The Hague

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Europe; European Cities

The Hague
`s-Gravenhage (Den Haag)
Skyline of The Hague
Skyline of The Hague
Flag of The Hague
Coat of arms of The Hague
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Residentiestad (Residential City), Hofstad ( Court city)
Location of The Hague
Country Netherlands
Province South Holland
Area (2006)
 - Total 98.20 km² (37.9 sq mi)
 - Land 82.66 km² (31.9 sq mi)
 - Water 15.54 km² (6 sq mi)
Population ( 1 June 2007)
 - Total 474,244
 -  Density 5,737/km² (14,858.8/sq mi)
  Source: CBS, Statline.
Time zone CET ( UTC+1)
 - Summer ( DST) CEST ( UTC+2)

The Hague (with capital T; Dutch: Den Haag, officially also 's-Gravenhage, "The Count's Hedge") is the third-largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with a population of 475,580 (as of January 1, 2006) (population of agglomeration: 600,000) and an area of approximately 100 km². It is located in the west of the country, in the province of South Holland, of which it is also the provincial capital. The Hague is, like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a population of 6,659,300 inhabitants.

The Hague is the actual seat of government, but, somewhat anomalously, not the official capital of the Netherlands, a role set aside by the Dutch constitution for Amsterdam (see Name and Status).

The Hague is the home of the Eerste Kamer (first chamber) and the Tweede Kamer (second chamber), respectively the upper and lower houses forming the Staten Generaal (literally the "Estates-General"). Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands lives and works in The Hague. All foreign embassies and government ministries are located in the city, as well as the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (The Supreme Court), the Raad van State (Council of State) and many lobbying organisations.


The Hague in 1868.
The Hague in 1868.

The Hague originated around 1230, when Floris IV, Count of Holland purchased land alongside a pond (now the Hofvijver) in order to build a hunting residence. In 1248 William II, Count of Holland and Rex Romanorum, who was supposed to become Holy Roman Emperor decided to extend the residence to a palace. He died in 1256 before this palace was completed, but parts of it were finished by his son Floris V, of which the Ridderzaal (Knights' Hall), still extant, is the most prominent. It is still in use for political events, such as the annual speech from the throne by the monarch.

Name and status

Later, the counts of Holland used The Hague as their administrative centre and residence when in Holland. 'Des Graven Hage' literally means "the count's wood," with connotations like "the count's hedge or private enclosure".

When the Dukes of Burgundy gained control over the counties of Holland and Zeeland in the beginning of the 15th century, they appointed a stadtholder to rule in their stead with the States of Holland as an advisory council. Their seat was located in The Hague. At the beginning of the Eighty Years' War, the absence of city walls proved disastrous, as it allowed Spanish troops to easily occupy the town. In 1575 the States of Holland even considered demolishing the city, but this was abandoned, after mediation from William of Orange. From 1588 The Hague also became the location of the government of the Dutch Republic. In order for the administrations to maintain control over city manners, The Hague never received city rights (although it did have many privileges, normally only attributed to cities).

After the Napoleonic Wars, Belgium and the Netherlands were combined in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands to form a buffer against France. As a compromise, Brussels and Amsterdam alternated as capital every two years, with the government remaining in The Hague. After the separation of Belgium in 1830, Amsterdam remained the capital of the Netherlands, while the government was situated in The Hague.

Since early times, probably dating as far back as the 15th century, the stork has been the symbol of The Hague.

Modern city

Because of its history, it lacks a large historical inner city like the nearby cities of Leiden and Delft. But when the government started playing a more prominent role in Dutch society after 1850, The Hague quickly expanded. The older parts of the city are therefore mostly from the 19th century and the early 20th century. The growing city annexed the municipality of Loosduinen partly in 1903 and completely in 1923.

Parts of the city sustained heavy damage during World War II. The Atlantic Wall was built through part of the city, causing whole neighbourhoods to be torn down by the German occupiers. On March 3, 1945, the Royal Air Force mistakenly bombed the Bezuidenhout district. The target was an installation of V-2 rockets in a nearby park. Due to navigational errors, the bombs fell on a heavily populated and historic part of the city. Over 500 people died and the scars in the city can still be seen today.

