A little selection of touristy and untouristy places of Vienna for you
to discover and learn about.
Politics and concerts
Arena is found in Vienna’s third district on the grounds of a former slaughterhouse.
The venue, used primarily for musical events and concerts, was saved from destruction
in the late 1970’s after a – now legendary –three-month plus occupation in 1976 by activists,
who fought a long and hard battle for the right to hold youth, alternative and counter-
culture events in public spaces. Part of the area, the so-called foreign slaughterhouse,
was ultimately torn down, but the evacuation and slighting ran smoothly enough.
An existing offer for use of the domestic slaughterhouse from the city of Vienna was still on the table,
and an agreement was reached with the activists in 1977.
The Arena occupation is an important turning point in the social history of Vienna:
For the very first time, a subculture had been able to triumph over the narrow-minded
constraints of the “powers that be.” Any number of young artists and politicians,
who were to exert their influences on the culture in subsequent years,
got their starts during the Arena occupation.
Eye-catching city landmark
St. Stephan’s is Vienna’s majestic epicenter. This awe-inspiring, gothic cathedral is
“the” city landmark and is often referred to as a national treasure.
The church, also affectionately known as “Steffl,” houses a large number of valuable artworks.
Its eye-catching roof is reprised on the Hapsburg, Viennese and Austrian coats of arms.
The Clang of the Pummerin,“ a free-swinging bell in the North Towers weighing over 20 tons
is broadcast once each year by the Austrian Radio and Television Network to welcome in the New Year
– one of her seldom, yet auspicious, “gigs!” With over three million tourists each year,
the Stephansdom is one of Austria’s most frequently visited, cultural landmarks.
Still, each day, seven Masses are held – and, on weekends ten.
For those looking for a breath-taking view of the city, there are two possibilities:
If you feel up to it, you can climb the 343 steps to the top of the South Towers ...
or save your knees and take the lift directly to the Pummerin.
Not so spectacular, but ever so much easier.
Historical high-end shopping
Steeped in history, the Graben is a large plaza in the center of Vienna’s old city,
running from Stock-im-Eisen-Platz (just steps from the Stephansdom) to Kohlmarkt.
Today it’s home to a number of high-end retailers; and, alongside the international top brands,
you’ll find shops still proud of their “by order of his Majesty” status.
A stroll along the Graben holds the promise of architectural jewels, as well.
There’s the Bartolotti von Patenfeld Palace (the last-remaining baroque house on the Graben)
or right in the center and, therefore, impossible to miss: The Pestsäule (Plague Column) erected in 1692.
This was the model for numerous such columns throughout the Habsburger Empire.
And don’t miss the two fountains along the Graben.
By the way! Right under the Josef Fountain are the last remaining Art Nouveau public toilets in Vienna
– famous in their own right, having been used in two theatrical productions.
Sharks and bunkers
Haus des Meeres, found in the sixth district’s Esterházy Park, is housed in the flak tower,
an imposing relic from World War II. These steel and concrete towers, so-called high bunkers,
were built between 1942 and 1945 from plans by the architect Friedrich Tamms (1904–1980)
and served as air-defense complexes. These monoliths – there are six of them in Vienna –
are so massive, that their demolition is not even a consideration:
The walls are an unbelievable 3.5 meters thick. Despite that, the tower was adapted as a Vivarium
in 1956 and has offered a sustainable usefulness to post-war generations.
The beloved Haus des Meeres houses an astounding 10,000 animals including sharks, stingrays,
turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, fresh and saltwater fish, birds, bats, various primates, insects …
In 1998, the building exterior was modified to create a climbing wall and
has become a favorite spot for hobby athletes.
High atop this distinctive building, the anti-war sentiments of American
artist Lawrence Weiner - SMASHED TO PIECES (IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT) /
ZERSCHMETTER IN STÜCKE (IM FRIEDEN DER NACHT)
are spelled out in large letters after having been painted there during the Vienna Festival Weeks of 1991.
