By Kit Marsters
When thinking of traveling to the Netherlands, probably the first location to come to mind is Amsterdam. With its canals, museums, a myriad of cafes and bars and even the option of the red light district, for the inquisitive, it is a fantastic location for a weekend of fun.
Whilst Amsterdam is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the seat of government is Den Haag. Den Haag (The Hague) is situated in the province of South-Holland. It’s an appealing place to visit, with broad avenues, castles, shopping centres, tiny boutiques and, of course, the Dutch Parliament.
Situated near the North Sea, it offers wide beaches perfect for sunbathing and events are held several times a year at the nearby sea-side resort of Scheveningen. From fireworks to the North Sea Jazz Festival, and from tourists’ fishing trips to the Sea Life Center, there is something for everyone.
Den Haag features some thirty museums. The Mauritshuis’ collection consists of masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age, including paintings by Vermeer, Potter and Rembrandt. The Gemeentemuseum exhibits an extensive collection of modern art. The Panorama Mesdag is a unique piece of art itself – a cylindrical painting more than 14 meters high and 120 meters in circumference.
Like Amsterdam, Den Haag offers visitors a good selection of bars and restaurants, with outside terraces when the weather allows. There’s a range of mainstream cinemas, as well as smaller picture houses, and Holland Casino Scheveningen for those who enjoy a bit of a gamble.
If you fancy a wander around Den Haag, you will find that there are hidden treasures. There are some large outdoor markets held during the week, selling everything from clothes, to plants, to paintings. The shopping centre in Rijswijk is worth a visit, offering a wonderful blend of high street shops and smaller boutiques.
When in Den Haag, I encourage you to try the fish. Being situated near a harbour, the fish is fresh from the catch. You will find restaurants offering flavours from around the world. There are excellent Italian ice-cream shops and pizzerias. You have the choice between Greek restaurants, Egyptian, Surinam, Mexican, Maroccan, Turkish, or, of course, you can try the Dutch pancake houses and snack bars. Whatever your taste, there will be something for you.
It is considered polite to leave a tip in the restaurants and hotels. However small, the gesture is appreciated and seen as common courtesy.
On the whole, the Dutch are a friendly people, willing to help a stranded tourist or point you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most Dutch people have at least some basic knowledge of English so if your Dutch isn’t as fluent as you would like, that is always an option for communication.
Next time you are planning a trip to Holland, try to pay a visit to Den Haag. You won’t be disappointed.