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World > Netherlands > The-Hague
City Guide The-Hague
General Information
The Hague, or Den Haag as it is called in Dutch, is a famous city internationally as a diplomatic crossroads, and is also a world-class tourist destination. It is the self-proclaimed “city of peace and justice,” and home to international courts where many important trials have been conducted. It also features a very rich cultural scene, great shopping opportunities, and has both old-world Dutch charm and a modern appearance, depending which neighbourhood you are in. In addition to all the urban environment has to offer, there is great natural beauty to be found at the beaches of The Hague, which is located on the North Sea. The oldest buildings in the city were built in the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that The Hague became politically powerful. The city remains the “political capital” of The Netherlands today, which means that it is the seat of government, though Amsterdam is the country’s official capital. The Dutch parliament, ministries, all foreign embassies, and most of the royal buildings are located in The Hague, and the Queen of Holland, Beatrix, lives and works there. The Hague is smaller than Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with a population of about 500,000. It is a very international city, however, and for centuries has had a cosmopolitan atmopshere due to the mix of many different cultures coming together in one place.
Holland has a mild and wet climate. Summer temperatures almost never get really hot, and on average stay between 17 - 26˚C (63 - 79˚F). Temperatures also rarely drop below freezing in the winter, and generally stay between 2 - 13˚C (35.5 - 55˚ F). It still manages to feel quite cold, however, partly due to it being frequently damp and windy. Rain is common and should be expected at any time of year. The best stretches of weather often occur in the fall, when there tends to be more sun, and the days are warm with a crisp breeze.
The language spoken in The Hague is Dutch. The vast majority of people in Holland can speak English, however, and in the major cities and touristy places they are generally quite fluent.
The Netherlands is known as a country where religion is not very popular, and it has the highest percentage of athiests of any country. Only about 39% of the population defines themselves as religious. Catholics make up the largest religious group, followed by Protestants, and there is now also a sizeable Muslim population. There are also small numbers of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists making up collectively less than 3% of the population.
The currency which is used in the Netherlands is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05.
Service charges are almost always included in restaurant bills and taxi fares, but additional tipping is customary. For small bills in restaurants, it is normal to just round up the bill, or add a euro or two if the service was excellent. For larger bills, you can tip between 5-10%, but should not feel obligated to tip if the service was not satisfactory. In general, the Dutch are stingy about tipping, and just give whatever they feel like, not worrying about the percentage. When taking taxis, however, a tip of around 10% is customary. Hotel room service will also expect a small tip, as well as porters and restroom attendants.
Sales tax in The Netherlands is 19%, and is included in the shop prices. This tax can be refunded to tourists from outside of the EU whenever €50 or more is spent in the same shop on the same day. This only works in shops participating in Global Refund Tax Free Shopping, most of which display a sign in the window. Along with your receipt, the shop will present you with a form to fill out, to give to officials at the airport. All you have to do to get your refund is go to the Global Cash Refund Office before check in (in departure hall 3). Note that whatever you buy has to leave The Netherlands within three months for you to get a refund.
There are public telephones all over The Hague, which can be found on the street, in train stations, post offices, and some other establishments. Some of them take cash, but most take only phone cards or credit cards. You can buy phone cards in values of € 5, 10, or 20 at tobacco shops, telecom shops, newsstands, and post offices. The country code of The Netherlands is +31 and the area code for The Hague is 070. To dial a number in The Hague from abroad, dial 00 31 70 followed by the local number.
There are many internet cafés throughout The Hague, easy recognizable on the commercial streets in the centre of the city. Most of them also feature long distance phone calls, photocopying, fax, printing, and other services. Many regular cafés also offer free wifi.
Emergency Numbers
All-purpose emergency number (ambulance, fire and police): 112 Doctors’ after hours number: 070 3469669
Opening Times
In general, shops are open Mon - Fri 10 am - 6 pm and Sat 10 am - 4 pm. Some shops open at 9 am, and supermarkets and other big stores often stay open until 8 or 9 pm. It is also not uncommon for stores to open later on Monday. On Thursday night many shops stay open late, until 8 or 9 pm. Most stores are closed on Sunday, but night shops or “avondwinkels” stay open. These shops are also open nightly until about 1 or 2 am. Banks are open Mon- Fri from 9 am- 4 or 5 pm. Post offices also open at 9 am and close at 5 or 6 pm.
