Torture Museum in The Hague, Netherlands

Museum of Torture (The Hague)

Museum of Torture

The Hague is known throughout the world as the “city of justice. And so strange looks the neighborhood of the International Criminal and Arbitration Courts with a museum of torture “Gewangenport”, graphically demonstrating how “peace” and “justice” evolved over the centuries. The museum is housed in a seven-hundred-year-old building of a former Dutch prison and tells a not-so-sweet story of crime and punishment.

The building was built in 1280 as a count’s castle with a mighty main gate and a cozy courtyard that still stands today. In 1428 it was adapted for the temporary detention of petty criminals – debtors, thieves. A century later, Gewangenport became a prison, and the mighty Dutch court moved here as well.

The building was expanded by adding prison cells and a cellar for torture, and for 400 years a terrible history of crime and punishment was carried out here. At the beginning of the nineteenth century they wanted to demolish the prison, but that idea was abandoned thanks to the intervention of Victor de Stoers, the founding father of National Historic Heritage preservation in Holland. Since 1882 in The Hague, the Prison Gate Museum, or in common parlance, the Torture Museum, began to operate.

History

What does the museum tell you about torture?

A tour guide or audio guide will tell the visitor that in former times there were, strictly speaking, three types of punishment: a public trial, torture and the death penalty. Public court hearings were harsh and had as a rule the purpose not to seek justice but to intimidate the population.

Anyone could come to the trial, and these sessions usually attracted crowds of onlookers. The punishments were as humiliating as possible: tying him to a pole of shame with a sign around his neck so that passers-by would throw rotten vegetables on him, or putting a heavy stone on his leg and sending him through the town market like that. Shameful plaques, shackles, and a huge cobblestone can be seen in the Museum of Torture and one can imagine how torturous such punishments were. Corporal torture was used widely and almost uncontrollably. The fame of the torture cellar spread all over the country.

Instruments of torture are on display in the museum, including a Spanish boot, a rack, tongs and lashes. They were used to wrest confessions, people were ruthlessly mutilated, their tongues and nostrils were pulled out, limbs were cut off, and they were branded. The death penalty was carried out by hanging for commoners, beheading for nobles and burning at the stake for heretics. A classic guillotine with a razor-sharp knife is on display in the museum – it has only been used twice in the prison’s history. You can also see blueprints developed by medieval experts on ways to kill criminals in the most painful way possible. It was believed that the more mutilated the body, the less chance the prisoner had for the afterlife.

What the museum tells you about torture

The Torture Museum in The Hague can be wandered on your own, but it is better to take a guided tour, which takes about 40 minutes. Visitors first pass through a small courtyard, then enter a building with cells, which are divided into regular cells (with harsh conditions) and elite solitary cells for privileged criminals (with a bed and a table). Next comes the torture chamber, finished with tiles, as the medieval cleaners complained that it was very difficult to wash off the blood from the stone floor and walls. It is here that there is an exhibition of torture instruments, swords for beheadings, and gallows. It is not recommended to visit for emotional people and children under 8 years old are not allowed to enter.

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What's inside

How to get there?

Take streetcar N1, 17 to the Kneuterdijk stop, take streetcar N9 to the Buitenhof stop and bus N22, 24, N1, N2, N4, N5, N6 to the Buitenhof/Hofweg stop.

Museums in The Hague

Some tourists find walking around museums, exhibitions or theaters boring. We once had friends come to the Netherlands who were willing to walk for hours through the various streets of the city, looking at the buildings from the outside, but they didn’t want to go inside at all. But I’m not that kind of traveler, and The Hague’s museums continue to delight me with paintings, photographs, quirky sculptures and other interesting art objects.

Mauritshuis

The most famous and most visited museum in the city is the Mauritshuis Gallery (or as Russian tourists call it “Mauritshuis” or “Mauritshaus”). In 2014, the Mauritshuis Museum opened after restoration, and the event was attended by many journalists, celebrities and even King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. I think he came not only because admission that day was free.

The most famous painting in the museum is The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Her portraits I saw in all the tourist shops in The Hague, a movie about her (with Scarlett Johansson in the title role), this image – one of the most popular. And I really wanted to see the picture in person. Of course, sometimes expectations are higher than what you see in reality. I was expecting something huge, the picture is good, but it’s very small. However, other than that, there are a lot of very beautiful works in the gallery.

Especially you start to appreciate this kind of art when you try to paint some landscape or someone’s portrait yourself. The museum has a lot of works by famous Dutch painters and names I know such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, Bruegel and others. A couple of hours should be enough to see the entire museum. In addition to the audio guide (there was no Russian language, but I was comfortable with English), a recent innovation at Mauritshuis is that visitors can download a special application to their devices, and during the visit read and listen to information about all the works on display.

The Mauritshuis is open daily, seven days a week (it is only closed on major national holidays):

  • Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m,
  • Monday 1 to 6 p.m,
  • Thursday 10 to 20.
  • For adults 14 euros,
  • For groups of 15 and over – 12,5 euros per person,
  • For children under 18 years old admission is free.

