A holiday in The Hague

Hague, Netherlands. (Shutterstock)
Updated 04 February 2019

A holiday in The Hague

  • The Hague has been the seat of power in the country for centuries
  • It has some of Holland’s finest buildings, museums and art galleries

DUBAI: While it’s not the official capital of the Netherlands, The Hague has been the seat of power in the country for centuries — home to the royal family and to the Dutch parliament. That means it has some of Holland’s finest buildings, museums and art galleries, but doesn’t have Amsterdam’s full-time, full-on energy. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There’s certainly plenty to keep visitors occupied on the culture front. For grand architecture, we’d recommend a visit to the parliament building Het Binnenhof, the beams of which are decorated with the famous ‘luistervinken’ (eavesdroppers) — wooden faces with a single huge ear on the side, meant to represent the higher power listening in when the hall was used as a courtroom in centuries past.

Equally impressive is the Peace Palace, home to the International Court of Justice. Opened in 1913, the Palace is the result of international cooperation and houses doors from Belgium, marble from Italy, wall carpets from Japan, rugs from Iran and so on.

Many of the city’s finest buildings are also museums and galleries. The excellent Mauritshuis is dedicated to 17th and 18th century art, particularly that of the Dutch masters including Vermeer, Rembrandt and Rubens. The gorgeous art-deco Gemeentemuseum, meanwhile, has a wide range of modern art classics as well as older pieces. A trip to those two venues alone could eat up an entire day.
Another big draw for art fans is the permanent exhibition “Escher in the Palace,” an exhaustive, mind-bending collection of works from the celebrated Dutch graphic artist at Lange Voorhout Palace.
If you need a break from the highbrow, and some retail therapy, The Hague has plenty to offer there too. If it’s raining (always a strong possibility in Holland), head to The Passage — the country’s oldest shopping center. It opened in 1885 and has since been expanded considerably, but still remains covered.

For those seeking more unusual trinkets, there’s a large, and very popular, art, antiques and book market that runs on Thursday and Sundays in Korte Voorhout in the summer, and at the Plein on Thursdays in the winter.
And if you want to shop like a local, get down to The Hague Market, which sits between the city two most multi-cultural districts: Transvaal and the Schilderswijk. It’s Europe’s biggest outdoor market and welcomes an estimated 25,000 visitors a day, in all weathers, to its 500-plus stalls.
Foodies won’t be disappointed by the range of options The Hague provides. Italian restaurant The Court; Tommy’s & Zuurveen, which offers international cuisine; and French eaterie Cottontree City by Dimitri are all highly recommended.
If you want to take in a great view while you eat, head for The Penthouse on the top floors of The Hague Tower, which promises views of “up to 45 kilometers” from its windows, 135 meters above street level.
To get a taste of the regal life, you could book a stay at the luxurious — and ideally situated — Hotel des Indes in the heart of the city. The hotel used to be a city palace and that royal grandeur is still apparent in its 92 rooms. If extravagant splendor isn’t your thing, then the romantic sophistication of the boutique Paleis Hotel might be a better bet. This central, 20-room gem is just a short walk from the Mauritshuis, and is a work of art in itself.

We opted for one of the numerous Airbnb properties on offer throughout the Netherlands, and stayed in the city’s seaside district of Scheveningen, well worth a visit if you’re on a summer trip. Just 15 minutes by tram from the city center, Scheveningen has something of a timeless ambience, like a postcard brought to life, particularly the old-school pier. It’s a charming and peaceful neighborhood, and its long, sandy beach is the most popular in Holland. It’s easy to see why. Be warned, though. This is the North Sea, and that water gets cold.
Possibly the Hague’s most-famous tourist attraction, though, isn’t its market, museums or seaside, but the peculiar miniature city of Madurodam — a combination of amusement park, scenic beauty (including more than 5,000 miniature trees) and ‘edutainment.’ Scale models of typically Dutch canal houses, cheese markets, windmills, flower-bulb fields and more combine with multimedia presentations to give a short history of this fascinating and beautiful country.

If you’re planning a trip to the Netherlands, but don’t want to be based in the hustle of Amsterdam (which is less than an hour away by train, so you can still visit easily), we’d highly recommend The Hague.


