The Hague On a BudgetThe Hague is a metropolitan city in the province of South Holland, where the Dutch government is located. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima currently reside there with their three children. The Hague is home to the U.N.'s International Court of Justice, as well as the International Criminal Court. It is the third largest city in the country, with a population of just over 500,000.
SightsOne of the most famous buildings in The Hague is called Binnenhof. This is the building that seats the Dutch Parliament. The building was constructed as a complex in the 13th century, with a Gothic church in the center. Binnenhof sits on the Hofvijver Lake and is a stunning sight to see.
Another prominent building to visit in The Hague is the Peace Palace, which is occupied by The International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Outside the gates is an eternal peace flame, which represents the goal of international peace.
Maurithuis is one of many museums in the city. It is The Hague's most notable museum as it holds many historical collections, which include a couple of well-known pieces. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer is the main attraction of the museum, however, you can also find the painting that the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "Goldfinch", is based off of.
NeighborhoodsThe city center, or spui, is always buzzing with pedestrians, trams and bikers. There are several mainstream shops and restaurants in this area.
Grote Markt is a neighborhood near spui, but is much more relaxed and quiet. There are cafes and restaurants on the outskirts of the square and seating in the middle. Don't worry; there are heat lamps outside if you happen to be visiting during the winter!
Scheveningen is the beach neighborhood of The Hague. Here you can walk along the boardwalk and out onto the pier. There is even a bungy jump tower at the end of the pier for those looking for a thrill!
ActivitiesIf you are in The Netherlands, renting bikes should be a priority if you're looking for a true cultural experience. This is the main mode of transportation for Dutch people, and there are designated bike paths on every road. As such, if you have a bike for the day you will be able to see much more without having to wait for trams and buses.
If you feel like a leisurely outdoors activity, then head to the Meijendel Dunes. Located between the city center and the beach, the dunes are the perfect spot for walking, jogging, hiking or biking.
Haagse Bos is well worth wandering around as well. There are small lakes and parks scattered throughout this forest area. In the Clingendael Park you will find the breathtaking Japanese Garden with bridges, sculptures, lanterns and water features that were brought to The Netherlands from Japan in the 20th century. The garden is only open eight weeks out of the year in the spring and fall due to its fragile nature.
Another activity for summer travelers is the Parade Theater Festival. Known and loved by many locals, the Parade Theater is a travelling festival that incorporates theater acts, dance, music, food, and amusement park rides. It is suitable for children during the day, but becomes more of a party scene at night. If you do decide to go during the day, entry is free. The festival is located in Westbroekpark, which is accessible by tram and bus.
Food and DiningThe Netherlands has very unique food and traditions surrounding food. A typical Dutch breakfast consists of a piece of bread with chocolate spread, sprinkles, or delicatessen meat. If you are staying somewhere that provides breakfast, this is what you will find (along with fresh fruit). The restaurants on the Scheveningen boardwalk are wonderful places for breakfast; most of them offer the traditional Dutch breakfast option.
The Dutch also love their seafood. Depending on the season you are there, there will be Herring stands all around the city. You may pass by a couple stands and witness the locals holding an entire raw fish by its tail, tilting their head back, and letting it slide into their mouth; don't let this put you off! There are other, more "sophisticated" ways, to enjoy the delicious raw fish. A brodje haring will come served on a piece of bread with onions and pickles on top. If you prefer to try this delicacy in a restaurant setting, head over to Simonis, which is located at the harbor in the Scheveningen neighborhood.
TransportationThe main mode of transportation in The Hague is biking. The Dutch will usually not stop their bike for anything, so make sure to always be cautious of all oncoming traffic. Apart from bikes, The Netherlands has a very efficient public transportation system.
To get to The Hague from Schipol Airport, simply catch the Intercity of Sprinter train from the airport train station (approximately 25 minutes). The best option is to buy a single journey ticket for this trip. Once in The Hague, there is a tram, bus, and metro system that can get you to almost anywhere you want to go. If you are only in The Netherlands for a few days, buying hourly travel tickets is the most sensible way to travel. These can be purchased at central station, or on board the tram. They cost 2,50 an hour and can be used on the tram, metro and bus.
If you're planning on staying in The Netherlands for a week or more, your best option is to purchase an OV Chipkaart (travel card). It costs 10,00 for the card initially and then must be topped up with money as you go. The only downside to this is that there must be a minimum of 20,00 to travel on the trains (for example if you want to leave The Hague and travel to a different city). Plan ahead so that the card has twenty euros before heading out of the city. Remember that almost everyone in The Netherlands speaks English so don't hesitate to ask the locals for travel advice.