Guide Location: Austria » Vienna
Guide Type: Self-guided city tour
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 km
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Vienna is one of the most beautiful and important cities in Europe. It contains some of the richest examples of Austrian history. Vienna attracts a large amount of tourists because of its wonderful parks, beautiful architecture and historical sites. This Vienna City Orientation Tour will show you the most interesting places the city has to offer.
Tour Stops and Attractions
1) Eislaufen RathausplatzThe Rathaus is the building in Vienna that holds the local city government. The mayor of the city as well as the city council, all have offices there. This same location also serves as the state headquarters for the government of the State of Austria. It is called the Landtag.
This building got its start in 1872 and was designed by the noted architect Friedrich van Schmidt. Lovers of architectural style will note the classic Gothic design of the building. There is also a large tower that is part of the overall structure. A large city park is located just across the way. The famous Rathskeller restaurant is still also located in the building.
It will take a visitor 331 steps to reach the top of the tower. However, the watchtower portion is only 256 steps up, which is more easily managed by people wanting to get a view of the city from here. The location is open to the public most days of the year from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Since this is the center for government, it is closed on some major Viennese holidays.
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2) BurgtheaterThe Burgtheater is the national theater of Austria. It also serves as one of the most important German theaters in all the world. It was founded in the year 1741. The place received its name from the audiences that have come to see plays there for centuries now. It is located on Ring Boulevard.
It started out as the home for the theatrical troupe. In 1888, though, the group moved to a new location that was procured by Gottfried Semper and C. von Hasenauer. Since that time, the current location has been just the theater itself.
This location also sports one of the largest performing stages in the world. The depth of the platform is a full 13 meters deep. This large venue lends itself well to the type of plays performed there.
The local company of actors has received worldwide fame and renowned for its interpretation of German writers and playwrights. There is also a rather unique speech and style to the plays that any local would recognize. Many tickets can be purchased for as little as 25 Euro. If you call the day of any play, any leftover tickets will also be on sale for 50 percent off.
In addition to being able to see the plays here, you can take a guided tour of the facility Monday through Thursday at 3:00 p.m. The tour will be in German. On Friday through Sunday, at the same time, there are tours in German and English. The guided tours are performed from September to June of each year.
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3) VolksgartenThe Volksgarten “or roughly people’s park” is one of the most beautiful public outdoor places in all of Vienna. It is located in the Innere Stadt, which of part of the First District. The place was built over the top of the part of the city which was destroyed during the reign of Napoleon. The facility was finished and first opened to the general public in 1820.
This place is very famous for the gardens that are located within, especially the rose section. There is also a very famous temple here, called the Theseus. It is a replica of the famous Greek version by that same name. Peter von Nobile built the monument in 1823 as a tribute to Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
Much of the park as it is known today was built at a second addition to the place in 1857 when more of the city was turned over to this use. A famous coffeehouse was also located here for a while, which ultimately became a venue for concerts from the likes of Straub and Lanner, two very famous Austrian composers. There are still many concerts that are performed in the park today.
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4) Hofburg (Hofstalungen)The Hofburg, for many centuries, was the official home of the Habsburg Empire. Each successive Emperor has added to the opulence of the place. The famous family used to make this their winter home. In more modern times, this is now the official home of the President of Austria. This place can trace its history all the way back to 1279, as the official seat of one government or another. The overall complex now includes official state rooms for the President, museums of various sorts that are all easily reached from here, and various living areas (called apartments by the locals). However, they are unlike most apartments anyone could ever imagine. There is also a chapel built into the complex, which is open to the public. If you come for Sunday Mass, you will also be able to listen to the famous Vienna Boys Choir, which performs here regularly. The apartments used by the royalty, the Sisi Museum and other sites located on campus are open to the general public each day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. September to June of each year. The complex stays open until 6:00 p.m. each day from July to August.
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5) Vienna SecessionThe Vienna Secession refers to a group of young artisans who decided to start their own movement within the world of art. The style is very nouveau, and is a radical departure from the more traditional types of art being done during that part of Viennese history. The famous new start was organized in 1897. Gustav Klimt was elected as the first president of the group. An honorary title was also bestowed upon Rudolf von Alt.
You really begin to see this style of art take off in the beginning of the 20th Century, when a fair bit of work from this group becomes part of the famous Belvedere collection.
A building was and exhibition hall was also purchased in the same year as the start of the group. The structure was built by Joseph Olbrich. It is now the home for some of the most famous pieces of art from the members of this movement, such as Klimt and Frieze.
This location in Vienna was actually chosen in 2004 to appear on the 100 euro coin. More information about this famous group is on the commemorative money.
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6) The State OperaThe State Opera is an impressive structure, with an equally impressive company of singers that perform there. The history of this location dates all the way back to around the 1860s. It is centrally located in the heart of Austria. The place was originally called the Vienna Court Opera. That name was changed by the Habsburgs during the early formation of the first Austrian Republic. This occurred in 1920. Many of the members of the Opera end up performing with the Vienna Philharmonic. The group has a large repertoire of very famous pieces as well, such as La Traviata, La clemenza di Tito, and Verdi’s Don Carlo. You will also see a lot of very famous singers coming to this venue to sing also. Some of the world’s most famous directors have also come from here. Gustav Mahler conducted here in the early 20th Century. Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado have also had a turn at being the leader of this famous opera. Apart from the singers and orchestra, the building is also worth the visit. The State Opera offers guided tours of the location. They are available every day of the week, and last for around 40 minutes. The tours are also available in 12 different languages.
