The capital of Austria, Vienna is located in the east on the Danube River. It is a lovely city with splendid palaces, wonderful music and fantastic cuisine. It is the one time home of Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud.
Built between 1911 and 1917 according to the plans of painter Franz von Matsch the Anchor Clock still keeps time. It is located on the oldest square in Vienna Hoher Markt and represents Art Nouveau design. The interesting thing about this clock is that it forms a bridge between two parts of the Anker Insurance Company building. The clock is decorated with mosaic ornaments. Over a 12 hour period, 12 historical figures or pairs of figures move across the bridge among them Joseph Haydn, medieval lyricist Walther von der Vogelweide, Empress Maria Theresa and Prince Eugen of Savoya. At noon each day the figures parade accompanied by music from the various era and this has become a special kind of Viennese High Noon tourist attraction.
The Belvedere is a historic building complex that consists of two Baroque palaces, the Orangery and the Palace Stables. These palaces were built for Prince Eugene of Savoy by famous Baroque architect J.L. von Hildebrandt. Today these palaces are part of Vienna’s third district and close to the very center of the city. The design inside and out is in typical Rococo style. Both palaces are home to museums featuring Austrian art.
The lower palace is the Austrian Museum of Baroque Art featuring 18th century Austrian art. In the upper palace is the Austrian Gallery displaying a collection of 19th and 20th century Austrian paintings. Here you’ll find the artwork of artists of the Secession movement like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.
Europe’s first alpine garden was created in 1803 in the extensive park area of Belvedere. Here visitors can delight in over 4,000 plants that represent the diverse flora of the alpine ecosystem.
If you would like to have a fantastic view of Vienna then you have to go to the Danube Tower. Residents of the city call this tower “Concrete Needle” and it rises into the sky 352m. You can enjoy the view while relaxing in the cafe or restaurant enjoying traditional Viennese specialties. For you viewing pleasure the cafe rotates slowly. For all of you daredevils since the year 2000 Danube Tower features the highest bungee jumping center in the world.
Near the Danube Tower you’ll find UNO City home to UN headquarters. To make this area even more spectacular the skyscrapers here are mirrored in the Danube River.
The recreational center of Vienna is The Danube Island with its many bars, restaurants and nightclubs. During the daytime one can participate in such sports as rollerblading and canoeing on the river. There is a beach for relaxing which reminds one of being in the Caribbean and has been nicknamed the “Copa Cagrana”.
An amazing fact is that this is also a highly sophisticated flood protection system that stretches for 21 km. It is a second bed of the Danube River that was dug out in the area of the city of Vienna in order to throw up a strip of land in between what is now Danube Island. It saved Vienna from getting drastically flooded in 2002.
A most impressive glass and concrete structure known as Haas House was built opposite St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It has done well to blend in with its Medieval surroundings. The square of St. Stephen’s is opened up by the glass facade and there is a spectacular view of the cathedral reflected in the Haas House glass. At the top of the structure there are fabulous views and you can relax in the coffee shop or restaurant.
For centuries the heart of Vienna has been St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It is one of the most famous sights and was built in 1147 A.D. In 1359 Duke Rudolf IV of Habsburg ordered a complete reconstruction of the church in Gothic style. He laid the cornerstone of the nave with two aisles in 1359. The South Tower was completed in 1433 and the Viennese have nicknamed it “Steffl”, representative of the whole cathedral.
The cathedral has two impressive features – the gigantic roof and the tall, lean tower. Inside there are many art treasures such as the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy. the altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram, the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert, the watchman’s lookout, a self-portrait of the sculptor and the Gothic winged altar.
At the cathedral’s apse you’ll find the statue “Zahnwehherrgott” or “Lord of the Toothache” which was once located in the graveyard outside of the cathedral.
The New Year in Austria is rung in to the sound of the cathedral’s big bell “Pummerin”.
The Hofburg has become a huge complex which today is home to the National Library, Imperial Treasury, a collection of musical instruments and weapons, the Museum of Ethnography and the famous Spanish Riding School. The Imperial Castle also houses exotic butterflies in an art-deco glass house.
Next to it you’ll find the Heldenplatz or Square of Heroes. Here are two impressive equestrian statues – one of Archduke Karl, who won the battle of Aspern against Napoleon’s troops in 1809 and the other of Prince Eugene of Savoy, who defeated the Turks, attesting to Austria’s glorious past. More than just a square, Heldenplatz is one of Austria’s symbols of national identity.
