The Hague

This article is about The Hague proper. Scheveningen is covered in a separate article.

The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag or 's-Gravenhage) is a city in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. It is the seat of the Dutch parliament and government, and the residence of King Willem-Alexander, but it is not the capital city, which is Amsterdam. The municipality has about 500,000 inhabitants, with the greater urban area numbering about one million. The Hague lies on the North Sea and is home to Scheveningen, the most popular seaside resort of the Netherlands, as well as the smaller resort of Kijkduin.

Understand

View of the Binnenhof, the centre of government in The Hague

Internationally, The Hague is often known as the "judicial capital of the world" due to the many international courts that are located in the city. Among these are the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and, since 2004, the International Criminal Court. Beside these institutions, The Hague is home to more than 150 international organizations, as well as many EU institutions, multinational companies and embassies. This gave the city a distinct international character — one that is noticeably different from Amsterdam. Rather than having the many foreign tourists and fortune-seekers attracted by Amsterdam's reputation for excitement and liberalism, The Hague generally has more expatriates working and living in the city because of the number of international institutions and companies. Because of this, The Hague has a reputation as a wealthy, conservative and somewhat sedate city.

The Hague has very little of the edginess and excitement of Amsterdam; however, it provides well for its inhabitants in different ways, such as large areas of green space, 11 km of coastline, attractive shopping streets and an extensive multicultural scene. Rather than having canals like other Dutch cities, The Hague has streets and avenues that are just a little bit wider than those in the rest of the country, giving the city a more continental feel. Instead of the typical Dutch renaissance 17th-century step-gabled houses, it has 18th-century mansions in baroque and classicist styles. The city is considered by many as the most stately of the country. Just outside the city centre, posh neighbourhoods effuse a more 19th century look with eclectic and art nouveau architecture.

The farther you get from the sea front and the city centre, however, the more neighbourhoods tend to become less well-off. One dividing line between affluent and sketchier areas is drawn by some at Laan van Meerdervoort, which runs parallel to the seaside. Areas away from the sea tend to have much less in the way of green space. An exception to this is one centrally located park, Zuiderpark, which also used to contain the stadium of the local football team ADO Den Haag. Some of its supporters were known as the most notorious hooligans of the country, perpetuating a stereotype of "lower-class" for the inhabitants of that area.

The Hague offers great architecture, from the picturesque government complex of the Binnenhof, to the grand and stately mansions on Lange Voorhout. Museums like the Mauritshuis rank among the best in the country. For food aficionados, The Hague offers some of the country's best Indonesian cuisine, due to large-scale immigration from this former Dutch colony. The city also offers good opportunities for outings, such as extensive green spaces for walking and bicycling as well as dunes and seaside recreation areas just a few tram stops away from the city centre. The Hague also offers a few attractions especially appealing to children, such as the miniature city of Madurodam and the 360 degree Omniversum cinema.

Over the past 10 years, the city has undergone an extensive amount of development in the form of modern architecture projects. Recent constructions include the City Hall and Central Library by American architect Richard Meier, De "Snoeptrommel" (known by the locals as Candy-Box) - a round shopping centre next to the old town hall, and a collection of post-modern, brick-clad office towers in between the city hall and the Centraal railway station, which provide new housing for a number of ministries. A major infrastructural development has been the construction of an underground tram tunnel underneath Grote Marktstraat, which is used by regular trams, and a new light-rail system, known as RandstadRail, linking The Hague with the neighbouring cities of Zoetermeer and Rotterdam.

A major redevelopment project is currently underway in the area around the Centraal railway station. Here, skyscrapers like the 142 m Hoftoren rise up over the city and several other high-rise towers are currently under construction.

Get in

A view of the new high-rise buildings near the city centre.

By plane

The Hague shares an airport with Rotterdam. Rotterdam The Hague Airport can be reached from The Hague Central Station by RandstadRail Line E, with an Airport Shuttle to and from Meijersplein Station. However, with several direct trains per hour from the railway stations Hollands Spoor and Centraal, and also with an hourly night train from station Hollands Spoor, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is more frequently used by people travelling to and from The Hague by air.

By train

Central Station The Hague, Front area with buildings from the Babylon Complex

The Hague has two main train stations, serving domestic and international routes.

Visitors are most likely to use Centraal Station, as it is closer to the cenre of town, tourist attractions and shopping. It also has the best local public transport links via tram and bus, and is also safer at night than Hollands Spoor, which is in a somewhat sketchy area of town. The only reason for using Hollands Spoor is to catch the international trains to Antwerp and Brussels. In addition to southbound trains from Centraal, tram lines 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 also cover the short distance from Centraal Station to Hollands Spoor. Both stations have trains that go to and from Schiphol Airport.

