As an historic city, The Hague has many landmark buildings of different vintages: the 13th-century Binnenhof and Ridderzaal, the 16th-century Grote Kerk, the great palaces of the Dutch Golden Age and most important and prestigious of all, the 20th-century Vredespaleis (Peace Palace). The City Hall, designed by Richard Meijer, and several new government buildings are also rapidly changing the face of the contemporary city.
The Binnenhof (Inner Court) houses the offices of the Dutch Parliament and is one of the city’s most striking landmarks. Partly built back in the 13th century as a hunting lodge, it stands on the Hofvijver Lake across the courtyard from the ornately gabled and twin-spired Ridderzaal (Hall of the Knights), which was added to the complex in 1280 and now hosts the opening of Dutch Parliament. Parts of the Binnenhof and Ridderzaal complex can be visited by guided tour.
Several other important buildings stand adjacent to the Hofvijver; the 14th-century Gevangenpoort was once a prison and is now a museum of torture; the Mauritshuis, a splendid 17th-century palace that houses The Hague’s best art museum (closed until May 2014 for refurbishment); and the Galerij Prins Willem V, formerly an inn and now the oldest art museum in The Netherlands.
Within a few minutes’ walk of the Hofvijver are the Grote Kerk, The Hague’s oldest church with the tallest bell tower in The Netherlands, and Het Paleis, home to Queen Emma between 1901-1934 and more recently the office of Queen Beatrix, who abdicated in 2013. Het Paleis was transformed into the M. C. Escher Museum in 2002.
Further afield is the Peace Palace, symbolizing the high standing of The Netherlands in international law and order. This imposing Neo-Renaissance palace was completed in 1913 with capital donated from US philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and is home to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, the International Law Academy, the Peace Palace Library and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, making it one of the foremost bastions of global peace.