careful crossing the tram tracks and bike lanes as there is a lot of traffic going through this intersection from all different directions.
Cross the busy intersection to the opposite side from Primark and the Stadhuis. You will now be walking onto Grote Marktstraat (Primark will be behind you). This is the main shopping area. Look straight ahead at the street, the hanging lights, the benches and the ground you are walking on. It is meant to look like a ball room and looks very striking in the evening. Be careful here not to walk on the bicycle path (depressed section).
Continue walking and you will come to the Novotel and the newest section of The Passage (B), which is the unique looking, white and blue building on your right. This was finished in 2014 and The Passage section connects to older parts further in.
Look into the modern part of the Passage. Go in if you like, but you will end up there later on.
Continue walking along Grote Marktstraat in the same direction you were going. On the left you will see the Bijenkorf building (C). The Bijenkorf is a Dutch Department store, which marked its 150th anniversary in 2020. This building was built in 1926 and was the second Bijenkorf store to open in The Netherlands.
Every city in The Netherlands has a symbol and the one for The Hague is a stork with an eel in its mouth, apparently because eels were typically given to opportunistic storks around the fish market. Walk further on and look for the building with all the storks on it. Hint: it’s on your left and the storks are black without the usual eel.
Continue straight along Grote Marktstraat. When you reach the bridge walk to the middle and look at the statue of Haagse Harry on your right (D). He is a famous comic strip character who spoke a low brow form of Dutch (which is very difficult to understand if you are attempting to learn Dutch). The writer, Marnix Rueb, died in 2014 and this statue was set up to commemorate him. Don’t forget to look at the back of the statue.
Turn back and head to the underside of the bridge, under Haagse Harry. Here you enter the tram station. Go inside and look down over the balcony (E). You are now in part of the underground tramway and parking area in the central part of The Hague. Note the strips of hardwood floor in the station. As well, when you look at that floor from the balcony right inside the door, you can see that the floor is designed as a map of The Hague. The little windows in the floor are artifacts that were found during the excavation of the site for the station. You can go down and look more closely at the floor and artifacts if you would like.
Leave the tram station as you came in. Walk up the stairs. On your left is de Boterwaag (F). In the 1600s this was where butter was weighed and sold. Inside is a scale that was used to weigh the butter but it is not the original and was only installed in 1681 (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boterwaag ). You can see the symbol for The Hague (stork) on top of the entrance to the Boterwaag.
Cross the square – you want to end up in the corner diagonally across from the Boterwaag. Turn right onto Vlamingstraat and walk past Nieuwstraat (the next block) and turn left onto Haagsche Bluf (G on map 1). Walk up the passage into the square (A on map 2). You are entering a very unique part of The Hague. The area was designed in early 2000s and incorporates materials from around the world. The architect designed modern buildings but built facades that replicate famous buildings in The Hague and Delft. As well, the fountains were brought from France. Look at the sides of what appear to be old buildings and then at the front of the old buildings.
After exploring the Haagsche Bluf area, walk through the exit on your left to Nieuwstraat (B). Turn right and walk to the end of the street. In front of you is Old City Hall (Oude Stadhuis) built in the 1600s (C).
To the left of Old City Hall is the Grote Kerk. The first construction on the site began in 1256 but over time it has been added to and altered. It is no longer used as a church but for events and meetings. For more on the history of the church go to their website. You can also tour the church and climb the tower.
Now walk behind Old City Hall (D) turning right onto Grote Halstraat.
Continue along Grote Halstraat about 100 m and on your right you will see a colourfully tiled building nicknamed The Candy Box (De snoeptrommel) built in 1998 (F). If you can you should go inside and stand at the bottom of the escalator and look at the stain glass ceiling.
On your left is an old hotel from 1660, ‘t Goude Hooft. It has been an Inn since its construction, though I understand the suites are much more modern now.
Go back along Grote Halstraat and turn right at the first corner Driehoekjes (E) which will turn into Oude Molstraat
At Oude Molstraat 35 is a monastery, Brothers of Saint John (G). The monastery itself is not that old and if you look up you can see the stained glass window of the church. If you end up here in the afternoon on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, the store is usually open and inside are many self-made products including beer from their brewery. As well, when the store is open you can ask to enter and explore the church. https://haagschebroeder.nl/
Continue in the same direction you were heading and at Molenstraat you can make a decision:
If you would like to see the Palace Gardens and the Royal Stables, turn left and go to the bottom of the tour to see your instructions. The garden is a nice place to have a picnic and there is a play ground for kids and lots of space for them to run around. It does add a fair amount more walking.