After the war The Hague was at one point the largest building site in Europe. The city expanded massively to the southwest. The destroyed areas were also quickly rebuilt. The population peaked at 600,000 inhabitants around 1965.

In the 1970s and 1980s many, mostly white, middle class families moved to neighbouring towns like Voorburg, Leidschendam, Rijswijk and most of all Zoetermeer. This led to the traditional pattern of an impoverished inner city and more prosperous suburbs. Attempts to include parts of these municipalities to the city of The Hague, were highly controversial. In the 1990s, with the consent of the Dutch Parliament, The Hague did succeed in annexing fairly large areas from its neighbouring towns, sometimes not even bordering The Hague, on which complete new residential areas were built and are still being built.

The City

Hofvijver and the buildings of the Dutch parliament
Hofvijver and the buildings of the Dutch parliament
View of the 'Hoftoren' (left) and the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports (right)
View of the ' Hoftoren' (left) and the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports (right)
The Hague City Hall, 1995, architect Richard Meier
The Hague City Hall, 1995, architect Richard Meier

City life concentrates around the Hofvijver and the Binnenhof, where the parliament is located.

The city has a limited student culture due to its lack of an actual university, although the Royal Conservatory of The Hague is located there, as well as The Hague University, a vocational university. The city has many civil servants and diplomats (see below). In fact, the number and variety of foreign residents (especially the expatriates) makes the city quite culturally diverse, with many foreign pubs, shops and cultural events.

The Hague is the largest Dutch city on the North Sea and comprises two distinct beach towns. The main beach resort Scheveningen, in the northwestern part of the city, is a popular destination for tourists and young people. With 10 million visitors a year it is the most popular beach town in the Benelux. It is perhaps for this reason that many, even some Dutch people, mistakenly believe Scheveningen is a city in its own right. However, Scheveningen is merely one of The Hague's eight districts ("stadsdelen"). Kijkduin, in the southwest, is The Hague's other beach resort. It is significantly smaller and attracts mainly local residents.

The former Dutch colony of Netherlands East Indies ("Nederlands-Indië", current-day Indonesia) has left its mark on The Hague. Many streets are named after places in the Netherlands East Indies and there is a sizable "Indisch(e)" or " Indo" (i.e. mixed Dutch-Indonesian) community. Since the loss of these Dutch possessions in December 1949, "Indisch(e)" or "Indo" people often refer to The Hague as "the Widow of the Indies".

The older parts of the town usually have characteristically wide and long streets. Houses are generally low-rise (not more than three floors). The layout of the city is more spacious than other Dutch cities. There are only a few canals in The Hague, as most of them were drained in the late 1800s.

Some of the most prosperous and some of the poorest neighbourhoods of the Netherlands can be found in The Hague. The wealthier areas ( The Vogelwijk, Statenkwartier, Belgisch Park, Marlot and Benoordenhout) are generally located in the northwest part of the city. The poorer areas (Transvaal, Moerwijk, the Schilderswijk) can be found in the southern and eastern areas, or near the coast in Scheveningen (Duindorp). This division is reflected in the local accent: The more affluent citizens are usually called "Hagenaars" and speak so-called "bekakt Haags" ("Bekakt" is Dutch for "stuck-up"). This contrasts with the "Hagenezen", who speak "plat Haags" ("plat" meaning "flat" or "common"). There is relatively little social interaction between these groups.

The tallest building is the Hoftoren (see image).


The Hague has eight official districts (stadsdeel). They are divided into smaller parts (wijken) . In contrast to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the "stadsdelen" have no political function and there are no elections for them.

See Districts of The Hague for a detailed breakdown.

  • Escamp
  • Haagse Hout
  • Laak
  • Leidschenveen-Ypenburg
  • Loosduinen
  • The Hague Centre
  • Scheveningen
  • Segbroek

International Organisations

The Peace Palace
The Peace Palace

As a result of its rich legacy in international politics, The Hague is home to over 150 international (legal) organisations. These include the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The foundation of The Hague as an "international city of peace and justice" was laid in 1899, when the world's first Peace Conference took place in The Hague on Tobias Asser's initiative, followed by a second in 1907. A direct result of these meetings was the establishment of the world's first organisation for the settlement of international disputes: the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). Shortly thereafter the Scottish-American millionaire Andrew Carnegie made the necessary funds available to build the Peace Palace (“Vredespaleis”) to house the PCA.

