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The Binnenhof

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.