Binnenhof (Inner Court)
The Binnenhof belongs to the oldest areas of The Hague. It was here that in the 13th century the first buildings appeared alongside a pond in a clearing in the forest. This settlement evolved into a complex of buildings including the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal: a festive hall for the Counts of Holland) the Court Chapel (Hofkapel), the Stadholder's quarters and the assembly hall of the States of Holland and West Friesland. These buildings are now used by the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both Houses together make up the States General. Originally, the building complex was surrounded by the Court Pond (Hofvijver) and a moat, which has now disappeared. The city of The Hague gradually developed around this complex of buildings.
For many centuries, the buildings around the Binnenhof square form the political centre of the Netherlands. The current Plenary Hall of the Senate dates back to 1655. It was built by order of the States of Holland and West Friesland and is the oldest parliamentary meeting venue in Europe. The Senate has gathered here since 1849.
The buildings now used by the House of Representatives once housed government departments. In 1992, the complex was completely refurbished and extended, including a brand new Plenary Hall. The Binnenhof is also the workplace of the prime minister -- who has his office in the so-called Torentje, a small medieval tower situated at the side of the Court Pond -- and his administration. Moreover, the the Council of State has conference rooms that are located in the Binnenhof building complex.
The Binnenhof is one of the most important monuments in the Netherlands. Every year, many hundreds of thousands of visitors from home and abroad visit the Binnenhof. Heritage Day alone attracts 10,000 visitors to the parliament and the Hall of Knights. The government has set up a programme to make sure that every youngster in the Netherlands will at least once visit the major buildings of the Binnenhof complex.