It was the weekend before Princes Day in the Netherlands and I found myself back in the Royal City of The Hague. I’ve visited The Hague before, and I think I could do so many times more and still be delighted. I won’t repeat myself, but I will suggest you read this and this (thank you!) for lots of lovely intel on the city.
The sky was hazy with the heat of the sun; big orange balloons bounced in the breeze. We sat down to breakfast beside the Hofvijver lake, overlooking the 14th Century Binnenhof (the world’s oldest working government buildings) to celebrate with 500 other guests.
Apple juice glugged and croissants consumed, we wandered the street stalls eyeing up fancy hats and tasty treats, before heading further through the city.
Along Lange Voorhout to see the 150cm wide house, around the five-sided church, through the free subway Poster Museum, and on to De Passage, the country’s oldest shopping arcade (so nice it’s an official UNESCO monument) before looping back round to the Royal Palace.
There are so many little details that make the city feel special – the tiny storks sitting atop the signposts, the brass scallop shells in the pavement (as part of a pilgrimage trail), quirky houses and fine art nouveau fascias.
If you like architecture, you’ll love The Hague. You’ll also feel the same if you like dogs. So many good dogs! I met a Corgi called Lola.
Back at the Binnenhof we took a boat ride on the lake (only allowed as a special treat for Prince’s Day), bobbed along with the ducks and Egyptian goose babies as Babette Zwinkels and her trio performed to crowds at the waterside.
We walked to the Lange Voorhout Palace, once the winter residence of Queen Mother Emma, now known as Escher in The Palace – a permanent exhibition dedicated to artist MC Escher, with additional changing displays. Aside from the amazing work on the walls, each room has a fabulous chandelier (a bird, a champagne bottle, a skull and cross bones!) designed by Dutch sculptor Hans van Bentem. Look up, and then, head down – to the basement kitchen café where you’ll find some beautiful photographs relating to the life of Queen Mother Emma and her family.
After such joys, what could be better than a champagne reception at Museum Bredius? This place is true hidden gem of The Hague, a time capsule of exquisite art, left in trust by Abraham Bredius. A former director of the Mauritshuis museum, it was Bredius who purchased Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring for its collection – so you can imagine how nice his house is!
Dinner at Hotel des Indes, built in the mid-ninteenth century and rich in history, the hotel was once the party palace of a wealthy Baron, and the restaurant fills the original space of the elaborate inner courtyard where the rich and famous would arrive by horse and carriage.
In the morning we caught tram number 1 to Hollands Spoor, to visit the Royal Waiting Rooms of the oldest train station in The Hague, built by the first Dutch railway company – Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg-Maatschappij.
At the time of its construction people were worried that the trains would make the cows milk go sour as it passed them in their fields, but the Royals loved trains, and in 1893 the waiting rooms were opened by Princess Wilhelmina.
From across the tracks, you might not even notice the Royal Waiting Rooms, but find the main entrance as the Royal Family would, and you’ll be absolutely amazed by the hidden beauty. Fabulous floors and tiling, dark red marble walls, mosaiced stairs, stained glass windows, fine paintings and murals, ornate ceilings – it’s all here in this magnificent space. In the royal bathrooms there are delightful George Jennings sinks with scallop shell detail (and if you were wondering, the Ladies in Waiting’s sink is decorated with Forget-Me-Nots, nice touch!)
What would be the most appropriate way to leave the Royal Waiting Rooms, if not by train? By horse drawn carriage of course! I must admit, I didn’t fully embrace the charm of the carriage ride because I was concentrating hard on not falling off the back as we bounced down the dual-carriageway!
Away from the clippity-clop, we paid a quick visit to the first museum of The Netherlands, Galerij Prins Willem V, (wowed by the silk-covered walls packed tightly with over 150 Old Masters in a very traditional salon-style), stopped off for a glimpse of the Peace Palace (wowed by it’s beauty, and the power within- Permanent Court of Arbitration on left, United Nations International Court of Justice to the right!), smelt the gas of the World Peace Flame (okay, I was the only one!) and then headed out to the coast to Scheveningen (bless you!)
Scheveningen is, apparently, a typical herring harbour. A traditional seaside town, the tiny fishermen’s cottages are mostly all renovated and highly desirable. In the warmer months the beachfront is filled with over 100 temporary bars and restaurants with the odd palm tree thrown in for good measure.
As the evening light drew in, we looked up at the Obelisk monument that marked the spot where William of Orange arrived after exile, and heard stories of how Queen Wilhelmina had fled from here to England during the Second World War. I’m told that the ‘Scheve’ of Scheveningen comes from the Anglo Saxon for ‘looking out’, but Google Translate tells me it means ‘Crooked’. Whatever Google, I’m enjoying the view!
Things to see and places to go:
- De Passage – Passage 72, 2511 AA Den Haag
- Escher in The Palace – Lange Voorhout 74, 2514 EH Den Haag
- Hotel Des Indes – Lange Voorhout 54-56, 2514 EG Den Haag
- Mauritshuis – Plein 29, 2501 CM Den Haag
- Museum Bredius – Lange Vijverberg 14, 2513 AC Den Haag
- Museum Panorama Mesdag – Zeestraat 65, 2518 AA Den Haag
- Peace Palace – Carnegieplein 2, 2517 KJ Den Haag
- Prince William V Gallery – Buitenhof 33, 2513 AH Den Haag
- Poster Museum – Grote Marktstraat 58, 2511 BJ Den Haag
- Royal Waiting Rooms – Stationsplein 44 A, 2515 BW Den Haag
I was a guest of The Hague & Partners, along with a small group of lovely journalists. As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to assess the plumbing fixtures, even in the finest of spaces, something that I will live and die with!)
If you’d like to keep up with what I’m up to work-wise (talks, events, exhibitions, that kind of stuff), you can find my Agenda on my website. And, if you’d like occasional updates about all sorts of other nice things, in your inbox, you can join my mailing list here.