The Hague is one of the Netherlands’ great centers for artwork. There are many museums and galleries to explore, offering incredible permanent and temporary exhibitions featuring some of the world’s great contemporary artists and a whole host of legendary painters from the northern Renaissance and earlier. Here are a few exemplary institutions to check out, from the conventional to the experimental.
Mauritshuis is the real gem of the Hague’s museums. Set in an aristocrat’s manor house right in the center of the city, Mauritshuis is stuffed with paintings from some of the greatest artists of all time. In addition to loads of Rembrandts and works from older masters like Peter Paul Rubens, there’s also two or three pieces by Vermeer—including the legendary Girl with a Pearl Earring, often called the “Mona Lisa of the North” and one of the most famous paintings in the world.
What Mauritshuis is to classical art, Gemeentemuseum is to contemporary art. Located just a short bus or tram ride outside of the center of the city, here you’ll find the largest collection of Piet Mondriaan paintings in the world as well as a whole wing devoted to, and designed for, the work of the art movement of which Mondriaan was a part, de Stijl. In addition to this impressive permanent collection, you’ll also find a cutting edge array of rotating special exhibitions that highlight artists both well-known and under-appreciated.
3. Escher in Het Paleis
M.C. Escher is world famous for his mind bending artwork in which staircases defy gravity and rivers flow uphill. Before that, though, he gained prestige from producing prints that displayed some of Europe’s most scenic towns and coastlines from interesting and unconventional perspectives. Escher in Het Paleis (Escher in the Palace) is a museum dedicated to showing both those early, largely unknown works and his well-known later ones, all in the majestic setting of the former winter palace of Dutch royalty. Get your tickets on PlacePass.
4. Prince William V Gallery
Unsurprisingly, the presence of the art-loving royal family in the Hague has contributed to its reputation as a city of phenomenal museums. William V, Prince of Orange, had this room built in the 1700s to display his formidable art collection. In fact, some of his paintings eventually formed the core of the Mauritshuis’ permanent collection. The William V gallery is an opportunity to see a selection of masterful paintings in the setting that the prince would have preferred.
5. Panorama Mesdag
Panorama Mesdag is an unusual museum. In fact, it feels like more of a time machine—step into this 360 degree painting and you’ll be right in the midst of the Hague’s famous beach, as it looked more than a century ago. This almost 400-foot-long painting is a masterpiece by the Dutch maritime painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag, and one of the city’s greatest artworks.
Madurodam is a chance for total immersion in the architecture of the Netherlands. This park-meets-cultural-center-meets-museum offers miniature versions of some of the country’s most iconic buildings, parks, and waterways all in one place. You can explore castles, courthouses, and canals with working trains, cars, and boats bringing this tiny paradise to life before your eyes.
7. The Gevangenpoort Museum
Ever wondered how prisoners were treated in Holland’s past? Now is your opportunity in the Gevangenpoort Museum, or Prison Gate Museum, which for centuries operated as one of the prions where the Court of Holland would send criminals. Here you’ll be able to explore the life of Dutch prisoners—how they lived, how they were treated, and how they were appropriately punished for their crimes.
8. Celestial Vault
Celestial Vault is technically a sculpture, but it turns the sky into its canvas. Located on a hill overlooking the Hague’s coast, this incredible earth-work by American artist James Turrell places you in the bottom of a man-made crater. The dimensions were specifically designed by Turrell to make it so, if you lie on your back in the bottom and look up to the sky, it will appear as though the heavens are a dome that arc from one side of the crater to the other.
9. Haags Historisch Museum
The Haags Historisch Museum (or the Historical Museum of the Hague) is the place to go to learn about the history of the Hague. Located in a guild house from the 17th century, this is the perfect place to get some historical context for your visit to the Hague. See how the city became the seat of the Dutch government, the royal family, and one of the world’s great centers for peace and justice.
10. Louwman Museum
For automobile lovers, the Louwman Museum is a must see. Built up from the considerable car collection of the Louwman family and expanded from there, this grand museum is a perfect place to see the fascinating evolution of cars as daily drivers, racing machines, and even works of art. There’s also some wonderful automobile artwork. Get tickets here.