Obwalden's cantonal administration is housed in Sarnen town hall (Ger: Rathaus), a building that dominates the village's central square. It has been the seat of the Obwalden government for almost 600 years.
The first building stood on this site as early as 1418: this fell victim to a fire on 14 August 1468. It was replaced by a new town hall in the form of a tower-like three-storey stone edifice. In time, this was replaced by a new building: erected between 1729 and 1731, it is the one that still stands today. It was renovated between 1977 and 1978 and largely restored to its original state. Following the disastrous flooding in August 2005, a further renovation was necessary, during which modernisation took place; this was completed in 2007.
The town hall has always been at the centre of political life in Canton Obwalden. In the early days (before 1646), it was even where the cantonal parliament met. It remains the seat of the highest cantonal authorities, the canton's governing council and the cantonal council. The past has seen the courts sit in the town hall and the valuable inventory of the cantonal archives kept there; they are now housed in a dedicated separate building.