By car

The Hague is connected by toll-free motorways to Amsterdam (A4 and A44), Rotterdam (A13) and Utrecht (A12). Access to the centre is through the A12 motorway that penetrates the city centre, like a needle, and ends on a large traffic junction just north of the historic centre. Approaching and leaving the city from any of these motorways can take a long time during the morning and evening rush hours. On hot summer days, hundreds of thousands of people try to reach Scheveningen beach by car, and huge traffic jams of up to 50 km long may occur, causing traffic delays of up to several hours. On such days, consider taking public transportation. The park and ride facility P+R Hoornwijck opened in 2008 on the Laan van Hoornwijck by the Ypenburg interchange. Motorists can easily reach it from the A4 (Exit 9) and A13 (Exit 7). From here, you can take tram 15 to the city centre.

Get around

By tram or bus

The Hague has an efficient city wide system of light rail (called RandstadRail), trams and buses, running mostly on free tracks allowing for a fairly speedy ride. HTM runs the public transport system in The Hague and some of the surrounding area. Rotterdam-based runs a Randstadrail line between The Hague and Rotterdam, through various suburbs. Veolia runs regional bus services to the areas surrounding The Hague.

Centraal Station has easy access to trams on the south side (Rijnstraat), but the main lines (Randstadrail 2, 3 and 4, tram 6) stop on platforms crossing the main station hall at level 1. You can find buses on the bus platform above the railway tracks. Central Station is currently finishing up a major reconstruction work that may make some connections hard to find. Just ask at the information kiosk at the centre of the station. Hollands Spoor has trams and buses stopping in the front of its main entrance.

On Friday and Saturday nights HTMBuzz operates six Nightbus services. Tickets for these are more expensive (€5) and only available from the bus driver. All night services meet at Buitenhof in the city centre every hour.

Tickets

If you use public transport, you will need a valid ticket. The strippenkaart is no longer valid. You can travel by "OV Chipkaart", which is a public transport smart card. This card can be bought at the HTM offices at Central Station (you find the office upstairs at the bus terminal), Hollands Spoor and in Wagenstraat, among other places.

You can also buy a ticket directly from the driver in normal trams and buses when boarding, these tickets cost €3 and are valid for one hour on all trams and buses by HTM or HTMBuzz. RandstadRail trams (the blue-white ones) instead have a ticket machine that accepts coins and Chipknip (a Dutch payment system). If this ticket machine is broken (more often than not), you have to buy a ticket from the ticket inspector (if there is one).

Fines for not having a valid ticket are €35 plus the cost of a normal ticket. Ticket inspectors board trams and lightrail at random, either in uniform or plain clothes.

By foot

The Hague's city centre is fairly compact and you can easily navigate the area on foot. From Centraal Station, it is about a 10 min walk to the Binnenhof and the Hofvijver pond.

See

Centre

William of Orange overlooks the Plein (Square).

The heart of the city contains most of the historic architecture from the medieval, renaissance, and Baroque periods and is easily accessible on foot. You'll also find lots of outdoor cafes and shopping near the Plein on the Lange Poten or just east of there on the Hofweg.

Ridderzaal at Binnenhof.
The Escher Museum on the Lange Voorhout.

Statenkwartier Area

Peace Palace, the home of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The Statenkwartier area, located between the dunes and the centre, has leafy avenues and 19th century housing and is very popular with The Hague's large expatriate community. The area is nice for walking tours of the 19th-century mansions, which showcase architectural diversity in The Hague. All kinds of neo- and modern-styles are represented here, especially Art Nouveau architecture. Good shops, delicatessens and restaurants are to be found on Statenkwartier's main street, Frederik Hendriklaan, or 'Fred'. The area also has a number of tourist attractions, which make it worth a visit, most of them being clustered around the Gemeentemuseum on Stadhouderslaan.

Elsewhere

Do

Scheveningen Pier in the late summer.

Since The Hague was founded on a former hunting manor, there are a variety of parks and green spaces that are ideal for exploration. Like the majority of cities in the Netherlands, The Hague is extremely bike friendly and it's easy to get from one place to another on a bicycle if you feel like stepping outside the city centre. Scheveningen (and to a lesser extent Kijkduin) is a busy seaside resort filled with boardwalk cafes and close to the dunes. The prime months to get out and see The Hague on foot or by pedal are in the late spring, summer, and early fall months; just note that the beachfront area can get extremely crowded as vacationers from all over Europe come to visit and bask along the North Sea coastline.

Events

Work

Many people move to the Randstad area (including The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam) either for a year out, work (as an Expatriate) or to join partners (who are mostly either Expatriates or Dutch). There are specialist websites for English and non-Dutch speakers looking to work in The Hague (and Randstad area) and a good place to start; Blue Lynx - Employment by Language.

