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The Hague History

The Hague is a hybrid city: it’s The Netherlands’ seat of government but not its capital city; it has many of the trappings of power but without any of its vim.

It is a state of affairs that has continued throughout its history, starting with its founding by 1230 when Count Floris IV of Holland built a hunting lodge there.

Soon the city grew, with the rulers of Holland using The Hague as an administrative and financial centre. As a result, the city enjoyed a building boom with the Ridderzaal (Knight's Hall), which still stands at Binnenhof, is one of the original seats of government.

Its growth didn’t go without a hitch, however, with centuries of economic boom arrested by the Eighty Years War. During this time, in 1575, it was briefly threatened with demolition thanks to its lack of city walls.

Ironically, salvation came courtesy of another set of wars, the Napoleonic, with The Hague finally granted a city charter in 1806 by the French dictator himself.

With the formation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it became the seat of government while the capital alternated between Brussels and Amsterdam.

After Belgium broke away in 1830, The Hague began to boom and became a hub for the Dutch Empire, with many civil servants posted overseas returning to the city to retire. One of the wealthiest cities in the Netherlands by the turn of the 20th century, its development was curtailed by the outbreak of WWI and almost derailed completely by the depredations of Hitler and the Nazis.

By the end of the war, much of The Hague was badly damaged and, as a result, the city became the biggest building site in Europe in the 1950s.

Redevelopment continued apace in the 1960s and 70s, with the city expanding and absorbing many of the surrounding towns. Today, it remains what it has always been: a bureaucrats’ city that isn’t nearly as grey as its reputation suggests.

Did you know?
• Christiaan Huygens, inventor of the pendulum clock and pocket watch, was born in The Hague in 1629.
• In 1945, England accidentally bombarded the Bezuidenhout district of The Hague. The intended target was another district, from which German missiles were being launched.
• The city was first mentioned as the name Haga in a 1242 charter.

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Featured Hotels


Hotel des Indes

Housed in a 19th-century mansion house, this is the 5-star hangout of visiting pop stars and diplomats, with marble columns everywhere and fin de siècle furnishings in abundance. There's also a jet-stream pool and a sauna. Even if you don't stay here, it's worth popping in for afternoon tea to soak up the exquisite surrounds.

Novotel Den Haag City Centre

One of The Hague’s 4-star properties, this Novotel is located in the Haagse Passage historic shopping arcade, opposite the Binnenhof, and is close to all the major museums and shopping streets. Parts of the building were a former cinema, although you’ll have to look hard to spot that today. Still, its interior is true to the Novotel style and standard.

Paleis Hotel

The small boutique hotel has 20 uniquely decorated rooms, each containing mock Louis XVI style furniture and plush fabric commissioned by French designer Pierre Frey. Try and book a room at the back as they have views overlooking the Noordeinde Palace, one of several Dutch royal residences.

Hotel Ibis Den Haag City Centre

This comfortable, modern chain hotel in the city centre has light airy rooms, an attractive designer bar and Wi-Fi access. Ibis hotels have a fixed formula the world over: clean, modern and cosy – but fairly basic. Still, it's ideal for those on a budget.

Park Hotel Den Haag

This lovely, medium-sized art deco hotel blends modern and classical touches. It is famous for its Garden Room, which has views into the royal palace grounds, but its own patio and manicured lawn is just as nice. It may be centrally located, but it’s quiet and the facilities are first rate. Try and book a rooms will a small terrace.

Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus

This magnificent fin-de-siècle beachside hotel, once patronised by European monarchy, is a Scheveningen icon, with refined and modern comforts including a spa. Eat at its grand restaurant, a former late 19th-century concert hall with stained glass cupola. The building is nothing short of palatial, a reminder of times now past.