The Hague – An Introduction

A visitor asked a Dutch guide “What’s the capital of The Netherlands?” He replied, “Amsterdam is our capital, but our government sits in The Hague.”

This curious fact is just one of the many aspects of Den Haag (English: The Hague) that make it a unique and fascinating destination. The municipality sits on the west coast of the Netherlands facing the North Sea. With well over half a million residents, it is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Together with Utrecht, these four cities complete the Randstad, a 30km x 60km urban area in Holland that covers over 11,000 square kilometers and is one of the most densely populated and economically important areas in Europe.

The Forest City by the Sea

Den Haag, also known as ‘s-Gravenhage (which means “the counts’ private enclosure” in Dutch) refers to a grand medieval hunting lodge built here by Dutch noblemen in a wooded area named ‘den haghe’ (the hedge) in the 13th century. The ‘hedge’ or treeline, was in reference to a protective wall of shrubbery encircling the Haage Bos (The Hague Forest) in the 1500s. It gradually referred to the surrounding neighborhoods as well and ultimately became the namesake of the entire town.

Since then, this ancient forest has become the center of a thriving, modern city with a fascinating history and the most popular beach in Holland – The Scheveningen

Noble Beginnings

In 1559, William the First made The Hague his capital for The Netherlands and established a government here in 1585. Later his son, Prince Maurice of Orange, was a key figure in leading the Dutch revolt against Spain and became one of the founders of modern democracy. He also initiated many cultural and artistic projects in The Hague, such as building canals around the city, developing the beach community, and commissioning artworks from Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Den Haag has been described as “the city of peace” because of its official motto: Vrede en Recht (Peace and Justice). Indeed, the municipality is home to the famous International Court of Justice and many other international organizations that promote peace and fairness around the world. It hosts several courts and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court, Europol, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The city has also welcomed many important conferences and international summits on various topics, such as human rights, disarmament, climate change, and trade. Perhaps the most famous are the 1945 Nuremberg trials, the Lockerbie bombing trial, and the official inquiry into the Russia downing of Flight MH17 in 2022 just to name a few.

The Hague Embraces its History

This area is full of history, as recorded in some of its world-class public exhibitions. Of the 17 museums in town, a half dozen stand out as a ‘must-see’ for travelers – specifically the Mauritshuis Royal Gallery, The Louwman Car Museum, The Art Museums of The Hague, Statues by the Sea, The Prison Gate and The Escher Museum at the Palace. Luckily, all these collections are within two kilometers of the central station, so walking or biking is an option for everyone.

Attractions for Visitors

Museums aside, the Hague is a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination that offers many unusual attractions for the brave tourist. Some excursions are quite unique: you can tiptoe through the tulips at Keukenhof, visit the miniature village of Madurodam, bungee jump from Scheveningen Pier, ride a giant Ferris wheel over the North Sea, go ‘mine-crafting’ at Legoland or see a secret collection of ancient telescopes unknown to most!

But perhaps the main attraction in town is the beautiful beach. As the most popular coastline in the Netherlands, Scheveningen Beach is a great place for a sunny day on the shore. The area is full of fun things to do for the whole family, and we heartily recommend spending at least one full vacation day here to enjoy the resort from high tide to sunset.

For visitors, The Hague is a town that combines tradition and innovation with history and culture to achieve a unique beauty and fascinating diversity. It’s a city that will surprise you with its charm, inspire you with its vision, and become a dream destination that you’ll never forget!

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