A Taste of the Hague

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A Taste of the Hague

By Rich Luna | Oct 3, 2018

“Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” asked my tour guide, Zhenya Starkova.

Standing on De Pier on a beautiful, clear sunny day looking out over the North Sea, then turning back to see the Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus, and beyond that, the famed city of The Hague in the Netherlands, I had to agree. The view was stunning.

“You’re going to love this,” she said. “This is just my very favorite. How do you want your herring?”

Huh? I thought she was talking about the sun glistening off the water, the blue skies and the locals basking in the sunlight enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the beach at the country’s only seaside city. She was enamored all right, but it was with the anticipation of the first bite of herring.

Spend a little time in the city, even just a day in this case, and you’ll end up having to decide where you stand on herring.

As I glanced at the herring, I was given a choice: in a bun or do like the locals and just go with the herring. Both served with onions.

“If this is your first time, I suggest the bread,” Starkova said.

Ease me in slowly. I took the bread and stared at my herring. I’ve been preaching about the power of face-to-face meetings, but not quite like this. I admit I’m not a big fish eater—I grew up in Texas where we eat beef and Tex-Mex—although I have come to appreciate many unique and tasty fish dishes in my global travels. But this was my first encounter with herring, served raw.

It’s said that herring has been a food source since 3,000 B.C. Guess there’s something to be said for longevity. Today’s meal, though, was still swimming in the ocean in the morning. Now, this Dutch delicacy awaits my first bite.

This was also my first taste of The Hague, the third-largest city in the Netherlands but one with a truly global impact. It is known as the City of Peace and Justice, home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court and is the second United Nations city in the world after New York City. The Hague is home to the Dutch Royal Family along with the country’s highest number of foreign embassies.

The Hague is also making a name for itself in the meeting and event sector. The Hague Convention Bureau recently unveiled a marketing campaign with the neighboring city of Rotterdam called “Going Dutch to Go Dutch.”

The city boasts more than 4,000 hotel rooms in 61 hotels with more on the way, two conference centers, 42 theaters and cultural venues and 30 hotel conference venues. Add a relatively short and easy commute to Amsterdam—30 minutes by train—and The Hague is positioned as an ideal destination for groups. The city is hosting MPI’s European Meetings & Events Conference in 2019.

The Hague hosted nearly 150 international meetings last year, an increase of 10 percent over 2016. On average, attendees spend nearly five days in the city, a 22 percent increase from 2016.

“We are becoming a very popular destination,” Starkova said. “We are, I believe, a perfect mix of business and pleasure. There is so much history here that lets us create a wonderful experience.”

One venue that is a must-see is the World Forum The Hague, which has the largest auditorium in the country with a seating capacity of more than 2,100. There’s about 134,500 square feet of meeting space and the facility recently underwent a US$32 million renovation.

“We set ourselves apart with the types of meetings and events we have here,” said Michiel Middendorf, general manager of the World Forum The Hague. “We want to be able to facilitate the best discussions and dialogue that create conversation and action. That is why we pride ourselves on our facilities. This is a world stage and we must always hold ourselves up to that very high standard.”

A relatively recent addition to the city’s meeting and event venues is the Fokker Terminal, a former school for aircraft engineering that has been converted into an impressive option for groups. The venue has more than 21,000 square feet of meeting space including the former aircraft hangar and 17 breakout rooms.

From a cultural perspective, The Hague has outstanding attractions, some of which includes space for meetings and opportunities for receptions and events. For example, the Mauritshuis museum is home to some of the best Dutch paintings from the Golden Age, including masterpieces such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl EarringThe Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt, The Goldfinch by Fabritius, The Bull by Potter and Self Portrait by Rembrandt.

There’s the famous Victory Boogie Woogie, by Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian, at the Gemeentemuseum. The artwork was unfinished when Mondrian died in 1944.

What wasn’t left unfinished in The Hague was the herring I ate at the beach, but next time I’ll go without the bread.



EMEC19: Not here to play the game, but here to change it

The European Meetings & Events Conference 2019 (EMEC19) is Feb. 9-12, 2019, in The Hague, The Netherlands. Learn more by going to www.mpi.org/events/emec19.




Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.