The red building
The Stadthuys (pronounced stad-haus), stately and conspicuous with its Indian red exterior, has been a landmark on Melaka’s cityscape since the mid-17th century.
Once a powerful seat of colonialism, Melaka’s former Town Hall is one of the oldest surviving Dutch buildings in Southeast Asia. Terraced over four levels of Saint Paul’s Hill, this fine example of colonial architecture features typical Dutch thick brick walls, exposed beams, large shuttered windows and hefty wood and iron doors with intriguing double openings.
Interestingly, much of the building materials were shipped from Europe and used as ballast in the large trading ships of the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company). The Stadthuys’ history as an administrative centre continued from its Dutch beginnings though British colonial rule and post-independence Malaysia until 1979 when it was later converted to a History and Ethnography Museum. During conservation works, an underground drainage system and wells from the Portuguese era were discovered, along with secret rooms and passageways.
Today several museums are within the complex, and though they are rather dry are worth a look at least for the architecture. Don’t forget to look up—one gallery has a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling. On display are artefacts, dioramas and paintings covering Melaka’s history from its early beginnings. Join the free guided tour on Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 or 14:30 to breathe some life into the walls.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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