You can find all my Europe Trip posts here.
On Saturday, we donned our orange, had breakfast at the hotel, and headed off to The Hague to celebrate King Willem-Alexander’s 52nd birthday.
April 27 is Koningsdag (King’s Day) in the Netherlands, which is a holiday kind of on par with the Fourth of July in the U.S. It’s a holiday meant to instill a sense of national unity, which I think is part of the point of the Fourth of July, just instead of celebrating independence from a king, in this case, the king is the one being celebrated.
Amsterdam is the place to be on Koningsdag, which is exactly why we went to The Hague that day instead. I’ve lived through enough St. Patrick’s Days in Chicago to know that I do not enjoy being at partying ground zero on partying holidays, so if everyone was going to be in Amsterdam, The Hague seemed like a good place to go. Plus, it was ridiculously easy to access from Rotterdam. We thought we’d need to take Rotterdam’s subway to Rotterdam Centraal and get on an intercity train there, but it turned out that you could take Rotterdam’s subway all the way to The Hague. WHAT I WOULD GIVE for public transportation even half as comprehensive in this car-obsessed country. Of course, Rotterdam is also like 13 miles from The Hague, which is about the same distance as it is from Rogers Park to Soldier Field, so I suppose you can take Chicago’s subway that distance as well…but it feels a lot more comprehensive when it goes between cities.
Anyway, since it was Koningsdag, we didn’t want to make too many firm plans about what to do in The Hague because we didn’t know what would be open. One thing I did want to prioritize was visiting Mauritshuis, home of The Goldfinch, the painting around which the novel The Goldfinch revolves. Since I spent 21 and a half hours reading The Goldfinch earlier this year, I definitely wanted to see the painting.
And I did! And it was very fulfilling 🙂 The Mauritshuis also has The Girl with the Pearl Earring, another painting that inspired a novel (and movie) by the same name, but as I haven’t read The Girl With The Pearl Earring (yet), I wasn’t as interested in that one. Fortunately, it seemed like no one else at Maruritshuis had read The Goldfinch, so I had plenty of time to look at the painting without feeling crowded 🙂
Mauritshuis was also where I saw my first Jan Steen paintings, and I instantly liked his work. A lot of Steen’s paintings are quite funny (on purpose), and I enjoyed that a lot more than the usual somber portrait/still life numbers.
Mauritshuis was really nice, and just the right size for an art museum in my opinion. It was small enough to see the whole thing in an hour or so, and I liked that more than a gigantic art museum where it feels like you could spend all day looking and only scratch the surface of its collection.
From the Maruitshuis we walked through the courtyard outside the Binnenhof (where the Netherlands’ Parliament meets).
When we emerged on the other side, we found a stand selling oliebollen (a Dutch donut, essentially), and I nearly lost my mind. My school always made oliebollen for fundraisers, and they are delicious. Oliebollen are a traditional New Year’s Eve food, so I definitely didn’t expect to find any on our trip. I was very pleasantly surprised to find them for sale on Koningsdag, and obviously bought one.
Our tickets to Maruitshuis also got us entry into the Prince Willem V Gallery across the street from the Binnenhof, so we figured we may as well go since it was free and we didn’t have anything else on the agenda. It’s really just two rooms, one small one and one main one, but the walls are absolutely covered in paintings. They have guidebooks (including ones in English!) in the main room that tells you about the artwork, which I’d definitely recommend grabbing if you want to know anything about what you’re seeing (including artist names and painting names, since none of the paintings are labeled on the walls).
From there, we decided to wander back towards the train station, not to go back to Rotterdam, but to check out some of the Koningsdag festivities we had seen walking to Maruitshuis earlier. There was a small music/food truck festival going on on Lange Voorhout (right by the old U.S. embassy, incidentally) where we hung out for a bit. They had portapotties at the festival you had to pay to use! I know a lot of public restrooms in Europe come with a charge, but I was surprised to see they charged for the privilege of using a portapotty, of all things. I can only imagine how that would go over in the United States!
There was a much larger fair going on at the park right outside Den Haag Centraal, so we went there next. It was a very much like your standard U.S. county fair: rides, carnival games, fair food, etc. We saw a TON of people walking around The Hague wearing either orange leis or red/white/blue leis (both for the colors of the Netherlands: orange for the royal family, red/white/blue for their flag), and figured since so many people were wearing the same thing, they must be giving them out for free somewhere. Turns out they were at the fair in that park, so we both got one of each.
We wanted to see the Peace Palace, so to get there, we walked back through the festival on Lange Voorhout and stopped to get poffertjes, mini Dutch pancakes drowning in powdered sugar. They were every bit as good as you’d think they’d be.
Our walk to the Peace Palace took us by Noordeinde Palace, a palace with royal offices, which was cool to see.
By the time we got to the Peace Palace it was, naturally, closed, so we took a couple of pictures and then returned to the park near the train station.
We had dinner at Paviljoen Malieveld, a pannenkoeken restaurant. Pannenkoeken are the Dutch version of pancakes, which I’d consider to be the halfway point between a crepe and an American pancake. We both got savory pancakes for dinner (I got ham and cheese) and split an apple cinnamon one for dessert. They were all delicious 🙂
And that was our day in The Hague! We went back to Den Haag Centraal, got back on the subway, and returned to Rotterdam. We certainly didn’t do as much in The Hague as we did other places, but I’m glad we left the agenda more open than usual so we could check out the things going on for Koningsdag.
The Google Doodle for Koningsdag in the Netherlands 🙂
THE HAGUE SUMMARY
- Paviljoen Malieveld (Koekampplaan 6, Den Haag), 4/5
- Prince Willem V Gallery
- Noordeinde Palace
- Peace Palace