The Hague (Den Haag), is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants (as of 1 September 2011), it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Located in the west of the Netherlands, The Hague is in the centre of the Haaglanden conurbation and lies at the southwest corner of the larger Randstad conurbation.
The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State, but the city is not the capital of the Netherlands which constitutionally is Amsterdam. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands lives at Huis ten Bosch and works at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. All foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organisations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justiceand the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major cities hosting the United Nations.
When the Dukes of Burgundy gained control over the counties of Holland and Zeeland at the beginning of the 15th century, they appointed a stadtholder to rule in their stead with the States of Holland as an advisory council. Their seat was located in The Hague. At the beginning of the Eighty Years' War, the absence of city walls proved disastrous, as it allowed Spanish troops easily to occupy the town. In 1575 the States of Holland even considered demolishing the city, but this proposal was abandoned, after mediation by William of Orange. From 1588 The Hague also became the location of the government of the Dutch Republic. In order for the administration to maintain control over city matters, The Hague never received official city status (although it did have many of the privileges normally granted only to cities). However, since the days of King Louis Napoleon (1806) The Hague has been allowed to call itself a city.
The older parts of the town have many characteristically wide and long streets. Houses are generally low-rise (often not more than three floors). A large part of the southwestern city was planned by the progressive Dutch architect H.P. Berlage about 1910. This 'Plan Berlage' decided the spacious and homely streets for several decades. In World War II a large part of western The Hague was destroyed by the Germans. Afterwards, modernist architect W.M. Dudok planned its renewal, putting apartment blocks for the middle class in open, park-like settings.
The layout of the city is more spacious than other Dutch cities, and because of the incorporation of large and old nobility estates, the creation of various parks and the use of green zones around natural streams, it is a much more green city than any other in the Netherlands. That is, excepting some mediaeval close-knitted streets in the centre. There are only a few canals in The Hague, as most of these were drained in the late 19th century.
The ‘Denneweg’ and ‘Frederikstraat’ offer a great mixture of haute couture, pleasant boutiques and trendy fashion shops. It’s also a splendid place to relax after hours of shopping as it’s home to some of The Hague’s finest restaurants and lunchrooms.
‘Noordeinde’ deserves a special mention. What it lacks in fashion, it makes up for in art. This street has the highest ‘art density’ in Holland and is packed with art galleries and antiques.
Quarters of The Hague
Before you leave The Hague, you should definitely take some time to wander around the quarter ‘Hofkwartier’. The small alleyways are crammed with shops, boutiques, barbers, restaurants, bars, antique stores, interior design shops and many other surprises.
The Hague does not have the customary metropolitan reputation for a bustling night life, with some festivity exceptions in the course of the year. This is partly explained by the city's lack of a university and hence student life. Night life centers around the three main squares in the city center: the Plein (literally "Square"), the Grote Markt (literally "Great Market") and theBuitenhof (literally the "Outer Court", which lies just outside the Binnenhof). The Plein is taken by several large sidewalk cafés where often politicians may be spotted. The Grote Markt is completely strewn with chairs and tables, summer or winter. The Buitenhof contains the popular Pathé Buitenhof cinema and a handful of bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. A similar pattern of night life centers on the cinema in Scheveningen, although, especially in summer, night life concentrates around the sea-front boulevard with its bars, restaurants and gambling halls.
- The Ridderzaal (Knights' Hall) is the main building at the Binnenhof , which is used for the state opening of Parliament on the third Tuesday in September, Prinsjesdag, when the Dutch monarch drives to Parliament in the Golden Carriage and delivers the speech from the throne. It is also used for official royal receptions, and interparliamentary conferences. In the 13th century Floris IV, Count of Holland bought a piece of land next to a small lake to build a house on. The Ridderzaal, the manorial hall of Floris V, grandson of Floris IV, was built on this estate in the 13th century. Over the centuries, the government buildings developed around this lake and incorporated the Ridderzaal. From the early 17th century, the Ridderzaal became an important trading place for booksellers, as Westminster Hall was in London. In later centuries it served a variety of purposes - as a market hall, a promenade, a drill hall, a public record office, a hospital ward, even the offices of the state lottery. It was restored between 1898 and 1904 to serve its present purposes.
- Noordeinde Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family. It has been used as the "working palace" for Queen Beatrix since 1984. The palace originally started as a medieval farmhouse, which was converted into a spacious residence by the steward of the States of Holland, Willem van de Goudt in 1533. The original farmhouse's cellars can still be seen in the palace basement. From 1566 to 1591, the palace had a different owner. After that it was leased, and in 1595, purchased by the States of Holland for Louise de Coligny, the widow of William of Orange, and her son Prince Frederik Hendrik. In recognition of William’s service to the nation, the States presented the building to his family in 1609.
- The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. Previously the residence of count John Maurice of Nassau, it now has a large art collection, including paintings by Dutch painters such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Paulus Potter and Frans Hals and works of the German painter Hans Holbein the Younger. In 1631, army officer John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen (1604–1679), who was a cousin of stadtholder Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, bought a plot bordering the Binnenhof and the adjacent pond named Hofvijver, at that time, The Hague was the political center of the Dutch Republic and the States-General assembled in the Binnenhof.
The Mauritshuis was named after Prince John Maurice and was built between 1636 and 1641, the period when he was the governor of Dutch Brazil.
- Madurodam is a miniature city located in Scheveningen. It is a model of a Dutch town on a 1:25 scale, composed of typical Dutch buildings and landmarks, as are found at various locations in the country. This major Dutch tourist attraction was built in 1952 and has been visited by tens of millions of visitors ever since. The miniature city was named after George Maduro, a Jewish law student from Curaçao who fought the Nazi occupation forces as a member of the Dutch resistance and died at Dachau concentration camp in 1945. In 1946 Maduro was posthumously awarded the medal of Knight 4th-class of the Military Order of William, the highest and oldest military decoration in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for the valor he had demonstrated in the Battle of the Netherlands against German troops. His parents donated the funds necessary for the Madurodam project. On July 2, 1952, the then teenaged princess Beatrix was appointed mayor of Madurodam, after which she was given a tour of her town. When Beatrix became queen of the Netherlands, she relinquished this function. Today, the mayor of Madurodam is elected by a youth municipal council consisting of 25 pupils from schools in the region.
- The Peace Palace is often called the seat of international law because it houses the International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library. In addition to hosting these institutions, the Palace is also a regular venue for special events in international policy and law. The idea of the Palace started from a discussion in 1900 between the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens and the US diplomat Andrew White, over providing a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which was established through the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899. White contacted his friend the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie about this idea. Carnegie had his reservations, and at first was only interested in donating money for the establishment of a Library of International Law. White however was able to convince Carnegie, and in 1903 Carnegie agreed to donate the US$1.5 million ($40,000,000, adjusted for inflation) needed for a Peace Temple that would house the PCA as well as to endow it with a library of international law.