Hamburg City Hall - History and Facts | History Hit

Hamburg City Hall

Hamburg, Germany

Amy Irvine

18 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Hamburg City Hall

Hamburg City Hall’s impressive architecture dominates the centre of the Hamburg, and houses the city’s senate and parliament.

History of Hamburg City Hall

After the old city hall was destroyed in the great fire of 1842, it took 55 years for the new Hamburg City Hall (Rathaus) to open. The present building was built between 1886-1897, at a cost of 11 million German gold marks (about €80 million). It reopened on 26 October 1897 when the First Mayor Johannes Versmann received the key.

It has 647 rooms and stands on over 4,000 oak piles. Unlike the usual restrained Hanseatic style, the building has an elaborate façade, flanked by a total of 20 statues of emperors. In the Senate chamber, there is a large glass roof, symbolising an ancient Germanic custom that the council meets in the open air.

The imperial hall is named the Kaisersaal, after the visit by Kaiser Wilhelm II at the opening of the North Sea-Baltic Canal. There is also a Grand Ballroom (46 metres long, 18 metres wide and 15 metres high) housing paintings depicting the history of Hamburg from 800-1900, and 62 city coats of arms of the old Hanseatic League.

In the postwar period, various heads of state visited Hamburg and its City Hall including Queen Elizabeth II in 1965.

In 1971, a room in the tower was discovered accidentally during a search for a document that had fallen behind a filing cabinet, raising the possibility that there are even more rooms than the current count of 647.

Hamburg City Hall today

The City Hall is the seat of the government of Hamburg – one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. Parliament meets in the debating chamber every second Tuesday at 3pm.

Many fairs, concerts and celebrations in Hamburg happen outside the City Hall in the Rathausmarkt square (such as those of Hamburger SV as German football champions back in 1983) as well as the city’s famed Christmas markets which fill the square each year.

There is also a local tradition where unmarried men sweep the steps outside the City Hall on their 30th birthday.

Getting to Hamburg City Hall

The Rathaus is located in the Altstadt quarter in the city center, at the Rathausmarkt square, and near the lake Binnenalster and the central station. The closest accessible station is U-Bahn to ‘Jungfernstieg (U2/U4)’, or take a bus to ‘Rathaus’.

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