The highlight of our stay in The Hague was Madurodam — a park full of miniature replicas of notable structures in the entire Netherlands.
Unlike Haarlem, The Hague is definitely a big city. There are traces of medieval architecture, but interspersed are larger modern buildings and skyscrapers. We did spend a little time walking around the city. This is the seat of government of the Netherlands and the Binnenhof in particular, a complex of buildings where many official events take place, was interesting to see.
The Ridderzaal, though relatively smaller and less ornate than many Gothic structures, was impressive, perhaps due to its location in a courtyard surrounded by similar buildings. Oddly, the sight of it reminded me of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there you have it. The Ridderzaal features in many important government affairs.
We based ourselves in The Hague for a couple of days to check out the city and Rotterdam, so we actually had some time here to chill and relax. And we got to try rijsttafel, a Dutch version of Indonesian cuisine that basically takes a bunch of small plates with a lot of variety of tastes and textures.
If you don’t get to experience a lot of the Netherlands, Madurodam is a good place to go. It is basically a big park with lots of models, scaled 1:25, from various areas of the country. The scale models are intricate and very detailed, and the little people figures are quite adorable. The other cool thing is how you explore the exhibits– you register a card at the start of the park; it’s tied to your email address and has your default language. Then as you go to each exhibit, you use the card to interact with it in your chosen language and save any photos or information that you’d like.
I watched a lot of children have an absolute blast here. Many of the exhibits are interactive in some way, so it’s a pretty fun park to explore. For example, there is a series of locks; you can float a wooden boat through the canals and change the levers to see how that affects your boat’s progress. There is also a feature where you can put out the (protected) flames of a boat on fire, and a game where you can use a crane to load blocks on and off a platform on a dock. There’s a DJ booth to highlight how important music is to the Dutch people, and also a “flying” tour over Madurodam.
The park is both entertaining and educational. There’s a lot to learn about the Netherlands’ architecture, history, and culture, which the park tries to capture to some effect. You’ll get your exercise as you walk around but there are two cafés should you get a little tired or hungry. Though there’s a tourist shop, my favorite souvenirs were the free photos and videos we got from various attractions and photo booths, so take advantage when you spot one.
Opening hours at Madurodam vary per season, but typically during the daytime hours since all attractions are outdoors. Tickets can be bought on site for 15.50EUR (about 17USD at the time of this writing) or online on the Madurodam website. They have deals for buying tickets online, and you save time as well, so that is your best bet.