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In towns and cities all over the world, the city hall (Rathaus) is the focal point for residents and tourists alike. Whether it be the politics behind the city hall, simply as a meeting point or main attraction, they draw us in either their elegance. It functions as a seat of government, a place of of significant events within the city as well as a place to bring people together on daily basis.
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Each and every single one is unique, portray characteristics and symbolism of the town and you’ll never find the same one twice. The elegance of each town hall portrays the city’s wealth and importance dating as far back as the Medieval times.
With this little Germany listicle, hopefully you’ll find a few new locations to visit for a summer road trip through Germany, especially if you don’t mind a little combination of both small back road towns in Germany as well as a few of the larger cities. You’ll get to explore many of the most scenic routes in Germany driving through the German countryside, through several states and discovering hidden gems in Germany! You’ll delve into a variety of architectural styles ranging from colorful, half-timbered, Medieval era gems to Renaissance and Gothic to the extravagance of Neo-classicism. Get out the maps, you’re gonna need to start planning the ultimate German road trip because I’ve asked a few bloggers to contribute the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the cherry of top town halls in Germany.
Aachen Town Hall (Rathaus Aachen) – North Rhine-Westphalia
By: Frau Karen from Wanderlustingk
The Rathuis in Aachen is a Gothic style building dating back to the 14th century. During one of the fires of Aachen, the roof and the towers burned, however the repairs resulted in a baroque style renovation of the interior and parts of the exterior. It’s possible to tour the Rathuis in Aachen to see the mix of styles and to imagine the many coronations that took place within this stunning building. If you visit Aachen, be sure to go upstairs to admire the frescoes along the ceiling dating back to the mid-1850s. Although most of the building today is reconstructed, it’s worth visiting Aachen to get a taste for Germany’s past.
Tip: Combine a visit to Aachen with Münster!
Augsburg City Hall (Augsburg Rathaus) – Bavaria
The Augsburger City Hall was built by Elias Holl between 1615-20, the city hall dominated the Rathausplatz (square) and is one of Germany’s finest examples of Mannerist architecture; a combination of Renaissance and Medieval styles that eventually led to the Baroque style. Many believe it to be one of the most significant secular Renaissance buildings north of the Alps! Inside, you’ll find one of the most exquisite halls with a splendid gold decor and gilded walnut ceiling called the Goldener Saal located on the third floor. Like many cities in Germany, Augsburg was heavily damaged during the Second World War and on February 26, 1944, an air raid reduced the city hall to rubble and wouldn’t be fully restored to its original glory until 1996!
Tip: Combine a visit to Augsburg with Landsberg am Lech or Munich!
Bad Urach Town Hall (Bad Urach Rathaus) – Baden-Württemburg
Though practically unheard of, the small half-timber framed town of Bad Urach sits along the German Timber-framed Road (Deutsches Fackwerkstrasse) jus5 45 minutes between both Stuttgart and Ulm. In the heart of the historic town is the Bad Urach Town Hall which was built in 1440, extended in 1562 and renovated in 1907/1908. The timber-framed town hall was used by butchers and bakers on the ground level at the front and was later used as a fruit market in 1939. Lined on either side my other colorful half-timbered houses, the Town Market stands the tallest and the most prominent.
Tip: Combine Bad Urach with a visit to Kirchheim unter Teck or Esslingen!
Bamberg Old Town Hall (Bamberg Altes Rathaus) – Bavaria
While each Rathaus in Germany is stunning in their own right, Bamberg‘s Old Town Hall might win any contest for most picturesque building in Germany. Located in the middle of the stone-arched Obere Brücke (Upper Bridge), on an artificial island in the Regnitz River, with stunning Lüftmalerei (murals) and half-timbered charm. Though the Old Town Hall wasn’t built for its picturesque appeal, it was supposedly built in 1467 over the river because the bishop of Bamberg refused to grant any land for its construction which goes to show the defiance of the town’s burghers (citizens) who so badly desires a city hall. The city hall compromises three historical districts within Bamberg, the episcopal town, the island town and the market gardener’s town.
Tip: Combine a visit to Bamberg with Rothenburg ob der Tauber!
Bremen City Hall (Das Rathaus Bremen Senatkanzlerei) – Bremen
By: Frau Sarah from Travel Breathe Repeat
The Rathaus in Bremen is a stunning example of how seriously the Germans take their town hall buildings. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of Bremen’s major tourist attractions. It actually consists of two buildings: the Old Town Hall and the New Town Hall. The Old Town Hall building is the star. Perhaps a bit over the top with its ornate carvings and arcade, I still think it’s truly gorgeous. It was built in the Gothic style at the beginning of the 15th century and significantly updated in the Renaissance style in the mid-16th century. Much of Bremen was destroyed during WWII, but the Rathaus was well-protected and survived. Quite the feat! It’s the only Town Hall building in Europe built in the Middle Ages that didn’t endure destruction and still retains its original form.
