The Hague, Netherlands, City Tour

The Hague is the second most-visited city
in the Netherlands after Amsterdam because it’s a city with many attractions and a large
pedestrian zone where you can wander about in old historic lanes. Although Amsterdam is the nation’s capital,
almost all of the government is headquartered here with the parliament, and the prime minister
and perhaps most famous as home of the International Court of Justice, a branch of the United Nations. This video is a practical guide for you showing
exactly where are the main sites and where you should be walking to catch all of the
highlights in your visit. You might think of the Hague as perhaps a
modern city, as a government city and therefore maybe not so interesting to visit, but you’ll
find that it’s fascinating. The Hague has got a rich collection of historic
buildings, some of them dating back as much as to the 13th century, amazingly, and they
have been restored and renovated and kept up to date. The government is located in this complex
of very old buildings in the heart of town. And yet there’s also a modern side to the
city, a modern shopping mall, ultramodern skyscrapers and that wonderful pedestrian
zone. So altogether you’ll find The Hague has got
a lovely variety of kinds of neighborhoods and attractions, historic sites, shopping
areas, museums, and just friendly people everywhere, and everywhere, bicycles. The two closest main cities are Delft and
Leiden, both of which make a good home base for visiting The Hague on a day trip, only
15 minutes away by train. Starting our adventure with arrival at the
train station. I arrived at Hollands Spoor, the older station,
and it gets a little busy in the morning. It’s 9 AM morning rush-hour but no problem
getting out of the station and then walking towards downtown. Or you could catch a tram at the station that
would bring you directly downtown. Perhaps you’d like to rent a bicycle and go
the Dutch way, easily available here in the station area. There are two train stations here. Hollands Spoor and Centraal, and both of them
are about the same distance from the crossroads of downtown, about a kilometer or a 15-minute
walk. I arrived by train from Leiden visiting The
Hague as a daytrip and got off at Hollands Spoor. The same train continues to Centraal Station,
but I thought I’d start out at Spoor and walk into downtown. I’ll show you the routes in a moment. It’s possible to see the main sites in one
day as we will show you in the video. We are suggesting a meandering zigzag route
that will take you through most of the pedestrian lanes: starting out walking from the train
station through Chinatown, up through some pedestrian lanes, through the historic Centrum
district with many shops and restaurants, the royal palace, back down through other
pedestrian lanes. This is really the heart of the shopping and
pedestrian center of town. Then walking back north a few blocks to the
royal gardens and a lovely canal, and then heading over to a popular tree-lined park,
and yet another upscale shopping street. Have a look at the beautiful Hofvijver pond. The famous Binnenhof inner court with some
gothic structures and the parliament, similar some more shopping streets, the modern City Hall and
Tourist Information Office, passing ultramodern skyscrapers and then back to the train station
to depart. It looks like a complicated walk, but the
inner center of town is quite small and easy to do, as we will show you. We cross a beautiful canal heading on our
walk from Spoor station into Chinatown. This is an exotic part of the Hague, a great
place to get some Indonesian food as well as Chinese, and even vegetarian foods. Getting off at Spoor station is not always
recommended, but it has the advantages of seeing that canal and entering into a different
part of town, Chinatown, a surprising touch of the East. You could veer over to Tourist Information
a couple of minutes away where you can pick up free brochures and get some advice. The Tourist Information Office is in a building
right adjacent to the new City Hall, and here you’ll find a lot of helpful information,
you can get maps, you can get hotel reservations, suggestions for restaurants and destinations
to visit in the city. They also have a café and a store where you
can purchase guidebooks and maps. In front of their office you’ll be at the
widest of all pedestrian streets, Grote Markstraat. This street is where all of the big shopping
action takes place. We will see a lot more of that later on. For now we are plunging further north into
the pedestrian zone. I was here on a very special day, Prinsjesdag,
when the king delivers to parliament the budget and plans for the year. It’s a festive day with a lot of things happening
on the streets, including a big parade that I’ve saved for a separate movie. It made town all that much livelier. We’re walking on a block called Venestraat
