The Hague

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: European Geography

Coordinates: 52.08° N 4.30° E

Flag of 's-Gravenhage Coat of arms of 's-Gravenhage
Flag Coat of Arms

Location municipality 's-Gravenhage

Country Netherlands
Province South Holland
Coordinates 52.08° N 4.30° E
Area 98.22 km²
- Land 82.68 km²
- Water 15.54 km²
Population (2005) 472,087
- Density 5710 /km²

The Hague (with capital T; Dutch: originally 's-Gravenhage, officially Den Haag) is the third-largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with a population of 472,087 ( January 1 2005) (population of agglomeration: 600,000) and an area of approximately 100 km². It is located in the west of the country, in the province South Holland, of which it is also the provincial capital.

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. The Hague is the home of the Eerste Kamer (first chamber) or Senaat 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.


Binnenhof and the Knight's Hall, the political centre of the Netherlands
Binnenhof and the Knight's Hall, the political centre of the Netherlands

The Hague was founded in 1248 by William II, Count of Holland and King of Germany, who was supposed to become Holy Roman Emperor. He started the construction of a castle in a forest near the sea in Holland, where he intended to live after his coronation. He died in battle before he could be crowned. His castle was not finished, but parts of it remain and are now called the Ridderzaal (Knights' Hall). It is still in use for political events, such as the annual speech from the throne by the monarch.

Later, the counts of Holland used The Hague as their administrative centre. 'Des Graven Hage' literally means "the count's hedge" or "the count's private enclosure". The powerful cities of Holland, like Leiden, Delft, and Dordrecht, struck a compromise to choose the then small and unimportant The Hague as their administrative centre. This policy was never changed, and The Hague is to this day the centre of government but not the official capital.

To keep The Hague small it wasn't allowed city rights or allowed to build city walls. When city walls were finally allowed in the 1500s, the population decided to use the money to build a city hall instead of city walls. This proved disastrous during the Eighty Years' War, as it allowed Spanish troops easily to occupy the town.

The Hague was finally named a city by the French occupation force in 1806, centuries after other Dutch cities had received similar rights. All this has led to the urban legend that The Hague is not a city but a village.

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, 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 the mostly white middle classes 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 the suburbs in 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 on which complete new residential areas were built and are still being built.

The stork is the symbol of Den Haag.

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 Dutch Ministry of Public Health (right)
View of the ' Hoftoren' (left) and The Dutch Ministry of Public Health (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, which is where the Parliament is located.

The city lacks a large student culture because it has no university, but there is a school of higher professional education known as Haagse hogeschool which is sometimes known as The Hague 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 culturally quite 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's perhaps for this reason that many, even some Dutch people, mistakenly believe Scheveningen is a city in its own right. That is not the case: Scheveningen is one of The Hague's eight districts ("stadsdelen"). Kijkduin, in the southwest, is The Hague's other beach resort. It is a lot smaller and attracts mainly local people.

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), and quite elegant. 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 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. 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) . See Districts of The Hague for a detailed breakdown.

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

International Organisations

As a result of its rich legacy in international politics, The Hague is home to over 150 international (legal) organisations. These include the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.

The foundation of The Hague as an "international city of peace and justice" was laid over a hundred years ago in 1899, when the world's first Peace Conference took place in The Hague, 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 millionare 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 ICTY (1993) and the ICC (2002) in the city further consolidated the role of The Hague as a centre for international legal arbitration.

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:

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


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 the great author (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 Medieaval 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 if 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" is Queen Beatrix’ official work-palace. It is closed to the public but the Palace Gardens ("Paleistuin") forms an oasis of calm in the city.
  • The Clingendael Park is an old landed estate with a famous 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.


The local football club is called ADO Den Haag. They have played in the Eredivisie (the top division in Holland) since 2003.

The local rugby club 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 club is Den Hague Raiders 99 and have climbed up from last to first class of Holland in very little time.

Cricket is surprisingly 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.

Annual events

  • January: The Hague International Model United Nations ( THIMUN) is the oldest and largest high school United Nations simulation in the world.
  • 29 April: " 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.
  • 30 April: " 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.
  • May & June: The Pasar Malam Besar is one of the largest Eurasian cultural festivals in Europe. It focuses on Indonesian culture.
  • The last Sunday in June: Parkpop is the largest free open air pop concert in Europe.
  • 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.
  • August: Ha-Schi-Ba (Haagse Schilderswijk Bazar) is multicultural festival held in the Schilderswijk attracting over 100000 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 transportation 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, 4 and 6.

A regional light rail system called Randstadrail connects The Hague to the suburbs, Zoetermeer and Rotterdam.

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 four direct trains per hour from Hollands Spoor or 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 (the first motorway in The Netherlands), 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 "Utrechtse Baan") is now heavily overburdened. Plans were made in the late 1990s for a second artery road into the city (the "Trekvliettracé") 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.


1796: 41,300 inhabitants
1830: 56,100
1849: 63,600
1879: 113,500
1899: 206,000
1925: 394,500
1969: 563.600
1970: 550,000
1990: 441,327
2000: 441,097
2004: 469,568

Nearby towns

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

Warsaw and Juigalpa are sister cities to The Hague.

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