'ad it with Amsterdam? OutUK's Adrian Gillan breaches the nearby Nether-parts of Holland's historic and cultural gem, Den Haag, or in English The Hague.
Seat of the Dutch parliament and royal family - plus many an international conference and criminal tribunal - and a mere half hour by train south west of Amsterdam: twin-centred Den Haag, offers both a courtly historic heart plus Scheveningen a delightful "mini-Brighton" satellite district right on the North Sea.

SIGHTS AND EATS

Grab a coffee or beer in one of the many charming cafés sprawling out onto Plein square, before digesting a rich dose of culture at the Mauritshuis, an amazing art collection in a palatial location - oozing with Dutch masters of the Golden Age, most notably Rembrandt and Vermeer. Featuring gems like the latter's Girl with the Pearl Earring ("Holland's Mona Lisa"), the Mauritshuis is truly "the greatest of small museums; and the smallest of great museums".

Then - after gorging on a tummy-lining Indonesian "rice lunch" at Dutch-colonial Garoeda, and glutting on the nearby Parliament, a wide range of royal palaces and residences and the iconic Peace Palace - take a ten minute tram ride seawards to the "Brightonesque" Scheveningen area, complete with grand old wave-facing hotels, promenades, pier and beach. After clearing the head with a stiff sea breeze, have another drink or bite at Binnen - a swish, funky contemporary eatery, right on the water, complete with glitter balls and licking, leaping flames.

The Netherlands' second largest city is also the indisputable Dutch capital of dance, home to the world-renowned Netherlands Dance Theatre plus countless creative venues like De Regentes, and biannual events like the Holland Dance Festival with its fun amateur dance parade and climax massed-ranks finale.

And don't forget to take the tram out to Delft - just a few miles south east of The Hague - with its canals, New Church (Netherlands' second tallest, after Utrecht's), Pisa-esque leaning Old Church, town hall and square - plus lots of local links to Vermeer, including his birthplace and the site where he painted his Girl with the Pearl Earring. Take a guided tour of the 1653-founded Royal Delft Porcelain Factory to learn how the blue-and-white icons are made, plus to bargain-hunt in the shop.

To stay, the Hague Carlton Ambassador is a luxurious, centrally-located hotel in a leafy area, well-placed for scene, sites and - via said tram - sand.


Delft

GAY SCENE

The Hague's gay life is small but beautiful, hubbed around central Café De Landman, one of the town's oldest LGBT venues - packed to the rafters at weekends, with very friendly staff and interesting artefacts, like a message of thanks from Bill Clinton, no less; and around nearby Café De Vink, a warm, ambient bar, a short walk west of Café de Landman.

For something heavier, check out leather-dominated cruise bar, The Boss, just south of centre. And to dance, Hague's main gay club, Strass, is a short five minute stroll north of Café de Landman, boasting two bars and a heaving little dance floor, which writhes into the wee small hours.

Those still restless can steam away at Blue River - arguably one of the world's classiest gay saunas - with an oriental flavour, just west of centre.

To "take airs", try the Zwarte Pad beach area in Scheveningen, by day; or, day or night, the Scheveningse Bos forest, near the Madurodam tram stop.


The Beach at Scheveningen

GETTING THERE

Most of the major airlines including EasyJet, BA and KLM fly direct to nearby Amsterdam Schiphol from no fewer than 14 UK airports, for anything from £30 to £100 including taxes. For general info check out denhaag.com, delft.com or holland.com.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Binnen (Strandweg 29-31; T: +31 (0) 70 354 2095 ; Website)
Blue River Sauna (Valkenboslaan 181-191; T: +31 (0) 70 364 6407; Website)
The Boss (Rijswijkseweg 536; Website)
Garoeda (Kneuterdijk 18; T: +31 (0) 70 3465319; Website)
Hague Carlton Ambassador (Sophialaan 2; T: +31 (0) 70 363 0363; Website)
Café De Landman (Denneweg 48; T: +31 (0) 70 346 7727; Website)
Café De Vink (Schoolstraat 28; T: +31 (0) 70 365 0357; Website)

Revised November 2015

 

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