Get to know the Huygens’ Hofwijck Estate
The Hofwijck estate is situated on the bank of the Vliet canal, just a short hop from the center of The Hague. But unlike many of the other luxurious country houses built by nobles and merchants during the Dutch Golden Age, Hofwijck was never intended as a statement to show off. In fact, it’s one of the smallest country houses in Holland. Huygens designed the house himself around 1640, assisted by architect Jacob van Campen (who also worked on the Mauritshuis in The Hague and later Amterdam’s new city hall – now the Royal Palace). Although measuring a mere 10 meters by 10 meters in terms of area, the house earns its monumental status, rising gracefully from the water that surrounds it. The somber brick facade is paired with vibrant yellow shutters. The only decorations on the building's exterior are 15 grisailles painted on the outside walls, intended to create the illusion of carvings in recesses.
Collections from the Dutch Golden Age
The collections at Hofwijck provide a fascinating flashback to the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Constantijn Huygens was a poet, composer and art lover, as well as secretary and advisor to the princes of Orange. You can experience all aspects of his rich life in the house’s permanent collection, including paintings, artefacts and stories.
His son Christiaan Huygens went on to make some of the biggest discoveries in science, astronomy, mechanics and mathematics, which is why he’s regarded as Holland’s most famous scientist. He lived at Hofwijk for the final eight years of his life, and today you can see his collection of telescopes and clocks, as well as get a true taste for his sense of discovery.
A unique garden
As you approach Hofwijck's main house, the features of the garden may catch your eye in the most unexpected way. The garden was actually designed to match the shape and proportions of the human body, inspired by an idea conceived by Roman architect Vitruvius. The long lanes form arms, a fruit orchard sits in the belly, while the house is literally at the head of this garden. The lower body is no longer represented, as part of the garden was closed to make way for a railway line running from The Hague to Gouda. The benefit of this, however, is that NS Station Voorburg neighbors the estate, making it especially easily accessible by public transport.
Huygens’ Hofwijck is open from April through December, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, from 12:00 to 17:00. From January to March, it’s open on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00-17:00. Tours are available upon request, while an audio tour is included in the admission price.
The coastal areas around The Hague, Leiden and Haarlem were popular spots chosen by merchants and the well-to-do, building country houses and estates in the 17th century. Today, you don't need to be a wealthy trader to enjoy the best of these locations. Oud-Poelgeest Castle and De Wittenburg Castle are just two fantastic examples of Dutch castles where you can spend the night.
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