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7) The Monument Against War and FascismThe monument Against War and Fascism is actually made up of four statues. They are all thought provoking and quite beautiful in their own right. Alfred Hrdlicka designed the pieces in 1988. They represent the many individuals who were exterminated during World War II by the German Nazis.
The pieces are all created from granite. Ironically perhaps, the granite was taken from a location that is part of what used to be the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. The location of the monument sits atop the old Philipphof House. This home was destroyed during a bomb run in March 1945. Sadly, three hundred individuals were killed during that attack. You will also be able to find a stone reproduction of the Declaration of Independence for Austria here, affixed in the Stone of the Republic.
In the scenes depicted here, you can find the so-called “Gates of Violence” that commemorate all people that have lost their lives during war. You can see war like images of knives, clubs, and gas masks that were so common place during the first world war. Slave laborers are depicted from the Mauthausen Camp. A mother is caught in child birth, essentially giving birth to a soon to be soldier.
The location has been quite controversial in the local community. However, it is still worth the visit, for what it reminds one about that terrible time in history.
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8) KaisergruftThe Imperial Crypt ( Kaisergruft or Kapuzinergruft) lies below the Capuchins' church (the Church of St. Mary of the Angels) and monastery founded in 1617 and dedicated in 1632. It located on the Neue Markt square, near the imperial Hofburg palace. Since 1633 it has been the principal place of entombment for members of the Habsburg dynasty. The bodies of 143 Habsburg royalty, plus urns containing the hearts or cremated remains of four others, are deposited here (as of 2009). They include 12 emperors and 18 empresses. The most recent entombment 148 was in 2008. The visible 104 metal sarcophagi and 5 heart urns range in style from puritan plain to exuberant rococo. The Imperial Crypt is one of the top tourist attractions in Vienna. To this day, some of the dozen resident Capuchin friars continue their customary role as the guardians and caretakers of the crypt along with their other pastoral work in Vienna.
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Sight description based on wikipedia
9) MichaelerplatzMichaelplatz is a very famous section of old Vienna. It is essentially the entrance into Hofburg. As you first enter the area, you will notice perhaps the most famous part of the place, which is the Michaelertor gate. It is designed in classic neo Baroque style.
The oldest building in this area is the Michaelerkirche. This used to be the official church of the Emperors for years. The center of the square is dominated by ancient Roman remains of a house. There are also some old Medieval walls to be seen here. The remnants of the old Burg Theatre are viewable too.
In stark contrast, the location also houses one of the most modern buildings in all of Vienna. It is called the Looshaus. During its building in 1911, it was considered an eye sore. Now though, the place is very famous. Its owner and designer loved the simple, yet elegant design of many of the world’s skyscrapers, and tried to incorporate that design into his building.
The Palais Herberstin sits across from the Looshaus. It was built in 1896, and replaced an older building that was famous for the young writers and artisans that used to be found there. That old café, called the Griensteidl, has been rebuilt in the structure, though much of the artisans have moved to the Café Central.
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10) Graben StreetDer Graben is one of the most famous streets in all of Vienna. It dates back to Roman times, and has been an integral part of the city that whole time. Even Richard the Lion Hearted used this road to enter the city.
The name comes from an old trench that used to roughly follow the shape of the road. Eventually, it was filled in, which caused the Graben to be one of the first modern roads in the city.
It is located in the First District. You can start at Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and travel through some wonderful old buildings to the other end at Tuchlauben.
On the way you see some wonderful sites like the Ankerhaus, which used to be the home of Otto Wagner. The Palais Bartolotti-Partenfeld is also located here. It was the favorite summer home of the famous Barons by those names.
You will also want to visit the Generalihof, which was built in the 1700s, and was at one point the famous music shop for Leopold Kozeluch. Moving down the road, you can see the Grabenhof, which was built on the historic site of the old Arkadenhof. This was the traditional residence of Sonnleithner, who founded the famous music society of Vienna.
No trip down der Graben would be complete without a stop to see the Erste Osterreichische Spar Casse. The current headquarters for this banking and financial group have been located here since 1835.
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11) StephansplatzThe Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical centre of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna's cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world. Before the 20th century, a row of houses separated Stephansplatz from Stock-im-Eisen-Platz, but since their destruction, the name Stephansplatz started to be used for the wider area covering both. To the west and south, respectively, run the exclusive shopping streets Graben (literally "ditch") and Kärntner Straße ("Kärnten" is the German for Carinthia). Opposite the Stephansdom is the Haas-Haus, a piece of striking modern architecture by Hans Hollein. Although public opinion was originally skeptical about the combination of the mediæval cathedral and the glass and steel building, it is now considered an example of how old and new architecture can mix harmoniously.
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12) StadtparkThe Germans call this place Wiener Stadtpark, and it is one of the most famous parks in the city. The grounds extend from Parking to Heumarkt. This takes one through two different districts in Vienna. The total land mass of this public place for fun and relaxation is over 65,000 sq. meters.
Mayor Andreas Zelinka helped to get the land set aside for a public park during his administration. The whole area was being renovated to build the now famous Ringstrabe. The chore of designing the place went to Josef Selleny. The grounds were opened to the public for this first time in August 1862, and thus became the very first such outdoor gathering place in Vienna.
If you go through the park to the southernmost end, along the Weinfub, there is a children’s section located there that the locals call the Kinderpark. It is a great playground. The Viennese also use this area for sporting events for the little guys.
You will want to visit the Caroline Bridge while you are there, which takes you through some very beautiful garden sections of the place. Perhaps the most famous attraction on the grounds, though, is the statue of Johann Strauss. It is gold plated, and sets in the middle of a beautiful stone archway. It is, no doubt, the most photographed place in all the Stadtpark.
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