Public Holidays
On the following days, most shops, banks and museums will be closed, and public transport is likely to be more limited. 1 January, New Year’s Day Good Friday Easter Sunday and Monday 30 April, Queen’s Day 5 May, Liberation Day Ascension Day Whit Sunday and Monday 25 and 26 December, Christmas
The Hague is generally a very safe city, and crime rates are very low. However, as in any city, pickpockets can be a problem, especially as they tend to prey on tourists. Be particularly wary in crowded places such as train stations, trams, squares like Grote Markt, and popular tourist attractions, and make sure that you keep a close watch on your belongings. Following basic common sense and being aware of your surroundings should make your stay in the Hague completely trouble-free.
St. Jacobskerk (Grote Kerk)
This Gothic church was built during the 14th century and is famous for its unique, hexagonal tower. The tower was completed in 1420, and is unlike any other church tower in The Netherlands. It was built for military purposes rather than religious ones, and was long used as a lookout tower. You can climb up the tower and get a fantastic panoramic view of the city, as well as see a close-up of the church bells. The interior of the church is stunning as well, with an ornate vaulted ceiling and several interesting monuments. Some famous Dutchmen are buried here with slabs to their honour, such as Constantijn Huygens and his son Christiaan Huygens.
Scheveningen Old Church
A walk along the Northsea beach just behind the dunes at Scheveningen takes you past this charming old church, built in the 14th century when Scheveningen when a small fishing village. It has a simple and inviting interior, relatively unadorned in the Dutch Protestant style, but with lots of light, leaded glass windows, and some beautiful wood work.
Discovering The Hague
The Hague is an interesting city to explore, as it feels at once like a real metropolis and a small town. It has tall buildings, graceful mansions and chic, busy shopping streets, as well as tranquil canals, open squares, and a more relaxed atmosphere than the average city. There are more than 30 square kilomentres of parks and gardens within the city limits, as well as the seaside resorts of Scheveningen and Kijkduin, which form a beautiful and relaxing contrast to the sightseeing and residental areas. One of the most distnctive attractions of The Hague is all of the royal and government buildings, which you will walk on past on almost any excursion through the city centre. These are some of the most grand and stately monuments in the country, built for the most part during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many excellent museums, gourmet restaurants, scenic cobblestoned streets, and shops of all descriptions also lie within easy walking distance, or can be reached with a short tram ride. Several shopping and sightseeing streets in the centre are pedestrian-only, which makes darting around from one attraction or shop to another easier.
Noordeinde Palace
A Renaissance palace located in the oldest section of The Hague, Paleis Noordeinde has long been the home of either the ruling monarch or the Stadtholder, an official appointed by the monarch. The oldest parts of the palace (the “oude hof”) was built in 1533, and the rest was completed in the 17th century. The palace itself is not open to the public, but the beautiful gardens behind it are, daily from dawn until dusk.
Lange Voorhout Palace
One of the several royal residences located in The Hague, the Lange Voorhout Palace was built in 1764 and was the home of Queen Emma from 1901 - 1934. The queens who came after her, Juliana and Beatrix, worked and had offices here. The palace has been open to the public since 1992, and in 2002 the M.C. Escher museum opened inside it. Escher (1898- 1972) is famous for his lithographs, woodcuts, and engravings that feature tricks of the eye, tesselations, geometric shapes, and creatures both fantastical and highly realistic. Seeing his works inside of this beautiful palace is a fascinating and memorable experience.
