Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Vienna
Vienna (Wien), capital of the Republic of Austria, lies at the foot of the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), the northeasterly foothills of the Alps, on the banks of the Danube, which here emerges, up to 285m/310yds wide, into the Vienna basin and some 50km/30mi downstream enters Slovakia at Bratislava. Being thus situated at the intersection of the old traffic routes from the Baltic to the Adriatic and from the Alpine foreland to the Hungarian plain made Vienna the gateway for trade between the different provinces which meet here and the natural nucleus of the Habsburg empire with its far-ranging territories, extending from the Alps and the Bohemian Forest by way of the Danube valley to the Carpathians.
Vienna also has the status of a federal province of Austria (a "Bundesland") and, although the smallest in terms of area, it is the most densely populated and the most heavily industrialized and is thus - in spite of its peripheral location in present-day Austria - very much the metropolis and the political, economic, intellectual and cultural hub of the Republic. It is also the see of a Roman Catholic archbishop. After the Second World War UNO City grew up on the eastern edge of the city, where the international organization is housed.
In recent years Vienna has been the venue of many top-level international meetings and countless conferences and congresses, while continuing to attract hosts of visitors throughout the year with its great cultural and historic sights and its busy program of entertainments and events. One of the world's greatest tourist cities of unmistakably cosmopolitan atmosphere, it still retains a distinctive charm and a native flair of which - no less than of the notable elegance of Viennese women - every visitor is at once aware.
Tips for tourists
The following are a few tips about traveling in the city, shopping, the Viennese cafe, etc.
Otto Wagner's plans at the turn of the century provided for a comprehensive urban transport system (tramways). In recent years the most important lines have been replaced by underground lines retaining the Secession-style buildings of the stations at Stadtpark, Karlsplatz, Schönbrunn and Hietzing (which are under statutory protection as national monuments).
The famous Viennese horse-cabs (Fiaker) ply for hire during the summer months. There are cab ranks in Stephansplatz, Heldenplatz and Albertinaplatz. The fare varies according to the type of cab, route, time of day and number of horses; a firm price should be agreed with the driver before setting out.
The principal shopping streets in the central area (Bezirk I) are the Kärnter Strasse (between the Opera intersection and Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and Kohlmarkt), the Kohlmarkt (between the Graben and Michaelerplatz) and Rotenturmstrasse (between Stephansplatz and Franz-Josefs-Kai); and in Bezirk VI the Mariahilfer Strasse (between the Messepalast and the Westbahnhof). (Note: the "Bezirke" are the districts or wards into which the city is divided, each with its own number).
Viennese craft products, following old traditions of craftmanship, are valued for their beauty and quality. Particularly popular are both useful and decorative items of hand-painted Augarten porcelain, goldsmith's work, fine ceramic ware, enamel and wrought-iron, and leather goods of all kinds.
Collectors and art-lovers will find the antique shops of Vienna an inexhaustible source of treasure trove; and the city's numerous antiquarian and secondhand bookshops and art dealers offer a tempting range of valuable old books, prints, etchings and pictures. Art auctions are held in the state-run Dorotheum at Dorotheergasse 17 and other art galleries and at antique dealers.
The Naschmarkt is a traditional food market held on weekdays on the covered-over section of the River Wien between the Linke Wienzeile (Bezirk VI) and the Rechte Wienzeile (Bezirk IV).
The Viennese cafe is a famous and historic institution. The first cafe is said to have been established by Frans Georg Kolschitzky, a Pole who is supposed to have brought coffee captured from the Turks to Vienna in 1683 and was granted the right to sell coffee in the city in 1685. (His establishment was at Domgasse 6). The cafe soon developed into a regular feature of public and social life, providing newspapers and games as well as coffee. In the Biedermeier period in particular they developed into luxuriously appointed establishments, and later in the 19th C. the elegant cafes on the Ring were built. These now became the meeting-place of artists, writers, scholars and journalists; and although something of the glory departed with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy the Viennese cafe is still a popular meeting-place, with newspapers and magazines always available for the use of customers.
Since the Second World War the modern espresso cafe has also become popular in Vienna. This is usually a small establishment patronized by those who want a quick cup of coffee and perhaps a snack.
