Our first trip in the new year was to the Netherlands with a challenge set by international ferry company Stena Line to spend a weekend in The Hague by taking a ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland.
Getting to The Hague
Finishing work on a Friday evening we headed to London Liverpool Street (yes, the one from the Monopoly board) to catch a train to Essex where our ferry awaited us. The ferry served as both our accommodation, most meals and transport in one ticket so no need for a hotel this trip.
Anytime we've taken a ferry in the past we've taken our car with us. This time was our first time travelling as a foot passenger on the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.
While you can take your car on the ferry, we opted for the Stena Line Rail & Sail option which includes rail tickets from London to Harwich and public transport in the Netherlands. Getting to Harwich International train station was really simple, as boarding any East Anglia train heading to Harwich, with the train station of Harwich International situated within the ferry port.
Why Spend 24 hours in The Hague?
First and foremost we're short break experts. We're very good at squeezing a lot into a short amount of time. It's not always the best way, but when you work full time and juggle a love of travel you do what you can do in the time you have.
As the ferry docked into the Hook of Holland ferry terminal at 8am Saturday morning. We had breakfast on board so could hit the ground running.
Transfers from the Hook of Holland to The Hague entail multiple steps. At present there is no metro station at Hook of Holland which means foot passengers need to board a shuttle bus to the nearby Dutch city of Schiedam. From here you're able to connect to many cities including Rotterdam and The Hague by rail. Foot passengers using the Rail & Sail option have tickets for these trains included.
Typically these iconic works are incredibly popular so we headed straight to Maurtishuis for its 10am open and spent 90 minutes browsing the impressive collection including pieces by Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Hals.
Insider tip: Bring some headphones and download the Mauritshuis Tour to your phone (App Store/Google Play) prior to visiting to get an audio tour and additional detail about pieces and their meanings.
Turning right out of Mauritshuis and head through the Grenadierspoort (Grenadier’s Gate) to discover the Binnenhof, the Dutch Parliament building and the oldest parliament in the world still in use. Strolling around the Binnenhof I began to notice that it’s comprised of several buildings were constructed around the court. Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall), where King Willem Alexander delivers his annual Prince’s Day address to Parliament which is held on the third Tuesday in September. Next door to the Mauritshuis is het Torentje (The Little Tower), which has been the office of the Prime Minister of Holland since 1982. There’s also the modern House of Representatives which is juxtaposed with the famous, and very Instagrammable, gold neo-gothic fountain which adorns the main square.
We couldn’t get on one during our brief visit, but there are guided tours through the Ridderzaal, the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives are available as well as city walks through The Hague’s political district in Dutch and English.