Cultural Weekend in The Hague

Dutch cities are alive with great art. I have yet to visit one that is not packed with Cultural gems. My latest jaunt was a Cultural Weekend in The Hague. Three days packed with museums, great food and the seaside.

Exterior of Mauritshuis gallery The Hague with flower filled tubs in the foreground
Mauritshuis
My most recent visit to The Hague was on a press trip with Visit Netherlands

Cultural Weekend in The Hague

Why choose The Hague? Simply The Hague has world class art galleries AND the seaside. The Mauritshuis and the Voorlinden are galleries worth travelling for on their own.

Art in the Hague

The Hague has been the seat of government of the Netherlands ever since the Netherlands became a country. Royal palaces abound, some are still working palaces and others given over to art or government.

Mauritshuis

Red walled stairwell lined with Dutch golden age paintings, ceiling modern painting Mauritshuis
Now that’s what I call a stairwell

Prince William V of Orange started an art collection in the late 18th century. He amassed great treasures, work by Vemeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Hans Holbein to mention a few. His collection is still displayed in the same way in the same rooms in what is now known as the Prince William V gallery. When Napoleon swept into the Netherlands his troops took William’s collection with them. When it was returned it took up residence in a rather fine town house over looking the central Hofvijer that we now know as the Mauritshuis. I love the Mauritshuis, it is not too big and you feel that all everything that is in the collection is there because one man wanted to own it.

Rembrandt Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp with photograph by Stephan Vanfleteren of the missing hand, part of Flash|Back exhibiton at Mauritshuis
Stephen Vanfleteren interprets Rembrandt
Flash | Back at the Mauritshuis

The Mauritshuis opened its doors to the public in 1822, making 2022 the bicentenary year. To celebrate, the museum will be bedecked with flowers outside. Inside a dozen photographers have been invited to take one painting as their inspiration and to create a new work. Flash | Back has these new works hanging next to the paintings that inspired them. It is the perfect counterpoint to the collection. You still get to see all the favourites, step forward The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch but hanging nearby are tributes to the Old Masters.

Mural of birds based on painting in Mauritshuis
Mauritshuis Mural
Mauritshuis Murals

As part of the 200 birthday celebrations the Mauritshuis is taking art out of the gallery and onto the walls of The Hague. Five murals inspired by paintings in the collection will appear over the course for this year.

  • Mauritshuis, Plein 29, The Hague
  • Open: Monday 1 pm – 6 pm, Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
  • Admission:
  • Dutch Museum Pass: Free

Prince William V Gallery

Prince William V gallery The Hague small room hung densely with Old Master paintings
Prince William V Gallery

Prince William V of Orange first hung his collection in these rooms in Buitenhof. This is the first public art gallery in the Netherlands. 150 old masters hang in two rooms just as they would have done in William’s time. Barely an inch of wall space is not occupied by a painting. Entry is included in your Mauritshuis ticket or you can choose to visit separately. Either way visiting is like stepping back into the 18th century.

  • Prince William V Gallery, Buitenhof 33 
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 12 am – 5 pm
  • Admission: Adult €5.50 but included in Mauritshuis entry
  • Dutch Museum Pass: Free

Panorama Mesdag

Painting of Boats on a sandy beach Mesdag Panorama The Hague
This photo does not capture the amazement that you feel when you’re actually at Panorama Mesdag!

Hendrik Willem Mesdag was one of The Hague School of painters who painted all things maritime. In 1880 he was asked to create a panorama of view at top of the sand dune at Scheveningen. He set about creating what is now the biggest painting in The Netherlands with the help of his wife and fellow Hague School painters. I’ve seen Victorian era panorama paintings before and they are interesting but not convincing. Not so the Panorama Mesdag, I could not believe my eyes. My brain told me that I was standing looking at a painting that went on for miles, no matter how I looked or tried to work out the trick. You need to see the Panorama Mesdag to believe it.

  • Museum Panorama Mesdag, Zeestraat 65, Den Haag
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult €15
  • Dutch Museum Pass: Free

Fotomuseum

As you might expect the Fotomuseum is devoted to photography. There are usually three exhibitions on at a time, when I visited they were all totally different embracing photography in all its forms. As you leave/arrive there is beautiful light airy cafe.

