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The Rathaus, built between 1872 and 1883 in a Flemish neo-Gothic style, was erected in order to substitute the Altes Rathaus, the former Town Hall.
It currently serves as the seat of both the Vienna City Council and the Provincial Assembly. Due to the fact that, since 1922 Vienna is also a state, the Neues Rathaus is the seat of power for both the mayor and the state governor. It also houses the municipal and state libraries as well as other important documents.
Construction of the building was entrusted to the architect Friedrich von Schmidt, who had previously designed other important buildings, such as Cologne Cathedral. Von Schmidt, who won the public call for tender, also supervised the decoration. This great work, the result of his efforts, is the most important secular neo-Gothic building in the city today.
The principal feature of the building is the 98-metre-high tower located in the centre of the façade. This is topped by an iron figure more than three metres high known as the Eiserner Rathausmann, and depicts a knight carrying a banner.
The Iron Knight of City Hall, the translation of the German Eiserner Rathausmann, is the work of Franz Gastell, having been cast by craftsman Alexander Nehr, and is considered one of the great symbols of the city.
The figures that you see in the arches around the perimeter are personalities from Austria's history.
The beauty of the main façade is indisputable, especially in spring and summer, when it is adorned with flowers, and during the Christmas period, when it is exquisitely illuminated.
The most spectacular areas of the building are the Arkadenhof, a courtyard of nearly 3000 square metres, and the Festsaal, a 71-metre-long, 20-metre-wide and almost 20-metre-high state room used for multitudinous events such as dances, receptions and concerts.
Opposite the main façade of the building visitors will find the beautiful gardens of the Rathauspark, which feature two fountains as well as a number of monuments dedicated to figures the likes of the composers Johann Strauss and Joseph Lanner. At certain times of the year these gardens hold well-attended events such as outdoor concerts and Christkindlmarkt, the popular Christmas market.
Visitors may be interested to know that the basement of this government building houses a restaurant called Wiener Rathauskeller. The uses of the building, then, extend beyond the purely political. As we have already mentioned, concerts are held inside, during the summer months a giant film screen is erected outside, and many other activities are programmed in order that the city's residents may also enjoy the building. Now it is your turn.
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