Den Haag

Den Haag, or more popularly known as The Hague is a city in South Holland, lying on the North Sea. It is the third largest city with a population of about 500,000. Whilst not being the capital city, it is the seat of government in the Netherlands. As an administrative centre, it houses the States-General of the Netherlands, all the government ministries, the Supreme Court and the Council of State. Queen Beatrix, the queen regnant of the Kingdom of the Netherlands also lives and works in the city. Aside from this, it is also home to over 150 international organizations and international courts such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, as well as the judicial capital of the United Nations. This is why the city is also recognized as the “International City of Peace and Justice.” 

The name is derived from the words “Des Graven Hage” which literally translates to “the count’s wood,” or “the count’s hedge.” The Hague was originally a hunting manor purchased by Floris IV, Count of Holland and later on used by the succeeding counts as their place of residence and administrative area. It was not officially granted city rights, but The Hague is still recognized as a city and counts the year 1248 as its founding anniversary. Much like the other parts of the Netherlands that were destroyed during the Nazi invasion, The Hague had to rebuild itself after the war, and it did so in full speed. Today, the city presents an open, spacious environment of old nobility estates, low-rise houses, modern buildings side by side historic and classic architecture and several parks in a climate of peaceful tolerance.

There are eight officially recognized districts in The Hague comprised of the following: Escamp, Haagse Hout, Laak, Leidschenveen-Ypenburg, Loosduinen, The Hague Center, Scheveningen, Segbroek. These are further divided into smaller parts. Its population is culturally diverse owing to the large number of expatriates working and living in the city.  There is however, a sharp contrast between the socio-economic classes that can be found in the Hague from the wealthiest to the poorest neighborhoods. This sharp contrast can be heard in the local accents: those who are more affluent are called “Hagenaars” and speak what is locally referred to as “bekakt Haags” and the common folk are called “Hagenezen” and speak “plat Haags.”

While city life is concentrated in civil service, international politics and business, The Hague also has a robust cultural life to speak of, although it can be considered more sedate when compared to the other cities in the country. It has two beach resorts on either sides – the Scheveningen in the northwestern part which draws a huge tourist and local crowd especially during the summer, and the Kijkduin in the southwest which is smaller and more a destination for locals. A walk along the wide and open streets of the city will reveal a treasure trove of museums and parks, some of the most notable are:

Mauritshuis (The Royal Picture Gallery), originally the home of Count Johan Maurits, it has been converted into a museum and houses an extensive collection of paintings from the 17th to 18th centuries, considered the Dutch Golden Age. 

Gemeentemuseum den Haag, a museum for modern art and also showcases the collection of works of renowned 20th century Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan. 

Museum de Gevangenpoort, a medieval prison turned into a museum.

The Museon, an interactive museum for science and culture, originally intended as an educational venue for children.

The Escher Museum, an 18th century palace turned into a museum dedicated to the works of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.

Museum Bredius, a museum focusing on antique furniture, silverware and porcelain from the 19th century. The collection is owned by art historian Abrahan Bredius. 

Other noteworthy landmarks of attraction include:

The Binnenhof (literally meaning “the inner courts”), is a complex of buildings which is the seat of the government of the country of Holland, the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Paleis Noordeinde, is where Queen Beatrix works. The inside is not open to the public but visitors can walk around the gardens. There is also the Paleis Huis ten Bosch where the Queen lives in the middle of the Haagse Bos park.

Vredespalais, or The Peace Palace houses the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice.

There are also a number of interesting cultural events that the city hosts every year. The KoninginneNach is a musical party on the eve of the Dutch Queen’s Day;  the North Sea Regatta held off the coast of Scheveningen is an international sailing contest held every May and June; and the Tong Tong Fair which is said to be the largest Eurasian festival in the world.