The one that comes to mind at the moment is ‘It is not the destination that matters, but the journey’.

Perhaps one better suited for my situation would be ‘It is not the destination that matters, but the detours‘.

The path of my European Bazaar Project took me to The Netherlands this week for their annual celebration of Koningsdag or King’s Day (previously Queen’s Day).

But I was delighted to discover that preceding Koningsdag is Koningsnacht, the night before King’s Day. To the Dutch mind this is also a perfectly good reason to celebrate the pre-drinks, if you will, to warm you up to the Orange Madness of King’s Day. Yet while Amsterdam is centre stage for the day celebration, it is without a doubt The Hague that reigns supreme for Koningsnacht.

All across The Netherlands towns play host to general revelry and fun on King’s Night. But in The Hague, Koningsnacht has been transformed into the Life I Live Festival, a free multi-stage music festival that takes over the city’s whole town centre.

And, as it turned out, my detour to The Hague ended up trumping my destination festival in Amsterdam…

As the sun goes down on The Hague, the rain sets in, a light patter that makes the city glisten. Wandering around you find that The Hague lacks the prettiness of its big brother, Amsterdam, yet neither has progress reduced it to ugly utilitarianism. Whereas Amsterdam feels like a party on a film set, The Hague is a thoroughly modern city, with the old and the new seamlessly melting into each other. Perhaps it was simply the expectation in the air, but the city pulses with a confidence in its own identity.

Around town, within easy walking distance of each other, nine stages play host to a tasting platter of genres including rock, blues, jazz, and indie, and one stage even giving school bands their chance to wow a crowd. There are also several stages with DJs spinning the best retro, dance and current hits.

There is something glorious about a city opening its streets for a festival that everyone is invited to and that almost every music taste is catered for. We’ve all been to multi-stage festivals, rushing between stages across fields and dustbowls. At Life I Live these stages occupy picturesque plazas, wide boulevards and city squares, verged by pubs and restaurants that look out over the field of revelers.

You can get up close and personal with the local and international bands on offer or you can sit back and eat your dinner and let the music wash over you and your expensive wine. And when you want to swap stages, you stroll down cobbled streets past curious shop fronts and busy take-away shops that don’t charge festival prices.

Best of all, the vibe is friendly and welcoming. You can stand at the front of the crowd and not expect to get crushed, and move to any stage you like without worrying that it’s going to be too busy to see anything. More cities should imitate this free and easy concept, turning their cityscapes into venues that not only promote the music, but create magic out of stone and concrete.

The article was written by Grant Mills for One Small World.