Binnenhof, The Hague
In the center of the older portion of The Hague is the Binnenhof, an irregular group of buildings, some old and some more recent, built around a central courtyard. About 1250 Count William II of Holland began the building of a castle which was completed by his son Floris V, who in 1291 made this his principal residence. From the time of Prince Maurice of Orange-Nassau the Binnenhof was the residence of the Stadholders. It now houses both chambers of the Dutch Parliament as well as a number of government departments. The rectangular complex of buildings has entrances at each end; there is a third doorway, the Grenadierspoort, half way along one side.There is an information center at Binnenhof 8A. Conducted tours of the Knights' Hall and Parliament can be arranged; they should be booked in advance by telephone.
Address: Binnenhof 8A, The Hague, Zuid-Holland 2513 AA, Netherlands
Opening hours: Jul 1 to Aug 31: 10am-4pm
Sep 1 to Jun 30: 10am-4pm; Closed: Sun
Sep 1 to Jun 30: 10am-4pm; Closed: Sun
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Dutch National Day (Apr 30)
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Tours should be booked in advance by telephone.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Transit: Tram: 2, 3, 7, 8, 9; Bus: 4, 5, 22.
In The Hague, at the east end of the Binnenhof's central courtyard is the Knights' Hall (Ridderzaal), which dates from the time of Floris V. The hall is used for receptions and congresses and also for the state opening of Parliament on the third Tuesday in September (Prinsjesdag), when the Queen drives to Parliament in her golden coach and delivers the speech from the throne. This large Gothic hall (40m/130ft by 20m/65ft) has magnificent stained glass depicting the coats of arms of Dutch towns; particularly fine is the rose window with the arms of the principal noble families of the Netherlands. The heavy timber roof structure with its 18m/60ft long beams has the appearance of an upturned ship. Wooden heads symbolizing eavesdroppers from the higher powers are supposed to deter members of the assembly from lying. The hall was built by Gerard van Leiden in the 13th century as a banqueting hall, and in later centuries served a variety of purposes - as a market hall, a promenade, a drill hall, a children's playground, a public record office, a hospital ward, even the offices of the state lottery. It was restored between 1898 and 1904 to serve its present purposes.
In the entrance lobby below the Knights' Hall is an exhibition illustrating the history of the Dutch Parliament over more than 500 years, the functions of the two chambers and the role of the monarchy and the head of state with displays of historical documents and objects.
Binnenhof North Wing
In the north wing of the Binnenhof are the chamber in which the States General used to meet, the official residence of the prime minister, the government information office, the Rolzaal (1511), in which justice was administered, and the Lairessezaal, with seven paintings by Gerard de Lairesse (1688).
Binnenhof First Chamber
The old meeting place of the States of Holland (by Pieter Post, 1652), at the west end of the north wing, now houses the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. In small niches along the walls are painted medallions depicting notable statesmen. Behind the seat occupied by the President hangs a portrait of King William II under the coat of arms of the Netherlands. The First Chamber, which has 75 members, sits every Tuesday. Its function is to examine legislation passed by the Second Chamber.
Binnenhof Second Chamber
The Second Chamber of Parliament is the legislative authority and watches over the activity of the government. From 1815 - when the bicameral system was introduced at the Congress of Vienna - until 1992 the former ballroom (1790) in the south wing was the meeting place of the Second Chamber. Members now meet in the recently- completed new building designed by the architect Pi de Bruijn. In direct contrast to the old- fashioned interior of the former chamber, the new building is designed in line with modern requirements and furnished in an extremely functional manner. No daylight enters the room, which is decorated in blue and green, in an attempt to provide a neutral atmosphere in which to make governmental decisions. A modern communication system replaces the antiquated one used in the old chamber where handwritten messages were delivered by liveried messengers. Behind the seats occupied by the parties are boxes for invited guests and the public galleries. Dutch television takes photographs with computer-controlled cameras and sells them to the various transmitting companies. Live broadcasts are not permitted. Entry to the individual committee rooms is by way of the sumptuously appointed "statenpassage", which boasts Europe's longest cantilever escalator.
Binnenhof Law Courts
Adjoining the Knights' Hall on the east is the oldest group of buildings in the complex, which have been occupied since the time of Philip the Good by law courts.
Statue of King William II
At the west end of the Binnenhof is the Buitenhof, with an equestrian statue of King William II (d. 1849).
Map of The Hague Attractions