The Vienna Town Hall is one of the monumental buildings of the Wiener Ringstraße, one of the finest boulevards of Europe. You will find other important buildings there, for example, the Vienna State Opera, the Burgtheater, Museums, the Parliament, and the University. In the second half of the 19th century the number of inhabitants of Vienna rose very quickly. Therefore, in 1868 the decision was taken to build a new Town Hall. 64 architects from Austria and all over Europe responded to the invitation of tenders. The decision of the jury favoured Project XIV which has been submitted by Friedrich Schmidt - a German who has chosen Vienna as his domicile - under the motto "Saxa loquuntur" ("The stones will speak"). In 1873 the foundation stone was laid for the new Vienna Town Hall on the former parade and exercise ground on the Josefstädter Glacis which has been converted to building land. When the keystone was placed in 1883 by Emperor Francis Joseph a commemorative capsule was put into a wall niche in the Grand Festival Hall.
There are 2 Grand Staircases which lead to the Grand Festival Hall. The entrance is flanked by larger than lifesize marbled busts of Mayor Cajetan Felder and the architect of the Town Hall, Friedrich Schmidt. The Festival Hall is 71 meters long, 20 meters wide, and 17 meters high. The hall is enclosed by a loggia and windows on one side, and by arcades on the other side. From both sides daylight can enter the Festival Hall. The ceiling of the hall is decoreated with a kind of intricate ribbed barrel vault. The two orchestra niches are decorated with reliefs of great Austrian musicians (Mozart, Haydn, Gluck, Schubert). There are also statues of important historical figures, for example, Niklas Count Salm and Wolfgang Treu, who help to defend the Turks in 1529, and Count Starhemberg, who was responsible for organising the defense of Vienna against the Turks in 1683.
In 1999 the Grand Festival Hall has been renovated. The decision was taken to follow the plans of Friedrich Schmidt as close as possible. The wooden floor has been rebuilt, the walls have been cleaned, and all windows which have been damaged during World War II have been reconstructed according to old photos.
The renovated Grand Festival Hall will be a magnificent venue for the Vienna Dance Concourse.