Immigration matters are dealt with by the Immigration Service IND. Registration is done by both police and municipalities. Immigration policy is restrictive and deliberately bureaucratic. That is especially true for non-EU citizens.

European Union citizens do not require a work permit. Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians are afforded a one year working-holiday visa. In general the employer must apply for work permits. Immigration is easier for "knowledge migrants" earning a gross annual salary of over € 45 000 (over € 33 000 for those under 30).

Buy

The entrance to the Passage, the Netherlands' oldest shopping centre.

The lively and historical centre of The Hague is perfect for a day of shopping. The shopping area around the Spuistraat and Grote Marktstraat is busy seven days a week. Most of the main department stores are located in this shopping area.

You can find the best shopping in The Hague on the side streets that circle out from the city centre. While lots of them are upscale, you can find a few bargain stores dotted here and there.

  • The American Book Center, Lange Poten 23,  +31 70 3642742. This unique store sells new and used English titles and caters to both expats and locals. If you're dragging extra copies of books across Europe, but don't want to throw them away, try trading them in here.

Eat

Just as Indian restaurants abound in the UK, the Netherlands has an excellent tradition in Indonesian and colonial Dutch-Indies cuisine. After Indonesia became independent from the Netherlands in 1945, the country received a large number of former colonials from Dutch and mixed descent who had been forced to leave the newly independent colony. The Hague received a relatively large number of these people and is still a centre of the Dutch-Indonesian community.

Indonesian, city centre

Indonesian, out of the centre

Michelin starred restaurants

Organic

Other

Drink

Bars and Pubs

  • Boterwaag. Opposite September, housed in a former weighing building it's a spacious and atmospheric venue. The Boterwaag is a wheelchair friendly cafe.
  • Grand Cafe Grote Markt. GC is a particular, “green-focused” bar/restaurant that recreates the lively feelin’ of Global Village livin’. It will fill you up with fine organic food & wines, pure tasteful beers, international bar-bites, cocktails & shots.
  • September. Locate next to De Zwarte Ruiter.
  • Supermarkt. W 09:00 PM - 01:00 AM Th F Sa 09:00 PM - 03:00 AM. A bar cum live rock venue, next to September and De Zwarte Ruiter.
  • Zeta. Locate between De Zwarte Ruiter and VaVoom Tikiroom.

Coffeeshops

As everywhere in The Netherlands, the possession (of small quantities) and use of cannabis (hash and weed) is tolerated in The Hague. Since Amsterdam draws more coffee-shop tourism prices are lower in The Hague. Some renowned places:

Please remember that possessing large quantities of hasheesh or cannabis is a crime in The Netherlands, and please do not take stuff with you when leaving The Netherlands (you can be punished severely in neighbouring countries). It's also unwise to buy for someone else, especially if it's a foreigner as you can be punished in his or her country of origin (it has happened).

A noteworthy fact is that smoking tobacco is currently banned inside food and drink establishments — even coffeeshops! That being said, tobacco smoking appears to be tolerated in coffee shops, and their pre-rolled joints are often mixed with tobacco.

Nightclubs

Sleep

Hotel Des Indes, arguably The Hague's most famous hotel.

Despite its size and international prominence, the Hague does not boast many hotels. Most of them are geared towards business guests, although there is a fair selection across price ranges. As the Randstad is very well connected with frequent train services, as well as trams and buses, you may also consider accommodation in the neighbouring cities of Delft, Leiden, Zoetermeer, Rijswijk or even Rotterdam.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

You should take normal precautions against pickpockets and baggage theft, especially in the main shopping streets, in trams and trains, at stations, and anywhere where tourists congregate. Street begging is common around the Hollands Spoor train station and at the Grote Markt. Most of them are homeless and non-aggressive and a simple 'no' will be enough. At night, the city centre is quite safe because of the large number of police cameras monitoring this area. Neighbourhoods southwest of the centre are less affluent and may not be as safe. The area between Zuiderpark and Hollands Spoor has a bad reputation due to the increasing number of street gangs. Schilderswijk and Transvaal areas are blocks that should be avoided after dark. If you are unsure, take a taxi to your destination. Taking a tram is also considered safe, as the so-called 'risky lines' in this area now have a security team on board from 8PM till 1AM.

Cope

Embassies

  • Burundi, Carnegielaan 4-14, 2517 KH.

Go next

Quaint cities like Delft, known for its famous blue pottery, and the university town of Leiden are just 15 minutes by train.

Routes through The Hague

Amsterdam Leiden  N  S  Delft
END  W  E  Zoetermeer Arnhem


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.