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Mini-Guide to The Hague (Den Haag)


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Basic Facts About The Hague (Den Haag)
Mini-Guide to The Hague (Den Haag)

The Binnenhof on the Hofvijver (Pond)

© Mirko Tobias Schaefer

Brief History of The Hague
The Netherlands' third most populous city, The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag or 's-Gravenhage) had a modest start around 1230, when Floris IV, Count of Holland, elected to build his country house next to the picturesque Hofvijver, at the site where the Binnenhof (slide 3) now stands. The name 's-Gravenhage, archaic Dutch for "the count's wood", is a relic of this event.

By the 15th century, the sole residence had expanded into a city that served as the administrative center of the County of Holland -- and later, of the Dutch Republic. It remains the seat of Dutch politics today, in addition to a more recent role as a center of international justice, thanks to the major international courts that have been established here; it also houses the nation's embassies.

Art & Architecture
With almost 900 years of history, the city center has collected a fair share of monumental architecture, which becomes evident to visitors just south of the Central Station. Historically one of the most prominent cities in the Netherlands, it has amassed some of the country's most treasured cultural institutions, not least of all the Mauritshuis (Maurits House), whose lavish halls are bedecked with Old Masters; a diverse variety of other museums, some 30 in total, round out the local cultural attractions.

The Hague offers not only Dutch culture, but multiculture -- it is home to sizable communities of Surinamese, Indonesian, Chinese and other expats. This affords the city a worldly, cosmopolitan feel, as each contributes visibly to an urban texture interwoven with superb cultural centers, authentic food finds and more. Foodies can start their day with a few rounds of Cantonese dim sum, lunch on Surinamese Hindustani roti dishes, and cap off their day of delicacies with the Indonesian banquet known as the rijsttafel (slide 4).

Getting Around
Like other medieval cities in the Netherlands, The Hague is quite compact, and its historic core can easily be seen by foot. (Map lovers and those with a poor sense of direction can duck into Bruna, a newsstand chain with a location at The Hague Central Station, for a selection of city maps.) Some attractions, like the Gemeentemuseum (next slide), are more conveniently reached by tram.

The popular beach resort of Scheveningen is technically a district of The Hague, but deserves its own article due to its distinct character and the abundant attractions of its own; in the summer, the two can be seamlessly combined into a day or weekend trip that marries nature and culture.

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