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Touring The Hague with a Guide Sightseeing the Royal Theatre

The History of The Hague (Den Haag) and Monuments:

 

Around 1230 Floris IV, Count of Holland bought a piece of land next to a small lake to

build a house on. The Knights’ Hall was started by his son William II who was to be

crowned Holy Roman Emperor and German Kaiser in 1247, but he died fighting the West Fries in 1256. So Floris V, grandson of Floris IV, finished the building.

 

From the early 17th century, the Knights Hall became an important trading place for booksellers. In later centuries it served a variety of purposes - as a market hall, a promenade, a drill hall, a public record office, a hospital ward, even the offices of the state lottery. It was restored between 1898 and 1904 to serve its present purposes.

 

This 40 by 20 metres (130 ft × 66 ft) large Gothic hall has magnificent stained glass windows depicting the coats of arms of Dutch towns; particularly fine is the rose window with the arms of the principal noble families of the Netherlands. The heavy timber roof structure with its 18- metre-long beams (59 ft) has the appearance of an upturned ship. Wooden heads symbolizing eavesdroppers from the higher powers are supposed to deter members of the assembly from lying.

 

The most important annual ceremony traditionally takes place on the third Tuesday of September. That day, called ‘Prinsjesdag’, the King presents the speech from the throne; thus the government officially announces her policies for the coming year. The speech will be addressed to the members of both Houses of Parliament (Senate and House of Representatives). Also present during the ceremony are members of the Royal House, Ministers, State Secretaries, members of the Council of State, diplomats and persons invited.

 

Lange Voorhout Palace

 

The former Palace on Lange Voorhout was used for many years as a residence by Queen Emma the Queen Mother, Princess Beatrix’s great-grandmother. Queen Emma lived and worked here from 1901 until her death on 20 March 1934. She spent the summer months at Soestdijk Palace. The Lange Voorhout Palace was originally built as an elegant town residence for Anthony Patras, Mayor of Sloten in the province of Friesland, who was the Frisian representative in the States-General. Patras commissioned the architect Pieter de Swart to build the house in 1760.

 

Queen Emma the Queen Mother bought the house in 1896 and had it converted into a real palace. Decorations from a great many other houses were transferred to this palace in order to embellish it. One of these is the green staircase inside the palace, which originally comes from Huis Fagel on Noordeinde.

The gold balcony was often used during Queen Juliana’s reign, when the Royal Family gathered on the balcony to wave to the public on important occasions. The palace was only used as a working palace after Queen Emma’s death in 1934. Queen Juliana was known for her preference for holding formal consultations with her ministers on Mondays. The building was sold to the Municipality of The Hague after Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus moved their offices to Noordeinde Palace. Escher in Het Paleis has been housed in this beautiful palace since 2002.

 

It’s difficult for us to imagine, but Lange Voorhout has not always had such magnificent buildings on it. The older, smaller houses which used to be here gradually fell into disrepair and were consequently demolished in the 17th and 18th centuries. Construction of the town palace at No. 34 commenced in 1734. The architect Daniël Marot, who was court architect to Louis XIV of France, designed and built the house for Adriana Margaretha Huguetan, a wealthy banker’s daughter. After Adriana’s death, her neighbour Baron van Tuyll bought Huis Huguetan. Since he also owned the house on the other side, he was able to connect all three houses with one another by building a single façade at the front. This façade, designed by Pieter de Swart, was finished in 1761.

‘The narrowest house in The Hague’ can be seen on the left of Huis Huguetan. However, this is an optical illusion, since part of the façade of the house on the far left remained visible when the façade was made symmetrical. This house is part of Huis Huguetan behind the façade.

The house was occupied by King William I and King William II, although William I only lived there temporarily while waiting for renovations to Noordeinde Palace to be completed. William II and his wife Anna Pavlovna lived there for two years before moving to Kneuterdijk Palace.

Huis Huguetan currently houses the Netherlands Supreme Court.

Keep straight on along Lange Voorhout until you get to the end. You will see Kneuterdijk Palace at the corner on your right, at No. 20.

This whitewashed town palace was built for the wealthy Van Wassenaer Obdam family. In 1716, the original house was replaced by a building designed by the French architect Daniël Marot (1661-1752), who gave it a regal look by embellishing it in baroque style.

 

In 1816, the Van Wassenaer Obdam family sold the palace to William I, who gave it to his son William II. William II and his wife Anna Pavlovna lived here until he was crowned King in 1840.

The palace was not only a Royal residence, it also played a major role in Dutch politics. Debates on the 1848 Constitutional Reforms led by Dutch statesman Johan Rudolph Thorbecke were held here. The monarch’s powers were limited after the ministers were made responsible for policy.

Kneuterdijk Palace passed out of the Royal Family’s hands in 1937. Dutch war criminals stood trial in this palace after the Second World War, and the Council of State is currently housed in the palace. The Council of State advises the government and Parliament on legislation and administration, and is also the highest court of appeal for administrative disputes.

 

Noordeinde Palace is King Willem-Alexander’s working palace and dates from as early as 1533, when Willem Goudt, steward of the States of Holland, had the original mediaeval manor converted into a large town residence.

The States of Holland purchased the building in 1595 and placed it at the disposal of Louise de Coligny, widow of Prince William of Orange, and their son Frederik Hendrik. The palace was presented to the Royal Family in 1609. Prince Hendrik had the palace renovated in 1640 according to a design by the architects Jacob van Campen and Pieter Post. Hendrik had the main building extended and a wing built on either side of the palace, which gave the palace its characteristic H-shape.