which is part of a much longer pedestrian lane that goes through the center of town. It’s the most extensive pedestrian lane in
the city, and we shall walk its entire length, which began back at that train station. As usual with these old European cities, the
only way to see the central area is by walking. It’s full of people, (garbled) including some
colorful characters, shops, buildings, places to eat and drink. It’s a never-ending spectacle of entertainment
as you stroll along, and plus it’s healthy to be out there walking, although with all
of these tempting shop windows, it could be a little damaging to your budget. But sometimes you get lucky and are given
some free stuff, like these French fries, one of the great finger foods of the Netherlands,
complete with a choice of sauces. These frites have an artistic flourish and
you can see that the giveaway is a good plan. The place was packed. It was the first of this French fry chain
to open. It was in 2016 and since then they’ve opened
up in five other cities. Our lane arrives at the old Greenmarket Square,
a very popular plaza that many consider to be the center of town. In the old days this is where everybody came
to buy their vegetables and their fish, and it’s the location of the old City Hall that
was first built, 1565. Around the corner you’ll reach the Great Church
with its steeple 93 meters high. One of the oldest buildings in town, constructed
in stages between the 14th and 16th centuries. Protestant, it’s also called St. James’s church,
with a lively plaza around it and more shopping streets. You can see what a popular gathering place
this is, and always with the bicycles going by, like this cart with the well-dressed little
kids. This Greenmarket Plaza is quite the busy crossroads
with eight different streets coming together here. We continue walking north along that same
basic lane now called Hoogstraat. It was known as the Paleispromenade because
it leads up to the royal palace. We will get there in a few minutes. It seems that the shops get a little bit more
upscale the further north we go. It’s quite easy to walk from one end of the
historic center to the other, as we’, re doing here because it’s just about 1.5 kilometers
in distance. We’re here on that national holiday, the Prinsjesdag,
when some people show off their big orange hats. I came back the next day on a nonholiday and
here’s how the Plaats looks. It’s a busy plaza. But on this holiday, it was really jampacked. We’ll show you a little bit more of that holiday
festivity in a separate movie all about the royal parade. The triangular-shaped Plaats is one of the
oldest and most popular plazas in town. As you see it’s loaded with eateries. There’s lots of restaurants, bars and cafés
all around the square in a big range of prices from the most expensive, right down to Subway
sandwiches. The statute commemorates Johan DeWitt, who
was leader of the Netherlands during the Golden Era of the late 17th century, but he was blamed
for the French conquest of Holland, and an angry mob turned on him and murdered him. Now are looking at the Hofvijver pond and
Binnenhof Palace on the right side, location of the national government. And you’ll find lots of scenic beauty here
right in the middle of the city. It’s the palace, the museums, the parliament,
beautiful pond and the flowers. We’ll show you more views of the fishpond
and take you inside the palace courtyard in a little while, but for now we are continuing
our walk north along that lovely pedestrian lane. We came upon a horse drawn carriage containing
a calliope, that old-fashioned musical instrument sometimes played with the keyboard, but here
it’s performing automatically somehow, with the owners out front looking for a little
charity. Here that same street changes names once again,
and it’s called Noordeinde. We’ve entered the neighborhood known as the
Hofkwartier, that’s neighborhood of the royal court, with the palace just ahead and beautiful
streets lined with elegant fashion boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, and many more
cafés. Notice the street sign pointing with directions
and distances to the various destinations, really helps you get around. More of those orange hats celebrating. It’s the national color, in part because the
nation was founded by the House of Orange. A statue of William of Orange stands in front
of the royal palace. The building is not a royal residence but
is used as offices for the king. Looking further north along that same elegant
shopping lane of Noordeinde, noted for the town’s largest art gallery concentration. We will have a quick peek at it, go a few
blocks up, and then turn around, although if you have time and interest in the arts,
you could spend half an afternoon up here, but we are continuing the walk in our zigzag
journey through the heart of town. Once again, the signs point our direction. Don’t worry about all those choices, just
follow my route. The map shows where we have already been and