Live feed from the shark tank
THE HUNDERTWASSER HOUSE
The Hundertwasser House is a relative newcomer to the list of Vienna’s sights worth seeing.
It was built from 1983 to 1985 by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and the architect Josef Krawina.
Hundertwasser was out to completely revolutionize housing construction.
He proposed “window rights for everyone.” That meant that each dweller could decorate the
outer part of the building as far as his arm could reach from his window – demonstrating that,
within these walls, lived people with individual needs. The house “sprouted” trees, and
planted terraces made a quasi-country life in the middle of the city a possibility.
Hundertwasser hated right angles and – for that matter – anything built with a carpenter’s square,
and the façade of the house is representative of the painter’s style.
Floors in the communal areas are uneven, so as to awaken the feet’s senses while walking on them.
It’s worth checking out the Information area, where they show a film there that gives
additional information about the building.
Historical jewel with old masters
The collections found in the Museum of Fine Arts are a testament to the century-long,
cultural-political engagement demonstrated by the Habsburgs. Patronage, a passion for collecting
and a persistent claim to power are – to this day – easily gleaned from the
almost voluptuous treasury of artworks.
For the past 125 years, hundreds of works of European Art have been assembled
and presented in a building designed exclusively for that purpose directly on Vienna’s Ring Street.
This historical jewel was constructed from the blueprints of Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer:
vestibule, staircase, exhibition halls and interior decor all coordinate with the works on display –
a history-making concept that draws and challenges visitors to this day and reflects
the individual character of this noble institution.
What exactly can you expect to see? Old masters from both north and south, sculptures from the Renaissance
and Baroque, complicated and playful antique dispensers, coins and medals, Greco-Roman antiques,
Egyptian sculptures and sarcophagi. They are all sure to draw you in.
In 2016, the Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating a birthday– and we’re at the center of the festivities!
"The House without Eyebrows "
on Michaelerplatz created a furor from the moment it was completed! Thanks to its location,
a stone’s throw from the imperial winter palace, the building promised its architect, Adolf Loos,
that he’d be noticed. The Loos House is the most important example of the Viennese Modern style
and was constructed in 1909–11 for the haberdashers Goldman & Salatsch.
After the basic, shell construction was completed, Loos took a radical departure
from not only the Classical and Historic styles, but from the Secessionist –
a decor folks were just starting to get used to - as well! The first shock waves through the populace
gave way to a series of aftershocks: For a time, the authorities even issued a construction freeze,
because the finished façade bore little resemblance to the original plans they had been submitted.
The major bone of contention, though, was the architect’s elimination of dripstones over the windows,
which earned the building its nickname, The House without Eyebrows.
Only when Loos added some bronze flowerbeds did the indignation gradually start to subside.
Then an embarrassment, now an attraction for culture vultures,
the building today belongs to the Raiffeisen Bank. The Design Zone Looshaus
was created in the basement in 2002 by the Italian architect Paolo Piva
and offers space for international events and exhibitions.
pure culture or just chillin'
Pure culture or just chillin‘ downtown. This one-of-a-kind, cultural complex has a lot to offer.
Just across the street from the Museums of Fine Art and Natural History and the Volkstheater
sits the “MQ“ and all its riches. Around 60 cultural installations can be found in the quarter,
including the Leopold Museum, the mumok, the Kunsthalle, the ZOOM Museum for Children,
the Architecture Center, the Dance Quarter and the Jungle (Children’s Theater) – to mention just a few.
Add to those the gastronomical treats on offer, and it’s easy to see why this cultural oasis
has so many visitors daily. A portion of the construction goes back to the 17 and 1800’s,
when the emperor’s stables were here; and, here and there, you can still see a horse’s head
carved in stone adorning the cornice of a building and reminding us the past.