Binnenhof and Ridderzaal
These buildings are the inner court and “knights’ hall” of what used to be a medieval earl’s castle in the 13th century. The Binnenhof was a hunting lodge at this time, and has since been used for a variety of government functions. It is now one of the centres of Dutch political life, housing the First and Second Chamber of the States General, the country’s main legislative bodies. Whether or not you decide to venture inside for a tour of the building, the cobblestoned courtyard is a beautiful landmark, where you can see the famous twin-towered Ridderzaal. This large building has an excpetionally tall ceiling, and its interior is decorated with flags from the different regions of The Netherlands, and coats of arms from many cities can be seen on the leaded-glass windows. Opening times: Mon - Sat 10 am - 4 pm
Located within the Scheveningen Bosjes (Scheveningen woods), this popular attraction displays “Holland in a Nutshell,” and is a display of a miniature, made-up city called Madurodam. The miniature city is surprisingly detailed and realistic, and features all the main distinctive Dutch elements like windmills, canals, gabled houses, and boat-filled harbours, as well as recreations of some real famous landmarks. These are replicated exactly, at 1/25 the size of the original. One of the best aspects of the exhibit is the way that the trains, ships, taxis, and even planes move, the bells in the churches ring, and it lights up with thousands of tiny lights after dark. Opening times: Apr - June Daily 9 am - 8 pm, July - Aug Daily 9 am - 10 pm, Sept - Mar Daily 9 am - 6 pm Entrance prices: € 13 for adults, € 12 for seniors, € 9 for children ages 3 - 11
Panorama Mesdag
This is an unusual and breathtaking panoramic painting by Hendrik Willem Mesdag, and has a circumference of 119 m. It entirely surrounds the viewer and is astonishing in its illusion of depth, and its detailed and lifelike representation of a Scheveningen fishing scene. To get to the painting, you walk through a dark passageway, up some stairs, and onto a circular platform where artificial dunes are all that separate you from the painting, and add to the three-dimensional effect. The panorama was completed in 1880 by Mesdag with the help of his wife and two other artists. Opening times: Mon - Sat 10 am - 5 pm, Sun and holidays 12 pm - 5 pm Entrance prices: € 5 for adults, € 4 for seniors, € 2.50 for children aged 3 - 13
What was originally the quaint fishing villiage of Scheveningen has become the most popular seaside resort in Holland, and features a spacious beach with a promenade, fishing areas, dunes, and the Sea Life Center, where you can view interesting sea creatures from under water. Scheveningen is easy to reach and is only a 15 minute tram ride from the centre on line 1, 9 or 14. Keep an eye out for the fascinating sculpture area near to the dunes, where there are fanciful scenes brought to life in metal sculptures ranging from three stories high to only a couple of inches tall. The many metal creatures tell a story, and if you look closely you will notice that thir apparently cute and innocent appearance has a dark side.
Sea Life Scheveningen
This fascinating exhibit of sealife is located right on Scheveningen beach, and vistors walk down into glass-walled tunnels beneath the North Sea to get a close-up look at creatures like sharks, sting rays, and jellyfish while experiencing the sensation of walking on a seabed. There is also a Tropical Reed Adventure section, showing sea creatures from a far different climate, including beautiful colourful fish, seahorses, and anenomes.
The Kloosterkerk features beautiful Gothic architecture and is specially built to allow for very large windows. It is grand, yet light and airy and includes some interesting monuments and a crypt inside. The name of the church means “monastery church,” and it was part of a Catholic monastery from around 1400 when it was built, until 1574 when monastic life in the city ended. After this period, the church was used for a variety of purposes, including a stable and a factory for cannons. It became a church again in the late 17th century, but a Protestant one, and has remained so ever since. Nowadays the church hosts a variety of classical music concerts. Detals can be found at
Nieuwe Kerk
The name of this church means “New Church,” and it was built in the 17th century after the St. Jacobskerk was no longer big enough for The Hague’s growing Protestant population. It is unusual for churches of the time in the way that it is built from two hexagonal spaces connected by a narrow rectangular space where the pulpit is located. Today the church’s main function is as a classical concert venue, and you can hear many kinds of groups here, such as early music ensembles, choirs, and string quartets.
Noordeinde Palace Gardens (Pal
These gardens are located just behind Noordeinde Palace and are the only part of the palace that are open to the public. They were cultivated starting in 1640, when Frederik Hendrik bought a meadow behind the palace, and is now a very beautiful and relaxing place for a walk. It is full of large leafy trees, little ponds, charming walkways, and many kinds of flowers that bloom at different times of the year. The gardens are open every day from dawn until dusk.
Kijkduin has now become a whole seaside resort, quieter and more off the beaten track than Scheveningen. In addition to the beach area, there is a large nature preserve with dunes and beautiful scenery. It is possible to rent a bike and cycle through the dunes, and there are also many smaller dirt paths through the park best explored on foot. The dune park is an excellent place for bird watching and for encountering other forms of wildlife, and is a lovely and refreshing place to visit after spending time in the city.