Started in 1715 Karlskirche was designed by famous Austrian Baroque architect Johann Fischer von Erlach. It counts as the biggest Baroque style cathedral north of the Alps. It is dedicated to Saint Karl Borromeo. The church has an unusually wide front. There are two columns with an allegoric representation of the life of Saint Borromeo and the columns frame the main portal resembling a Greek temple. An amazing dome tops the oval nave of the church rising 72m high and impressively painted on the inside. The church sits on the spacious Karlplatz. The area in front of the church was redesigned in the 1970s by one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century – Henry Moore. His artwork “Hill Arches” can be found on an oval water basin that reflects the church building.
The Naschmarkt is a Viennese institution that dates back to the 16th century. During the 19th century the city’s second river the Wienfluss was roofed over. Then some dealers placed their stalls on top of this roof and the market was born. Here visitors can find a mix of Austrian traditions and Oriental influences. It is a fantastic place to do some shopping and to have lunck at one of the many stalls, coffee shops and restaurants. If you love flea markets come on a Saturday and you’ll find everything imaginable from antiques to assorted items of all kinds. At Linke Wienzeile 40 are two lovely Art Deco houses that were built by Viennese Jugendstil architect Otto Wagner.
Take a stroll along Ring Boulevard which is 4 kilometers long and circles the city center. The construction of this boulevard was initiated by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1857. It is a shaded avenue with many monumental buildings. There is a mix of architectural styles to delight the eye. The boulevard was inaugurated on May 1, 1865 and is one of the biggest and most beautiful boulevards of its kind.
This next tourist attraction brings a smile to me because my mother got to visit it when she was still in her twenties and at university in Riga, Latvia. She had relatives, an aunt and uncle who owned an inn just outside of Vienna and my mother would spend part of her summers with them. She informed me that she nearly died of fright in the spook house.
I am referring to Vienna’s most popular fun fair The Prater extending over an area of parks, forest land and fields. It is situated near the city center and is a great place for walking, cycling, jogging or just sitting on the grass watching people go by.
Here you can also find facilities for sports and recreation like the Krieau harness racing track, the Prater Stadium for soccer and track and field, the Stadionbad, a public swimming pool, the Freudenau flat racing track and the Pleasure Pavillion or Lusthau in the Prater.
Visitors can enjoy fantastic views over Vienna from a 200 foot altitude atop of the Giant Ferris Wheel and ride the Lilliputian Railroad, providing transportation from the Trade Fair grounds to the Stadium. There are many other attractions to enjoy for thrills and chills.
The Spanish Riding School is the oldest and last riding school in the world where classic dressage is still in practice. It was founded in 1572. It got its name because the horses were of Spanish origin. The Lipizzaner is regarded to be the oldest classic horse race in Europe. The horses have been bred in Lipizza, Slovenia. The horses are black and turn white upon maturity. They go through elaborate training before they can perform prancing Renaissance ballet to classical music. The riders of the Spanish Riding School perform in the Winter Riding School located in Hofburg the Imperial Palace in a Baroque hall.
When you want to go walking and relax head for the popular public park, Stadtpark. It was laid out in English landscape style between 1858 and 1862. You’ll find many statues and several fountains here. A small branch of the Danube, the River Wien runs through the park. The two banks of the river are connected by a pedestrian bridge from which you can see over the Wienflussportal, a series of eleven pavilions in Jugendstil style designed in 1905 by Friedrich Ohmann and Josef Hackhofer.The pavilion is now used by the U-bahn, Vienna’s underground.
The most popular statue in the park is the Johann Strauss Memorial the artwork of Austrian sculptor Edmund Hellmer. The memorial shows a gilded statue of Johann Strauss Junior, the Waltz King, in front of a stone arch decorated with naiads.
The oldest fountain is the Danube Woman Fountain created by Hans Gasser in 1865. The fountain group “The Liberation of Spring” was created by Josef Heu in 1903 and there is a more recent fountain the Birdbath Fountain which is a small fountain depicting penguins and was created by Mario Petrucci in 1953.
You can imagine that Vienna has so much more to offer so make it a part of your list of places to visit.