Sightseeing guide for Vienna
The two magnificient palaces on the Belvedere grounds lie in the middle of a splendid park. They were constructed for Prince Eugene of Savoy by J.L. von Hildebrandt. Back then the Belvedere Palaces were considered to be located outside Vienna's defences, but nowadays they are a part of Vienna`s third district which is not far away from the very centre of Vienna. The Palaces' architecture and interior design are typical for Rococo style. Today, both palaces house museums featuring Austrian paintings. The lower palace the "Oesterreichisches Barockmuseum" (Austrian Museum of Baroque Art) displays Austrian art of the 18th century. In the upper palace you can visit the Austrian gallery with a collection of 19th and 20th century Austrian paintings. There, you will be abel to admire works of Secession artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele or Oskar Kokoschka. In 1803, Europe's first alpine garden was created in the extensive park area of Belvedere castle. Today, more than 4000 plants represent the diverse flora of the alpine ecosystem. Spring and early summer are the best times to visit as many plants foliate and start to flower.
Burgtheater (National Theatre)
The Burgtheater is situated in Vienna's first district. In 1741 Empress Maria Theresia handed over an unused dance-parlour to a theatre-company named Sellier. In 1888, the company moved into a closeby house designed and erected by Gottfried Semper and C. von Hasenauer. Since then, this building was used as theatre house. The beautiful facade, whose white marble has recently been cleaned, is decorated with statues of famous writers like Goethe and Schiller and allegoric figures depicting love and hatred. The Burgtheater has obtained a world-wide reputation for brilliant dramatic art and is one of the first theaters of the German-speaking Europe. While its repertoire features many international highlights as well, the Burgtheater is proud of its emphasis on Austrian playwrights: Viennese Schnitzler, Raimund or Nestroy are still favourites.
Danube Tower - Donauturm
If you want to enjoy a magnificent view over Vienna this is the right place to go. The Viennese affectionately call the tower "Concrete needle". It is 352 meters high and was built within 20 months! There is also a restaurant and coffee place at the top. Since 2000 the Danube tower features the highest bungee center of the world! Close to Danube Tower you find Vienna's most impressive skyline: Uno city is home to UN headquarters and seems to be a city within the city with its decidedly modern architecture. Within the last years some more skyscrapers containing offices and flats alike have been erected in the vincinity.
Modern Haas House was one of the most disputed building projects of the late 20th century in Vienna. Viennese architect Hans Hollein set about to introduce a concrete and glass structure opposite St. Stephen's cathedral. The round curve of its facade quotes the ancient Roman citadell Vindobona, whose former layout is traceable throughout Vienna's first district. Today, Haas House is one of the most exciting buildings in Vienna and the city's pride. The interior was designed with attention to detail. At the top you can enjoy a spectacular view of St. Stephen's Cathedral at a beautiful coffee shop and restaurant.
The Hofburg was orignially a medieval castle, but today only the castle chapel demonstrates its medieval past. The Hofburg was extended to a magnificent residence when the Habsburg's power increased. That's why one can find almost any architectural style, from gothic to art nouveau. Nowadays it hosts the National Library, the Imperial Treasury and a collection of musical instruments, another collection of weapons, a Museum of Ethnography and the famous Spanish Riding School. The square of heroes, situated next to it, is very impressive, too, since it is decorated with equestrian statues of Archduke Karl, who won the battle of Aspern against Napoleon's troops in 1809, and Prince Eugene of Savoy, who defeated the Turks, attest to Austria's glorious past.
The constuction of Karlskirche began in 1715 according to plans of one of the most famous Austrian Baroque architects, Johann Fischer von Erlach. It is the biggest cathedral in Baroque style north of the Alps. Initially, the church was build to honor the vows of Emperor Karl VI. given in the time of a severe plague epidemic. It was dedicated to saint Karl Borromeo. An unusually wide front is composed of a number of contrasting elements which surprisingly add up to a unique and harmonic overall image. Two colums with an allegoric representation of the life of Saint Borromeo are reminiscent of Italian Renaissance Trajan colum. They frame the main portal which resembles a Greek temple. The oval nave of the church is topped by an eye-catching dome (72 m high) spectacularly painted at the inside. The area in front of Karlskirche was redesigned in 1970 by one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century: Henry Moore. His artwork 'Hill Arches' adornes an oval water basin which reflects the church building.
The Prater is Vienna's most popular fun fair. Enjoy a great view over Vienna from the giant Ferris wheel, or do some sports and relax in an expansive area of parks, forest land and fields. The Prater is ideal for walking, cycling, jogging or just lying in the grass after an exhausting sightseeing tour of Vienna. Two further attractions in the Prater are the Vienna Wurschtlprater, a fun fair with the Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad), where one can enjoy a terrific view over Vienna from 200 feet altitude and the Lilliputian Railroad (Liliputbahn), a 2.6 mile amusement park line on a auge of old steam locomotives, providing transportation to the Trade Fair grounds and to the Stadium. The Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) was erected in 1897 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Empereror Franz Joseph I. The wheel itself is about 60 m. high. 15 cabins and the upholding structure weigh a total of 430,5 t and rotate at the speed of 0,65 m/sec. In 1944, at the height of World War II, the Giant Ferris Wheel burnt down, but was rebuilt in 1945.
