Castles and Palaces

The Hague: inside the Peace Palace

The Hague: inside the Peace Palace | Your Dutch Guide

Passing the Peace Palace in The Hague, you may be tricked into thinking that once upon a time queens and kings resided here. But in fact, Vredespaleis (Peace Palace) was built solely for the purpose of keeping the peace between nations and international parties by having the law triumph. And this is how it is still used today. When courts are not in session, however, guided tours take place and so I decided to jump at the opportunity and take a look inside the Peace Palace.

The idea behind the Peace Palace in The Hague is simply beautiful, albeit a little Utopian. It all started with a dream of peace with a remarkable message in 1898 by the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II. War was looming in Europe and its colonies in the second half of the 19th century, like never before. New technologies and industrial progress not only increased the number of weapons that were now mass produced, but their destruction was also no longer limited to the frontline. They could do their damage anywhere, any place and were sold to the highest bidder.

The Hague: inside the Peace Palace | Your Dutch Guide

The constant threat of war and social unrest caused Nicholas II to send an invite to his European colleague heads of state to contemplate keeping the peace, without getting into war first, in 1898. It being a huge success, a second peace convention was held in 1907. By that time, the international community was convinced of reaching peace through a court of arbitration and the first stone of the Peace Palace in The Hague was laid.

The Carnegie legacy

The Scottish born US industrialist Andrew Carnegie was at the time the richest man on the planet and considered war cruel and barbarous. He strongly believed that without peace societies, technology and science couldn’t flourish and he decided to pay for the Peace Palace completely, as long as it would also have a library, and should become a symbol of the universal desire for peace and prosperity.

International gifts

As soon as you enter the Peace Palace you will notice the exquisite stained glass windows, richly decorated walls and wood carved ceilings. The entire palace was decorated with gifts from different countries. The stylish marble floors were a gift of Italy, the Delfts blue porcelain tiles in the hallway downstairs of The Netherlands, the candelabras of Austria, the temple vases of China and the giant ornamental vase was given by Russia. My personal favourites were the tapestries adorning the Japanese room, featuring birds and flowers made in pure silk and gold thread.

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace (photo by: Carnegie Stichting) | Your Dutch Guide

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace (photo by: Carnegie Stichting) | Your Dutch Guide

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace (photo by: Jurjen Drenth) | Your Dutch Guide

Art inside the Peace Palace: symbols of hope and peace

Through the palace, you simply can’t stop looking up, down and out as the tapestries, marble floor motives, stained glass windows and painted ceilings are simply stunning and brimming with symbols of peace, hope and justice. A lot of paintings and tapestries have Irene, goddess of peace, in their centre, with war at her feet and technology and science flourishing at her side. Lady Justice is often portrayed without her blindfold, scales laid by her side, but the blade (symbol of decision-making) at her throat to keep her alert at all times.

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace, Japanese Room (photo by: Jurjen Drenth) | Your Dutch Guide

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace (photo by: Carnegie Stichting) | Your Dutch Guide

The courts of international peace today

The Peace Palace started out as a court of arbitration where two international parties would meet, at their own initiatives, to find a peaceful solution to their conflict. Both parties would appoint a judge and the two judges would choose a third judge. The permanent court of arbitration is still used today, both by countries as by multinationals having a conflict with one or two countries on a certain matter.

But the most famous court inside the palace is the (UN) international court of justice, which was established after World War II, as the court of the United Nations and all members of the UN automatically become a member of the court. Countries are still their own highest authority, they have mutually decided to transfer a part of their sovereignty to the court, in order to keep international peace. There are 15 judges that preside the international court of justice and all parts of the world are equally represented. The court settles disputes in contentious cases and provides advisory opinions. War crimes, committed by individuals, are treated by the International Criminal Court which has its headquarters in another part of The Hague. Court Sessions by the (UN) international court of justice are always open to the public.

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace (photo by: Carnegie Stichting) | Your Dutch Guide

Visit The Hague, The Netherlands: Peace Palace | Your Dutch Guide

A guided tour will take about 50 minutes and I found it to be very informative and interesting to take a look inside a place where people work around the clock to keep peace in our always tumultuous world. At the end of the tour, you can leave a message of peace in the courtyard.

