Netherlands set for 2014 spotlight

By Johanna Jainchill

The Netherlands is gearing up for a series of events putting the small nation in Europe's 2014 spotlight.

After closing for two years for a major renovation, The Hague's Mauritshuis museum will reopen June 27.

The museum closed in 2012 to allow for an ambitious expansion project that includes a new underground lobby between its existing building, a 17th century historical palace, and a building across the street that will become a new museum wing.

The finished project will almost double the Mauritshuis' space and provide improved dining areas and new facilities, including an Art Workshop for educational programs.

Thirty-seven of the museum's paintings have been on a world tour during the closure, including Vermeer's "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" and "The Goldfinch" by Carel Fabritius, a major draw since a novel inspired by the painting was published last year. The tour recently included a three-month stay at New York's Frick Collection, where it became the best-attended exhibit in the museum's history. It is now at the Palazzo Fava in Bologna, Italy. Visit www.mauritshuis.nl.

The Keukenhof flower garden marks its 65th anniversary this year.In bloom

This year also marks the 65th anniversary of Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden, which annually showcases millions of flowers over its roughly 80 acres during an eight-week season. From its opening on March 20 to its closing two months later on May 18, about 800,000 visitors from around the world are expected to view the collection of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils.

Nearly 50 million people have visited Keukenhof since it opened, with repeat visitors coming back to experience its different annual themes: This year's is "Holland"; last year's was "United Kingdom — Land of Great Gardens," with colorful tributes to Big Ben and the Tower of London; and in 2009, 36,000 bulbs made a giant Statue of Liberty replica when the theme was "New York." See www.keukenhof.nl.

Royal celebration

The birth of the future monarch of England may have caught the world's attention in 2013, but in 2014 royal watchers will want to be in the Netherlands, which will celebrate its first King's Day.

The Dutch have been celebrating Queen's Day since 1885, honoring the birthday of its succession of queens. Last year, the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander as the first king of Holland in more than a century means that this year's celebration will be known as King's Day.

The April 26 celebration will include parties, music, fairs and flea markets throughout the country. Amsterdam hosts the biggest King's Day party, beginning the night before on King's Night, with DJs playing parties on public squares and brightly decorated boats filling the canals. Visit www.iamsterdam.com and www.holland.com.

Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw. 

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