The third-most populous and arguably the second-most important city in the Netherlands is sometimes referred to as the de facto capital of the country.
That’s because The Hague serves as the country’s administrative center and seat of government, even though the official capital remains Amsterdam.
The city is situated on the North Sea Coast in the western part of the country and is part of a much larger metropolitan area that also includes Rotterdam.
The history of the city is a bit obscure and it was only mentioned for the first time in 1242 as “Die Haghe.” There was already activity here in Roman times as it was situated within the borders of the Roman Empire.
The city was founded by the Counts of Holland in the 13th century and gradually expanded around the buildings they constructed.
Today, the city is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the Netherlands, so let’s take a closer look at the most famous buildings in The Hague.
The Binnenhof is a huge complex of building in The Hague that form a magnificent background to the Hofvijver, an artificial lake in the heart of the city. It’s one of the most important buildings in the Netherlands as it serves as the meeting place of the States General of the Netherlands and the Ministry of General Affairs.
It’s also a historically significant building because it was constructed in the 13th century by the Counts of Holland, the rulers who established the city. These buildings are a prime example of Gothic architecture and are considered to be some of the oldest government buildings in the world that are still used today.
The Ridderzaal is a building that is part of the Binnenhof complex. This structure faces the main interior square of the Binnenhof and was originally an integral part of the castle constructed by the Counts of Holland. It does resemble many other medieval castles in Europe, doesn’t it?
The name of the building translates to “Hall of Knights” and served as one of the great halls inside the fortified castle of the counts. This Gothic hall was decorated with stained glass windows and was used as a meeting place back then. Today, it’s used as the venue of the opening of Parliament on the so-called “Prinsjesdag.”
3. Noordeinde Palace
Noordeinde Palace is one of three official residences of the Dutch Royal family and one of two that are located in The Hague. It has been the official workplace of the King of the Netherlands and has served this purpose since 2013.
The structure has a history that goes back to the Middle Ages when it was nothing more than a farmhouse. It was completely rebuilt after it was purchased by the Dutch state in 1595 and transformed into the opulent palace that is located just north of the historical heart of the city.
4. Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch is the other royal residence that is located in The Hague and together with the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, one of the three palaces that are officially used by the Dutch Royal family today. Its name translates to “House in the Woods,” a reference to its location in the “Haagse Bos,” a large public park today.
The construction of this palace was started in 1645 at the height of the Dutch Golden Age and was completed later that century. The building was seriously expanded with two additional wings, including an exuberant dining room, between 1734 and 1737.
5. Peace Palace
Peace Palace is the name of the magnificent home of the International Court of Justice. Yes, The Hague is an internationally important city as well! Prosecuting war criminals is just one of the functions of this building which has a history that goes back to the early 20th century.
Located just north of the city center, the palace was completed in 1913 and is considered to be the final building that was designed in the Renaissance Revival architectural style. The project was made possible by a large donation from industrialist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) who gave $1.5 million to build the structure.
The Hoftoren is one of several famous skyscrapers that dominate the skyline of The Hague. It’s nicknamed “De Vulpen” or “Fountain Pen,” a reference to the triangular design of the top section of this remarkable modern building. It was completed in 2003 and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) from New York City.
The tower stands exactly 141.86 meters (465.4 feet) tall which makes it the third-tallest building in the city. Only the nearby Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (the red and silver buildings) are slightly taller at 147 meters (482.28 feet).
7. Scheveningen Lighthouse
The Scheveningen Lighthouse is a remarkable historic lighthouse in Scheveningen, one of the 8th districts that make up the city of The Hague. It stands majestically along the North Sea coastline and has done so since the late 19th century.
Remarkably, the lighthouse completed in 1875 that we can admire today was far from the first in this location. A lighthouse was present here since the 16th century. It wasn’t until 1850 that it was seriously elevated and equipped with a copper coupla and new light to expand its range.
8. Great Church
The Great Church or “St. James’ Church” is a large Protestant Church in the city that is located in the historic heart of the city. It’s situated in the “Torenstraat” or “Tower Street,” a street that was named after the distinctive 6-sided brick tower of the building which stands 93 meters (305 feet) tall.
The original church in this location was founded in the late 13th century but was nothing more than a wooden structure. The current church was constructed between the 14th and 16th centuries which still makes it one of the oldest buildings in The Hague.
The Mauritshuis is the most popular museum in The Hague and is located inside a building that borders the Hofvijver, the large artificial lake in the heart of the city. This building was constructed between 1636 and 1641 as the residence of John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, a man who made a fortune as the Governor of the Dutch Republic in Brazil.
The museum was established in 1822 and houses the collection of the Royal Cabinet of Paintings. Although the collection of the Mauritshuis only features 854 works, it includes some of the greatest Dutch masterpieces in history. Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) by Johannes Vermeer is by far the best-known work in the collection.
10. Old City Hall
The Old City Hall of The Hague is located near the Groenmarkt, just west of the Great Church. It’s a remarkable Renaissance building which means it was constructed during the 16th century and completed in the year 1565. The dilapidated building was heavily restored and expanded in 1882.
This was at the start of the Dutch Golden Age and although it appears to be rather small today, it was one of the most opulent buildings in the region at the time. It remains a great historic structure that emphasizes the importance of the city in Dutch history.
11. The Hague City Hall
The Old City Hall was seriously outdated by the 1980s and it became urgent to build a new structure. They didn’t mess around because the new building is arguably one of the most beautiful city halls that were constructed in the late 20th century.
The building was designed by American architect Richard Meier in 1986 and was finally completed in 1995. Meyer is famously known for designing the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The Hague’s city hall is the epitome of modern architecture and incorporates a Minimalist design. The building is referred to as the “Ice Palace” locally, a reference to the white color of the structure.
12. Kurhaus of Scheveningen
The Kurhaus of Scheveningen is the most prominent building located along the beach in The Hague and is the centerpiece of the main resort area in the city. This hotel is currently known as the “Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus The Hague.”
It’s a historic landmark in The Hague that was constructed between 1884 and 1885 but had to be rebuilt because of a fire just a few years later between 1886 and 1887. Until the 1960s, the building served mainly as a popular concert hall. It was completely renovated in the late 1970s and became a historic building in the Netherlands shortly after.