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Rathaus

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Rathaus - Perhaps the centrepiece of the grand Imperial quarter that sits alongside the Ringstrasse, Vienna's Rathaus is considered the city's town hall, and is where both the mayor and city council base themselves. Part of the hall even functions as the Vienna Landtag, or regional assembly, and in total more than 2000 politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats work here, making this one of the most important political hubs in Austria. So don't worry, the building has nothing to do with rats!

The Rathaus is easily noticeable from Rathauspark, with a neo-gothic facade and a striking 300 foot high central tower, as well as four smaller steeples. At the very pinnacle of the central tower sits the Rathausmann, a copper statue of a night watchman, widely considered one of Vienna's most well known icons. Built by architect Friedrich von Schmidt, the same designer behind Cologne's soaring cathedral, between 1872 and 1883, the Rathaus was intended to glorify the city of Vienna, announcing it as a major world city.

Many parts of the Rathaus are open to the public and guided tours of the Council Chamber are particularly memorable. Visitors can take a seat in the public gallery overlooking the city assembly and watch as officials and politicians work through the issues of the day. The Arkadenhof, or central courtyard, is another stunning interior space, and at 2,804 square metres is one of the largest in Europe. A new retractable roof, designed by modernist architect Silja Tillner, offers cover and shade from the weather, making this a great place to relax even when conditions outside are not particularly great.

The building's main festivities hall is a large, ceremonial space complete with a vaulted ceiling, gilded ribs and mouldings, dainty chandeliers, Romanesque and Gothic Revival arches, as well as a vintage tiled parquet floor. The room hosts many of the special events frequently held at the Rathaus, such as the Film Festival, held during August and the famous New Year's Eve Ball, where Vienna's great and good dress up in their finest garb and usher in the new year with style. Adjacent to this palatial hall are the Nordbuffet and Sudbuffet, small salons used as conference chambers and decorated with silk tapestries, cut-glass chandeliers and a gilt-ceiling fashioned from Brazilian rosewood and mahogany. The Wappensale, or Coat or Arms Hall, is another great place to get a glimpse into the history of this great city, and the walls of the spacious room bear the coats of arms and crests of all nine of Austria's federal provinces.

A famous Vienna restaurant, the Rathauskeller, also occupies space within the building, and is well known for its wide buffet selection of traditional Austrian dishes. Guests can enjoy the fine food in the confines of one of Vienna's finest neo-Baroque dining halls, with a vibrant, old-world atmosphere. Yet you do not have to dine inside on your trip to the Rathaus, as the pleasant square at the front of the building, the Rathausplatz, is known for the quality of outdoor food vendors who flock there, particularly in the winter season, when a traditional German Christmas market is held. So stop by for Gluhwein, grilled bratwurst and schnitzel and enjoy the festive cheer and good will.

 

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