A Day at the Beach at Historical Museum in The Hague


Festive, colourful, fun! The latest exhibition at The Hague’s Historical Museum is an event for kids and grown-ups. Visitors will leave, eager to board the next tourist tram to Scheveningen!

This exhibition, opening with a grand party on Saturday 30th of June 2018, is part of festivities celebrating Scheveningen’s 2 centuries as a bathing resort. It all started with Jacob Pronk building the first bathing house at Scheveningen, in 1818.

Interested in joining the opening party? Visiting the museum is free on 30th of June 2018. This day, the museum offers extra activities including short guided tours, lectures, workshops for kids, as well as a Photo-boot with historic bathing costumes.

The exhibition’s theme is a ‘day at the beach’ during 200 years of Scheveningen as a beach resort. Visitors ‘arrive’ in the morning by say: the first ‘March Galop’ tramway! Soon replaced by the first electric tram, in turn replaced by modern transport.

Of course, 19th century visitors booked rooms at one of the hotels like the Kurhaus. Not just one room for one night, or our weekend break! A letter shows the “leisure class” booked several rooms and stayed for weeks, or months.

Their mornings was dedicated to bathing; for spending time at a beach resort was all about regaining one’s health. See how ladies and gentlemen were introduced to sea-bathing. The first few days: careful ‘dips’ in a bath-tub! Then one graduated to horse-drawn bathing machines, complete with female or male guards.

Fashion changed over the centuries: from skinny-dipping under a drawn hood, to donning “Bloomers” or renting a gentleman’s bathing suit! Chanel made sun-bathing and a tan fashionable? Donning a bikini or swimming trunk, even mixed bathing became acceptable!

The afternoons? Posters show what was offered to well-heeled European tourists. Tennis; horse-riding; a stroll along the beach, across the dunes or through the woods and parks; a venture into The Hague; or just lolling in a chair on the beach, or in the rented hotel suite.

The posters show promoting, advertising, marketing and sales, are no modern inventions. Scheveningen hotels and The Hague’s municipality established a company well over a century ago. It promoted the ‘Pearl of the North Sea’ and lured rich tourists from all over Europe.

After the world wars, a different kind of tourism started: day-trippers, short weekend-breaks, Airbnb. No longer on offer: a ride in a cart drawn by … an ostrich! This set visitors back 0.25 cents for kids and 0.50 cents for adults. No longer on offer either: donkey-rides.

Donkeys and riders were painted by Isaac Israels. Liebermann painted visitors bathing, playing tennis, horse-riding. Photos soon captured modern pastimes.

In the 19th and early 20th century, evenings were bad news for kids: nanny put them to bed. Parents would dress up for luxurious dinners at their hotels. Guest-curator Saskia Kuus explained: “… At the start of Scheveningen’s history as a beach resort, people spent all day at hotels, to ensure they did not mingle with the lower classes.”

After dinner, hotels offered concerts and other entertainment. At the Kurhaus, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra played. Other hotels had their own orchestras. Entertainment changed too.

Dancing became popular, as well as stand-up comedy and theater plays. Much, much later, the Rolling Stones performed at the Kurhaus, making headline news. A short film shows why this concert is still talked about.

As this is a family exhibition, kids can take part in a quiz. They can also use old-fashioned viewers. The museum regularly offers kids-workshops; visit the museum’s website for more information.  Kate Deni   29th June 2018

The exhibition Greetings from Scheveningen at the Historical Museum of The Hague continues until 11th of November 2018.


Photo Isaac Israels “Donkey ride” courtesy Den Haag’s Historisch Museum