  • Fotomuseum, Stadhouderslaan 43, Den Haag
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult €10
  • Dutch Museum Pass: Free
Square pond edged with wooden sculptures Fotomuseum and Kunstmuseum The Hague
Fotomuseum and Kunstmuseum

Kunstmuseum den Haag

You could spend a whole weekend in the Kunstmuseum and still not see everything. The world’s largest collection of Mondrian lives here, with special displays for his 150th anniversary in 2022. What drew me in was a special exhibiton on Mucha, which runs until 28 August 2022. On the way out I spied work by Louise Bourgeois, a tantalising glimpse of a collection of the Delftware that looks to be so much more than tulip holders, Kandinsky and Monet were there too. Add to all that, the building itself. It looks plain on the outside but inside is an Art Deco marvel that just invites you to explore. I cannot wait to return.

  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Stadhouderslaan 41
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult €16
  • Dutch Museum Pass: Free

Museum Voorlinden

Leafy tress in front of modernist buildings Voorlinden Museum The Hague
Voorlinden behind some lime trees

Technically the Voorlinden is not really in The Hague but rather Wassenaar, an upmarket dormitory village between The Hague and Leiden. You could happily spend all day at the Voorlinden. The collection has been amassed by Joop van Coldenborgh who has also had the museum built to house his collection. He collects work of artists who are living, so that he can have a dialogue with them. Some of the pieces in the permanent collection like Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool have been made especially for the gallery. The building is truly stunning, all stone slabs and plate glass, you feel like you are outside when you are inside. The gardens you can glimpse through the plate glass windows are planted by Piet Oudolf. Everything is simply stunning.

Outside the gallery you can wander around the gardens and wider estate. There is an unpaved trail that takes you deep into the dunes with views of the North Sea. Sculpture is dotted all around. Next door to the Voorlinden is the private Clingenbosch Sculpture Garden with 60 works by the likes of Henry Moore and Sol DeWitt. Tours of the Clingenbosch are available on Thursday afternoons between May and October but tickets must be booked in advance online.

Escher het Paleis

Escher het Paleis museum The Hague
Escher het Paleis

Escher is famous for his mind bending prints, are those stairs going up or down, is that really fish under there? Escher het Paleis has 150 of his prints. Why is it called Escher het Paleis? Because the building used to be a Royal palace. Queen Emma, the Queen Mother bought the building in 1896 and her descendants continued to live here until 1990. Then the Royal family sold the palace to the city of the Hague, with the proviso that it be used for cultural purposes. Fun fact, the grand staircase used to be for the exclusive use of the Queen and her guests, she didn’t use any rooms on the second floor which has to make do with a plain staircase.

  • Escher het Paleis, Lange Voorhout 74
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult €11
  • Dutch Museum Pass: Not valid

TOP TIP

If you are visiting The Netherlands and plan on visiting a lot of galleries and museums it may make sense to buy a Netherlands Museum Card. €64.90 buys you entry to more than 450 Dutch museums for a year. If you don’t have a Dutch bank account then you will need to buy a pass from the first museum that you visit. Take a look at The Netherlands Museum Pass website for the list of participating museums.

The Hague Royal City

The Hague is home to both the Dutch Royal family and the Dutch parliament. It is not the capital, that is Amsterdam. The Hague is where the Royal Family live.

cyclists in front of Noordeinde Palace The Hague
Noordeinde Palace

Noordeinde Palace

The Noordeinde Palace or Paleis Noordeinde in the centre of The Hague is the working Palace, no bedrooms but lots of offices. There is no access inside but you can stand outside the railings and look. Joining you will be a huge horseback statue of William the Silent, William faces the palace because he was assassinated shortly before the House of Orange took control of The Netherlands.

Binnenhof

Mauritshuis and Binnenhof by the Court Pond The Hague bathed in setting sunlight
On the banks of the Hofvijver

Any exploration of The Hague will probably begin on the banks of the Hofvijver, what is now a large square pond but was once a natural dune lake. Hofvijver means Court Pond and it was on its banks that Willem II built his Palace. That Palace the Binnenhof is still there and is now occupied by the Dutch parliament. Well sort of, it is in the midst of a five year renovation, so the Parliament is now scattered around various buildings in The Hague but they plan to move back as soon as possible. In the meantime you will have to content yourself with gazing at the buildings across the pond.

