Vienna Things to Do Tips by tiabunna
Vienna Things to Do: 3,535 reviews and 7,402 photos
The view through the steelwork
Fun fairs aren’t usually “my thing” at all, but I was prepared to make an exception for the “Riesenrad” ferris wheel at the permanent Viennese “Prater” fun fair. Why? Well, because it is such a historic device, having commenced operations in 1897, when it was by far the world’s largest (65M) – now it’s the world’s oldest; because over the years it become so much a symbol of Vienna; and because….well, the ‘kid’ in me came out and I just wanted to try it!
Yes, I know that many people feel it is an enormous tourist trap – and if you purchase the photos taken as you enter, you’re succumbing to that, but the easiest thing is to not bother even checking them as you leave: nobody says you must buy, after all! As you enter, you will pass through a small ‘museum’ with items such as dioramas of Vienna, housed in old cars from the wheel: many years ago, half the original cars were removed. It isn’t a world-shaking museum, but worth a few minutes of your time.
And did the Riesenrad meet my expectations? It did indeed, it was not only a buzz, but being slow-moving it also provided a good vantage point for some great photos. I’d give it the thumbs up as a “to do”.
Address: The Giant Ferris Wheel and recreation-park
Directions: Take the metro on line U1 to Praterstern. Leave the station with your back to the city and go up the street, then turn right – you’ll see it ahead of you.
Strictly speaking, this 14th century church is part of the Hofburg complex. Originally Gothic, it was converted to Baroque then rebuilt as Gothic – now I’d describe it as Gothic with Baroque touches! Some great chandeliers and a pipe organ I’d love to hear playing (main, second photos). Actually, it seems that, apart from church services, there are regular concerts.
Long before the days or organ donation, it was apparently the fashion with various European royal families to bury various pieces of the 'Dear Departed' in different places. And so it was with the Habsburgs, whose hearts were buried in the Augustinerkirche, though there are some tombs here (the main funeral crypt was in the Kapuzinerkirche at the Neuer Markt ). (3rd photo)
Address: Not surprisingly, in the Augustinerstrasse
Directions: Down the side of the Hofburg, to the left from Michaelerplatz
Tourist-free Hofburg entry
This was the main palace complex of the Habsburgs for over six hundred years – with endless new additions as each new Emperor took office. Not hard to imagine that it grew substantially over that period!
Now that Austria is a Republic, the buildings have found other uses. Some, such as the Kaiserappartements, where Emperor Franz Josef 1 and Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) lived, are furnished as original and are open for public inspection. Another part houses the offices of the President of Austria. Then there are museums and galleries, not to mention the stables for the famous Spanish horses.
The main photo shows the façade of the building complex, as seen from Michaelerplatz. If it looks somewhat empty, that’s because the crowds were being kept back by a very substantial police presence during the visit of an “eminent overseas statesperson” . Eventually a convoy of black limousines appeared and the serious business of tourism resumed! Our time limit precluded poking around the various buildings in the Hofburg complex – but you could spend quite some time here if you wished!
Main photo: An unusually quiet Michaelerplatz, outside the Hofburg
Second photo:Departing dignitary’s convoy.
Third photo:The crowds return to Michaelerplatz (panorama).
Fourth photo:The Spanish horses in their stables.
Address: The winter palace of the emperor
Directions: Spreading through quite a bit of Central Vienna !
Pallas Athena at the Austrian Parliament
As you wander around the Ringstrasse from the Kunsthistorisches Museum to the Rathaus, you’ll pass the Austrian Parliament building. The columned façade is very much “Ancient Greece meets Baroque” and the overall effect is very impressive (second photo). I’m sure there is a substantial security presence somewhere, but from outside it certainly was not obvious – unlike the French Parliament which has what seem to be permanent mesh barricades!
Most of all, while you are here, you’re certain to be struck by the superb statue of Pallas Athenas, the Greek Goddess of Heroic Endeavour. When we visited, it seemed the gilding on her helmet and accoutrements really gleamed (main photo). This is listed in our guidebook as a fountain, but there wasn’t any watery stuff splashing around when we visited – great statue though!
Address: the buildings of the famous boulevard
Directions: Between the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Rathaus.
Quite a step in a century!
I’m a sucker for technology museums so I had to squeeze in a visit to Vienna’s, before our stay was finished. It was worthwhile. I’m glad to say that, if you have any technical interests, something here is sure to satisfy most tastes. The exhibits broadly span the period from the mid-1800s to the present, as illustrated by the main photo.
The majority of visitors while I was there were school groups, so that may explain why scientific instruments and working models of scientific demonstrations were nearest the door. One VT tip does not provide enough photo space for the range of items, but in close proximity there was machinery from heavy industry such as steel foundries near one of Sissi’s personal railway carriages (she had two).
Further on, two students were learning the intricacies of electricity reticulation (photo 2). Toward the top the displays became ever more diverse. Not far from a display showing what makes up a grand piano (photo 3) was the bicycle display, with the earlier models on the top shelf looking as if they derived from the piano factory (photo 4).