Otherwise turn right and continue below. You will still be able to see the Palace, but not the garden and the stables.
At the end of Molenstraat you can see the Église Réformée Wallonne de La Haye, an old Walloon Church (Walloons were French speaking immigrants to the Netherlands). For more information on the Walloons I have included a link on the history of the Walloons in the Netherlands
Turn left and walk to the horse statue you see ahead. This is of the first King Willem of Orange. To the left of the statue is Paleis Noordeinde, the working palace mentioned above (H).
Turn back and pass the Walloon church again, continuing down Noordeinde, and turn left at Plaats. You will now enter a square. At Plaats 20 Van Gogh worked for a period of time. You can see a plaque in the entrance (I).
Continue through the square until you reach the statue at the opposite side. The statue is of Johan De Witt. He was an important political figure during the Dutch Golden Age but at some point, his following turned on him and he ended up in prison and hanged. The statue itself points to the spot that his brother Cornelius was killed.
Look out across the Hofvijver (the pond across the street). The buildings on the right side of the pond are the parliament buildings (Binnenhof). The octagonal building at the far end is the office of the Prime Minister. The White building beyond that is the Mauritshuis. Johan Maurits was another important figure in the Netherlands, and that was where he and his family resided.
To the right of the statue is one of the old City gates and behind the gate is the former prison. The De Witt brothers were held in that prison. If you are interested in going in, you can see the cell where Johan De Witt was imprisoned, many of the devices used to torture prisoners, the torture chamber, and the tongue of Johan De Witt.
From where you are standing walk along the left side of the Hofvijver and enjoy the views of the Binnenhof and the Mauritshuis (J on Map 2)). On the other side of the Hofvijver (A on Map 3), turn right onto Korte Vijverberg and pass the Mauritshuis. You are now entering De Plein – the square (B). Look for the city emblems on the top of some of the buildings that surround the square. These emblems are on buildings that were used as lodgings for other city representatives when they were in The Hague for work. You can see the Amsterdam lodgings, the Rotterdam lodgings, and one more that I am not sure what city it is for.
After looking around the square, turn back and walk in front of the Mauritshuis. Feel free to visit the Mauritshuis. Its a wonderful museum and houses 3 of the remaining Vermeers, including The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The View of Delft, and Diana and her Nymphs. It also has many Rembrandts including The Anatomy Lesson, and the Karel Fabritius painting The Goldfinch.
Walk past the Mauritshuis and look to your right before entering the gates. Again, this is the office of the Prime Minister. Walk through the gates and you are now in the Binnenhof. As you walk through you will see the Eerst Kamer (First Champer), Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber), and the Ridderzaal (C) (The Knights Hall) where the annual budget is announced. If you happen to be able to tour the Ridderzaal it is interesting as the constitution is written on the wall just like the Star Wars introduction.
In the large square in front of the Ridderzaal, look at the fountain. It was built for the International Colonial and Export Trade Exhibition in Amsterdam in 1883 and then moved to The Hague.
Walk through the gate opposite the Ridderzaal and cross the tram tracks. On your right you will see the old city gate again. This square is the Buitenhof. Walk through the square and on the other side on your left you will see an older section of The Passage; enter (D).
The passage was built in 3 stages as a covered shopping area. The first section, where you are standing was built in 1885, the second in 1929, and then the last section where the Novotel is was completed in 2014. Walk through the passage.
When you exit the Passage, you are at the end of your tour (E). If you turn left you will end up back at Spui and the corner where City Hall is.
Palace Gardens and Royal Stables Detour:
Turn left onto Molenstraat as stated above. Walk along Molenstraat to Prinsestraat and turn right. At the intersection with Noordwal, you will find the gates of the Palace Gardens on your right. You can wander through the garden, have a picnic, and there is a playground for kids to play in.
Then you are done in the garden walk to the other end of the garden from where you entered and leave via that gate, turning right onto Prinsessewal.
When you reach the corner at Hogewal turn right. You are walking past the Royal Stables. During the summer months there are times you can visit the Stables but for most of the year it is off limits to the public.
Continue past the Stables and turn right at Noordeinde. Walk along Noordeinde until you reach the statue of King Willem the first and the Palace (about 350 m). Return to the top part of the tour but look at the Palace and the Walloon Church in opposite order that they are listed in the tour.
Continue the rest of the tour.
I hope you enjoyed your tour through The Hague. You can look on my blog for other tours I have prepared.
Here is a pdf version of the tour with no pictures other than the map.