where we’re heading next, down another pedestrian lane and then back up through another shopping
lane to the royal gardens. Walking along now the Oude Mostraat. You’ll notice there are three of these parallel
pedestrian lanes and you want to catch them all, which is why we are zigzagging up and
down. And for a bonus there are little side lanes
you want to explore. If you have lots of time here you might want
to just trip around in that aimless wander, but if you’re a little bit limited and want
to see everything it pays to use to stick to that zigzag schedule so that you cover
all the streets without forgetting something. Ask a local a question and you might be brought
into an interesting conversation that will tell you a lot about the place. “Okay, welcome in the Hague. This is the oldest street of the Hague, because
it started he, the re city on the highest level of the city. And we have here the Hofkwartier. It’s means the palace. So it’s the surrounding around the palace. That’s this neighborhood. Yeah Hofkwartier. That’s the district. And the Hague also has the name of the City
of Peace, because the International court is here. That means people love it because they come
from Paris and from America from Asia they come for the Mauritshuis, for the art, for
the Rembrandt, uh-uh, so there’s a lot of history. The king is living here, the prime minister,
the embassies are here in the Hague, a lot of hotel, lots of conferences here in the
Hague.” His name in English would be Bill Brown and
turns out he sitting in front of the tea shop that’s operated by his two daughters with
a special kind of green tea called matcha. His daughter Claire explained the benefits
of this tea and how it’s made. “Green tea powder. Uh-huh. And you don’t brew it like the other tea. You do it in a special way. And you make first to paste to make it very
smooth, and you whisk it for 20 seconds in this way. Uh-huh. And then you have the matcha tea and you can
drink it immediately. Uh-huh. Yeah. And it’s refreshing and healthy. Yeah. It’s a real superfood from Japan, and it’s
rich in antioxidants. So a lot of people drink it because it’s healthy
and gives you an energy boost, and saying it’s working for 6 to 8 hours slowly, the
way you start your day with the matcha in the morning with your breakfast, then you
feel, yeah, energy.” (laughter)
Look for their shop, Hug the Tea on Facebook and the web. You’re going to find that the Dutch are the
friendliest people you’ve ever met. They are so warm and open and ready to talk. When you strike up a conversation, you’ll
realize how enjoyable and educational it can be. All you have to do is b reak the ice and say
hello. Another couple blocks down on Oude Mostraat
and we turn around and head north again going up Prinsestraat. It’s the third one of these lanes we’ve been
focusing on in the central part of the city, and there’s a few cars but wide sidewalks,
a friendly pedestrian atmosphere, more elegant shop and it leads up to the Palace Garden,
one of the Hague’s most enjoyable shopping streets with a variety of excellent restaurants,
unique boutiques and specialty shops. We arrive at Palace Gardens behind the royal
palace. Now here’s an example of the Hague being quite
different than most other Dutch cities. Here there are some large green parks in the
central part of the city, unlike other Dutch towns that were surrounded by moats and medieval
walls with a rather dense interior population, The Hague has got more park lands than any
other main city in the Netherlands. It’s called the Palace Gardens but it’s free
and open to the public. Facing the gardens is the canal called Noord
West Singelsgracht. It’s one of the only canals in the Hague,
another way that the city is different from many of the other cities of the Netherlands. Here they do not have many canals in the center
of town, but there is a peripheral canal around the town. This section appears to be the nicest of their
canal scenes. They’ve got restaurants on barges right on
the water. Some benches along the canal give a nice viewpoint
to relax and enjoy the scene. And now we are going to head over to another
part of town through a park and up to yet another beautiful street, Denneweg. It’s a delightful stroll back through the
town into this lovely garden area with tall trees, and they were setting up for a food
festival. We are in the park of Lange Voorhout. These kind of food, events happen on a regular
basis. Sometimes you’ve got to get lucky and stumble
into them. Other times you can look on websites of the
city and see when are the food festivals happening, but it happens pretty much on a regular basis,
so you’ll probably get lucky and get some street food out of these trucks. In my case I was a little early. They were just setting up and not ready to
sell any food yet, so all maybe come back later. Another reason for having a couple of days
to visit any place. If budget is no problem you might enjoy Hotel
