Visiting Tong Tong Fair and The Hague, Netherlands

The Netherlands is a great country for visitors. It’s modern, full of art, easy to get around, and has such an interesting culture, quite different to that of it’s neighbours.

Most people who visit the Netherlands only make it to Amsterdam, on their first visit at least. Amsterdam is brilliant fun – it has the iconic canals and the tourist-friendly red light district for starters. But visiting capital cities is not the truest way to experience a country, and The Hague (‘Den Haag’ in Dutch) offers plenty that Amsterdam doesn’t. Like the Tong Tong Fair, for example.

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Old, new, and abstract in Den Haag, Netherlands

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The Tong Tong Fair – bringing Asia to Europe

Here you have a city just as tourist friendly as the capital – but it might be a touch more Dutch. Partly because less tourists means more locals. And also because they think of themselves as ‘not Amsterdam’. This city started as a village around a fort, and it still is a village technically. But it’s grown a lot since then, thanks to rich merchants returning from Indonesia over the centuries.

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The Hague grew rapidly as wealthy merchants returned from Indonesia and elsehwere

Den Haag still feels similar enough to the capital for me. They have lots in common: cobbled streets, tall old buildings, and the buzz of a town that is ready for visitors, shoppers and food lovers.

But you can find examples of every type of architecture ever built in the Netherlands here, and they all sit in pleasingly muddled rows alongside each other. At street level, the city is for the people who love to live here. Shopping is a big part of the city’s past and present, and you’re never far from good food and great coffee.

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Tall buildings and modern boutiques make this a shopper’s heaven

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Modern architecture in this building nicknamed ‘the ballgown’

During the summer, there are free music events in the squares and the Tong Tong Fair to explore. This is a festival that celebrates Eurasian culture – the mixture of Dutch and Eastern cultures that has been happening for the last few generations. Think well-priced products from most Asian countries, delicious food from the Far East, and live performances from big names. You can read more about the wonderful Tong Tong Fair in my post on Travel Unmasked, and see my video highlights of it below.

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In 2014, famous dancer Didik Nini Thowok performed at Tong Tong Fair


The beach near The Hague at Scheveningen is another bonus during the warmer seasons, with it’s Italian-style promenade lined with bars and restaurants. And when it comes to art – pickings are particularly rich. The central MS Escher museum and the out-of-town Mondriaan gallery each bring in visitors to The Hague, as does the newly refurbished Mauritshuis and the fantastic Panorama Mesdag. And there are many others in town, as well as several palaces to see.

Read more about the city in my article Life In The Hague, with photos and my favourite sights.

Peter Parkorr