On the death of Stadtholder King William III in 1702, King Frederick William of Prussia inherited the palace. In 1754, he sold his possessions in the Netherlands to Prince William V, including Noordeinde Palace. The Stadtholder and his family were forced to leave the palace and flee to Britain when French troops invaded the Netherlands in 1795. Since Noordeinde Palace was now the property of the Batavian Republic, it was therefore national property. And the palace has remained national property right up to the present day.

 

King William III and his second wife, Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont, used the building as a winter palace. On his death, Queen Emma and her daughter Wilhelmina remained in residence at Noordeinde Palace. Queen Emma the Queen Mother moved into the Lange Voorhout Palace on the marriage of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik in 1901. Their daughter Juliana was born at Noordeinde Palace in 1909.

The central part of the palace was destroyed by fire in May 1948. After having considerable renovations carried out, Queen Beatrix started using the building as her working palace in 1984.

If you see the flag flying on the palace roof, this means that King Willem-Alexander is present at the palace.

 

We are still not sure how exactly the Binnenhof came into existence. Apparently its foundations go back to as early as 1230. At that time, Floris IV, Count of Holland, bought a manor house from Lady Meiland van Wassenaar. Floris had the existing dwelling converted into a small castle or keep between 1230 and 1234. This work was finished by Floris’s grandson, who renovated it completely. The castle meanwhile comprised a living area with a tower and a “Great Hall” (which has been known as the Ridderzaal or “Hall of Knights” since the 19th century). The Binnenhof became the residence of the Counts of Holland from that time on.

The association between the Binnenhof and the House of Orange-Nassau goes back to Stadtholder Prince Maurits (1585-1625), who took up residence at the Binnenhof. The tower at the south-western corner of the complex was built for him in 1592, and from that time on, the adjoining wings became the Stadtholder’s quarters. All the Stadtholders of the House of Orange lived there after Maurits.

The Binnenhof was no longer the Royal residence after the French invasion in 1795. King William I then chose Noordeinde Palace as his residence. After this, the King and his successors were present at the Binnenhof at least once every year, on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament, in order to address the meeting of the States-General. From an historical and art-historical point of view, the four halls (the Ridderzaal, the Trêveszaal, the meeting hall for the Senate and the Oude Zaal) are the most important parts of the Binnenhof.

Nowadays the Binnenhof is the centre of Dutch politics. The Ministry of General Affairs is still housed there, while the House of Representatives building is situated just behind the Binnenhof and cannot be seen from where you are standing. The ministers often emerge from important debates in the House of Representatives through the Binnenhof. You may even have seen this on television.

 

Like Noordeinde Palace, this town palace was designed in the Dutch Baroque style by Jacob van Campen and Pieter Post and built between 1633 and 1644. You will see that the building looks very similar to the Lange Voorhout Palace. Of course, it is more richly decorated and the Mauritshuis is bigger and wider than the Lange Voorhout Palace, but the two buildings are basically the same.

The Mauritshuis is a good example of Dutch Baroque architecture. This was a school of art and architecture in the Netherlands, and the building is full of references to Greek and Roman culture. Garlands, Ionic capitals, cornices and pediments make the building look like a Roman temple.

From 1685 on, the Mauritshuis was a ‘Hotel of State’ where distinguished members of the States-General of the Netherlands stayed when they visited The Hague. The Mauritshuis suffered severe fire damage in 1704, but reconstruction was not completed until 1720.

The State of the Netherlands purchased the Mauritshuis in 1820 in order to house William I’s art collection. This museum was opened to the public in 1822.

Go past the Mauritshuis and take the second turning on your left (Lange Houtstraat). Turn right when you reach Korte Voorhout. Keep to the right-hand side of the road. You will see the Royal Theatre (Koninklijke Schouwburg) on your right.

The Royal Theatre was built in 1766 and commissioned by Prince Karel Christiaan of Nassau-Weilburg, Stadtholder William V’s brother-in-law. Karel Christiaan wanted to have a small palace on Korte Voorhout for himself and his wife, Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau.

The architect was Pieter de Swart, who also designed the Lange Voorhout Palace and Huis Huguetan.

However, construction had to stop as a result of the French occupation in 1795, and the palace remained unfinished for a very long time. When a decision was made to demolish it, a group of prominent citizens in The Hague intervened. They signed a lease for 99 years in 1802 so that the palace could be converted into a theatre. The “Nieuwe Haagsche Stadsschouwburg” officially opened in 1804.

King William II was the owner of the Royal Theatre between 1841 and 1853. Under his patronage, French opera and Dutch drama prospered and flourished.

Now walk back towards Escher in Het Paleis. When you get to Lange Voorhout, stop at the memorial next to the US Embassy.

A monument was built on Lange Voorhout in 1866 in memory of Prince Bernhard of Saxen-Weimar-Eisenach (1792-1862). Bernhard was the second son of Karel August, Grand Duke of Saxen-Weimar-Eisenach, and his wife Louise of Hessen-Darmstadt. Bernhard was the father-in-law of Prince Hendrik the Navigator and he was made commander of the army in the Dutch East Indies in 1848.

This free-standing memorial was designed by the architect H.P. Vogel and the painter-sculptor J.Ph. Koelman.

The memorial is 15 metres high and is surmounted by a bronze trophy. There is an image of Bernhard’s profile with laurel and oak leaf wreaths in the centre. The inscription reads: Karel Bernard von Saxen-Weimar 1792-1862, Patron of Art and Science, courageous and skilful warrior, steadfast in his loyalty to the Netherlands. Homage from his contemporaries. 1866.

You will see the ‘Emmabank’ on your left a little further along Lange Voorhout.

This monument to Queen Emma is a wall with a wooden bench. The inscription on the front side of the wall reads: “In grateful memory and honour of H.M. Queen Emma”. This monument was presented by the Order of Freemasons in 1938. It was destroyed in 1940 and rebuilt in 1959.