Schoenbrunn Palace with its surrounding buildings and the huge park is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Austria. The palace was built to rival the French Versailles in Baroque beauty and importance but house the Habsburg family. Emperor Franz Joseph, who was born here in 1830, spent the last years of his life entirely in Schoenbrunn. The entire complex was added to the UNESCO's world cultural heritage list. The interior, where Maria Theresia and Sissi have lived is full of frescoed ceilings, crystal chandeliers, huge mirrors and gilded ornaments. A Tirolian garden with an original hut, orchard and pasture farm enhances the charms of Schoenbrunn palace and its park. Schoenbrunn palace also features a palm house with 3 climate zones and plants stemming from rain forests from all continents.
Schoenbrunn Zoo is the world's oldest and only baroque zoo. The Schoenbrunn Zoo is situated in the south-eastern part of the palace and was built in 1760. What makes the zoo so special is the keeping of animals according to their specific requirements and the simultaneous emphasis on the baroque heritage. In May 2003 Schoenbrunn zoo was greatly honored by being entrusted with the care of a pair of Chinese Great Pandas.
Spanish riding school
The Spanish Riding School is the oldest and last Riding School in the world where classic dressage is still practised in its purest form. This Institute was founded in 1572. It's name was derived from the fact that the horses were of Spanish origin. The Lipizzaner is regarded to be the oldest classic horse race in Europe. The horses have been bread in Lipizza in Slovenia. Young Lipizzaner are black and only turn white when reaching maturity. They need to undergoe elaborate training before they are able to perform their prancing Renaissance ballet to the sound of classical music.
St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen's Cathedral defines the city centre and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. It is one of the most famous Viennese sights and was built in 1147 AD. For a long time it was uncontested as highest building in Europe measuring almost 137 m. Duke Rudolf IV of Habsburg ordered the complete restructuring of the church in Gothic style. The South Tower, was completed in 1433 (the Viennese people have given it the nickname "Steffl"). The cathedral has got two very impressive features: The gigantic roof, and the tall, lean tower (136,7 metres high). One can find only few gothic towers of such height that were finished in the Middle Ages. Inside the Cathedral there are many art treasures like the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1754), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), a self portrait of the sculptor and the Gothic winged altar. The sound of the 'Pummerin', the cathedral's big bell, is used to celebrate New Year in Austria.
Vienna Opera House
Vienna Opera House is situated in the frist district of Vienna at the southern end of the Kaerntnerstrasse. August von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nuell built the State Opera House from 1861 to 1869. The Vienna Opera House has a world-wide reputation for its first-class opera performances and is also known because of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The building is built according to italian Renaissance style. Numerous statues inside and outside of the Vienna Opera house underline the festive character of the house.
This museum host some of the most important exhibitions in Europe and the world. Each year the exhibition changes and is contributed to a different artist or era. Besides that, the Albertina Graphic Arts Collection is perhaps the largest and most important graphic collection in the world. It owns about 60.000 drawings and about a million graphic reproductions. Albrecht Duerer's famous "Rabbit" from the year 1502 is only one example of its many masterpieces. You will also find works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rembrandt, Rubens or Claude Lorrain, Eugene Delacroix, Edouard Manet and Paul Cezanne. 20th century Austrian artists like Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt or Oskar Kokoschka are also displayed.
The Museumsquartier is one of the ten largest cultural complexes in the world, where baroque buildings, new architecture, cultural institutions and various disciplines of art are united. The Leopold Museum and the MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna) are large art museums. Moreover you will find the TanzQuartier, an international art centre for dance, the Architektur Zentrum Wien, production studios for new media, artist studios for artists-in-residence, outstanding art and cultural facilities designed for children and a variety of other events and festivals such as the renowned Viennale film festival, the ImPulsTanz Festival, and many others.
Secession, with its cupola of golden laurel leaves and its art deco facade impresses even today. It is a viennese art nouveau architecture sample and and was planned and built by Joseph Maria Olbricht, a student of Otto Wagner. The secessionists were interested in uniting the separate art forms of sculpture, architecture, painting and music aiming for a comprehensive work of art. Masks of the three gorgons preside over the entrance symbolizing the three art forms of architecture, sculpture and painting. Above the entrance you can read the motto of the secessionist: "Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit" (To the Age its Art. To Art its Freedom). In 1902 the artist association planned an exhibition as a hommage to the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Gustav Klimt was invited to contribute and created a monumetal wall cycle, the famous Beethoven Frieze, which you can admire all year round at the Secession.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts was built from 1872 to 1891 after designs by Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer. It ranks among the richest and most important art collections in the world. The Museum of Fine Arts houses paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Duerer, Raphael, Titian and Velazquez, as well as the most comprehensive collection of Bruegel's paintings in the world.