Places in the city offering particularly fine views include the Türmerstube in St Stephen's Cathedral, the Upper Belvedere, the Giant Wheel (Riesenrad) in the Prater, the Gloriette in Schönbrunn park, and the outlook terraces on Kahlenberg, Leopoldsberg and Höhenstrasse.
The oldest traces of human settlement in the Vienna basin date from the Neolithic period.
The Illyrian population of the Early Iron Age (from about 800 B.C.) was overlaid from about 400 B.C. by Celts coming from the west (Late Iron Age), and there was probably a Celtic stronghold on the Leopoldsberg.
About 50 A.D. the Romans built the fortified military camp of Vindobona (from the Celtic Vedunia, "a stream") on their Danube frontier. Its walls enclosed a rectangular area bounded on the west and north by the steeply scarped edge of the Tiefer Graben and the Salzgries, on the east by Rotgasse and Kramergasse and on the south by the Graben and Naglergasse. In the course of the first century A.D. a civilian town began to develop on the slopes of the Belvedere, a site occupied since Bronze Age times, lying at the intersection of the route through the valley of the River Wien with the route along the higher (and thus flood-free) west bank of the Danube (the main course of which roughly followed the line of the present Donaukanal). In 487 the Romans abandoned the Danube area.
In 792, according to tradition, Charlemagne founded St Peter's Church in the course of his campaign against the Avars. In 881 the Bavarians had their first clash at Wenia with the Hungarians pushing forward from the east. Vienna itself was then only a village huddled in the ruins of the Roman fort. During the Crusades, from 1096 onwards, it became involved in world trade and developed into an economic center, and by 1137 we find it referred to as a town. In 1156 Duke Henry II Jasomirgott moved his court from the Leopoldsberg to Vienna, which thus became the capital of the Babenberg territories in the Ostmark (Eastern March). In 1158 the Schottenstift was founded to provide accommodation for pilgrims.
Vienna now rose to prosperity through trade with the East which passed along the Danube and from 1200 also through Venice. By this time the town had reached the boundaries which remained those of the inner city until 1859. In 1237 the Emperor Frederick II, then locked in conflict with the last Babenberg duke, also called Frederick, granted Vienna the status of Reichsunmittelbarkeit (direct subordination to the Emperor). After his death the duchy was ruled from 1251 to 1276 by King Ottokar II of Bohemia, who did much to promote the development of Vienna.
The ideas of the humanists and the Renaissance gave rise in Vienna, as elsewhere, to a great flowering of intellectual and artistic life. From September 22 to October 15 1529, under the leadership of Count Niklas Salm, the town held out stoutly against a siege by the Turks. In 1551 the first Jesuits arrived in Vienna. From 1612 it was the permanent residence of the Imperial Court.
The Reformation was combated by Melchior Khlesl (Bishop from 1598) and completely suppressed by Ferdinand during the Thirty Years' War, when Vienna had to suffer attacks by Bohemian, Hungarian and Swedish forces. Vienna
The period of the Counter-Reformation saw the building of many churches in Early Baroque style; between 1620 and 1630 alone eight monasteries were founded in Vienna.
From July 14 to September 12 1683 a force of 200,000 Turks under the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa laid siege to the town, which was heroically defended by 11,000 troops and 5,000 members of the citizen militia under the leadership of Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg. The siege was finally raised by a relieving army of 75,000 men (Imperials, Saxons, Franconians, Bavarians, Swabians and 13,000 Poles) under the leadership of Duke Francis of Lorraine (although nominally commanded by King John Sobieski of Poland), advancing from the Kahlenberg.
After the removal of the Turkish danger Vienna rapidly developed into a brilliant Baroque city, on a scale matching its importance as capital of the Empire. By about 1700 the population had risen to over 100,000. In 1686 the first professional firemen were appointed; in 1688 two thousand street lamps were erected. In order to protect the suburban areas with their numerous noble palaces against attack by the rebellious Hungarians the Linienwall was constructed by the citizens under the direction of Prince Eugene - a rampart which served as a toll barrier until 1893. Art and learning flourished under artistic patronage. In 1722 the bishopric was raised to the status of archbishopric.
