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The Hague

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The Hague
's-Gravenhage (Den Haag)
—  Municipality  —
The Hague skyline


Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Residentiestad (Residential City), Hofstad ( Court city)
Coordinates: 52°5′N 4°19′E
Country Netherlands
Province South Holland
 • Municipality 98.20 km2 (37.92 sq mi)
 • Land 82.66 km2 (31.92 sq mi)
 • Water 15.54 km2 (6.00 sq mi)
Population (30 November 2009)
 • Municipality 488,370
 • Density 5,894/km2 (15,270/sq mi)
 •  Urban 1,016,940
 •  Metro 1,406,000
 •  Randstad 6,659,300
 •  Demonym Hagenaar or Hagenees
Time zone CET ( UTC+1)
 • Summer ( DST) CEST ( UTC+2)

The Hague (with capital T; Dutch: Ltspkr.png Den Haag, officially also Ltspkr.png 's-Gravenhage) is the third largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with a population of 485,818 (as of May 31, 2009) (population of agglomeration: 1,011,459) 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, Utrecht and Almere, part of the Randstad metropolitan area, with 6,659,300 inhabitants.

The Hague is the seat of government, but not the capital of the Netherlands, a role set aside by the Dutch constitution for Amsterdam.

The Hague is the home of the States-General of the Netherlands. 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 (Supreme Court), the Raad van State (Council of State) and many lobbying organisations.

The Hague is also the de facto judicial capital of the United Nations, being the location of its primary judicial institutions.


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, 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 used 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 at 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 easily to occupy the town. In 1575 the States of Holland even considered demolishing the city, but this proposal was abandoned, after mediation by William of Orange. From 1588 The Hague also became the location of the government of the Dutch Republic. In order for the administration to maintain control over city matters, The Hague never received official city status (although it did have many privileges, normally only attributed to cities). However, since the days of King Louis Napoleon (1806) The Hague has been allowed to call itself a city.

After the Napoleonic Wars, modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands were combined in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands to form a buffer against France. As a compromise, Brussels and The Hague 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, the historical inner city of The Hague differs in various respects from the nearby smaller cities of Leiden and Delft. It doesn't have a cramped inner city, bordered by canals and walls. Instead it has some small streets in the town centre that may be dated from the late Middle Ages, and several spacious streets boasting rich 18th century houses built for diplomats and affluent Dutch families. It has a large church dating from the 15th century, an impressive City Hall (built as such) from the 16th century, several large 17th-century palaces, a 17th-century Protestant church built in what was then a modern style, and many important 18th-century buildings. When the government started to play a more prominent role in Dutch society after 1850, The Hague quickly expanded. Many streets were specifically built for the large number of civil servants employed in the country's government and for the Dutchmen who were retiring from the administration and exploitation of the Netherlands East Indies. The growing city annexed the rural 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 a large quarter to be torn down by the Nazi occupants. On March 3, 1945, the Royal Air Force mistakenly bombed the Bezuidenhout quarter. 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 may 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 in 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.


Hofvijver and the buildings of the Dutch parliament
View of the ' Hoftoren' (left) and the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports (right)

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 and a branch of The Open University of the Netherlands. 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 includes two distinct beach resorts. 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", now Indonesia) has left its mark on The Hague. Many streets are named after places in the Netherlands East Indies (as well as other former Dutch colonies such as Suriname) 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 have many characteristically wide and long streets. Houses are generally low-rise (often not more than three floors). A large part of the southwestern city was planned by the progressive Dutch architect H.P. Berlage about 1910. This 'Plan Berlage' decided the spacious and homely streets for several decades. In World War II a large part of western The Hague was destroyed by the Germans. Afterwards, modernist architect W.M. Dudok planned its renewal, putting apartment blocks for the middle class in open, park-like settings.

The layout of the city is more spacious than other Dutch cities, and because of the incorporation of large and old nobility estates, the creation of various parks and the use of green zones around natural streams, it is a much more green city than any other in the Netherlands. That is, excepting some mediaeval close-knitted streets in the centre. There are only a few canals in The Hague, as most of these 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 ( Statenkwartier, Belgisch Park, Marlot, Benoordenhout and Archipelbuurt) are generally located in the northwest part of the city; however, the Vogelwijk and several very recently built quarters like Vroondaal are in the southwest, not far from the sea. Poorer areas like Transvaal, Moerwijk, and the Schilderswijk can be found in the southeastern 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").

The tallest building is the 142-metre-tall Hoftoren (see image).