Visiting the Peace Palace in The Hague

  • From The Hague HS station or the city centre, you can take tram 1. There is a stop right in front of the Peace Palace called ‘Vredespaleis’
  • Guided tours through the palace are very popular and I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance through their website, a ticket costs €9,50.
  • You need to show a form of ID (like your passport) when entering the Peace Palace.

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As I was not allowed to take photos inside the Peace Palace, the photos of the interior of the palace were kindly provided to me by The Hague Marketing and the Carnegie Stichting.

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  • Reply
    Catherine (Cultural Wednesday)
    August 17, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    We’ve just been to The Hague and totally failed to see this, next time!

    • Reply
      August 17, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      Oh too bad! Then again, I have been working for clients in The Hague for over 10 years and never visited until now!

  • Reply
    Ruth | Tanama Tales
    August 18, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Had no idea this place existed! It is gorgeous! Really like the foundation upon which it was built. We need more places like these nowadays (places were agreements for mutual benefit among countries can be discussed in a peaceful way).

    • Reply
      August 18, 2017 at 9:26 am

      I couldn’t agree more, Ruth. That’s why I was so happy to hear that the court is still very busy these days.

  • Reply
    Agness of eTramping
    August 19, 2017 at 12:57 am

    This is a truly remarkable place, Esther! Do you have any tips on how to avoid crowds? When’s the best part of the day to go there?

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      Crowds are not really an issue here Agness, as you can only go here on a guided tour (dates are stated on the website, as guided tours only take place when the courts are not in session).

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 10:16 am

    The palace looks lovely! I have to admit that I know little about The Hague but it sounds like there’s A LOT to learn! Would love to visit one day!

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Well this is an eye-opener for me. What a beautiful palace with such an important reason for being there. We visited the Peace Centre in Oslo a few years ago and that was informative too but certainly not on this grand scale.

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I’ve been to a few places in the Netherlands, but not The Hague, so I had to check it out 🙂

  • Reply
    August 21, 2017 at 12:06 am

    How fascinating. I have heard of The Hague of course but not the ‘Peace Palace’ and I didn’t realise it had such an interesting history. You have made me want to visit it.

    • Reply
      August 21, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Aww, thank you Lyn. I hope you get to see it someday!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2017 at 5:24 am

    This was a very interesting read. I’ve learned about the Peace Palace in Hague when I was in school, so I was never tricked into believing it was the residence of kings and queens. However, I didn’t imagine it was so beautiful. A palace indeed! I hope to visit it someday.

  • Reply
    Kacy Kish
    August 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Oh wow, I didn’t even know this existed but now I have to add it to my bucket list! Beautiful photos!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2017 at 12:51 am

    A guided tour would be wonderful. It is such a beautiful building as well as it’s role being so vital. The peace offerings are a lovely touch.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I had no idea that the ICJ meets here. Prettiest office ever! The Peace Palace is based on such a lovely (if a little utopian, as you say) concept. It reminds me of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial in Gettysburg, but there they obviously didn’t build an entire palace with contributions from all over the world. I think that’s what makes this palace particularly precious. And these days, it would do us all well to remember how precious peace is!

  • Reply
    August 23, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    What a beautiful building for a worthy purpose. As a student of European History I actually wonder if it is being taught anymore! Cooperation and collaboration make us better and stronger. I would love to visit the Peace Palace one day and show my respect. Thanks for sharing Esther

  • Reply
    Erin Gustafson
    August 24, 2017 at 8:29 am

    I did not know about this place, what a wonderful and stunning setting for a positive purpose. Those stained glass windows are so gorgeous. I wouldn’t have thought to visit, but think it is an important message to share with younger generations.

  • Reply
    August 25, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I have heard of the Hague but didn’t know much about it. This was such an informative article and now I want to visit the Peace Palace. I love the history behind it and what it stands for. We need peace much more than ever in today’s world. Thank you for this virtual tour. Those interior decorations are beautiful.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2017 at 1:44 am

    What beautiful interiors! And what a beautiful concept – something we can definitely use more of today. Sadly, I just can’t imagine certain players on the international stage participating fully. But, we can always hope!

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