The museum is located at: The Hague, Plein 29. Museum website: http://www.mauritshuis.nl/

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Museum of Torture in The Hague

Another colorful museum, which I have not yet decided to visit. I need to pull myself together, but I definitely recommend it to more adventurous tourists. This is a torture museum in The Hague (its name in English is The Prison Gate Museum). The museum is located right in the center of the city, near the Royal Pond and the Binnenhof complex. Locals say that all the most famous criminals served their sentences here. Now, by the way, the prison was moved to the outskirts of the city, it is unlikely you can get there, and do not advise.

Tour guides love to scare tourists in the museum of torture with stories about ghosts and bloody wax figures depicting the victims and the menacing executioners are unlikely to please the youngest travelers. Museum officials recommend that children under the age of 8 be left at home.

The construction of the building prevents the culprit from escaping to freedom, so it’s best to keep up with the group if you’re here for the last session of the tour. Unfortunately, the Dutch have not yet thought of the “Night at the Museum” action, which would be especially popular in this scary place.

Walking around The Hague, it took me a long time to figure out why the locals so dislike curtaining their windows, even if they live on the first floors of the building. At the prison museum, you might find the answer. In ancient times, it was believed that if you closed your windows, you had something to hide. The various instruments of the medieval inquisitors demonstrate to the visitors of this unusual museum why the Dutch do not cover their windows with curtains even in the twenty-first century.

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 17, on weekends from 12 to 17 and closed on Mondays. There are thirty-minute guided tours in Dutch every hour, it is possible to buy an audio guide in English.

Cost of admission:

  • For adults 7.5 euros,
  • For children under 12 years old the price is 5,5 euros,
  • Cultural card holders (Cultuurkaart) pay 5 euros,
  • With a museum card (discussed at the end of the article) admission is free.

The museum is located at: The Hague, Buitenhof 33. This is a historical building, so the entrance is not accessible to people with disabilities.

Madurodam Park of Miniatures

A place where children definitely need to go is the Madurodam Miniature Park and Escher Museum in The Hague. In Madurodam, little travelers can see typical Dutch structures and famous cities in miniature. It’s an open-air museum, and I was usually lucky with the weather when I accompanied my acquaintances there. But in case it rains, Madurodam has a cafe and an indoor pavilion with 3D games.

There are real, specially bred varieties of trees planted in the miniature park. Airplanes in a scaled-down replica of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport move along the runway, cars drive on highways, ships float along rivers. There’s a drawbridge damba, a car that will bring you a small chocolate bar from the Mars factory for a fee, and a train that runs on the railroad. It is better to allocate more time to this place, if not a whole day.

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I advise you to take transportation to Madurodam from the city center, as it is a long way away. Choose from several options:

  • Bus 22 or Tram 9 (get off at the Madurodam stop of the same name );
  • Cab (which will be much more expensive than public transportation, 10-20 euros);
  • Rent a bicycle;
  • Own car (parking near the museum is capacious and not very expensive – 7,5 euros per day).

Through the website it is possible to buy an entrance ticket for 14.5 euros per person. This is two euros cheaper than a ticket purchased at the ticket office for 16.5 euros. The park offers a promotion “3 +1 free” (the cost of the ticket for four is 49,5 euros).

Madurodam opening hours are listed on their website under “practical information”, the park is open daily, but opening hours vary depending on the season and holidays. Address of the park of miniatures: The Hague, George Maduroplein 1.

Escher Museum in The Hague

The Escher Museum (Dutch for “Escher in het paleis”) is another popular spot. It was on my list of the city’s top attractions. The museum has three floors. The first is devoted to the artist’s earliest works, the second is devoted to his most famous objects and sketches, and the third floor is entertaining. In the museum, viewers can watch a documentary about this extraordinary man and learn more about his life. My acquaintances, lovers of palaces and antiquities, also liked it because the museum is located in a castle, the interiors are rich and exquisite.

The artist’s works are in gray and black and white shades, his art was aimed at creating interesting visual effects.

The most interactive is the last floor of the Escher Museum: you can take many unique photographs there. To feel like a true Dutchman you have to take a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie in the museum café, don’t forget the whipped cream for dessert and be sure to visit the gift store at the exit of the museum (however, it’s almost impossible to pass by).

For the admission ticket I paid about ten euros. I advise you to check on the website of the museum hours before visiting it. Several times a week it is closed, and the booking office is open only until 16:30. The Escher Museum address is: The Hague, Lange Voorhout 74.

Stanenkwartier Museum District

Russian-speaking tourists will be interested in the city’s Statenkwartier district.

This is not only a place of residence of the richest people in The Hague, lots of greenery in the parks and beautiful mansions. And it is there where “a booth with Stalin” is located now! The bust was installed 20 years ago as part of a street art festival. We had been looking for a long time for a monument to our Soviet leader, which had been moved to different parts of the city in the past decades. We found it and were surprised at how unexpected it looked: a bust in a police booth with the inscription “Alarm. Fire Police.”

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This area of The Hague has a concentration of museums:

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