Safe Eid staycations in the UAE

The UAE extended the curfew to start at 8 p.m. as of May 20. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 May 2020

Safe Eid staycations in the UAE

DUBAI: If you have been repeatedly pinching yourself to wake up from a bad dream, you are not alone. In the midst of the all-consuming coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the world has been forced to reconcile with a new order.

After several stages of grief for what was, and disbelief for what lies ahead, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and realized that summer is just around the corner, the same corner I had been walking to and from to stretch my legs since the UAE announced in March new measures to implement social distancing.

With this in mind, I decided not to stifle the ever-potent wanderlust that has powered me throughout the years. After all, there are places in the world with safe enough infrastructures to navigate the aggressive motorways of intercity traveling. So, I pumped my car with enough gas and hit the road.

Here are some tried and true (safe and in line with the directives of the Ministry of Health and Prevention) day trips and staycation destinations to keep you hanging in there:

Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach

The UAE Residents Key package starts from 1,100 Emirati dirhams ($300). (Fourseasons.com)

If you want to lose yourself in a micro-universe of (US filmmaker) Wes Anderson-esque opulence, look no further than the Four Seasons Resort on Dubai’s Jumeirah Road.

The UAE Residents Key package starts from 1,100 Emirati dirhams ($300) and is inclusive of a 20 percent discount on all in-house food and beverage outlets with early check-in and late check-out.

Upon arrival, guests are instantly beckoned by the tantalizing waters of the Arabian Gulf glistening through the panoramic windows of the lobby like a Henri Matisse painting.

Before heading out though, visit the Shai Salon near the check-in counter and bask underneath the lattice ceiling which resembles a starlit sky. While the kitchen is currently closed for dine-in, you may order from a selection of aromatic teas and nibble on finger foods on the terrace of your room.

After ample relaxation, it is time to soak up the sun. All beach beds are 2 meters apart, and if you forget sunscreen, worry not, as staff will come to the rescue.

The soft waves of this beachfront oasis, coupled with the tranquil, grainy white sand make for a dreamscape. Interspersing your cheeky dips in the water is a friendly ecosystem of shoals of bream, shellfish, and exotic birds.

Now that you are properly sun-kissed, head over to the SeaWake counter for some watersport playtime. Guaranteed to awaken the child within, you may choose a 45-minute wakeboarding session, a boat cruise to the canal, or a simple donut or banana ride into the sunset.

To answer the growling call of hunger, do not forget to claim the meal that comes with the UAE Residents Key package which offers a signature dish and dessert at Nammos by the sea.

Al-Qudra Lake, Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve

It is the perfect spot to read that book you have been putting off all year. (Shutterstock)

A pleasant 30-minute drive takes you to this man-made wonder on the southern outskirts of Dubai as you bid farewell to the city’s skyline through the rearview mirror.

It is a habitat for flora and fauna, jaw-dropping migratory birds as well as local wildlife. You can spot deer, swans, flamingos, and some 200 bird species that have taken up refuge by the lake, some of which are endangered such as the Asian Houbara.

Catch the sunrise with a flask of hot tea as the birds announce the day or let the night sweep in as you stargaze under the silky skies. It is the perfect spot to read that book you have been putting off all year.

There are no on-site facilities at Al-Qudra, so be sure to stock up on food and drink. If you find yourself in a bind, head to nearby Bab Al Shams.

Ras Al-Khaimah Public Beach

The beach is on the same stretch as the famed Hilton Ras Al-Khaimah Resort and Spa. (Shutterstock)

This is not a de facto public beach but rather a serene strip of water that I stumbled upon while searching for a gas station.

On the same stretch as the famed Hilton Ras Al-Khaimah Resort and Spa and opposite the ADNOC station by the fish market, it is a little off the beaten track, which only adds to the mysticism.

The barren land surrounding it juxtaposed against the turquoise waves is a sight to behold. The boulders lined up on the side make for a nice little hiking challenge or a seat to prop you up for a sunset-tinted journaling session.

Just when you think you have the place to yourself, jellyfish swim up the shore. Do not forget to head back to the city before the curfew and grab an invigorating fresh pomegranate juice from Eat & Drink.