While Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague, located 40 miles to its south, is the center of government. Every third Tuesday in September all eyes turn to The Hague as the Queen addresses the joint houses of Parliament officially opening the Dutch parliamentary session. Throngs of people line the streets waiting to get a glimpse of the Queen as she passes notable city landmarks, such as Lange Voorhour and Korte Vijverberg on the way to the Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall) in the Binnenhof. After watching the procession of the golden coach through the streets of The Hague, make your own procession through the city, visiting royal palaces and museums filled with works by world famous Dutch artists.
Start your tour with a visit to the Binnenhof (“Inner Court”) home to Dutch politics since 1446. Other buildings on the grounds include the Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall), where the queen annually addresses the Parliament, and the Torentje (Little Tower), the office of the Prime Minister. Be sure to take a stroll around the perimeter of the courtyard, where you will find open spaces for the public to enjoy and the lake, the Hofvijver.
Overlooking the Hofvijver is The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. This intimate museum located in the 17th century palace of a Dutch count is home to a grand collection of paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists, such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Paul Rubens, Frans Hals and Pieter Brueghel, and includes the famous works Girl With A Pearl Earring, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and Laughing Boy.
Hendrik Willem Mesdag is another Dutch artist whose work can be found in The Hague. His Panorama Mesdag is 14 meters high and 120 meters in circumference. Viewing this panorama from an observation gallery in the center of the room, you feel as if you are on a sand dune overlooking the view at the beach resort Scheveningen. This cylindrical painting is the biggest painting in Holland and the oldest 19th century panorama in the world in its original site, a building built specifically to house it.
Complete your tour of The Hague with a visit to the royal palaces where the figurative leader of the Dutch government, Queen Beatrix lives and works. Palace Huis ten Bosch (House in the Woods), tucked away in the Haagse Bos, was used as a summer home for the royal families until 1981 when Queen Beatrix and her family moved into the palace making it the official royal residence. The Hague’s other royal residence, Noordeinde Palace, is used as the “working palace” for the queen and her staff. While neither palace is open to the public, the beautiful parks and woods surrounding the respective buildings are available for the public to enjoy.