After the establishment of the League of Nations, The Hague became the seat of the Permanent Court of International Justice, which was replaced by the UN's International Court of Justice after the Second World War. The establishment of the Iran-US Claims Tribunal (1981), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1993) and the International Criminal Court (2002) in the city further consolidated the role of The Hague as a centre for international legal arbitration. Most recently, in December 2007, the Dutch Cabinet offered to host a U.N. tribunal to investigate and prosecute suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This Hariri Tribunal will be located in the former headquarters of the Netherlands General Intelligence Agency in Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague.

Currently the city authority is seeking to establish an image of the city as the "legal capital of the world" and "international city of peace and justice".

Major international organisations based in The Hague include:

  • Eurojust, European Union body composed of national prosecutors.
  • European Patent Office
  • European Police Office, (Europol)
  • Hague Academy of International Law, centre for high-level education in both public and private international law.
  • Hague Conference on Private International Law, (HCCH), the oldest and preeminent private international law harmonisation institution.
  • International Court of Justice, located in the Peace Palace.
  • International Criminal Court, (ICC).
  • International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ( ICTY)
  • Iran-United States Claims Tribunal
  • Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, (OPCW)
  • Permanent Court of Arbitration, the oldest institution for international dispute resolution.
  • The European Library

Also a lot of academic institutions in the fields of international relations, international law and international development are based in The Hague. The Hague Academic Coalition (HAC) is a consortium of those institutions.

Its member institutions are:

  • Carnegie Foundation
  • Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Campus The Hague, Leiden University
  • Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law
  • Institute of Social Studies
  • T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael'

In 1948 The Hague Congress was held with 750 delegates from 26 European countries, providing them with the opportunity to discuss ideas about the development of the European Union.


Professional life in The Hague is dominated by the large number of civil servants and diplomats who work in the city. Government ministries and public institutions are almost all located in The Hague. Added to that several large and international businesses have their headquarters in The Hague:

  • AEGON, one of the world’s leading insurance companies
  • APM Terminals, the world's second largest container terminal operator
  • KPN (Koninklijke PTT Nederland), the Dutch national telephone company (fixed and mobile divisions)
  • Nationale Nederlanden, an insurance company that is part of the ING Group (shared HQ with Rotterdam)
  • Royal Dutch-Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world* Siemens A.G., Europe's largest engineering company has its Dutch headquarters there.
  • TNT Post, the national provider of postal and logistical services. Part of TNT N.V.

There has never been any large-scale industrial activity in The Hague, with the possible exception of the fishing harbour in Scheveningen. Many of the city’s logistical and minor-industrial services are located in the Binckhorst district, which contains many large warehouses.


Binnenhof and the Knight's Hall, the political centre of the Netherlands
Binnenhof and the Knight's Hall, the political centre of the Netherlands
Binnenhof buildings at night
Binnenhof buildings at night
Monument at the 1813 Square (Plein 1813)
Monument at the 1813 Square (Plein 1813)
The Royal Noordeinde Palace
The Royal Noordeinde Palace

The Hague has its share of museums and cultural institutions:

