Things to Do in South Holland - page 2
Dating back to 1653, Royal Delft (Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles) is the world’s best-known manufacturer of the Netherlands’ iconic blue-and-white porcelain goods. The factory—the only such manufactory that remains from the 17th century—is open to travelers looking to learn about this one-of-a-kind hand-painted stoneware.
Rotterdam is famous around the world for its modern architecture, but this quirky feature came about by obligation rather than by imagination. The vast majority of the city was turned to ashes during the destructive Rotterdam Blitz by the German Air Force of 14 May 1940, but one building miraculously survived: the City Hall. Built between 1914 and 1940 as per Queen Wilhelmina’s request, it has a symmetrical design and a sober Renaissance style that is not without resemblance to other Dutch city halls. It features and four wings and a small interior courtyard, as well as two statues on either side of the main entrance: the ‘Portier’ (doorman) and the ‘Fiscus’ (tax collector); there are ten other statues scattered around the city hall’s gardens, each representing Rotterdam’s values and virtues. The most striking part of the building, however, is the 70-meter high tower featuring a clock, a bell, and an angel of peace. During the holiday season, Rotterdam's biggest Christmas tree is set up in front of the City Hall.
John the Baptist, patron saint of the town of Gouda, looks out from the Sint Janskerk (St. John's Church) and welcomes visitors that come from all over the world to see the church’s famous stained-glass windows. The large brick church, built in the Gothic style during the 15th and 16th centuries, is notable not only for its beautiful windows but also because it is the longest church in the Netherlands. The church has been placed on the UNESCO list of Dutch monuments specifically for its stunning stained-glass windows. The ‘Gouda Windows’ (Goudse Glazen) were made and installed between 1555-1571 by the brothers Dirk and Wouter Crabeth, and were spared during the Reformation and several following wars. The main theme depicted in the windows is the life of St John, although there are many biblical scenes pictured, as well as important events in Dutch history.
Another highlight of the church is a narrow passage leading from the back of the choir to a small chapel. The chapel’s stained-glass windows depicting the Passion of Christ (also from the workshop of Dirck Crabeth), were moved to St John Church in the 1930s from the Monastery of the Regulars.
Behind the 17th-century façade of this palace – formerly the winter home of Queen Emma of the Netherlands – lies a startlingly eccentric collection of works of Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher. The palace is located on The Hague’s elegant boulevard of Lange Voorhout and as befits its royal residence, has a series of lavishly appointed rooms plus an ornate Art Nouveau staircase that was installed in 1901 along with glimmering stained-glass windows in the skylights of the main hall.
Maurits Cornelis Escher lived between 1898-1972 and became famous for his slightly demented lithographs, woodcuts and engravings as well as drawings and prints playing with perspective. He travelled right across Europe, living in Italy and Switzerland and drawing on influences as far apart as the Alhambra in Granada and the bucolic landscape of Tuscany.
The museum opened in 2002 and has the world’s largest collection of Escher’s highly eccentric work, which somehow fits perfectly into the opulence of Queen Emma’s palace. Highlights include the vast woodcut Metamorphosis III as well as the ‘In the Eye of Escher’ exhibition on the second story, where games are played with perspective. The permanent displays include his early Italian landscapes, family portraits and many of his ingenious ‘impossible’ optical illusion prints and woodcuts.
There are scavenger hunts and workshops for kids in the school holidays in a ‘lab’ completely decorated with Escher’s confusing perspective patterns, a museum store selling Escher-centric books and prints plus a café.
The Hague’s seaside suburb of Scheveningen is also the most popular holiday resort in The Netherlands. Just a tram ride from the center of the city, Scheveningen has a 2.5-mile (four km) long promenade backing a sandy beach and the pristine waters of the North Sea. It had its heyday in the 19th century but recent injections of cash have spruced the town up to its former gentility.
The pier is the focus of Scheveningen beach and there’s plenty for families to enjoy around here, from bungy jumping to banana boating and wind surfing. Jet skis, surfboards and sailing dinghies can be hired and there are various schools teaching all manner of watersports. Kids will also love the sharks, delicate seahorses and rare otters at Sea Life Scheveningen and the fun but educational 3-D films at Omniversum. Quirky sculptures by US artist Tom Otterness line the promenade and there are more magical artworks to be found in the Museum Beelden aan Zee among Scheveningen’s sand dunes.
It’s worth taking a quick peek at the Panorama Mesdag, a vast 360° cyclorama of Scheveningen and its seashore as it appeared in 1881. At more than 45 ft (14 m) high and 400 ft (120 m) in length, the landscape was painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag and is a masterly exercise in perspective. Nearby Madurodam is another firm favorite with children, for the models of Holland’s most famous buildings and windmills in miniature.
Scheveningen comes alive at night, offering a casino, plenty of quality seafood restaurants and bistros, cinemas, Kooman’s Puppet Theatre, musical theaters and a throbbing late-night party scene. The summer months see a healthy nightlife take off on the beach, with pop-up clubs and parties most nights. Between mid-November and January the Cool Event takes place in front of the splendid Kurhaus Hotel, featuring an ice rink, skating discos and parties for kids.