Coburg Town Hall (Rathaus Coburg) – Bavaria
By: Frau Lisa from Penguin and Pia
If there’s one word to describe the town hall of Coburg, it’s colourful. The town hall is located right by the market square in the old town center of the city. Coburg’s current town hall was first built in a Renaissance style in the middle of the 16th century. However, the inside wasn’t done until the end of the century in 1580!
Until 1750, the town hall complex was made up of different buildings: both the new town hall and the old one which was right next to it. After the renovation, however, this configuration was changed and the Rathaus was made into one building. This was also when the town hall got its colourful facade – much of which can still be seen until this day.
If you want to check it out, you can also go inside. You’ll find many different architectural styles from Neo-Baroque pillars to a staircase in an Art Nouveau style – only to name a few. Next to the town hall, there are many other beautiful buildings in Coburg (like a castle!) so be sure to stop by and visit the “beautiful small city of Coburg” if you’re in the area.
Düsseldorf Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus Düsseldorf) – North-Rhine Westphalia
By: Frau Sofia from Wonderful Wanderings
Esslingen’s Medieval Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus Esslingen) – Baden-Württemburg
With its stark red facade, the Old Town Hall in Esslingen is without a doubt the most beautiful building in the Medieval half-timbered town surrounded by rolling hills lines with vineyards. Originally built in 1422 as a sales hall and tax house, it was to be as distinguished as possible. The Citizens’ Hall was located on the top floor also to be used as both a meeting hall and a dance hall. The Renaissance facade wasn’t added until 1586-1589 and is the most striking appearance with its curved step-gable, bell town and astronomical clock tower while the back portion is a colorful array of half-timbered beams.
Tip: Combine Esslingen with a visit to Bad Urach or Kirchheim unter Teck!
Frankfurt am Main City Hall (Frankfurt am Main Rathaus) – Hesse
By: Frau Megan from Meghan Starr
Hamburg City Hall (Rathaus Hamburg) – Hamburg
By: Frau Jordan from Wayfaring with Wagner
One of the most impressive buildings dotting Hamburg‘s skyline, the city hall is an architectural masterpiece. Completed in 1897, the exterior represents a neo-classical style while the interior is a mixture of several styles. As a free city for most of its existence, the extravagance reflected in the city hall denotes both Hamburg’s individual wealth and grandeur as well as the wealth of the then newly-formed German state. The total number of rooms in the city hall is 647 although hidden rooms have previously been found and many suspect that the room count is much higher.
New Town Hall Hannover (Neues Rathaus Hannover) – Lower Saxony
By: Frau Kamila from Kami & the Rest of the World
Before visiting Hannover, I knew there is one place that I really have to see in that city and that was the new town hall. Built at the beginning of 20th century in the eclectic style it looks more like a castle from the outside but once you get inside it gets only better. The main hall is 38 meters high and makes your jaw drop, it’s that beautiful. On the ground floor you can see four small town’s models, showing how much Hannover has changed over the years and how tragic the war was to the city. However, the biggest attraction of the town hall is the oblique elevator, the only one of that kind in Europe, that takes you to the top of the dome. From there you can admire the amazing view of the city, its surroundings and vast green spaces around.
Heppenheim Town Hall (Heppenheim Rathaus) – Hesse
Like a one of my Christmas village houses, the Heppenheim Town Hall stands out among the rest with its deep red half-timbered beams and shingled roof. Located on the south side of the Marktplatz in an old wine-growing region along the Bergstrasse (Mountain Road) – an old south-west trading route. Although originally built in 1561, it would be rebuilt as well as much of the town in 1705 in a baroque half-timbered style after having been destroyed by fire in 1683 during the Nine Years’ War. In 1958, a carillon was added after yet another fire in the tower.
Tip: Combine a visit to Heppenheim with Michelstadt!
Kirchheim unter Teck City Hall (Kirchheim unter Teck Rathaus) – Baden-Württemburg
Considered to be one of the finest city halls in Baden-Württemburg, the Kirchheim unter Teck City Hall stands at the end of a bustling Marktstrasse. Built in 1722, the town hall is a medieval marvel and is incredibly picturesque as it reaches into the sky with it’s layered tower and green onion-like dome. The half-timbered town of Kirchheim unter Teck still upholds the tradition of having tower trumpeters, which dates back to at least 1524. They happened to be playing on the day of our visit and play every Saturday. The trumpeters play on all four sides of the tower. The town hall also has coffered ceilings in the arcades with the Württemberg coat of arms while the clock on the tower shows the phases of the moon – the only one of its kind in Southern Germany. (More on Kirchheim under Teck)
Tip: Combine a visit to Kirchheim unter Teck with Bad Urach or Esslingen!