des Indes, a five-star deluxe property. And now were taking a stroll along Denneweg. This is one of the nicest streets of town. It’s got the usual collection of clothing
stores, art galleries, cafés, restaurants, places to hang out, window shop and just spend
some quality time. It’s one of those streets with limited automobile
access, so it’s mostly for pedestrians and bicycles, and strolling along and just enjoying
the leisure early atmosphere of Denneweg. It’s one of the oldest streets in town where
you can experience the rich history of the past and yet now it’s a classic busy shopping
street with a number of impressive storefronts: There’s antiques, there are shop windows that
show exceptional pieces of furniture, paintings and decorative objects. Here too you’ve got several side lanes that
lead off for a block or two with more galleries and bookshops and things to discover. Back around the corner we find the smallest
house in the Hague. It’s a tiny little place, probably very expensive
today. We’re back at Lange Voorhout with a row of
patrician mansions, one of which is now the Escher Museum. M.C. Escher was a Dutch artist who was a genius
at drawing impossible situations, masterpieces of optical illusion. He lived from 1898 to 1972. His work features convoluted twisted subjects
with infinities, reflections, symmetries, perspectives, levels of reality that are beyond
belief, creating visual puzzles that cannot be solved. Escher Museum fronts on the Hofvijver fishpond. It’s a lake bordered with trees and with an
island planted it with the rhododendrons, where swans and other water birds swim on
that glassy surface. There is a lovely lakefront promenade that
goes all the way around this pond, worth taking a look at. That leads us into the most important site
in the entire city, Binnenhof old court palace which is now the location of the parliament
and various important government offices. There are several very impressive gateways
that lead into the Binnenhof courtyard. In the old days back in the medieval era it
would have been surrounded by a moat as well to protect it from any sort of outside attack. The Netherlands has a bicameral legislature
that meets here in the Binnenhof and it consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives,
very similar to the United States. In fact, this goes back to the 15th century
and it had been a model for the founding fathers in America in creating the US government. An aerial view from Google Earth shows the
overall structure of the palace courtyard with historic brick buildings all around it,
now used as government offices. Seen from the other side we get a view in
the foreground of a plaza called the Plein, one of the main gathering spots of town. This Hall of the Knights is the oldest structure,
dating back to the Middle Ages. It looks like a church but it’s actually a
government building with the Great Hall for major speeches, a brick building with lofty
gables and two towers, first built in the year 1249. A gold neo-Gothic fountain adorns the main
square. The name Binnenhof is given both to the group
of buildings that form the palace and to the courtyards in which they stand. Courts of justice are here as well as archives
of the kingdom. Exiting the courtyard through an arch on the
west end brings you to another one of the main plazas of town, the Buitenhof, with more
restaurants and lovely buildings around it. Remembering the role of the Hague as the International
Court of Justice, this location is one of the places where demonstrations often happen,
looking for justice. And we ran into a group of Biafrans from Nigeria
looking to plead their case. There was a Civil War in 1967 in which the
Biafrans declared independence, but were crushed by the Nigerians. They’ve been protesting ever since. “We are here to tell the world what is happening
in Nigeria. In Biafra after the war, the 1967 war, a lot
of us, they killed a lot of Biafrans, and from that moment until now we are still suffering. People are dying of hunger.” Biafrans are a large minority of 60 million
people in Nigeria and their land contains a lot of oil resources that the Nigerian central
government has been taking without compensating the people of Biafra, who have been living
in poverty and are seeking justice. (Singing and chanting)
They are one of the world’s countless groups who have been oppressed for decades or sometimes
centuries and have been forgotten by the mainstream, but they come to The Hague, seeking justice. By contrast, we reenter the Western modern
world, in the era of consumerism and shopping malls, in a Passage that dates back to the
late 19th century. It’s the only one in the Netherlands that
still has this original kind of design, a style of enclosed shopping mall that was pioneered
in Paris back in the mid-19th century. It was built so that retailers could now stock
the luxury goods that previously had only been ordered privately from Paris that were
sent in by mail to the Netherlands, something like Amazon Prime versus our modern shopping
