Liberec Town Hall
The Liberec town hall is an impressive structure of five floors and three towers that dominates the main square and is the most recognizable landmark of the central city. Built around 1890 to replace the older town hall that had stood on the site since 1602, the new town hall was designed in the neo-renaissance style by Viennese architect Franz Neumann.
Neo renaissance arches and turrets
Typically for a building in the neo-renaissance style the windows and balcony arcades are all of arched masonry and the roofline and towers are adorned with dozens of ornate turrets. The steep spires of the three towers are capped with copper, which has turned spearmint green in the weather, and in the warmer months, the lower balconies and ledges are festooned with brightly flowering planter boxes.
A guided visit of the town hall interior can be arranged through the tourist information office on the main square at nám. Dr. E. Beneše 1 and begins under the arched ceilings and elaborate stained glass windows of the town hall foyer. From there it continues along staircases and corridors lined with more stained glass windows, busts of various dignitaries and some interesting studies for alternative designs of the town hall. Finally, with its remarkable chandelier and woodwork imported from Vienna, the upstairs ceremonial hall is the highlight of the guided visit.
Emperors, presidents and at least one traitor
That part of the tour takes around 15 minutes and would ordinarily continue on to the balconies, but in addition to the council chambers, the town hall hosts the most important of events in Liberec. Weddings, state visits and other ceremonies take place in the town hall and historic figures including emperor Franz Josef, Presidents Edvard Beneš and Václav Havel, and Hitler's henchman Konrad Henlein have all chosen the balcony overlooking the square as the best place to address the public at important moments.
Call ahead for the tour
I've tried on three different visits to Liberec to tour the town hall, but because of different events and closures, I managed to get in only once, and even then not to the balcony which was closed for university graduation ceremonies. If you're really keen to do the full tour of the town hall, it would be worth calling ahead to arrange it and make sure it will be possible sometime within your visit.
Monument to the victims of 1968
Back outside there's one more interesting thing not to miss about the town hall. Being close to the Polish border, Liberec was one of the first places invaded by Warsaw Pact troops in the August 1968 crushing of the so-called 'Prague Spring'. Former president Václav Havel was there at the time and in his book 'Disturbing the Peace' he recounts: “I saw Soviet tanks smash down arcades on the main square and bury several people in the rubble. I saw a tank commander start shooting wildly into the crowd.”
The bronze plaque shaped as a tank track on the front facade of the town hall is an eloquent memorial to nine victims of that invasion. Their names are raised on the top half of the monument and indented in reverse into the lower half of the bronze tank track.
Liberec Tourist Information Office
nám. Dr. E. Beneše 1
Tel. 485 101709