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The Hague, the world’s unofficial legal capital, is perhaps best known these days as the site of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia — the venue for the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. But it’s also the Dutch capital, a clean, green city of manicured gardens and 26 parks. Unlike Amsterdam, it’s not what you’d call hip. Some Amsterdammers even say that the Hagenaars “carry their potatoes home in hatboxes” — that they’re snobs, in other words. The Hague has much to boast about. It’s home to many international organizations, embassies, and multinational corporations — not to mention a veritable host of palaces, including Noordeinde, the country’s own “working” Palace, from which Queen Beatrix departs in her golden coach to open parliament every September, and the rococo Het Paleis, now a museum. And, of course, there’s the Peace Palace, built (1907-1913) with funding from Andrew Carnegie, today the majestic home of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Law Academy, and an excellent law library. To tour The Hague, walk from Central Station into the heart of the city: first, through the cluster of recent architectural adventures in aesthetics and controversy, such as the Anton Philips music hall and the Lucent Danstheatre. Just a few steps farther is the bustling Plein, a typical Hague square — old, stolid, classy. Upscale cafes Berger and Plein 19 are animated nooks to nurse a wit bier, dine, and watch the human parade. Across the Plein, the 17th-century Mauritshuis presents world-class art from 15th- to 18th-century Dutch-Flemish painters — among them Rembrandt, Rubens and Brueghel. Its most famous painting is Vermeer’s “View of Delft” (1658), a marvelously sober yet intoxicating urban landscape. (The contemporary view of Delft is just a tram ride away.) Next door is the Binnenhof (“inner court”), home to the Dutch parliament, and originally a castle site. Despite contemporary high-level political activities, the courtyard, open to passersby, is a wonderful bower of cobblestoned antiquity — blink and you’ll think you’re back in Holland’s Golden Age. De Plaats, a nearby cafe-filled square, the city’s center during the Middle Ages, was also where the art dealer Goupil employed Van Gogh. The elm-lined Lange Voorhout promenade is just around the corner. Once a horse market, it now provides backdrops for book and art markets, and musical and equestrian events. The Posthoorn, a grand cafe with literary ambience, offers international cuisine, and jazz on Sundays. Also on the promenade are the U.S. Embassy (a 1959 bunker-like eyesore built on a bomb site) and the infinitely more attractive five-star Hotel Des Indes (www.desindes.com). Built in 1856, this 120-room jewel is the place to stay for 19th-century regal atmosphere, well-appointed rooms, and prime location. It has hosted the famous and notorious, even serving as a WWII hiding place for Jews and, simultaneously, as a German headquarters. Try the towering pastries at high tea in the lobby lounge. Around the corner, the Denneweg and other cobbled side streets are lined with shops and restaurants featuring the gamut of cuisines, from tapas to sushi. Stop off at the Cafe Hathor, a serene patio spot perched over a canal, relax, and enjoy a genever (Dutch gin). And then on to the seaside resort of Scheveningen, a scenic 20 minutes by bike or tram: first past the Peace Palace and its stately gardens; then the criminal tribunal, housed in a 1920s insurance company building. Nearby, a cluster of museums includes the Gemeentemuseum, with its must-see collection of Hague School artists, including Mondrian, whose early moody landscapes portend his plunge into geometric abstraction. View his “Victory Boogie Woogie,” controversially acquired in the summer of 1998 for $33 million. Scheveningen’s beach, broad and sandy, gets crowded whenever sunshine is rumored. Among the frites stands, casinos, and seafood restaurants erected on the beach and along the harbor and boardwalk, the essential destination remains the elegant five-star Kurhaus Hotel (and spa) (www.kurhaus.nl), focal point of an otherwise uninspired high-rise hodgepodge. The stunning Kurzaal restaurant formerly hosted performances by the likes of Stravinsky, Piaf, and Brel. This all came to an ignominious end in 1964, when, during a Rolling Stones performance, fans trashed the interior. Today, though, pianists still entertain diners nightly. A tribute, perhaps, to the historic decorum of The Hague, and its enduring charm. THE HOW-TO’S OF THE HAGUE The Hague is 30 minutes from Schiphol Airport. The city is easily accessible by train from Amsterdam (45 minutes) or Rotterdam (20 minutes). Most sites in the city are within easy walking distance of Central Station. Holland Spoor station handles international trains (Paris 4.5 hours, Brussels 2 hours). Frequent trams and buses from the stations follow routes throughout the city and out to Scheveningen and nearby Delft. Contact the national tourist agency VVV (www.denhaag.com) for help in booking accommodations or locating sites.

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