Vienna Things to Do Tips by breughel Top 5 Page for this destination
Vienna Things to Do: 3,321 reviews and 6,547 photos
Statue of Josef II
I fully agree with Nicolaitan, a fine connoisseur of art and history, that the statue of Emperor Josef II can be considered as a plagiarism of the original Marcus Aurelian equestrian statue exposed inside the Capitoline Museums with a recent copy exposed on the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome.
You can compare hereafter my photos of the original Marcus Aurelian equestrian statue and that of Josef II (1741 - 1790), the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresia, by Franz Anton Zauner inaugurated in 1807.
Actually this was the first statue from an Austrian Habsburg emperor standing on a public square and the people of Vienna started to grumble that "so much money had been spend and the Kaiser had to sit on a horse without saddle or stirrup!" The fact is that at the time of Marcul Aurelius (121 - 180 AD) Romans ignored the stirrup.
Josefsplatz - National Library.
Let's forget the statue of Josef II, an imitation of a Roman statue, and look at the various buildings showing a remarkable homogeneity making the Josefsplatz the most architectural homogeneous square of Vienna. Mostly thanks to the imperial court architect Nikolaus von Pacassi around 1760.
The main building is the "Österreichische Nationalbibliothek", National Library, from architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach in 1723 and continued by his son Joseph Emanuel.
Spectacular are the decors at the top of the façades. The sculptures are from Lorenzo Mattielli: a quadriga ridden by Athena, a gilded globe supporter by the usual Atlas on the left side and another globe supported by Gaia, the earth goddess, less usual, plus other statues representing sciences.
Opposite the National Library one finds the classic Palace Pallavicini and the renaissance façade Palace Palffy. The building on the right has entrance to the Spanish riding school on the days with performances by the Lippizans. See my review Spanische Hofreitschule - Practical Info.
Founded by the Habsburgs, the library was originally called the "Hof-Bibliothek", Imperial Library. The library complex includes four museums of which the "Prunksaal" State Hall (1723), Papyrus Museum, Globe Museum, Esperanto Museum, as well as multiple special collections and archives. The entrance prices are rather high: 7 € for the Prunksaal but worthwhile for the décor; 5 € for the Globe museum.
From neo-Greek to neo-Gothic.
Roughly I have two walking itineraries: the inner city with the small streets extending in a radius of about 1 Km around the Stephansplatz. Here I just walk and look around with no fixed destination and find on each of my visits some charming streets or squares. Last time that was the old University Alte Universität district around the Jesuitenkirche and the remarkable architecture of the area around the Judenplatz.
The other itinerary is that of the monumental buildings on the different parts of the Ringstrasse.
The architecture is all neo-something: Neo-gothic with the Votivkirche and Rathaus, a combination of Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque elements at the Burgtheater, the neo-Greek style: Parliament.
The top of the monumental buildings is at the Burgring with the two museums KHM and NHM at the Maria-Theresia platz and the Neue Burg.
I like to end this walking at the Opera.
The Ankeruhr at the Hoher Markt.
By itself the Hoher Markt is not the nicest square of Vienna but it has two remarkable monuments: the Ankeruhr and the fountain "Vermählungsbrunnen".
The Ankeruhr, fully restored in 2005, is the attraction of the Hoher Markt. And it is a really surprising realization of the Art Nouveau - Jugendstil period.
The word "Anker", meaning anchor in German, is that of the insurance company (presently Helvetia) that bought at the end of the 19th c. parcels of this corner of the Hoher Markt to make it the "Ankerhof" seat of the company.
The bridge 7.5 m wide joining two buildings was decorated between 1911 and 1917 with a clock ( 4 m wide) built after the plans of the painter Franz von Matsch. The clock itself is adorned with mosaic ornaments. In the course of 12 hours, twelve figures or pairs of figures from the history of Vienna move across the bridge. Every day at noon, all figures parade accompanied by music from the various eras. This is the moment for the tourists to be on the Hoher Markt.
Special is the fact that minutes and hours move on a horizontal scale.
Before WW II, when the clock was damaged, the music was played by an organ with 1000 pipes (ref. doc. from Helvetia C°). Now the music is that from a record made in a Vienna church in 1978.
The Wedding fountain at the Hoher Markt.
The Wedding Fountain - Vermählungsbrunnen on the Hoher Markt close to the Ankeruhr is dedicated to the marriage of Jesus parents, Mary and Joseph. The statues of Mary, Joseph and the high priest stand on a pedestal in the middle; at the projections of the pedestal stand four angels and Corinthian columns supporting a baldachin.
Inaugurated in 1732 and built by Emanuel Fischer von Erlach the monument consists mainly of white marble figures by the Venetian sculptor Antonio Corradini and bronze. Before, between 1706 and 1725, there was a sculpture made of wood of Mary's marriage.
In 1732 the fountain was connected by a pipe to the river Alserbach. Damaged by bombing in 1944, the fountain has been restored in the years 1950 to 1955.
The magnificent mansions and palaces around the square were also destroyed in World War II. What was once a beautiful square in the K & K-time of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is now not so interesting except the Ankeruhr.
Graben - Grabenhof
The Graben and surrounding streets are essentially visited for shopping; you find here what you find in any city centre from the luxury brands to the popular ones. Not to forget a number of terraces for drinking, eating and people watching.
A plus point of the Graben is the architecture of a number of buildings.