Landsberg am Lech City Hall (Landsberg am Lech Rathaus) – Bavaria
By Frau Caroline from Pack the Suitcases
Lüneburg Town Hall (Lüneburg Rathaus) – Lower Saxony
Michelstadt’s Medieval Town Hall (Altes Rathaus Michelstadt) – Hesse
Built in the late Gothic style in 1484, the town’s most prominent feature, the 15th century timber-frame town hall is something straight out of a fairy tale with its pointed gables and bay turrets. Considering that town halls were the focal point of each town, the main floor served as a market hall beneath the 500-year old wooden stilts in the heart of the main square, the Marktplatz. Michelstadt‘s Medieval Town Hall is so delightfully charming that it’s on one of the national postage stamps! The master builder’s identity still remains a mystery although there are some speculations. As one of my favorite half-timbered houses in Germany, I even bought a miniature replica as part of my Christmas village!
Tip: Combine a visit to Michelstadt with Heppenheim!
Munich New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus München) – Bavaria
Though you might feel that this city hall is reminiscent of Vienna or even Brussels, the Neues Rathaus in Munich is one of the most iconic landmarks not just in Bavaria but in Germany. Located next to the Old Town Hall, the impressively large square, the Marienplatz, is in thanks to the sheer size of this Flemish Gothic style city hall which has dominated the square since the late 19th century. But beyond the elegance of its appearance, many flock to the city hall for the famous Glockenspiele (Clock chimes) whose figurines having been twirling around since 1908 depicting stories of Munich’s history. For a truly amazing view of the city hall, climb the Peterskirche (Peter’s Church) just opposite, or perhaps even take the elevator up the Rathaus Tower.
Daily at 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (the 5:00 p.m. show is omitted from November through February).
Tip: Combine a visit to Munich with Augsburg or Landsberg am Lech!
Historical City Hall of Münster (Historisches Rathaus Münster) – North Rhine-Westphalia
By: Frau Roxanna from Gypsy with a Day Job
The unique Gothic architecture of the Münster City Hall makes it one of the most stunning Rathauses in all of Germany, as well as one of the most interesting. The building forms the centerpiece for the Prinzipalmarkt, the main marketplace of the city. This portion of Münster was virtually flattened during WWII, but rather than start anew, the community rebuilt an exact replication to preserve their remarkable history.
Not only was the city once a powerful Bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire, the Rathaus was also a theater of negotiation, and the site of the signing, of the Peace of Westphalia. This treaty would end two wars, initiate the formation of the sovereign nation of Denmark, and become the foundation of European order that still stands. This treaty is celebrated in a museum and replication of the Peace Room, or Friedensaal, within the Rathaus.
The hall remains a central location for city residents for less global events. At the time of our visit, a traditional pre-wedding event drew a crowd as a young man sought the hand of his beloved. His love had to be proven by sweeping the steps of the city hall clean, while onlookers tossed obstructions before him.
Tip: Combine a visit to Münster with Aachen!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Town Hall (Rathaus Rothenburg ob der Tauber) – Bavaria
By: Frau Arzo from Arzo Travels
Wernigerode City Hall (Rathaus Wernigerode) – Saxony-Anhalt
For some unknown reason, many travel guides leave Wernigerode off of the things to see in Germany, yet the town is strikingly beautiful with its ochre-colored, double-spired, half-timbered Gothic town hall. Like something straight out of a fairy tale book, the Wernigerode Town Hall dominates the main square along with other half-timbered buildings with cafes and restaurants encircling the “Benefactor Fountain”. Originally established as a Spelhus (public house) in 1529-1544 after the New and Old Town of Wernigerode had merged and given its own Council Constitution. It was also used for hosting town dances, travelling artists and weddings, which today still take place here. Today, it is often described as “a Pearl of Medieval timber-framed architecture”. Again, I loved the Wernigerode Rathaus so much I bought a mini-replica for my Christmas village!
So, if you’re looking for road trip inspiration for Germany, look no further. Any of these towns are well worth the visit and are all dominated by their city halls, all the focal points of each. And how could they not be? They’re each so stunning and unique in their own ways, each incorporating symbolism, history and architectural influences from their regions.
Many of these towns make for a perfect scenic drive in Germany through the countryside and several of them can be combined. Each is also well worth a longer stay if you’re looking for vacation ideas for Germany giving you the time you need to explore the most beautiful towns in Germany at a slower pace!
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!