  • Madurodam is a miniature city, containing hundreds of scale-models of Dutch landmarks in a typically Dutch miniature landscape.
  • The Mauritshuis exhibits many paintings by Dutch masters, such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Paulus Potter.
  • The Escher Museum is located in the former Royal Palace on the Lange Voorhout.
  • The Haags Historisch museum showcases the history of the city from the Middle Ages to the present day.
  • The Museum Bredius houses part of the collection of 19th century art historian Abraham Bredius, containing antique furniture, silverware and porcelain.
  • Museum de Gevangenpoort (lit. the "Prison Gate") is a former prison housed in a 15th century gatehouse, with genuine mediaeval dungeons and torture chambers.
  • The Gemeentemuseum (Municipal museum) is home to the world’s largest collection of works by the Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan as well as other modern art.
  • The Museon is an interactive and historical science museum.
  • The Omniversum is Europe’s first 360° IMAX-cinema.
  • Panorama Mesdag houses a cylindrical 360° " panoramic" painting, 14 meters high by 120 meters long, depicting the sea-front at Scheveningen in the late 19th century, made by Hendrik Willem Mesdag. It is presented in such a way that it is almost as if one is looking at a real scene rather than a painting.
  • The Museum voor Communicatie (formerly the "PTT Museum") is the national postal museum and houses interactive exhibits as well as one of the country’s best collections of stamps.
  • The Louis Couperus Museum is devoted to the life and works of Louis Couperus (1863-1923).
  • The museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen has a large collection of sculptures, mainly from 20th century artists.
  • The Koninklijke Schouwburg ("Royal Theatre"), located on the Korte Voorhout, is the home of the "Nationaal Toneel" ("National theatre-group").
  • The Lucent Danstheater is home to the internationally celebrated Nederlands Dans Theatre, a modern dance company. The building was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in 1988. It shares a lobby with the Anton Philipszaal, home of the Residentie Orkest, the city's most important symphony orchestra.

Other tourist attractions and landmarks in The Hague include:

  • The historic Binnenhof ("Inner Court") and Medieval Ridderzaal ("Knights’ Hall"), which now contains the Houses of Parliament and government offices. A good view can be obtained from the leafy Lange Vijverberg on the other side of the adjacent lake called the "Hofvijver" (lit. "Court Pond").
  • The Lange Voorhout is a wide avenue containing many splendid houses (now home to several embassies) as well as The Hague's oldest and narrowest house and the famous "Hotel des Indes", the city’s most luxurious hotel.
  • The "Passage" was The Netherlands' first covered shopping mall. Dating from the late 19th century. it contains many expensive and speciality shops.
  • The "Paleis Noordeinde" has been Queen Beatrix’ official work-palace since 1984. It is closed to the public, but the Palace Gardens ("Paleistuin") are accessible to the public.
  • The Clingendael Park is an old landed estate with a Japanese Garden. Nearby one can also find the home of the Clingendael Institute of International Relations.
  • Queen Beatrix’ residential Palace, "Paleis Huis ten Bosch", can be found a little outside the city in the "Haagse Bosch" forest.

The Hague does not have a reputation for a bustling night life, most probably because it has no university and thus little student life. What night life there is centres around the three main squares in the city centre: "Het Plein" (literally "The Square"), the Grote Markt (literally "Large Market") and the "Buitenhof" (literally the "Outer Court", which lies just outside the Binnenhof). The Buitenhof contains the popular Pathé Buitenhof cinema and a handful of bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. A similar pattern of night life centers on the cinema in Scheveningen, although, especially in summer, night-life concentrates around the sea-front boulevard with its bars, restaurants, gambling halls and other entertainment.


  • Cricket is surprisingly one of the most popular in The Hague, with a number of strong teams from the Dutch league located there. One club particularly popular with the large expat community is De Kieviten (The Lapwing), located in Wassenaar, just outside The Hague. A number of International matches and Women's International matches have been hosted here.
  • The local football (soccer) team is called ADO Den Haag. They have played in the Eredivisie (the top division in the Netherlands) since 2003, were relegated to the first division in 2007 but have won promotion back to the Eredivisie in 2008.
  • The local rugby union team is Haagsche Rugby Club (a.k.a. HRC) and has been in the Guinness book of records for becoming Dutch champion so often (in adult and youth).
  • The local American Football team is Den Hague Raiders 99.
  • Darts is also another sport played in The Hague, its popularity was promoted due to Raymond Van Barneveld winning several World Championships.
  • In 1994, The Hague held the FEI World Equestrian Games.