Between the beginning of construction of the stables and their later use as an exhibition center,
till the opening of the MQ in 2001, there is a span of almost 300 years.
Nowadays, when the weather is nice, places on the designer seating modules
in the plaza are snapped up quickly!
Vienna in slow-motion
is one of the most famous, Viennese landmarks. Built in 1897 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary
of the crowning of Emperor Franz Josef I, it is 64.75 meters high, has a diameter of 60.96 meters
and a speed of 2.7 km/h, which allows for boarding while the wheel is in motion.
This Viennese attraction looks back on an interesting history:
In 1898, the circus artist Marie Kindl hanged herself from one of the gondolas
while it was in motion to draw attention to her dire circumstances. In 1914, the circus director,
Madame Solange d’Atalinde, completed a full revolution of the wheel on the roof of one of the wagons …
while sitting on a horse! In 1916, a wrecking permit was issued but was never carried out because of lack of funds.
The great wheel survived the war and, in 1949, was featured in the now legendary film scene
of Orson Welles’ The Third Man. Stationary amusement wheels like these are still well-loved,
as evidenced by these projects around the world: London Eye in London, 2000 (135 meters high),
The Star of Nanchang in China, 2006 (160 meters high),
Singapore Flyer in Singapore, 2008 (165 meters high), High Roller in Las Vegas, 2013 (167 meters high) …
a little feel of NYC
(German: Internationales Zentrum Wien, colloquially “UNO City”) was constructed in the 22nd district,
Donaustadt, between 1973 and 1979 by the Republic of Austria and the City of Vienna from
plans by the Austrian architect Johann Staber as a center for international organizations.
The foundation of the complex - which consists of six, paired office towers surrounding
a central conference building - takes the shape of a “Y.”
The individual building components are so arranged, as to shade one another as little as possible.
The Vienna International Centre, with the United Nations Office in Vienna, is – alongside New York,
Geneva and Nairobi – one of the four official headquarters of the United Nations.
The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Organization, is also headquartered here.
The VIC holds over 4,500 offices and 9 conference halls and employs approximately 3,600 international workers from over 100 countries.
In 2015, there were around 3,000 sessions held at the Centre.
The entire complex, which takes up an area of about 180,000 m2, has been granted extraterritorial status,
which carries with it – among other perks - an exemption from the Austrian luxury goods tax.
A large number of international congresses and think tanks take place at the center each year,
whereby it’s now become possible to “Skype” conferences, as well.
provides the imperial venue for our conference. Since 1945, the official residence of the Austrian President,
it was – with some interruptions – from the 13th century until 1918,
the residence of the ruling house of Habsburg-Lothringen in Vienna.
This expansive complex of buildings can look back on a construction history spanning seven centuries and,
due to numerous renovations and extensions, shows a rather irregular groundplan.
Strictly speaking, the Hofburg is still unfinished, since the imperial forum,
which was to join the Hofburg with the museums across the Ring, was never constructed.
The Hofburg, today, comprises several tracts that are used by a variety of institutions;
a small part is actually allotted as private, rental apartments.
The oldest part of the Hofburg is in the so-called Swiss Tract, which is also the location of the Swiss Gate,
erected in 1552. The most important institutions found today in the Vienna Hofburg
are the Austrian National Library, with its grandiose decor, the Papyrus Museum
and the State Room (Prunksaal). And there are numerous other museums and collections here, as well:
The Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Treasury and the
Spanish Riding School are all tourist magnets and certainly allow the flair of the monarchy
to be experienced firsthand. The World Museum Vienna is currently under construction.
With this abundance of cultural facilities, it certainly makes sense that the Office of National Monuments
found its way to the Vienna Hofburg, too. Next door, the Burg Garden is certainly worth a visit.
In the shade of the Hofburg and on the manicured grounds shared with ancient trees,
you can let your soul float … or visit the Cafe Palmenhaus, which is situated in an enormous greenhouse,
and do something for your body instead.