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Rathaus (Town Hall)
Rathaus (Town Hall) Review
To most Hamburgers this large building is the symbolic heart of the city. As a city-state—an independent city and simultaneously one of the 16 federal states of Germany—Hamburg maintains city and state governments, both of which have their administrative headquarters in the Rathaus. An ostentatious neo-Renaissance affair, the building dictates political decorum in the city. To this day, the mayor of Hamburg never welcomes VIPs at the foot of its staircase, but always awaits them at the very top—whether it's a president or the queen of England.
Both the Rathaus and the Rathausmarkt (Town Hall Market) lie on marshy land, a fact vividly brought to mind in 1962, when the entire area was flooded. The current city hall is the sixth one in Hamburg's history. The large square, with its surrounding arcades, was laid out after Hamburg's Great Fire of 1842. The Rathaus was begun in 1886, when 4,000 piles were sunk into the moist soil to support the structure. It was completed in 1897. Five years before, a cholera epidemic claimed the lives of 8,605 Hamburg residents in 71 days. The "Hygieia-fountain," a fountain and monument to that unhappy chapter in Hamburg's history sit in a rear courtyard of the Rathaus.
The immense neo-Renaissance building, with its 647 rooms and imposing central clock tower, is not the most graceful structure in the city, but the sheer opulence of its interior is astonishing. A 40-minute tour begins in the ground-floor Rathausdiele, a vast pillared hall. Although you can only view the state rooms, their tapestries, huge staircases, glittering chandeliers, coffered ceilings, and grand portraits give you a sense of the city's great wealth in the 19th century and its understandable civic pride.
For those with a political bent, you can view a session of Hamburg Parliament. To register for a ticket, call 040/42831-2409.
- Address: Rathausmarkt, Altstadt, Hamburg, 20095 | Map It
- Phone: 040/42831-2064
- Cost: Tours €3
- Hours: Tours weekdays, half-hourly 10:15--3:15; Sat., half-hourly 10:15--5:15; Sun., half-hourly 10:15--6:15; English tours weekdays 11:15, 1:15, and 3:15; Sat. 11:15, 1:15, 3:15, and 5:15; Sun. 11:15, 1:15, 3:15, and, if there is demand, 4:15
- Website: www.hamburgische-buergerschaft.de
- U-bahn: Rathaus (U-bahn), Jungfernstieg (U-bahn/S-bahn).
- Location: Downtown Hamburg
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