SEA LIFE® Scheveningen is an indoor/outdoor aquarium with a wide variety of underwater creatures, from fish, sharks, and sea turtles to otters and penguins. Here, visitors of all ages can learn about life under the sea, watch feedings, or even interact with sea life through a variety of educational experiences.
Rotterdam’s premier art museum began with bequests from two wealthy Dutch art lovers: Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans donated his collection to the city in 1847, and Daniel George van Deuningenfollowed suit in 1955. From 16th-century paintings to contemporary glassware, the museum’s displays of western works are constantly changing; it has featured 20th-century bodies of work by German Expressionist Max Beckmann and French surrealist Yves Tanguy, as well as pieces from hundreds of years earlier.
Highlights of this expansive 140,000-work collection include Pieter Bruegel’s peerless Old Testament offering The Tower of Babel (1553), which warrants close inspection for all its detailed activity; scores of delicate drawings by Renaissance artist Fra Bartolommeo; Rembrandt’s winsome Titus at his Desk; and a collection of Gerrit Rietveld’s distinct colored wooden furniture. The many other artists represented here include Rubens, Dalí, Da Vinci, Monet, Picasso, Van Eyck and Man Ray. All works are housed in a stylish red-brick building designed by Adrianus Van der Steur, now updated with airy glass galleries and surrounded by a sculpture park and fountains. Free temporary exhibitions are on display in the Willem van der Vorm gallery and Serra Hall just inside the main entrance.
Please note: The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is temporarily closed for renovations. The reopening is scheduled for January 2026.
It may sound funny, but Square 1813 (Plein 1813) is actually a circle or what some might call a roundabout. In the center is a large monument to independence – the largest 19th-century statue in the Netherlands. It was erected to commemorate the victory over Napoleon and the end of French occupation in The Netherlands, which took place, of course, in 1813.
Secreted away in a quiet Den Haag side street, Panorama Mesdag is the largest painting in the Netherlands, at more than 45 feet by 400 feet (14 meters by 120 meters). The sea, sand dunes, buildings, churches, lighthouses, and fishing boats of 19th-century Scheveningen are all represented in minute, accurate detail.
The SS Rotterdam, La Grand Dame, is the former flagship cruise liner of the Holland America Cruise Line, which since 2010 is now a hotel, restaurant, and event center located in Rotterdam Harbor.
The SS Rotterdam was built in Rotterdam, inaugurated in 1958 and put into service in 1959, making a Trans-Atlantic crossing to New York for its maiden voyage. At the time, the ship was one of the ten largest cruise ships in the world. The ship’s design was more streamlined and modern than traditional cruise liners at the time with a sharp, high bow and slender flues instead of the traditional chimney of other cruise ships.
The Rotterdam was used for many years for these Trans-Atlantic crossings, until this was replaced by air travel as the preferred mode in the early 1970’s. The SS Rotterdam was then converted into a cruise service in the manner of cruise lines today, serving the Holland America line until the mid-1990s. In the late 1990s, the ship was renamed the Rembrandt and was used by Premier cruises for shorter European cruises, until the Premier line went out of business in 2000.
Between 2005 and 2008, the ship regained its old name and was restored to its original luxury, while being upgraded and modernized to service its current purpose. In 2008, the ship returned to Rotterdam and docked at Katendrecht, in the center of Rotterdam.
Today, visitors to the ss Rotterdam can wander the ship, visiting most areas, as they are open to the public. For some areas, you need to book one of the private tours to get in. Tour packages include an above-deck Sea Breeze Deluxe tour of the bow, bridge, and captain’s cabin, or a below-deck Steam & Chrome tour of the engine rooms, crew areas, and radio room. You can also combine both tours into the Rotterdam Complete tour to see the whole ship.
The Rotterdam is a fully functioning hotel with 254 guest rooms. The steamship also features two restaurants and two bars, as well as an outdoor terrace where you can relax with a drink by the poolside.
More Things to Do in South Holland
The Maritime Museum Rotterdam is one of the world’s oldest and largest museums dedicated to naval history and displays more than three quarters of a million objects from the 15th century to modern times, including photos, models, blueprints, videos and actual ship objects and uniforms.
One of the core displays is the collection of ship models, which formed the core of the museum when it was founded by Prince Henry of the Netherlands in 1874. In addition, the site also contains some actual ships; its open-air Harbour Museum of Rotterdam features historic ships, as well as relics from the old port Leuvehaven, such as cranes, a lighthouse, a tugboat, a locomotor, and a steam-powered grain elevator.
Another important permanent exhibit is Mainport Live, an interactive, multimedia model of the Port of Rotterdam. Here you can not only learn about the history of the port, but also experience the world’s largest and port in miniature. A display of video, lights, sounds and actions brings the bustle of the port to you, while standing in the middle of the old port of yesteryear.
For kids ages 4 through 10, the Professor Splash playground is a fun educational experience. Children can carry out a series of port-related actions that help Professor Splash and his friends prepare for their adventures, while learning about the museum’s collection in the process.
