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Museums in The Hague


This museum is most famous for holding some of Johannes Vermeer’s best-known masterpieces, including View of Delft (1660-1661), and Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665-1667).

The museum also boasts paintings from other Dutch masters from the Golden Age, including Rembrandt, Peter Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.

The museum itself is housed in a beautiful baroque building — a 17th century palace, fitted out with an 18th century interior.

Click here for more information about the museum.

Escher Museum

If there is just one art museum that you visit whilst in The Hague, it really ought to be the Escher Museum.

M.C. Escher is best remembered for his seemingly impossible drawings — the waterfall that flows up as well as down, the never-ending staircase, the man that climbs a ladder into a building only to end up on the outside.

Terrific art — and a terrific museum in which to exhibit such art.

Not only does it contain a marvellous collection of Escher’s works, but it also explains some of the thinking behind the great man, as well as explanations for how the paintings were constructed.

Perhaps the most amazing thing that you can learn about Escher is that he did not just sketch his drawings on parchment or canvas. Because he was a business man as well, and wanted to make sure he could earn a living as an artist, he intricately carved his pictures on printing blocks, which could then be used to create multiple prints for sale.

The building itself is magnificent. It used to be a palace and much of the interior dates from the 18th century.

The chandeliers in the rooms are a fairly recent addition to the museum. Local Rotterdam artist Hans van Bentem has used glass to fashion the most bizarre designs, such as a giant skull and bulbous spider.

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Van Kleef Distillery

It is now possible to visit the oldest distillery of The Hague for a fascinating insight into the time-honoured tradition of manufacturing strong Dutch liquor.

Unfortunately, Dutch rules mean that alcohol is no longer made at this historic distillery. Instead, Van Kleef works with local distilleries around the country to produce the alcohol that is sold at its shop to authentic traditional recipes.

Members of staff and tour guides are passionate about the distillery business, and will provide you with a fascinating explanation of products and history — in Dutch, German, French or English.

The place is both a museum and shop, and you can buy all sorts of interesting spirits and liqueurs. The traditional Dutch drink jenever is available here. You can usually ask to sample the drinks before you make a purchase.

It is free to wander around the shop and museum. With a reservation, you can also book a taste tour, which usually include some small morsels prepared by the Italian chef. Sampling five drinks, for example, will cost €9.95.

Public Transport Museum

Housed in the old tram depot building, which closed down in 1983, the public transport museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the city bus and tram. A rich collection of trams and buses is on display, and you can even take an historical tram ride through The Hague city. Entrance to the museum is free, but you have to pay a few euros for each tram ride.

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Prison Gate Museum

This museum gives an intriguing glimpse into the world of crime and punishment as it was in mediaeval times.

The museum’s building is a former prison — it was converted into a museum in 1882 — and, as much as possible, has retained its original character.

It is definitely worth taking a guided tour of the prison complex, included in the admission price. The guides bring colour to any visit, through tales of famous prisoners, valiant escapes and the cruellest of punishments.

Tour guides tend to be extremely knowledge and passionate about their work. Unfortunately, though, tours are only available in Dutch — something that we sincerely hope the curators of the museum will rectify soon. You do get a leaflet in English, which is supposedly a translation of what you are told on the tour, but many of the more colourful descriptions are left out.

Many of the tour guides do speak English, though, so if you turn up when things are not too busy they may be willing to translate some of the more important points.

Tours are every hour, starting at 10.45am.

As part of the tour, you will get to see the cramped conditions in which many of the prisoners lived. When the guide turns the light off, you will appreciate how sunless the cells are. Not the best place to come for sufferers of claustrophobia!

You do not have to take a tour to see the museum, but if you don’t many of the more interesting rooms will be closed off to you.

The museum can get exceedingly cold during the winter months, so bring warm clothes if visiting then (and spend some time thinking about those inmates that were forced to endure such a winter).

Perhaps the most important inmate of the prison was Cornelis de Witt, the member of a prestigious family and, briefly, an influential part of Dutch politics. In 1672, the House of Orange perceived him to be a threat and had him arrested on false accusations of treason. You can visit the room at the prison where he was held — in relative luxury, compared to his fellow in-mates, since he had the money to pay for better treatment.

He was eventually murdered outside the prison on the day he was due to be released, along with his brother Johann who had turned up to escort him from the prison. As they walked out of the prison gates, a lynch mob was waiting for them; the false accusations of treason had fuelled popular resentment and suspicion.

The museum regularly organises night tours as well. A particularly atmospheric way of experiencing the museum, though slightly more expensive. You must be older than 13.

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Meermanno Museum

This museum is devoted to the history of the art of the book, and is located in the former house of Dutch writer and book collector Baron van Westreenen van Tiellandt. The museum is named after his cousin Johan Meerman, who was also a book collector, as well as a traveller and diarist.

The museum has a collection of books from all periods of Western history, but unfortunately the rooms are confusingly laid out with no clear narrative running through them. This is made even worse by much of the text, as well as the audio on televisions in the museum, being only in Dutch.

Some explanation is available in English, thrust into your hand as you enter, but this is inadequate for really understanding what the museum is about.

For real enthusiasts of book collecting, the highlight of the museum is likely to be a small collection of medieval manuscripts, along with information about their manufacture and restoration.

There is also a small room dedicated to the development of writing and books.

The baron didn’t just collect books, though. He gathered other artefacts from around the world and his Egyptian collection is particularly fascinating. He was also one of the first Dutchmen to start collecting Egyptian texts on pieces of papyrus.

The museum is spread over three floors, but is not actually all that big. Temporary exhibitions, usually showcasing the work of a more contemporary artist, can be found on the lower ground floor.

The museum has a lovely outside terrace and garden, where you can take refreshments.

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First impressions of the museum is of a huge art gallery, which uses paintings to tell the story of The Hague, its government and its inhabitants through the ages. Proceeding further into the museum, some historic relics are also exhibited, such as the small collection of dolls houses on the uppermost floor.

The museum is housed in the former building of the old civic guard, which was dissolved in the late 18th century. Since this dissolution, the building was used as a hotel and a courthouse before eventually being turned into a museum in 1986.

Temporary exhibitions with a Hague twist are regularly shown in the museum.

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Louwman Museum

Dating back to 1934, this museum houses an amazing collection of cars through the ages, some of which are stunningly unusual. The variety and wealth of cars is staggering. Look out for the original Bond car that Sean Connery drove in Gold Finger.

The whole museum is very well laid-out, with interesting descriptions in both Dutch and English.

If you want to see the entire museum, you’ll probably need to set aside at least two hours.

The museum is situated in a lovely green area, within easy walking distance of Huis-Ten-Bosch Palace and Haagse Bos. It is a bit outside the city centre. Buses 24, 43 and 90 (all of which you can catch at Centraal Station) stop nearby.

Click here for more information about the museum.

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