Seat of local government

The Rathaus in Hamburg, Germany, completed in 1897
New York City Hall, the oldest continuous seat of local government in the United States, completed in 1812[1]
Executive Building (Old City Hall) in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
16th-century town hall in Fordwich, Kent, England, closely resembling a market hall in its design
13th-century Old Town Hall in Wrocław, Poland
Town hall of Recife, Brazil
Town hall, police, and fire station in South Palm Beach, Florida, United States
Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel Banquet takes place on 10 December each year.
Architecturally renowned Toronto City Hall

In local government, a city hall, town hall, civic centre, (in the UK or Australia) a guildhall, a Rathaus (German), or (more rarely) a municipal building, is the chief administrative building of a city,[2] town, or other municipality. It usually houses the city or town council, its associated departments, and their employees. It also usually functions as the base of the mayor of a city, town, borough, or county/shire.

By convention, until the mid 19th-century, a single large open chamber (or 'hall') formed an integral part of the building housing the council. The hall may be used for council meetings and other significant events. This large chamber, the "town hall" (and its later variant "city hall") has become synonymous with the whole building, and with the administrative body housed in it. The terms "council chambers", "municipal building" or variants may be used locally in preference to "town hall" if no such large hall is present within the building.

The local government may endeavor to use the town hall building to promote and enhance the quality of life of the community. In many cases, "town halls" serve not only as buildings for government functions, but also have facilities for various civic and cultural activities. These may include art shows, stage performances, exhibits and festivals. Modern town halls or "civic centres" are often designed with a great variety and flexibility of purpose in mind.

As symbols of local government, city and town halls have distinctive architecture, and the buildings may have great historical significance – for example the Guildhall, London. City hall buildings may also serve as cultural icons that symbolize their cities.


The term "town hall" may be a general one, often applied without regard to whether the building serves or served a town or a city. This is generally the case in the United Kingdom (with examples such as Manchester and Liverpool Town Halls in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool respectively), Australia (with Sydney Town Hall in the city of Sydney), New Zealand, Hong Kong, and many other Commonwealth countries.

English-speakers in some regions use the term "city hall" to designate the council offices of a municipality of city status. This is the case in North America, where a distinction is made between city halls and town halls; and is also the case with Brisbane City Hall in Australia.

The Oxford English Dictionary sums up the generic terms:

  • town hall: "A large hall used for the transaction of the public business of a town, the holding of a court of justice, assemblies, entertainments, etc.; the great hall of the town-house or municipal building; now very commonly applied to the whole building"[3]
  • city hall: "chiefly N. Amer., the chief municipal offices of a city; hence, the municipal officers collectively"[4]

County Council administrations in parts of England and Wales generally operate from a base in a building called, by analogy, a "County Hall" or "Shire Hall". Conversely, cities that have subdivisions with their own councils may have borough halls. In Scotland, local government in larger cities operates from the "City Chambers", otherwise the "Town House".[5]

Elsewhere in English-speaking countries, other names are occasionally used. In London, the official headquarters of administration of the City of London retains its Anglo-Saxon name, the Guildhall, signifying a place where taxes were paid. In a small number of English cities (including Birmingham, Coventry and Nottingham) the preferred term is "Council House": this was also the case in Bristol until 2012, when the building was renamed "City Hall". In Birmingham, there is a distinction between the Council House, the seat of local government, and the Town Hall, a concert and meeting venue which pre-dates it. In the City of Sheffield, the distinction is between the Town Hall, the seat of local government, and the City Hall, a concert and ballroom venue.

Other Languages
eesti: Vallamaja
Ελληνικά: Δημαρχείο
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Gradska vijećnica
svenska: Kommunhus
West-Vlams: Gemêentuus