Annual events

  • January: The Hague International Model United Nations ( THIMUN) is the oldest and largest high school United Nations simulation in the world, gathering 4000 students from over 200 secondary schools across the globe.
  • April 29: " KoninginneNach" ("Queen's Night", pronounced with a "plat Haags" accent) is held the night before " Koninginnedag"; there are several open air concerts in the city and young people flock from all over the country to drink and party.
  • April 30: " Koninginnedag" ("Queen's Day") is a Dutch national holiday held on the birthday of former Queen Juliana. On this day the colour orange predominates at a funfair (which sells orange cotton candy) and scores of informal street markets. The day is a "vrijmarkt" (literally "free market"), which means no license is needed for streetvending; children traditionally use this day to sell old unwanted toys.
  • Mid-May: The Hague Jazz festival.
  • May & June: The Pasar Malam Besar is one of the largest Eurasian cultural festivals in Europe. It focuses on Indonesian culture.
  • June-September: Den Haag Sculptuur is an open-air exhibition of sculptures. The 10th edition, in 2007, celebrates the 400 years of the relationship between The Netherlands and Australia.
  • The last Sunday in June: Parkpop is the largest free open air pop concert in Europe.
  • July: Jazz in de Gracht is an intercultural two-day event hosting Jazz groups which perform their music on flat-bottom boats and in bars in various places between Passantenhaven and Zuidwal.
  • July & August: The city hosts a series of weekly firework displays by the seafront in Scheveningen, as part of an international fireworks festival and competition.
  • July & August is the annual Summerschool of The Hague Summerschool Den Haag. This is an international summercourse for young dancers initiated by Mirella Simoncini (Green Report)
  • July: "Milan" Europe’s biggest Hindustani open air event held in Zuiderpark.
  • August: Ha-Schi-Ba (Haagse Schilderswijk Bazar) is multicultural festival held in the Schilderswijk attracting over 100.000 visitors.
  • The third Tuesday in September: " Prinsjesdag" (literally "Princes' Day") is the Dutch State Opening of Parliament when the Queen reads the "speech from the throne" ("Troonrede"). The day is popular among monarchists and tourists who are out to see Queen Beatrix and the royal family in the Golden State Coach ("de Gouden Koets").


Public transport in The Hague consists of a sizeable number of tram and bus routes, operated by HTM Personenvervoer. Plans for a subway were shelved in the early 1970s. However, in 2004 a tunnel was built under the city centre with two underground tram stations ("Spui" and "Grote Markt"); it is shared by tram routes 2, 3, 4 and 6.

A regional light rail system called RandstadRail connects The Hague to nearby cities, Zoetermeer and Rotterdam. The system suffered from startup problems and derailings in 2006, but is fully operational now.

There are two main train stations in The Hague: Den Haag Hollands Spoor (HS) and Den Haag Centraal. It is somewhat confusing that many trains bypass the central station because it is a terminus. For instance, the international Thalys and Benelux trains to Paris and Brussels only stop at Hollands Spoor. The central station does, however, offer good connections with the rest of the country, with direct services to most major cities. With the inception of the Dutch High Speed Line ( HSL-Zuid) in 2008/9, high speed trains will run from the central station to Breda, Antwerp and Brussels; Hollands Spoor station, however, will lose its direct connection with Paris and hourly service to Brussels.

The nearest airport to The Hague is Rotterdam Airport. It is, however, not easily reachable by public transport. With several direct trains per hour from the railway stations Hollands Spoor and Centraal, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is more frequently used by people travelling to and from The Hague by airplane.

Major motorways (freeways) connecting to The Hague include the A12, running to Utrecht and the German border. The A12 runs directly into the heart of the city in a cutting. Built in the 1970s, this section of motorway (the "Utrechtsebaan") is now heavily overburdened. Plans were made in the late 1990s for a second artery road into the city (the "Trekvliettracé" or previously called "Rotterdamsebaan") have continually been put on hold. Other connecting motorways are the A4, which connects the city with Amsterdam, and the A13, which runs to Rotterdam and connects to motorways towards the Belgian border.

Nearby towns

  • Delft
  • Leiden
  • Leidschendam-Voorburg
  • Rijswijk
  • Voorschoten
  • Wassenaar
  • Wateringen
  • Zoetermeer

Warsaw and Juigalpa are sister cities to The Hague.

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