Museum Hofwijck: home of the Huygens family

Museum Hofwijck was the country seat of the Huygens family. It lies on the edge of The Hague, but can be easily reached by train, bus, car, bicycle and even by boat. Right next to the river Vliet, it looks like a small castle, surrounded by its moat and park.

It was built according to Greek philosophic ideas by Dutch statesman, writer, humanist Constantijn Huygens. He had a house in The Hague, but liked to retreat from busy 17th century town life and state affairs, by spending time here. As was usual, once here, the family would spend most of their time outdoors. So the house is surprisingly small.

Once past the museum gate house, where one receives an audio tour, one walks through

the garden, crosses the bridge and enters the house. Through its small hall, one walks into the living and dining room. On either side of the hall is space. Facing the door, to the right there is a small study cum office. To the left is the staircase which connects all the floors. There are plenty coffers, some very beautifully decorated, which were used as storage. A large table stands in front of the fire-place. There is a display cupboard housing – as was usual at the time – small curiosities.

One floor up, one finds family portraits and modern chests with drawers. Pulling these open one after another, one can see items related to the Huygens family. There are music sheets, books, poetry, even the original doll of Constantijn and his wife “Sterre” (Star)’s youngest daughter. That a 17th century doll remains intact is of course a surprise, but even more surprising is its size: close to 1 meter.

In the small side-room, a Dutch video explains the manor’s history. It is clear time was unkind to this manor. During the 19th century, the house resembled a ruin and in the 20th century, despite protests, a rail link cut the manor’s land right in half. Part of modern Voorburg was built on the half furthest away from the manor.

Taking the staircase to the top floor, one enters the world of Constantijn’s son, the scientist Christiaan. Here, children can try out his experiments themselves or watch slides on the early projector he invented. There is even a small planetarium.

However, the most important treasure lies at the bottom of the house. Here you will find the kitchen; now the small museum café. This kitchen, including its ice house, is one of few or even the only original 17th century manor house kitchen left in the country.

In the garden, the family’s favourite dog lies buried. A stone slab with his name – “Gekkie”. (Little funny madcap) – commemorates this loyal companion. Visitors hardly notice it, but the park is still “under construction” to return it to its proper 17th century state. The house and garden were once designed to represent the human body with the house representing the head. The garden attracts various waterfowl, as well as damsels and other insects. There are plenty benches, which invite visitors to have a quiet read, or admire the house, river, ponds.

Museum staff – mostly volunteers – is extremely welcoming. If the museum café is hired for a party, they advise the restaurant across the road and next to the NS station. Continue past this restaurant, through the tunnel, and you arrive at one of Voorburg’s shopping streets. Garden enthusiast? There is a small but well-stocked garden centre to the left, across the square in front of the museum’s gate house.

For info about the museum: Museum Hofwijck
Click on the names for more info about Constantijn Huygens, Christiaan Huygens, Hofwijck

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