If there is any country in the world where it’s easy to get up close with politicians and even the Royal family, I’m sure it’s The Netherlands. Our little country is known for being open and accessible, but most important we find it that everyone is considered equal.
We even have a phrase saying something like: ‘Just act normally, you’ll be as crazy as you need to be’ (‘Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg’), meaning we don’t really give a — where you come from or who you (think) you are… everyone gets the same treatment.
So when you visit The Hague (or “Den Haag”, as we call it), a city just one hour South of Amsterdam and seating our government, chances are you’ll spot a minister on a bike or a member of the Royal family shopping for a new hat. Because, why not?
What we'll cover in this article
The Dutch Monarchy
For centuries, The Hague has been the center point of our country’s history. The bonds between the city and the Royal family date back to 1248, when count Willem II settled over here. And while we probably won’t admit it (‘they just cost us money!’, ‘the monarchy is so outdated!’), most Dutchies secretly love the Royals.
This comes to show for example at our famous annual King’s Day celebrations (before this was our ‘Queens Day’, pay attention if you have an old guidebook, dates have changed :)), where everyone is dressed in Orange spending hours partying and watching television to get a glimpse of the Royal Dutch parade.
Royal The Hague
Another, lesser known celebration including a King’s parade is ‘Prinsjesdag’ (‘Prince’s Day’), which is held every year on the third Tuesday of September. Here we celebrate the opening of the parliament.
The Royals travel in a procession (including a golden carriage and many marching bands and military parades) from the working palace ‘Noordeinde’ to the ‘Ridderzaal’ (‘Knight’s Hall’). From the throne in this hall, our King Willem-Alexander delivers the ‘Troonrede’ (‘Speech from the Throne’) in which he announces the plans of the government for the next term.
During the day, there are several activities you can attend. I took my mum with me to experience this important event for the first time and from our seats on the ‘Lange Voorhout’, we had a perfect view to see all the music, military and horse parades and of course the carriages with the Royal family from up close. A short impression:
Before the official ceremony takes place, there is a practise run of the horse parade two days before. With so many people making noise along the way, the horses have to get used to the crowds a bit, even though all of them are trained well for it.
It’s great to watch as they are still all dressed up and you can really get a good view as it’s not that busy yet. The best place I found to watch it is at the Binnenhof itself, as you can watch the horses come through the gates and you get a great backdrop for your photos!
Of course the Royals are missing from the practice run, as well as the golden carriage. The black coach above is used instead!
If you’re really into the horses, then there is another great even you can’t really miss (ok, I missed it, I wasn’t feeling well). On the day before Prinsjesdag, head over to Scheveningen Beach at 10AM to see the ‘Cavalerie Ere-Escorte’ (Cavalry Honorable Escort).
An Early Start
As with every royal celebration, everyone from young to old can join in! At Prinsjesdag, there are some areas (such as alongside the pond behind the Binnenhof) where the kids can play, dress up and get their crowns or balloon hats.
Some people arrive incredibly early to get the best seat along the way. And of course, dressing in Orange (even when you’re a bit too old for it) is totally fine! My mum and I wore a paper crown. Understandably, there is no photographic evidence of that left.
Before all the official people, some people in traditional clothing pass us. It’s a tradition for many people from villages in the Netherlands to wear their traditional clothing to these kind of events.
Also represented are people from Suriname, an old colony of the Netherlands where most people still speak Dutch. While they now have their own President, many people still feel a connection to the Netherlands and the Dutch Royals.
Let the Party Start!
From 1 PM, the royal parade starts from the Noordeinde Palace and it goes around the pond of Binnenhof to end up at the inner court. You can buy a ticket to sit on one of the podiums, but you can also get there early and grab a spot along the rout on the Lange Voorhout, there is plenty of space.
First in the parade are all the military, police and navy people and the marching bands. It’s so great to see how everyone has a different uniform and how well they must have trained to march all together.
The Royals Arrive!
The parade is then followed by the royal carriages. This is of course the best part of the parade and the most tricky as well. Who gets the best glimpse of the golden carriage with our King Willem Alexander and his wife Maxima? Think our photos turned out great! Stunning to see them from so close!
The Speech from the Throne
Once everybody gets inside, the king reads out the ‘Troonrede’, with all the financial plans of the next year. While this is interesting mostly for the Dutch, watching the show is still great, because the female politicians and royals always have a sort of a competition of who wears the best hat. Or the craziest, mostly. This year, there was even a wooden one!
After the Troonrede, the whole parade (without the marching bands) turns around and you get one last look at the Royals, before they disappear into Paleis Noordeinde. There, they will get onto the balcony and wave at the people lucky enough to get there on time to see it. We were obviously way too late and couldn’t get there in time through the crowds. So all you get is a picture of the balcony. Also nice, right? :)
Transport The Hague:
The ‘OV-Chip Card’, which can be used to travel all across The Netherlands (train, bus and tramlines), can be bought and topped-up at the two train stations in The Hague (‘Den Haag Centraal’ and ‘Den Haag HS’), or from the Tourist Info.
Another option is to get a day pass for 6,50EUR. For 16,50EUR, you can also get a 3 day disposable chip card, which is valid on all HTM trams and HTMBuzz buses in The Hague. Read More: htm.nl/…/tickets-and-travel-products
Guided Tours in The Hague
Every Saturday, the tour ‘Past the Residences and Palaces of the House of Orange’ leaves from the Tourist Information Office. Other walks include ‘The Hague Courtyards’ and ‘The Hague History’. There is also a special children’s tour of the Binnenhof. Read More: denhaag.com/…/tours
More personal suggestions by us on how to best experience The Hague:
What to do in The Hague? Handpicked One day in The Hague City Guide
Scheveningen Beach: Fresh Air is just a Day Trip from Amsterdam away
The Magic of Mobile Restaurants at Food Truck Festival TREK The Hague
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Disclaimer: I traveled to The Hague as part of the #MustLoveFestivals campaign in collaboration with Expedia and Den Haag Tourism. All photos and opinions are 100% my own.