The Hague is a city located in the western coast of the Netherlands, and the capital city of the province of South Holland. With a population of 520,704 inhabitants (as of 1 April 2016) and more than one million inhabitants including the suburbs, it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Area, with a population of approximately 2.7 million, is the 12th-largest in the European Union and the most populous in the country. Located in the west of the Netherlands, The Hague is in the centre of the Haaglanden conurbation and lies at the southwest corner of the larger Randstad conurbation.
The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government, parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State, but the city is not the capital of the Netherlands, which constitutionally is Amsterdam. Most foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organisations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major cities hosting the United Nations along with New York, Geneva, Vienna, Rome, and Nairobi. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands plans to live at Huis ten Bosch and works at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, together with Queen Máxima.
In the center of the oldest section of The Hague is the Binnenhof - the Inner Court - an irregular group of buildings constructed around a large central courtyard. With its origins dating back to 1250 and tied to the building of a castle, it soon became the residence of the ruling aristocracy and today houses both chambers of Parliament. The most important buildings of the complex are the exquisite Ridderzaal, or Knights' Hall (see below for more details), still used for functions and receptions, and in the North Wing, the chamber is the official residence of the Prime Minister. Also important are the Rolzaal court house dating from 1511 and the Lairessezaal with its 17th-century paintings by Gerard de Lairesse. Other highlights include the First Chamber, notable for its painted medallions depicting statesmen and the portrait of King William II under the country's coat of arms. The Second Chamber - the legislative authority that watches over the government - sat in the former ballroom from 1815 until 1992.
Ridderzaal: The Knights' Hall
At the east end of the Binnenhof's central courtyard, the 13th-century Knights' Hall (Ridderzaal) is a spectacular historic building still used for state receptions and the opening of parliament each September. This large Gothic hall - it measures 40 meters by 20 meters - boasts many magnificent stained glass windows depicting the coats of arms of Dutch towns, as well as the spectacular Rose Window with the arms of the principal noble families of the Netherlands. The heavy timber roof structure with its 18-meter-long beams has the appearance of an upturned ship, and carved wooden heads symbolizing eavesdroppers from the "higher powers" are supposed to deter members of the assembly from lying. Originally built as a banqueting hall, it later served as a market, a promenade, a drill hall, a playground, and even a hospital before being restored in 1904.