Dating back to the 17th century, Delft Pottery de Delftse Pauw is a factory and showroom dedicated to creating and selling Delft's internationally celebrated blue-and-white pottery. Come here to learn about the history of the iconic products and see how they are produced through free educational tours; it’s also a great place to pick up some Delftware of your own.
Sculptures by the Sea (Museum Beelden aan Zee) Every trip to The Hague should include time for a trip to the beach. There’s the obvious reasons, the surf, sand and boardwalk, but a trip to the beach also means you’ll get to see the Sculptures by the Sea.
Located on Scheveningen Boulevard, with an enviable view of the beach, the bronze Sculptures were put in place by the nearby Beelden aan Zee Museum. Designed by American sculptor Tom Otterness, legends of the sea served as their inspiration.
You can’t miss them as you walk or bike along the boulevard. You’ll stop without hesitation to snap a picture. It’s next to impossible not to smile when you lay eyes on the Herring eater, the largest of the collection. The sculptures are on display out in the open, along the beach, not behind doors or gates, which means you can see them any time of day.
If you can drag yourself from the beach, the Beelden aan Zee Museum is a good place to take a break from the sand and sun. The museum is home to nearly 1,000 sculptures, most from the second half of the 20th century.
Miniworld Rotterdam is the largest indoor miniature world in the Netherlands. The 535-square-meter site of Dutch landscapes is complete with miniature versions of polders, city views, harbors and model trains that traverse over 2 kilometers of track.
Experience the city of Rotterdam, complete with historic architecture and modern towers, including buildings such as the Erasmusbridge, the Euromast, Hotel New York, the new Rotterdam Central Station and City Hall. There is even a to-scale working model of the Port of Rotterdam, the largest port in the world. The site even expands beyond city limits, stretching out to the coast and including the suburbs of Rotterdam. The UNESCO World Heritage windmills of Kinderdijk are here in miniature too.
One day in Miniworld Rotterdam lasts 24 minutes, and toward the end of each cycle, night falls with the overheard lights dimmed in a sunset, while thousands of tiny lights illuminate the miniature landscape. An open workshop allows visitors to see how the models are made, and the command center is open for exploration as well.
The Netherlands Photo Museum (Nederlands Fotomuseum) is a must-visit stop if you are interested in the medium of photography. With more than 100,000 images available to browse in its digital collection, travelers can explore more than 100 years of Netherlands’ photographic past, as well as from other locations around the world. The museum contains more than 130 archives from Dutch photographers, with millions of images of the country’s cultural, social and historical past archived within, and also includes a collection of short films from Dutch filmmakers, some of which can be viewed in the site’s Film Lounge.
The museum displays varying exhibits throughout the year featuring famous international photographers as well as younger, amateur artists. Within the exhibits, you can also listen to the stories behind the photos, while elsewhere at the museum, workshops, lectures and guided tours are offered. The extensive library is also open for browsing, and prints, books and gifts are available for purchase in the museum’s shop.
Den Haag’s hypermodern science museum, one of the Dutch city’s top family-friendly attractions, succeeds at its mission of being both educational and fun. A very hands-on affair, Museon has plenty of buttons to press, smells to sniff, and movies to watch in the permanent exhibition, which deals with the development of life on Earth.
The Hague City Hall (Stadhuis) is a white building with a large glass atrium. Due to its white appearance, locals nicknamed it the Ice Palace. In comparison to the numerous historical buildings in The Hague, finished in the mid-90s, it’s a fairly new addition to the landscape. It was designed by American Richard Meier.
The large Atrium (4,500 square meters or more than 48,000 square feet) hosts events and exhibitions throughout the year. It’s also where you’ll find some basic services for local residents including municipal counters and public service desks. The Town Hall is also home to the public library and the municipal archives. All in all, approximately 8,000 people visit the Ice Palace every day.
It’s all about cars at the Louwman Museum in The Hague. Made possible by two generations of the Louwman family, the collection of more than two hundred antique and classic vehicles has been called one of the finest collections in the world.
Covering the evolution of the automobile, car lovers and history buffs will both find something to love. From horse and wagon to luxury cars, the collection shows how cars have changed with time, including everything from antiques to hybrids to Formula 1 racing cars.
If you’re the star struck type,James Bond's Aston Martin from the film Goldfingerand Elvis Presley’s customized Cadillac Fleetwood will make your heart race.
The Hague Museum of Photography is part of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and since it is located right next door, a trip to both is especially easy for visitors.
Half a dozen exhibitions are organized every year at The Hague Museum of Photography, so what you’ll see depends on when you go. Exhibitions vary from well-known to unknown photographers and cover a wide range of time, categories and history.
The Hague Museum of Photography is located in what was originally an annex to the Gemeentemuseum. (The museum for contemporary art, GEM, is also located in the building.)
If you're interested in how ports work or simply want to spend some time out on the sea, a boat visit to Rotterdam's FutureLand visitor information center might be just the ticket. Here you can view the massive port, tour it via VR, sign your child up for a workshop, or dine in one of many on-site restaurants.
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