Dan and I decided to venture out on a long weekend getaway to the Netherlands for the May Day bank holiday. Neither of us had ever been before so we were looking forward to getting lost among the streets of Amsterdam as we strolled along the canals, eating waffles, and visiting landmarks such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, and the historic city center, but first, an overnight stay in The Hague.
After a pleasant Eurostar crossing from London to Brussels, we transferred to a regional train to take us north to our first destination. The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State, as well as the capital city of the South Holland province. Interestingly though, The Hague is not the capital of the Netherlands, that honor is constitutionally given to Amsterdam. Upon exiting the train station we were met with a striking visual reminder of how prevalent the bike culture is in the Netherlands.
The weather was delightfully springlike despite the slightly overcast skies so we decided to walk in the welcome warmth from the Den Haag Centraal train station to our hotel. As we strolled along Lange Vijverberg beside the Hofvijiver pond there was a carnival set up for the holiday weekend with whirling rides, flashy midway games, and cotton candy stands.
As bikes are plentiful in the Netherlands, we quickly learned that you have to keep your eyes out for them when crossing the road as carefully as you would for cars and trams or you risk getting careened into. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we headed back out to brave the onslaught of bikes and trams as we walked over to the Mauritshuis, a renowned art museum in The Hague that houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings given to the Dutch state by King William I, the son of stadholder William V, the Prince of Orange.
The focus of the collection, now currently at almost 800 paintings, focuses on Dutch and Flemish artists, among them Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring and other notable work by Dutch Masters of the nation’s Golden Age of the 17th century, such as Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and Carel Fabritius’ Goldfinch. Little tip: you can download a free Mauritshuis multimedia tour for your smartphone from the app store or GooglePlay.
Post museum, we made our way back out into the sunshine, stopping at an outdoor cafe for an afternoon aperitif and to soak up a bit of the sun’s rays, which proved to be a popular pastime that afternoon for tourists and locals alike.
The early evening was still young as the sun was setting later and later in these northern latitudes, so at Kneuterdijk we hopped aboard Tramline #1 to Scheveningen, a seaside resort area of The Hague, the boardwalk and cafes teeming with tourists and locals out enjoying the spring weather and lengthening days.
As we strolled along the beach on Strandweg Boulevard we happened upon the most delightful public sculpture garden. Most public art in my opinion is hulking, abstract and frankly ugly but these were absolutely amusing and whimsical and I just couldn’t stop admiring and taking pictures of each piece. Installed in front of the Museum Beelden aan Zee, the ‘Fairytale Sculptures by the Sea’ are 23 sculptures of various sizes inspired by different fairy tales made by American sculptor Tom Otterness. Do you recognize some of the fairy tales depicted? Aren’t they just fun? The little ones make me smile.
After watching the sun dip below the horizon just after 9pm we hopped on the tram back to the hotel for a nightcap before sinking into the plush bed of our hotel, an 11am train to Amsterdam in our near future.
*Check out my handy printable travel guide here to plan your own short Hague getaway!