Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

April 2012: The Hague

The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch) is the main city in the South Holland province of the Netherlands, a mere thirty-minute train ride away from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. Despite having all the trappings of a capital city - it is the seat of both government and monarchy and home to a number of international institutions, as well as to every foreign embassy in the country - it is not the official capital of the Netherlands. Although The Hague has a population of around 500,000, I thought that the city centre had a pleasant small-town feel, with none of the commotion and unrestrained party spirit so often associated with its larger rival. I found it quiet, clean, civilised and friendly - not a bad commendation! The city also appeared to exude considerable wealth, although according to information on the Internet there are also some notoriously run-down neighbourhoods that visitors would do well to steer clear of.

My short visit was enough to form a good overall impression of the place. I spent most of it out of doors, however; there simply wasn't enough time to do justice to museums, galleries and the like. Nor was there sufficient time to visit the nearby towns of Delft and Leiden, both of which I reckoned to be of potential interest. Sounds to me like a follow-up visit will be required!

Binnenhof

This former castle complex is the seat of government of the Netherlands, housing the two parliamentary chambers, the office of the prime minister and the usual supporting functions. The name means 'Inner Courtyard' and although it is medieval in origin, the site has evolved (in terms of architectural styles) over a period of at least 800 years.

Royal Palace

The Paleis Noordeinde is the 'working palace' (i.e. not the residence) of Queen Beatrix. It is not open to the public.

Peace Palace

The early twentieth-century Vredespaleis is home to the UN's International Court of Justice and is only open to the public when proceedings are taking place. The surrounding area features leafy avenues lined with 19th-century mansions.

 

City Centre

The Hague is one of those cities where it is a pleasure just to stroll around the streets, taking in the astonishingly diverse architecture and getting a feel for what it's like to live there.

  
 ABOVE: The Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery was closed for renovation at the time of my visit  
 

Scheveningen

The Hague's boundaries take in two North Sea resorts, Scheveningen and Kijkduin. I paid a quick visit to the former on a windswept, off-season Sunday morning. It seemed like a place that was trying to be gaudy and brash, but with an icy gale blowing off the North Sea it looked rather sad and deserted: perhaps left behind by changing fashions, perhaps just the victim of its location and the time of year. A few hardy old souls sat huddled in cafes clutching hot drinks, protected from the elements by plastic sheeting. Although this was continental Europe, there was something terribly British about it all.

Base: Hilton