When most people think of a mini-break in The Netherlands, they imagine the romantic winding canals and late-night bars of hedonistic Amsterdam.
But a 25-minute train ride from Rotterdam, and now serviced by a direct Eurostar route from London, The Hague, often overlooked by British travellers, is in many ways The Netherlands’ most important city, and hosts some of the most significant Dutch art masterpieces.
Here’s how to explore the Hague and its neighbour Delft.
1. See the masterpieces at the Mauritshuis: Many come for one painting only – the Girl with a Pearl Earring by Delft artist Johannes Vermeer – which inspired a novel in 1999 and a film with Scarlett Johansson in 2003. It’s held at the world-renowned Mauritshuis, home to some of the most famous paintings from the Golden Age of Dutch art, which spanned the 17th century. The building is a masterpiece in itself.
2. Marvel at The Hague’s architecture: It’s pretty unusual to be able to stroll between parliament buildings and royal residences in a city centre, but in The Hague, there’s a very real possibility of bumping into the prime minister outside the Gothic Binnenhof castle or catching a glimpse of royalty exiting Nooredeinde Palace.
In the Hague, you can get lost in the higgledy-piggledy streets – there are no straight lines, because the city was built on sand dunes.
3. Stroll around the pretty canals of Delft: If it’s quintessentially Dutch canals you want then Delft, a short tram ride from the Hague, is made up of 11 ‘islands’, 88 bridges and a canal system that’s over 750 years old. A huge fire destroyed two-thirds of this small city in 1654, but some of the surviving stone buildings still remain – and the oldest house, dating back to 1548, sits opposite famed fish restaurant, Visbanken. Delft’s most famous resident was Vermeer, buried at the Oude Kerk (old church).
4. Discover Dutch history at the Museum Prinsenhof: It began as a convent, then the court of William of Orange, known as the ‘father’ of Holland. It was also the location of his murder in 1701 and visitors can still see the bullet holes in the wall.
5. Sample modern Dutch cuisine: The Netherlands isn’t as well known for its cuisine as France or Italy, but the Hague has a culinary scene that shouldn’t be overlooked. Newly opened 6&24 offers intricate, creative plates of food made with local ingredients.
Eurostar fares from London St Pancras to Rotterdam on the new direct three-hour service cost from £35 one way, (Business Premier from £260). Onward travel to the Hague is under E5.