For our first Interrail stop on the continent, it was decided to stay close to where the ferry landed in the Hook of Holland. The Hague on the coast very much appealed more than the other easy to get to place Rotterdam. One of the draws was the beach as the puppy had never played on the beach and Scheveningen beach allows dogs from 1st October until the middle of May.
The Hague/Den Haag
The Hague is the 3rd largest city in The Netherlands and is located on the west coast of the county. The Hague is the home of the government of the Netherlands as well as being the location of the International Court of Justice, one of the most important courts in the world. King Willem-Alexander lives in Huis ten Bosch AKA House in the Woods and works at the Noordeinde Palace with Queen Máxima. Most foreign embassies in the Netherlands are housed in the city. Den Haag is known as the home of international law and arbitration. The International Court of Justice, the main judicial arm of the United Nations, is based in the city, as well as the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Europol, and many other international governmental organisations.
We had arrived in The Hook of Holland ferry port early in the morning after an overnight crossing and had loosely planned to use trains to get to The Hague. The Metro heading towards Rotterdam was located at the exit of the port so should be very easy. But nothing is ever simple…
We were on a budget for our stay in the city and required somewhere cheap as well as being dog-friendly, En Suite Fit the bill for us.
From En Suite we headed to the tram stop in Regentesselaan which was on a bridge overlooking part of the cities canal network.
I was suitably impressed with the city, it was clean and visually appealing with nice architecture. Den Haag had a fantastic public transport system comprising of trams, buses and trains to arrive.
Shopping in the centre was good including many international chains and local shops. The oldest indoor shopping centre in The Netherlands is based in the city, Shop at De Passage. The Passage is a glass-roofed shopping arcade dating from 1885, the arcade is lined with upscale stores & cafes and was a pleasure to browse even though I was not looking at buying anything.
Before arriving I had bookmarked the main sites to see in the city on google maps, so my tour was basically joining the dots at my leisure.
I arrived by tram into the centre and initially browsed the shopping area and made an emergency purchase in Primark before heading towards Het Plein, a town square in the old city centre.
Het Plein is located next to The Binnenhof, the meeting place of the States-General of the Netherlands; the entrance to the House of Representatives and The Mauritshuis art museum is located at the square. There were also a few bars with outside seating, ideal for the first Heineken of the day for me and a bowl of water for the dog.
The square is photogenic and was pretty quiet while I was there. In the centre of the square is a statue of William The Silent AKA William of Orange. William was the leader of the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Habsburg’s that set off the Eighty Years’ War between 1568 and 1648.
After we were refreshed, next waypoint we could see was The Mauritshuis art museum, sadly we only admired the architecture and regret not going in to admire the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer & Holbein the Younger. The building, however, was pleasing to my eye and at the time had a nice tasteful Christmas tree outside.
The Mauritshuis was built in the 17th century to be used as a home for count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen. It is quite an impressive building and located in a prominent part of the city.
Next to The Mauritshuis was the Mauritspoort, a gateway at the east end of The Binnenhof. A stunning work of architecture that was built in 1634. I spent some time admiring the details of this gate while the dog had a sniff around. What a fantastic entrance to a palace we were about to walk through, this set the tone and got me excited about the next stop.
Through the gate was the inner courtyard of The Binnenhof. The 13th-century square is home to The Fountain at the Binnenhof. This was built in honour of count William II of Holland. The fountain was donated in 1885 by the citizens of The Hague.
The most prominent building inside the square was the Ridderzaal or Knights hall which was originally constructed as a ballroom. This building is architecturally stunning and photogenic. The Ridderzaal is used for the state opening of Parliament on Prinsjesdag when the Dutch monarch drives to Parliament in the Golden Coach and delivers the speech from the throne.
Herrings at The Lake
Exiting the square we passed through the Stadhouderspoort another gateway and found ourselves hungry at the end of the lake. The hunger was quickly fixed after spotting a street vendor selling the Dutch delicacy of Raw Herring AKA Soused Herring, which was served with onions and was delicious. The Soused herrings are soaked in a mild preserving liquid, similar to pickled herrings I often consume in the UK but not as overpowering in the vinegar department. Had seconds and a soft drink to hydrate and was ready for the next step.
Next was a wander along the Hofvijver lakeside to appreciate the views of the Binnenhof and other buildings. The cities skyline was visible behind. The lake was very nice and sat and chilled soaking up the beauty and filling the RJ soul up with optimism for the trip. The dog wasn’t so impressed and just has another sniff around and did his business.
The Binnenhof was built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as the residence of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584.
I proceeded to explore the narrow side streets of the city, passing through The Passage shopping arcade with the aim of getting a tram to the next bookmarked location. I also passed the impressive Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk, a church with a 6 sided Neo-Gothic spire, I wish I had stopped and had a better look around but had a bee in the bonnet about giving the puppy his first play on the beach before dark.
The Peace Palace
The tram from the centre to Scheveningen passed the Peace Palace somewhere I had accidentally missed on the map so quickly hopped off to have a look.
The Peace Palace AKA Vredespaleis is the temple of peace and justice, it houses the International Court of Justice and many other things relating to international law. the building is very grand and is built in a Neo-Rennaisance style. The Peace Palace was opened in 1913 and filled with gifts from the nations that attended the 2nd Hague conference. Oh, how I wish I had more time in this remarkable city to fully appreciate it, next time I hope to allocate a few more days to work around the dog.
Next to the palace and the tram stop was The World Peace Flame which was the first-ever World Peace Flame monument built-in 2002. Apparently there are now quite a few including in Snowdonia a mountain I hope to re-climb in 2020, I will keep an eye out.
Back on the tram and a short journey later we were in Scheveningen a seaside resort and suburb of Den Haag. The beach was not far from the tram stop and the puppy had his first fun on the beach, how after the busy day did he have so much energy? I admired the views of the pier, the beach and the particularly impressive Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus, a monumental building, built-in 1818. Would love to stay there but budget and dog in tow would not be compatible for me.
The beach has a big wheel called The Pier SkyView which is 45 metres in height and looks great fun. They apparently serve meals onboard or you can have a quick ride to enjoy the view. This dark day seemed the wrong time to hop on so earmarked a meal for future trips.
After leaving the beach I enjoyed a glass of locally brewed lager, super-strength but the name alludes me and for some reason never took a photo of the bottle. Then consulted Google Maps to find the quickest place to get the puppy back for his evening meal back at Ensuite Apartments. This was a 20-minute bus journey.
After getting showered I got the energy to explore the local area near to en suite admiring the Christmas lights while trying to decide on what and where to eat.
After passing the local coffee shop which didn’t tempt me at all I spotted a cosy looking Italian restaurant, Pizza Primavera. I kept it simple and enjoyed a beer, Italian wine and a pizza for the evening meal. It was actually very tasty and good value.
On the way home to bed, I popped into a local supermarket to grab some soft drinks for the room and a sweet snack. No rest for the wicked I took the dog out for Midnight potty club before getting a great nights sleep.
Packed and washed we left En suite and spotted a petrol station which had a fantastic looking bakery, that was breakfast sorted with some raisin bread and a can of Pepsi.
The tram took us directly to Den Haag where reservations for the trains were sorted. Next stop Frankfurt.