Lübeck Town Hall is a jewel from Hanseatic times

UNESCO World Heritage Site with Town Hall

Lübeck was once the “Queen of the Hanseatic League” and as the President, the Mayor of Lübeck guided the destinies of the medieval Hanseatic League which was never officially founded nor dissolved. The term Hanse refers to a group of merchants who traded together and enjoyed certain privileges abroad. There were Hanseatic cities not only on the coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic Seas, but also inland. The members met annually to make decisions, and 43 of the 67 Hanseatic Days took place in Lübeck, which was positioned geographically favorable. So Lübeck took the leading role in the Hanseatic League. The hub of power was the Town Hall which today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. Incidentally, the Hanseatic idea lives on in the Hanseatic League of modern times and the Lübeck mayor is still traditionally its foreman.The Town Hall is located right in the heart of the Old Tow. It is one of the most famous Gothic brickwork structures. With its impressive façade, it resembles a fairytale castle. The shape of the building was defined over three centuries: from 1226, a succession of new elements were added, and there were conversions and extensions such as the sandstone arcade, the raising of the striking façade with its distinctive circular holes for improved wind resistance as well as the bay window and impressive grand staircase. The Hanseatic Hall in which meetings of the Hanseatic League were held and the Danzelhus, scene of lavish banquets and dancing, have disappeared over the course of the centuries. However, much has been preserved and a guided tour of the Town Hall will reveal this historical jewel to you in all its beauty.

Even today, the Town Hall, now nearly 800 years old, still performs its role as an administrative headquarters and venue for meetings of Lübeck’s city parliament. Guests are welcome! The Ratskeller restaurant in the vaulted cellars of the Town Hall is one of the oldest in North Germany and then as now it serves as a place for social gatherings. Tip: You can even say your marriage vows in the Town Hall!

Virtue is (usually) female

Audienzsaal mit Rednerpult im Lübecker Rathaus

The magnificent Audience Hall in the Town Hall glows in the plush red velvet of the Rococo style. It was converted in 1755. It served as a conference room for the Council until the beginning of the 20th century. The walls are decorated with ten paintings by the Italian artist Stefano Torelli together embodying the virtues of a good government. These include vigilance, diligence, unity, wisdom, freedom, mercy, justice, caution, moderation and discretion. All these virtues are portrayed by women with the exception of the virtue of discretion which is represented by a man. What are we to make of this? One word for a man, a dictionary for a woman?

Hold your head up!

The portal of the Audience Hall is part of the former Renaissance features from 1573. The motifs point to the hall’s use as a courtroom. The centrepiece is the depiction of the Solomonic Judgement with an inscription above it in lower German saying “A judge should hear both parties and then issue a judgement”. Incidentally, the door reveals an interesting anomaly: the door leaves are of different heights. Acquitted defendants were allowed to leave the hall via the right-hand door, with head held high and wearing their hat. Convicted defendants, on the other hand, had to remove their hats and leave via the low door. In this way, citizens waiting outside were able to see immediately what the verdict had been. Incidentally, the threshold of the lower door is much more heavily worn. What does that tell us?

Once a mayor, always a mayor

Lübeck has had a long gallery of previous incumbents consisting of 229 mayors in total. 65 of them had their portraits painted and to this day, they can be admired as oil paintings in the long corridors of the Town Hall. They are painted in a special style – whatever angle you look at them from, the gentlemen follow you with their eyes.  During the Middle Ages, up to four mayors were in office at the same time, usually experienced long-distance traders who were guiding the fate of the trading metropolis. In contrast to today, mayors were elected in those days by the Town Council from its own midst. Incidentally, in those days, mayors were elected for life, but they also lived dangerously as they frequently accompanied their fleets into battle.


Jan Lindenau

Mayor of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck and President of the Hanseatic League of Modern Times

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© Hansestadt Lübeck

Discover the premises in the historic Town Hall as part of a city tour!

Our city guides know the most exciting stories about the unique buidling and can answer all your questions.

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Breite Straße 62
23552 Lübeck

Phone: 0451 1221005

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