Due to its plain facade, many people believe that the Alte Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is newer than the ornately decorated Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall), when in fact it is over 400 years older.
The Alte Rathaus covers the eastern end of Marienplatz and has quite an eventful history. Its first mention in town records goes back to the year 1310.
After being destroyed by lightning in 1460, it was soon rebuilt again by Jörg von Halsbach, the master builder behind Munich’s Frauenkirche.
Modified several times to suit the fashions of each era, the building was renovated by architect Arnold Zenetti between 1861 and 1864 in Neo-Gothic style. And when restoration began after the hall sustained heavy bomb damage in 1944, the preservationists also based their work on the original Gothic design. The building officially became the Alte Rathaus when the city’s administration moved into the Neue Rathaus in 1874.
During its distinguished past, the hall has hosted groups like the state parliament (17th century) and the national assembly (19th century). For many years, its cellars were used as the state jail. These days, the Alte Rathaus is used to hold celebrations, memorials and awards ceremonies.
Four floors of its Gothic tower have been home to Munich Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) since 1983, housing a collection of historic toys lovingly compiled by the artist Ivan Steiger.