Stroll down The Hague’s historical streets, along tree-lined avenues and through winding park paths to soak up the regal atmosphere of the city. And be sure to visit the popular spots where Dutch royals have spent their free time during the past five centuries.
Many official royal buildings aren’t open to the public year-round, though you can still get a sense of their royal grandeur from outside. And if you still want to experience more, look out for Heritage Days, held every September, when dozens of historical buildings across the country open their doors to visitors.
Here’s our selection of unmissable royal highlights in The Hague:
First built as a medieval manor house in 1533, the somewhat modest Palace Noordeinde was converted into a private residence in the 16th century. Located right in the heart of the city, it is now the King’s working palace. Visitors can roam the gardens for free, but tours inside the palace are limited to a few days each summer. With cafés, restaurants, fashion boutiques, galleries, art and antiques dealers located nearby in beautiful art nouveau buildings, Noordeinde is worth a visit for everyone.
Mauritshuis and Prince William V Gallery
Home to some of the very best Dutch Golden Age paintings, the Mauritshuis hosts an impressive collection of iconic artworks by Dutch and Flemish masters, including Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and ‘The Goldfinch’ by Carel Fabritius. Housed in a majestic 17th-century palace, this museum’s spectacular collection consists of around 800 paintings, 50 miniatures and 20 sculptures. As part of the museum, the Prince William V Gallery features numerous popular artists from the 18th century, including Jan Steen, Philips Wouwerman, Abraham Bloemaert, Willem van de Velde and Gerard ter Borch. In 1774, Willem V, Prince of Orange-Nassau brought together key pieces of his artwork collection to form the first public museum in the Netherlands.
Originally designed as a palace in 1776 by Prince Karel Christiaan van Nassau-Weilburg and his wife Princess Carolina van Orange-Nassau, the building was never completed due to the French occupation. After saving it from near demolition, the former New Hague Theatre opened in 1804 where it flourished under the direction of King Willem II. Now the oldest theatre in the Netherlands, the Royal Theatre, known in Dutch as the Koninklijke Schouwburg, hosts international theatre performances as well as music, opera, cabarets and family shows.
As part of the Civil Household, the Royal Stables are responsible for the transport for all members of the Royal House and Officers of the Royal Household. Not only is it tasked with taking care of some of the most beautiful horses in the country, but it also looks after the Royal House’s many limousines, motor coach, coaches and carriages, including the iconic Gouden Koets (golden carriage) that is used on the annual Prinsjesdag (national budget day) celebration. Headed by the Crown Equerry, who organises the royal procession for the state opening of parliament and other public occasions, the stables were opened in 1815 by King Willem I. Visit the stables from 1 – 17 August during its official annual opening.
Escher in the Palace
A permanent exhibition dedicated to the renowned Dutch artist M.C. Escher is housed in the former Winter Palace of the Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands. The collection features almost 200 prints of his most well-known pieces as well as early works of his mathematically-inspired woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints, which drew amazement worldwide. Highlights of the display include the seven-metre-long ‘Metamorphosis III’ and photographs of Escher that capture his private life.
The Palace Garden
One of The Hague's most relaxing spots, this expansive park right behind Palace Noordeinde is perfect for spending a lazy summer’s day. Frederik Hendrik, the son of William of Orange, had the gardens landscaped for his mother at the beginning of the 17th century and it was gifted to the city in the 20th century. Open every day, this romantic gem features beautiful flowerbeds, fountains, hedgerows, ponds and marble statues.
Palace Huis ten Bosch
Huis ten Bosch (House in the Woods) was originally built in 1645 as a summer residence for Amalia van Solms, the Princess consort of Orange. After undergoing restoration in the 1950s due to extensive damage in World War II, it has since become a favourite residence of the Royal Family – Queen Beatrix (now Princess Beatrix) lived here and King Willem-Alexander will also use it as his family home. With a compact, centralised design based on Italian architecture, it has housed the National Art Gallery – a predecessor of the Rijksmuseum – and was home to Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Louis King of Holland, between 1805 and 1807. Located deep in the Haagse Bos forest, east of the city, it is usually closed to visitors – although you can have a peek through the gates.
Since its founding by King William I in 1826, this music and dance institute has grown into an internationally renowned centre for education, research and production. As the oldest conservatory in the country, the Royal Conservatoire has a rich selection of music courses for a wide variety of age groups – from pre-school to PhD candidates – across numerous music genres and all taught by accomplished musicians.
Royal Academy of Art
Established in 1682 as the The Hague Drawing Academy, the organisation held evening drawing classes for the public with debates about art on Saturdays. In the 18th century the academy became a thriving training ground for significant artists and was central to the Dutch Impressionism art movement. Today, the Royal Academy of Art focuses on new technologies and media, and features state-of-the-art workshops, studios and departments.
Also known as St. James Church, this landmark Protestant house of prayer is one of the oldest buildings in The Hague. The church has hosted baptisms for members of the House of Orange-Nassau, including King Willem-Alexander and his daughter Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands. Climb the 228 steps to the top of the tower for spectacular 360-degree views over the city centre, nearby beach resort of Scheveningen and the dunes of Kijkduin.