During the reigns of Maria Theresa (1740-80) and Joseph II (1780-90) the reform and centralization of the Imperial administration benefited the capital, though it was deprived of its remaining powers of self-government in 1783. The Viennese love of music and the theater, however, tied great composers such as Gluck, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven firmly to the capital.
In 1806, during the reign of Francis I, Vienna ceased to be capital of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1805 and again in 1809 it was briefly occupied by the French. During the Congress of Vienna (1814- 15) and the following decades Metternich made it one of the focal points of European politics and of the reaction against liberal and nationalist aspirations. Music and painting enjoyed a further flowering in the Biedermeier period (roughly 1815-48).
The Danube Shipping Company was founded in 1831; the first railroad line from Vienna (the Nordbahn) was built in 1837. Metternich's rule and the tight control exercized by his police were swept away by the Revolution of March 1848.
During the long reign of the Emperor Francis Joseph (1848-1916) Vienna - which recovered its powers of self-government in 1849 - lived through the age of developing technology. In 1850 the suburban districts as far as the Linienwall were incorporated into the city. The vigorous building activity which now followed gave Vienna a handsome new ring road on the line of the old fortifications (pulled down between 1858-68), but also led to a rapid growth of the city without any unified plan. The result was to create very much the Vienna which we see today.
After the First World War Vienna, no longer the nucleus of an empire of 12 different nationalities, became the capital (and a "Land" from 1920) of a small state confined to the German-speaking Alpine and Danube regions.
It faced further difficulties during the Nazi period (1938-45), suffering damage by air attack during the Second World War, and during the post-war occupation by the four victorious Allied powers, but these problems were overcome by the vigor and resolution of the people of the city, particularly after the signing of the Staatsvertrag and the withdrawal of the occupying forces in 1955.
Vienna is now the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the UNESCO International Music Complex.
The population and intellectual life of Vienna
The population, the basic element in which was the Bavarian settlement from the Carolingian period onwards (note the place-names ending in -ing, such as Grinzing and Ottakring), has shown a powerful capacity to absorb other population groups. Gifted individuals were regularly attracted to Vienna from the Alpine territories and from Bohemia; and from an early period there was a steady influx from Franconia and Swabia. The Slav, Dutch and Italian incomers who were drawn to Vienna by the Babenberg and Habsburg rulers contributed much to the German cultural sphere. From their manifold contacts with other peoples the citizens of Vienna developed a lively feeling for form and beauty, a natural openness of disposition and curiosity, a cheerful acceptance of life which enabled them to face difficulties with grace and equanimity. The Viennese enjoyment of life encompasses both intellectual and physical pleasures at the same time. Viennese wit is sharp but is not aimed at destruction. The 19th C. playwright Nestroy always saw through the externals of comedy to the serious core of things - a Viennese characteristic which lends a touch of melancholy to so many Viennese creations, in music and in poetry as in other fields. The close association between the city and its natural setting is reflected in the down-to-earth naturalness of many aspects of Viennese life. The proverbial Viennese charm turns out on the whole to be somewhat superficial: when occasion arises the local dialect can put things very bluntly, and the people are not averse to a good grumble from time to time.
Vienna's place in German literature is ensured by such figures as Walther von der Vogelweide, the 17th C. preacher Abraham a Sancta Clara and the 19th C. dramatists Ferdinand Raimund, Johann Nestroy and Franz Grillparzer. In the field of education it came to the fore at a very early date, and it has preserved its attraction for the peoples of southeastern Europe down to the present day. The city has a number of universities and technical colleges, and research is catered for by the Academy of Sciences and various important libraries and archives. The arts are securely rooted in the gifts and the interest of the population, and fostered by the government and a variety of associations, successors to the princes and nobles who were the patrons of the arts in earlier centuries. Visitors will find a rich fund of interest and enjoyment in the theaters and concerts, the museums and exhibitions of Vienna.
Features of the city
With a total area of 404 sq.km/156 sq. mi, the city is divided into 23 Bezirke (districts or wards) numbered I-XXIII. Its layout reflects its long historical development, with some streets still following the pattern of the Roman town.