malls. And now Apple has a prime spot in this Victorian
era shopping Passage. The world’s biggest and yes most popular company
has to be here to take care of their customers, along with dozens of shops and a great variety
of everything you would possibly need. They have extended the original Passage another
couple of blocks in a modern style in a lovely homage to the concept of this covered shopping
mall. It just keeps going and going, of course,
mostly for clothing shops, mostly for ladies and a little variety of this and that for
everybody else. Then we get back to the big shopping street,
the Grote Marktstraat. This is where we started much earlier in the
program, coming up through Chinatown, and promised we would take you back here, and
there it is, another great street for strolling. With the Novotel offering a choice central
accommodation. At the end of the pedestrian mall you reach
another of the main plazas of town, Grote Markt, as seen from above, thanks to Google
Earth. There is a very convenient underground entrance
to the tram that travels by subway back to the Centraal train station for getting out
of town. That is one option. Or you could walk back to the Centraal station
as we’re going to show you next. Let’s back up for a moment and instead of
taking that tram, let’s just walk to the train station on the city streets. It takes just 10 minutes and we can visit
the brand-new City Hall along the way. We are now entering a much different part
of the Hague – it is very modern. The amazing City Hall is at the other end
of that wide pedestrian mall. You will see, this is one remarkable structure,
quite different than the old brick historic buildings that we’ve been enjoying so far
in the Hague. The City Hall of the Hague is an ultra-modern
building designed by American architect, Richard Meier and, it is astonishing. They say it has the largest indoor atrium
in all of Europe. It is about 12 stories high, and a completely
enclosed space. And it’s also a very functional space because
it’s a large building that houses the City Hall, the government offices. And they do a lot of client services right
there on the ground floor, taking care of their public. It was designed in 1986 and completed in 1995. This amazing building is open to the public
and it’s just behind the Tourist Information Office, so please take a look inside. It is located in the new city center and incorporates
the Council chamber, the main public library as well as cafés and exhibition spaces. And there’s also a public toilet inside. It’s nicknamed the Ice Palace because of its
white color. It’s quite a contrast to the old brick buildings
of the Hague and reminds you that this city is up to speed with the modern age. From here it’s only half a kilometer walk
to the Centraal train station and it will take you along some urban streets that are
worth seeing. You’ll pass interesting ultra-modern skyscraper
buildings along the way. Or you could take a tram but it’s better to
walk. It just takes about 10 minutes. This is the new skyscraper city of the Hague. Most of these buildings are government ministry
offices for various departments. Some of them are apartments. Fortunately it’s set apart from the historic
center, which remains nicely preserved. Thanks again to Google Earth, we can have
an overview from up above. Looking at the train station on the right
side with the Binnenhof and downtown in the background, and then spinning around showing
all of these new skyscrapers. It’s quite interesting to walk past them a
ground-level looking up, such a contrast with the Old Town. Crossing a relatively hidden canal, we enter
into the amazing modern structure of the Centraal Station. This has been under construction for decades
and only recently has been completed. As you see today, it is a remarkable structure. The ceiling is made of glass panels that let
in a lot of light. The walls also have a lot of glass allowing
the light to stream in. With so much retail activity, its become a
major shopping mall with restaurants and clothing stores and all kinds of conveniences, and
yes many trains come through in this highly functional arrangement. Like so many train stations in Europe, they
also have a piano available for anybody to sit down and play, most entertaining. The Dutch rail system is one of the world’s
best. Trains are frequent, clean, reliable, and
the distances are short because the cities are really not far apart, maybe 15 to 20 minutes
and you’ll be in Delft or Leiden, or in an hour you can travel to Amsterdam, all of which
makes it very easy to visit the Hague, either as a daytrip, or better yet, spend a couple
of nights to see all of the many sights that we been presenting. It is one of the great cities. We’ve got many more movies about the Netherlands. Look for them in our collection. We upload new travel movie every week, so
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