Of course, I’m always diverted towards the motoring section, and here I found an 1897 Stift (before they merged with Graf) (photo 5), claimed to have been the world’s first front wheel drive motor car. It’s a claim I can believe (look at the universal joints in the front axles), but it clearly had some difficulties, given that the technology was not more widely adopted for many years.
Open Monday to Friday 0900-1800, weekends 1000-1800. Closed various public holidays. Discounts on entry price for children, seniors, family groups.
Address: Mariahilfer Straße 212, 1140 Vienna
Directions: Take the U4 Metro to Schonbrunn, turn left at the city end of the platform and head through the park to the Museum (also bus options or Metro U3 to Johnstrasse)
The musical trio
Behind the cathedral, we found a group of sculptures, this time a trio of musical ladies. There also is a plaque dedicated to Antonio Vivaldi. No doubt the musicians are meant to be playing the “Four Seasons”: Vivaldi was a priest (known, because of his hair colour as "The Red Priest"), so maybe that suggests some connection with the Votivkirche. Unfortunately, although the statue was enjoyable, I’ve been unable to find out more about it – there was no other signage!
Address: the buildings of the famous boulevard
Directions: Immediately behind the Votivkirche
Palais Ferstel ceiling
We were taken by the style of this impressive building which also houses the Café Central, one of Vienna’s most famous restaurants.
Rather than the gastronomic delights of the Café Central, we enjoyed instead the architectural delights of the grand foyer of the Palais Ferstel and the ornate shopping arcade. Upstairs (we didn’t go there) are meeting and convention rooms. Originally this was considered the most “up-to-date” building in Vienna, when designed and built in the 1850s by the architect Heinrich Von Ferstel (who also designed the Votivkirche). Apparently WW2 left it severely damaged, but it now has been completely restored.
Directions: You’ll find it across from the Palais Daun-Kinsky.
Palais Kinsky interior
Without the guidance of Michael (Globetrott), I’d doubtless have missed the baroque delight of the Kinsky Palace: most visitors do! If you’d like to see some brilliant baroque, without crowds, and totally free, this definitely is the place to go. I thought about making this tip “off the beaten path”, but it’s nearly in the middle of Vienna and people pass it constantly!
Built in 1713-1719 for Philipp Laurenz, who was Count Daun, the Palace gained its more common name from Rosa, Countess of Kinsky, who became owner in 1784. It stayed in the Kinsky family for some 200 years, but now houses meeting and convention rooms and an antique broker’s business, which seems to ensure the (very ornate) door remains unlocked – fortunately for those of us visiting!
Step inside and be knocked over by the ornate staircase to the second floor (third floor to some), the statues, the stucco, and most of all the superb painted ceiling. You can take your time, because probably you’ll be the only visitor there! But don’t miss it.
Address: Freyung Square, Freyung 4. 1010 Vienna.
The Votivkirche and its current scaffolding
Continuing around the Ringstrasse just a little further from the Rathaus, you’ll find another impressive Gothic building. It looks the part of something from the 1300s, with its gargoyles, flying buttresses, arches, stained glass windows and all – but it’s actually from the late 1800s and was designed by the same Heinrich Von Ferstel who designed the Palais Ferstel (separate tip).
Going by the number of assassinations attempts, successful and unsuccessful, over the years, it seems that being a member of Habsburg royalty was a risky business! The failure of an attempted assassination of Franz Josef 1 in 1853 led to the construction of this superb cathedral, as an act of thanksgiving.
We visited on a rainy weekend day and the interior appeared to be closed for maintenance – certainly cleaning and maintenance was very much in evidence, going by the scaffolding and by the contrast in cleaned/uncleaned sections of stonework (as may be seen in the photos). As a personal opinion, the exterior appealed to me more than St Stephan’s, mainly because of the uniform styling – though my guidebook suggests the interior is vast and empty, so that may have been a disappointment.
Address: the buildings of the famous boulevard
Directions: Continuing from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, past the Rathaus, and there it is!
Wedding photos under the arches
We first saw the Rathaus from the city area, bright against a blue sky. It looked impressive, and the sight confirmed that it deserved to be on our list of things to do. Unfortunately, when we visited a few days later, the weather was bleak with light drizzle, and the light dull and flat.
Believe it or not, the Gothic-styled Rathaus is the Viennese version of the City Hall! Built in the late 1800s, the interior apparently is equally impressive, but we visited on a weekend when it was closed – on weekdays it is not only open, but there are guided tours (in German only).
Part of the reason I wished to visit was to try re-creating a photo from the film The Third Man: I did that (see “General” tips), but i also soon found that this is just a great photographic venue! Obviously, the photographic team further down under the arches and taking just THE shot of a bridal couple knew that already. Across the way was the Hofburg Theatre. Go along with your cameras and find out for yourselves!
Main photo: Wedding photos under the arches
Second photo: Rathaus gleaming on a sunny day
Third photo: Toward the Votive Church
Fourth photo: Toward the Hofburg Theatre
Fifth photo: Profile from the Ringstrasse.
Directions: Head around the Ringstrasse from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, past the Parliament, and you'll see the Rathaus across the Rathaus Park - it's over 100M high, so it's hard to miss!
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