Lange Voorhout

Tree lined street with person walking Lange Voorhout The Hague
Lange Voorhout

Just over the road from the Hofvijver is an L shaped road filled with lime trees, this is Lange Voorhout. Some claim it as the most elegant street in Europe. It is certainly cool and shady place in which to stroll. Way back when the Lange Voorhout was lined with the swanky townhouses of the very rich, now it has a sprinkling of embassies. Legend has it that when Frederick the Great came to visit The Hague he was so impressed that he went home and created his very own version, the rather more famous Under den Linden in Berlin.

The Hague and the seaside

Just quick hop on the tram and you can be at the seaside. Scheveningen has an elegant vibe with a grand Kurhaus, a pier and golden sand as far as the eye can see. Great art and the seaside, I’m not sure what more you can ask from a Cultural mini break.

Where to Eat in The Hague

Leafy square with red umbrellas with govern tower blocks behind Het Plein The Hague
Het Plein

Wandering round the cute streets in The Hague you see tempting bars and restaurants everywhere. Het Plein next to the Mauritshuis is square surrounded by restaurants and bars and a pleasant place to sit and watch the sun go down.

De Basilek

Just off the main square De Basilek is the perfect place for a romantic dinner for two. I ate fish which was perfectly cooked and beautifully presented, when I visited it was asparagus season which featured heavily on the menu.

Amare arts centre The Hague
Amare arts centre

Brasserie Amare

The Hague has a brand new arts centre called Amare, it is home to the Netherlands Dance Theatre, orchestras and a theatre. I ate at the Brasserie Amare which has an 80% plant based menu and opted for fully plant based food which was delicious.

Mauritshuis Cafe

As you know resisting the lure of a museum cafe is not something I often do. I ate lunch at the Mauritshuis cafe which is every bit as beautiful as the main museum, one of the best goats cheese salads I have ever eaten.

Hotel des Indes

Waiters go to and fro under a chandelier in front of a stained glass window Hotel des Indes The Hague
Inside the Hotel des Indes

The Hotel des Indes started life as one of the city palaces that lined the Lange Voorhout before morphing into an hotel. It is a hotel on the grandest and priciest of scales but also does an afternoon tea that is more affordable.

Where to Stay in The Hague

Way back when Cultural Wednesday was a teenager The Hague was the city where I had stayed most, this is entirely due to its proximity to the Hook of Holland ferry terminal. Just a short walk from the boat you can board a train that will have you in The Hague in minutes.

tram in front of Art Deco building voco hotel The Hague
voco hotel, The Hague

voco The Hague

Housed in an Art Deco former bank building voco The Hague is fantastically located, a short walk from the Mauritshuis, the Hofvijver and shopping. It has chic comfortable rooms. Breakfast is eaten in the Botanical restaurant which remains open all day. Perfect place for a grown up stay.

StayOkay The Hague

At the other end of the scale this is where I stayed when I was a teenager. It is fairly central but not slap bang in the centre, with bike hire and en suite family rooms on offer. Stayokay is the Dutch equivalent of the Youth Hostel Association, if you are a YHA member you get a discount. I confess that I haven’t stayed this century but the Cultural Wednesday family have stayed in other StayOkay hostels, including one in a castle, and been impressed.

How to get to The Hague

Getting to The Hague from the UK is very easy, especially if you start from East Anglia. You can fly but all the other ways are both far more fun and sustainable.

Getting to The Hague by Ferry

Stena line ferries ply the route between Harwich and the Hook of Holland, crossings take about 8 hours. I confess I prefer the night crossing. You can catch a train from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International from where the ferries are a short walk, at the Hook of Holland trains are also a short walk from the boat.

Getting to The Hague by train

The last time I visited The Hague I went by train it took a shade over four hours. Catch the Amsterdam bound Eurostar from St Pancras International and change at Rotterdam for The Hague.

Flying to The Hague

Possibly the least fun way to arrive from the UK is to fly into Amsterdam and then catch the train down to The Hague.

Cultural Weekend in The Hague.  Great art and the seaside The Hague has every thing you need for a cultural weekend break in The Netherlands

The Cultural Wednesday family love The Netherlands and have had made many visits here over the years. You can read about when we actually went inside a Dutch windmill, how excited I was when I finally got to cross the Afsluitdijk, explore the Frisian Islands, see where we stayed in Amsterdam and read about the time that I climbed up on a huge red resin horse and thought that I would never get down again. Purely cultural jaunts have included weekends in Leiden and Leeuwarden.

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