The central area (Bezirk I: inner city) corresponds mainly to the ducal town of the Middle Ages, cramped within its defensive walls, and the effect of this construction can still be seen in the height of the buildings and the depth of the cellars of Vienna. Of the medieval structure of the town, however, little is left. There are a few Gothic churches, especially St Stephen's Cathedral, which rears up magnificently in the old town. The pattern of the inner city is set by its fine Baroque buildings, in particular the Imperial residence, the Hofburg, which bounds the old town on the west, and numerous palaces of the nobility. Among predominantly Baroque streets and squares are the Josefsplatz, Dr-Ignaz-Seipel-Platz, Bankgasse and a number of streets opening off the eastern side of Kärnter Strasse. Neo-Classical and Biedermeier buildings are found here and there, particularly in the Hoher Markt and Seilerstätte. To the north and south of the central area, extending outward to the Ring, are blocks of dwellings of no great architectural merit dating from the time when the area occupied by the former fortifications was developed into the Ring (see below).
One peculiarity of Vienna, particularly in the inner city, is the large number of passages or lanes (Durchhäuser) running through a whole block from one street to another. Some of these alleys are throbbing with life; others afford glimpses of quiet old houses and courtyards.
The central area is surrounded by the monumental buildings and gardens of the Ring road, the area developed between 1859 and 1888 on the site of the old fortifications and surrounding glacis which linked up the heart of the medieval town with the older suburbs.
Beyond the Ring and the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) to the northeast extends a circuit of inner suburban districts (Bezirke II-IX). In this area many Baroque summer palaces of the nobility were built after the removal of the Turkish threat in 1683, but the pattern of these districts is now largely set by middle-class houses of the Biedermeier period. In the Alsegrund district (Bezirk IX) stands a large complex of modern buildings, the General Hospital.
These districts are circled, on the north, west and south, at a distance of 1.5-2km/1-1.25mi from the Ring, by the broad Gürtelstrasse with its gardens and open spaces, an outer ring road laid out from 1893 onwards on the line of the old Linienwall.
Around the Gürtelstrasse lie the outer suburban districts, which reach up through the valleys to the west and northwest (Bezirke XIII-XIX) to the wooded hills of the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), with the Höhenstrasse to the Kahlenberg. Within these districts can still be found the remains of old villages and numbers of country houses of the Biedermeier period and late 19th C. The palace of Schönbrunn (Bezirk XIII), Maria Theresa's country residence, was completely engulfed
by the advancing tide of houses in the 19th C. Bezirk XI also preserves something of a country atmosphere; but Bezirk X, extending towards the Wiener Berg on the southern side of the city, is a predominantly industrial area developed from the middle of the last century. One quite recent development, dating only from the 1970s, is the Kurzentrum (health or treatment complex) of Wien- Oberlaa on the Laaer Berg.
The Danube now flows through the central area of Vienna only in the form of the Danube canal (Donaukanal). The main river was embanked between 1868 and 1877 and flanked on the east by a flood zone 500m/550yds wide. The Danube proper is spanned by two railroad bridges (the Nordbahnbrücke and the Stadtlauer Ostbahnbrücke), four road bridges (the Nordbrücke; the Florisdorfer Brücke, rebuilt 1977-78; the Reichsbrücke, collapsed 1976, rebuilt 1980; and the Praterbrücke), as well as two pedestrian bridges. There are also two ferries.
Below the Reichsbrücke the river is flanked by wide expanses of meadowland, laid out as a park in the Prater but still more or less in their natural state in the Lobau.
Between the Alte Donau (Old Danube), an abandoned arm of the Danube, and the main river, lies the Donaupark, with the Donauturm (Danube Tower) and the modern complex of UNO-City.
To the east of the Danube lie the industrial suburb of Floridsdorf (Bezirk XXI, with some residential areas), which grew up from the 19th C. onwards, incorporating a number of older villages, and Donaustadt (Bezirk XXII), reaching eastward to the Marchfeld.
Spanish Riding School
Sights South of the Ring
Northern Outer Districts