By: Fiona Moriarty, Hipmunk
Those who speed through The Netherlands on their Euro trip and only spend a couple of hazy nights in Amsterdam are missing out. Sure, the boisterous, touristy capital is an unmissable stop, but Holland has much, much more on offer, and you can find it a 45-minute train ride away in The Hague.
Unlike Amsterdam, The Hague is known for its peace, in every sense of the word: It's home to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, but it's also serene, green, and the perfect counterbalance to the capital's red light district and party-hardy tourists. It's also perfectly situated at under an hour from both Amsterdam and Rotterdam (The Hague's de facto airport), making it a lot easier to find cheap flights.
The Hague is a must visit, and if you're wary of Europe's high prices, we've put together this list of the most budget-friendly reasons to visit, all under 10 Euros each.
1) The Peace Palace
The stunning Peace Palace is perhaps the city's most photographed building, and is often called "the seat of international law," as it houses the International Court of Justice (the principal judicial body of the United Nations), The Hague Academy of International Law, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. There's also the always burning Peace Flame and a World Peace Path, made from 196 stones from 196 countries, and the price is just right: the attached museum of peace and justice is free, and weekend guided tours are under ten Euros. For an extra Dutch experience, try staying at the nearby bed and breakfast Maison Indochine, where you can stay in one of their two boutique rooms from $118 per night.
2) The Beach
The Hague turns a trip to Holland into a beachy getaway. Scheveningen beach is a very short ride from the city center by tram or bicycle, and the very walkable seaside is populated by seafood shacks and hungry, dreadlocked surfers. At the Pier in Scheveningen, if weather permits, you can see about 30 miles in either direction, from the Rotterdam Port Entry to the point of entry to Amsterdam Harbour. Hotel Bella Vista is situated right on the beach and might be your cheapest bet at about $45 per night, but the nearby Andante Hotel is surprisingly swanky for $65.
3) The Escher Museum
Water flows uphill, fish morph into birds, and men walk up (or is it down?) neverending staircases in this loving tribute to the weird, wonderful, and wondrous M.C. Escher, the Netherlands' most famous graphic artist. Best known for his optical illusions, this museum is located in an old winter palace of the royal family and features four storeys of the man's mathematically inspired masterpieces, including a floor of surprising interactive exhibits. Entry is under 10 Euros, and it's located virtually across the street from a Holiday Inn, with rooms from $101.
4) Humanity House
In the planet's epicenter of international law, Humanity House is an important and unique museum that aims to recreate the experience of being a refugee. Afterwards, use interactive exhibits to learn about almost every cause of internationaldisplacement in recent history, and explore seasonal exhibitions as well. Entry is €7.50 for adults, €5 for teenagers and free for kids under 12, and it's a very short walk from the 4-star Mercure Den Haag Central hotel, which as rooms from $70 a night.
5) The Biking
Just about every tree-lined corner of The Hague can be reached by bicycle, and there's far less traffic and fewer tourists on the roads than in Amsterdam, making the experience infinitely more pleasant -- this is bicycling in Holland. Grab a bike and go; rentals usually cost about 7 or 8 Euros per day, and if you're stuck for destinations, make sure you ride around Haagse Bos ("Forest of the Hague"), the country's oldest protected forest which reaches right into the city center. (The nearby Holiday Inn gladly provides bikes to their guests.)
6) The Binnenhof
City centers don't cost a dime, and this historical treasure is in spitting distance of the city's famous shopping districts and The Mercure Den Haag Central. The Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world that's still in use, a huge complex of 800-year-old buildings that includes the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Tours are less than ten euros (they're in Dutch, but there are English recordings). Get your photos at the nearby Hofvijver lake, over which the Binnenhof stands majestically, and if you feel like splashing out on the €14 entry, visit the nearby Mauritshuis Museum, which houses the famous Girl With the Pearl Earring.
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