The larger ones like Grabenhof, Generalihof, Erste österreichische Sparkasse all from the 19th c. belong to banks or insurance companies (photo 1). They give, with several other smaller ones, that monumental style typical of the Graben at least if you look above the commercial ground and sometimes first floors. I especially like the building in light brown colours at the start of the Kohlmarkt (photo 2) belonging to the Bausparkasse Wüstenrot.
Is it a coincidence that there are so many famous jewelers on the Coalmarkt or due to the fact that diamonds are also made of Carbon atoms?
From here the promenade reaches the Michaeler-Platz and Hofburg.
Coming back you cannot avoid that strange monument called Pestssäule (photo 3). On each of my visits to Vienna I stop here and … feel invaded by perplexity. This should be an example of high baroque?
Address: The old part of Vienna inside the Ringstrasse
High Baroque or Kitsch!
I read that this monument is a remarkable example of what is called "high baroque"!
In french the word "Baroque" means also "weird, unexpected."
Imo the term "kitsch" is very suitable since my usual French dictionary Le Petit Robert defines "kitsch" by extension as "Baroque bad taste and provocative."
I would like to add that despite this strange monument I love very much Vienna which is one of my favorite cities concerning museums, palaces, monuments, operas and architecture.
The paradox is that this Pestsaule is in the center of the Graben which adorns many buildings of beautiful architecture.
I do as the Viennese when I pass the Pestsaule, I look away. It is not really a "thing to do" so that I fully agree with the comment of a connoisseur like VT member "von.otter".
Theseus temple - Whiter than white!
This temple, a reduced copy (14 x 25 m) of the temple of Theseus in Athens (Theseion also called Hephaisteion, 14 x 32 m) was built between 1819 and 1823 by architect Peter von Nobile. It was intended to keep the sculpture of "Theseus Slaying the Centaur" from Antonio Canova the very famous Italian sculptor (1757 – 1822). In 1890 the sculpture was moved to the most beautiful hall under the cupola of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (ref. my reviews).
Those who have seen the temple before the restoration finished in 2010 will have a shock like I had on my recent visit. Before the temple showed a nice patina, now it is all uniformly white painted.
Actually when build the temple had been painted white with a painting of that time containing lead white pigment called White lead (Bleiweiß in German). This painting tended to cause lead poisoning, and its use has been banned in most countries. It would also darken somewhat by exposure to acid air so that a patina similar to that of original Greek monuments appeared on the walls of this temple.
The new painting is based on white pigment Titanium dioxide what explains the surprising brilliant white uniform color for a monument supposed to be a copy of an ancient Greek temple.
A success of the 19th c. Classic revival.
An Imperial Commission under Emperor Franz Joseph I decided in 1857 that the building’s style should be classical and choose classical Greek architecture as appropriate for the Parliament, since the ideal of democracy is connected to the Ancient Greeks.
Democracy under the Empire was a more difficult task than to build (architect Baron von Hansen) a construction inspired by the Zappeion in Athens.
Indeed in 1867 with the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, Hungary obtained autonomy and the Empire became the kaiserliche und königliche Monarchie Österreich-Ungarn (Austro-Hungarian monarchy or k.u.k. Monarchy) also called Doppelmonarchie.
Can you imagine that Emperor and King Franz Joseph I reigned over a multinational realm comprising modern-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, large parts of Serbia and Romania and smaller parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine with 12 official languages! Emperor Franz Joseph spoke German, Hungarian and Czech fluently, and Polish and Italian to some degree.
All these ethnies were not really in love with each other. For example Hungary and Austria had separate parliaments. Furthermore there were political struggles between conservatives and liberals.
The dual monarchy dissolved on 31 October 1918. Austria and Hungary became republics. But this is the start of another story.
The building housed the first form of a parliamentary system for much of the people of Central Europe and is a success of the 19th century Classic revival.
The fact that the statue of Athena has her back turned to the building was explained by a joke: the Goddess was disgusted by the political infighting at the parliament!
There are public guided tours for individual visitors in both English and German language from Monday to Saturday at specific times. See the website: www.parlament.gv.at
No prior appointment is necessary.
Price 5€, reduced 2,50 €.
Belvedere - terrace with Sphinx
In a previous review "Good bye Klimt" I mentioned the fate of some Klimt's who went to the USA to be sold at auctions. I visited the museum before but was less impressed by the collections than by the architecture of the Upper Belvedere Palace itself.
Each time I'm in Vienna I like to reach the majestic wrought iron gates at the Gürtel Landstrasse and from there to start a walk downwards: first through the Alpengarten on the right side of the so nice ornamental pond, surrounded by flower beds, around the Palace and then the terrace leading to the Belvedere Garten and finally the Lower Belvedere.
It's from this terrace that one has a beautiful panorama on the centre of Vienna. My photo with the Sphinx is a classical. The Baroque palace complex was built between 1712 and 1723 as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy with Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt as the chief architect. I think it is a real architectural success if you look at the Palace from the upper side as well as from the lower side.
In 1897 the Upper Belvedere was modified by the architect Emil von Förster so that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir of Emperor Franz-Josef, could live here with his wife Sophie. Both were assassinated in June 1914 at Sarajevo what started WW I and its 15 million deaths.
It is difficult to remember this when admiring the peaceful great water basin in the upper parterre and the stairs and cascades peopled by nymphs and goddesses that links upper and lower parterres.
Note that when you walk down the terraces the exit is on the right by the portico of the Lower Belvedere palace (free toilets inside) on the Ringstrasse.
Address: the baroque castle of Prinz Eugen
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