Haagse wijken.PNG

The Hague has eight official districts (stadsdelen). 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 organizations

The Peace Palace

The city contributes substantially to international politics: The Hague is home to over 150 international organizations. These include the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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, on 1 March 2009, a U.N. tribunal to investigate and prosecute suspects in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri opened in the former headquarters of the Netherlands General Intelligence Agency in Leidschendam, a town within the greater The Hague area.

Currently, The Hague is the world's second UN city, after New York. In line with the city's history as an important convention centre and the current presence of institutions such as the ICJ, The Hague's city council employs a city branding strategy that aims to establish The Hague as the Legal Capital of the World and the International City of Peace and Justice

Major international organisations based in The Hague include:

  • Eurojust, European Union body composed of national prosecutors
  • 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
  • NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency, (NC3A)
  • Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, (OPCW)
  • Permanent Court of Arbitration, the oldest institution for international dispute resolution
  • The European Library

Many 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. It is also home to several large international business, including:

  • 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)
  • ING Investment Management, an asset management company that is part of the ING Group
  • Nationale Nederlanden, an insurance company that is part of the ING Group (shared HQ with Rotterdam)
  • Royal Dutch-Shell, the second largest international oil company in the world
  • Schlumberger, the world's largest oilservice company maintains a principal office there (along with Houston and Paris)
  • Siemens A.G., Europe's largest engineering company has its Dutch headquarters there
  • T-Mobile, a mobile network operator, part of Deutsche Telekom.
  • 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 buildings at night
Monument at the 1813 Square (Plein 1813)
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" (pronounced as in French) 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 the customary metropolitan reputation for a bustling night life, with some festivity exceptions in the course of the year. This is partly explained by the city's lack of a university and hence student life. Night life centers around the three main squares in the city centre: the Plein (literally "Square"), the Grote Markt (literally "Great Market") and the Buitenhof (literally the "Outer Court", which lies just outside the Binnenhof). The Plein is taken by several large sidewalk cafés where often politicians may be spotted. The Grote Markt is completely strewn with chairs and tables, summer or winter. 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 and gambling halls.


  • The city's major football club is ADO Den Haag. They have played in the Eredivisie (the top division in the Netherlands) where they are two time winners of the Eredivisie and two time winners of the KNVB Cup. They play their matches at the 15,000 seat Den Haag Stadion.
  • Cricket is traditionally one of the most popular sports in The Hague, with a number of strong teams from the Dutch league located there.
  • 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 (in adult and youth) champions so often.
  • The ice hockey team is HYS The Hague.
  • The handball team is HV Hellas Den Haag, active in the top division.
  • The local American Football team is Den Haag Raiders'99.
  • Darts is also another sport played in The Hague; its popularity was increased by Raymond Van Barneveld winning several World Championships.
  • The City-Pier-City Loop half marathon is held annually in the Hague
  • In 1994, The Hague held the FEI World Equestrian Games.

Films shot in The Hague

  • 1963: Feest! (Party!) directed by Paul Verhoeven
  • 2004: Hum Tum directed by Kunal Kohli
  • 2006: Zwartboek (Black Book) directed by Paul Verhoeven
  • 2006: Coldplay Viva la Vida directed by Anton Corbijn

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. It is the largest open air festival in Europe.
  • 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 licence is needed for street vending; children traditionally use this day to sell old unwanted toys.
  • Mid-May: The Hague Jazz festival.
  • May & June: The Tong Tong Fair 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, celebrated the 400 years of the relationship between the Netherlands and Australia.
  • June: Vlaggetjesdag in Scheveningen is a festival celebrating the arrival of the first new herring of the year.
  • 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 sea front in Scheveningen, as part of an international fireworks festival and competition.
  • July & August is the annual Summer School of The Hague, an international summer course for young dancers, initiated by Mirella Simoncini (Green Report)
  • July: "Milan", Europe’s biggest Hindustani open air event held in Zuiderpark.
  • The third Tuesday in September: " Prinsjesdag" (literally "Prince's 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").


The 'Netkous' or Fishnet Stocking, a modern tram viaduct, with neighbouring skyscrapers

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 Station (CS), only 1.5 km distant from each other. Because these two stations were built and exploited by two different railway companies in the 19th century, east-west lines terminate at Centraal Station, whereas north-south lines run through Hollands Spoor. The international Thalys and Benelux trains to Paris and Brussels call only at Hollands Spoor. Centraal Station does, however, now offer good connections with the rest of the country, with direct services to most major cities, for instance Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht.

The nearest airport to The Hague is Rotterdam The Hague 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 Airport Schiphol is more frequently used by people travelling to and from The Hague by air.

Major motorways 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") but 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. There is also the A44 that connects the city to Leiden, Haarlem and Amsterdam.

Nearby towns

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

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

The Hague is twinned with:

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