They must have been the pride of each community: Dutch town halls are in many cases well maintained architectural jewels, and no expense seems to have been spared on decorating them. In a country that takes modesty as a cardinal value, they are among the very few imposing public buildings to be discovered.
After the year 1000, Western Europe went through a period of economic growth and increased political stability. A result of this evolution was the development of towns, which became in many cases small city-states, with their own laws, currencies and independent local institutions. In the Netherlands, this trend is visible especially in the 13th century. At that time, most Dutch towns gained the right to govern themselves without interference from the local aristocracy, marking the end of the feudal order.
The town halls, sieges of the local governments, are the most visible symbol of this local autonomy and prosperity. Built in a great variety of styles, they provide visitors an opportunity to study all artistic and architectural trends from the last 6-700 years. In many cases, at least a few halls are also open for visits. Here are a few examples:
The town hall in Gouda, built by Jan III Keldermans between 1448 and 1459
The Harlingen town hall (1730)
The Franeker City Hall, a Renaissance monument from 1591-1594
The Town Hall of Middelburg, a late-Gothic monument built between 1452 and 1520. The project was supervised by several generations of architects belonging to the Keldermans family from Mechelen (Belgium).
The old town hall of Schiedam (17th century).
The town hall of Sneek. The initial building was from around 1480, but the current aspect dates from the 18th century
The Maastricht town hall (1659-1684), a classical style monument designed by Pieter Post
The Woerden town hall, a Renaissance monument from 1501-1538. It functions nowadays as a city museum.
Interior of the Woerden town hall
The Groningen City Hall (1775-1810), a classicist building designed by Jacob Otten Husly
The Old City Hall in The Hague (1564)
The town hall in Bergen op Zoom (started in 1398)
A detail from the facade of the Alkmaar town hall (1509-1520)
Graft Raadhuis (1613)
One of the oldest civil monuments in the country, the Kampen town hall (middle of the 14th century)
The Roermond town hall (1700)
The Dordrecht town hall, a 14th century building with a neoclassic facade added in 1635-1643