The Hague is the third largest city in the Netherlands and has a massive expat population and an intriguing history. As well as being the seat of government, it’s famous for being an international hub, due to the United Nations, the headquarters of the International Criminal Court, the Peace Palace and many other important landmarks that put The Hague on the world map.
Interesting buildings in The Hague
In The Hague, there are buildings that broke new ground in Dutch history due to their social and political context, others for their visual aesthetics, as well as buildings with royal status. The skyline of the Hague and its surrounding areas is easy on the eye and some of the buildings would surprise you. It’s easy to spot interesting buildings on any given day out in The Hague, whether modern skyscrapers or royal palaces. Here are a few fascinating ones:
The Binnenhof, meaning inner court, is a complex of buildings used by the Dutch government in the centre of The Hague, overlooking the Hofvijver pond. It is one of the top 100 heritage sites in the Netherlands and the oldest house of parliament in the world still in use. It was built in the 13th century and is the meeting place of the Houses of States-General of the Netherlands and the Ministry of General Affairs.
This art museum is located on the edge of the Binnenhof and houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings of the Dutch monarchy. For the most, it contains Dutch Golden Age Paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Frans Hals and Hans Holbein the Younger. One of the most popular works in the Mauritshuis by far is The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer.
The two-storey building is symmetrical and consists of 6.400 square meters of exhibition space. Mauritshuis was built in the 1630s for John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen and has also been deemed one of the top 100 Dutch heritage sites.
Monumental both architecturally and in terms of international relations, the Peace Palace is one of the gems symbolising global peace. The International Court of Justice, which is the main body of the United Nations, is housed in the Peace Palace. It was established in 1913 as a result of new ideals at the time, of solving wars through the justice system rather than the military.
There is a garden surrounding the Peace Palace, with centuries-old trees that protect and separate the Peace Palace from the bustling traffic. In 1999 an eternal peace flame was lit in front of the palace gates, dedicated to international peace.
Other important organisations located in the Peace Palace include the Carnegie Foundation, named after its first sponsor, the Peace Palace Library of International Law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration The Peace Palace is open to the public for a few weeks each summer and on some weekends throughout the year, with guided tours.
Also known as “Escher in the Palace”, the Escher Museum is dedicated to the mind-bending artworks of the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. The museum is located in the Lange Voorhout Palace, in which members of the royal family formerly lived.
The palace has the permanent collection of works by Escher on display, such as “Drawing” which depicts two hands drawing each other, “Waterfall”, featuring a waterfall flowing upwards and “Air and Water” where birds become fish and fish become birds. There are also rooms with optical illusions and other interactive displays to behold.
Escher’s art is celebrated for its way of manipulating visual perception and his work has been used in physics and psychology. This is one of the most intriguing of the Dutch museums.
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court in the Hague is the official seat where war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity proceedings take place. Leaders like Gadaffi and Kony have been indicted there.
The court received a new building in 2015, designated as its permanent residence. Its new magnificent location has six inter-connected buildings and a garden.
The Kurhaus is the main hotel at the beach resort of Scheveningen. It’s an imposing building dating back to 1884 and was originally a concert hall and a hotel with 120 rooms. It descended into disrepair in the 1960s and was even on the brink of being demolished, but luckily it was saved in 1975 and placed on the register of historic buildings; it was subsequently renovated.
Nowadays, it dazzles in all its former glory and is at the epicentre of Scheveningen, along with the beautiful, iconic Scheveningen pier.
At 104 metres, Castalia is one of the taller buildings in The Hague. The large twin pointed gables give the appearance of giant versions of old Dutch canal houses. Construction began in 1965 and it was opened two years later. In the 1990s it was demolished and rebuilt, and the renovated version opened in 1998 with the overhead gables.
The view of the twin roofs is a very distinctive part of the skyline of The Hague. Castalia is Dutch government building, the current home of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
The Hoftoren is the third tallest building in the Hague and the eighth tallest in the Netherlands, at 141,85 meters high. It’s nicknamed “the Fountain Pen” and won the International Highrise Award in 2004, not long after its completion. Together with the twin points of the Castalia building, it creates an arrestingly beautiful city roofscape.
The Hoftoren houses the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, as well as the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.
One of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family, Noordeine Palace is also the place of work of King Willem Alexander. The main office is used for political and stately affairs and when the king is present in the palace, the Dutch flag is raised.
The Noordeinde was originally a medieval farmhouse that was converted in 1533. The medieval cellars can still be seen in the basement of the palace. It was altered substantially in 1645, as extra wings were created and the main middle part of the building was lengthened. It was then known as the Oude Hof, or Old Court.
It became state property during the days of the Batavian Republic of 1795 and 1806, which is the same status that it has today. In the early 19th century, the palace was altered again and it became the official winter residence of the Dutch royal family.
In 1948 the central section of the palace was damaged in a fire and from then on, the then Queen Juliana preferred to call Soestdijk Palace her official home, meaning Noordeinde was used as royal offices. In 1984, another massive renovation took place and since then the Noordeinde has been the main office of the royal family.
De Strijkijzer, also known as Haagse Toren, was inspired by the Flatiron Building in New York. At 132 meters high, and the fifth highest building in the city, it cuts a striking figure on the skyline of The Hague. It has a triangular floor plan with uneven sides – the longest wing points north and the shortest wing points east. The middle wing points south-west towards The Hague Hollands Spoor train station.
The tower is mostly residential, but there are also some offices and a bar and restaurant. There’s also a panoramic terrace on the 42nd floor, accessible by a specially dedicated lift which is highly recommended for daytrippers to The Hague.
Renowned for its 1930s Dutch architecture and its Mondriaan collection, the Gemeente Museum, meaning municipal museum, is a renowned modern art museum and one of the top museums in The Hague. It was built between 1931 and 1935 by the famed architect HP Berlage.
The museum is centred around the works of international late 19th and early 20th century artists like Degas, Monet, Picasso, van Gogh and many others. In the print room, there is a collection of prints, drawings and posters of artists such as Tolouse-Lautrec and Paul Klee.
You will also be able to find a collection of fashion items, both historical and modern, as well as musical instruments and artworks related to musical performance practice.
Visit some of The Hague’s most prominent buildings
Whether you love art, are an architecture enthusiast or are fascinated by The Hague’s status as the international city of peace and justice, you’ll be awe-struck by the imposing buildings that make up the fabric of the city, from centuries-old palaces to brand new high-tech edifices. The streetscape and distinctive buildings are sure to etch themselves into your memory forever, and if not, then perhaps your Instagram feed.