48 hours in the Hague: Spend a weekend off the beaten path

by Derek Miller
Contributing writer

When visitors arrive in Germany, the are often encouraged to visit the ‘big three’ – Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

While these cities are world-famous and certainly worth an investment of time and money to see, some of Europe’s smaller cities are often equally as impressive in their history, culture and variety of activities for tourists. They are also frequently devoid of heavy crowds, high prices and traffic congestion. One such notable city is “Den Haag,” or The Hague, Netherlands.

The Hague is the center of government in the Netherlands. Clean streets, majestic neighborhoods catering to the numerous civil servants and diplomats, royal palaces, and noble architecture will remind visitors of other parliamentary cities in Europe. Architecture dating back to the 15th century combined with the international flavor brought by the many embassies located in and around the city creates a culturally diverse look and feel.

The nearby seaside with its sandy beaches combined with the city’s compact layout, ease of movement on foot or by bike, and outdoor activities make this relatively small city a treat for a weekend getaway for couples and families alike.
For campers, Kijkduinpark is an exceptional facility that is protected from the sea breeze by large sand dunes. It provides the ideal staging point for exploring the area.

This full-service resort contains both camping and chalet rentals of all sizes, and includes on-site recreational facilities, such as a children’s play area, a pool, tennis courts and Wi-Fi.

Situated just on the northwest side of The Hague is the village of Scheveningen, which is Holland’s largest seaside resort city. Upper and lower boardwalk-style pedestrian walks line the sandy beach here and feature numerous bars and restaurants that cater to every palate, but specialize in local seafood. For a fun evening outing, seek out the Crazy Pianos bar and listen to the duelling pianos play the rock ‘n’ roll favorites requested by the audience.

In Scheveningen, be sure to check out the massive Kurhaus, a national monument that houses a hotel and a casino, and the “Museum Beelden aan Zee,” or Sculptures by the Sea, a collection of metal sculptures at the center of the main boardwalk.

An ideal way to see most of The Hague in a weekend is by combined bike and walking tour. Several free walking tours of the Hague, which cover the main attractions and include descriptions, are available. Go to www.planetware.com and enter the search term “The Hague,” then click on “Do-It-Yourself Tours” on the left side of the page for more information.

Like most towns in the Netherlands, The Hague is very bike-friendly, and its compact core is perfect for a stroll to see the sights, eat and shop. Bike from your hotel or campground to the Binnenhof, which contains both chambers of the Dutch parliament, and begin your walking tour from there.

Pack a picnic lunch from one of the convenient to-go lunch buffets or bakeries in the central shopping area along Prinse-Straat, and sit by the lake to the southwest of the Binnenhof for a great place to people watch, or stroll down to the Grote Markt at the corner of Prinsegracht to the “Boterwaag,” or Butter Weigh House, and enjoy a local ale. This market square was a centerpiece of Holland’s butter and cheese trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Another place of interest for shoppers is the massive Turkish Market at Hobemaplein. This market, one of the largest in Western Europe, is worth a look to browse the variety of the vendors’ wares.

Museum buffs should check out the Mauritshuis, a beautiful mansion and former military school dating from the 17th century that houses a significant collection of Golden Age Dutch paintings, or the “Gemeentemuseum,” or Municipal Museum, which describes in detail the history of The Hague.

Finish your day biking to the “Vredespaleis,” or Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, and take in the impressive views before a leisurely dinner and nightcap on the sea.

The Hague, though not one of the ‘trendy’ destinations in Europe, has plenty to offer its guests and is sure not to disappoint.