Before Sunrise - Vienna

Before Sunrise - Vienna, Vienna, Austria (A)

‘Before Sunrise' shows an American flaneur meeting a French university student whilst going to Vienna. The film captures a night the two of them have together in Vienna, becoming close and developing a mutual attraction before taking leave of each other the following day. The guide takes one to featured cafés, churches and the banks of the Danube. The tour explores prominent points of Vienna whilst providing information about the city and film.
How it works: The full article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the sights featured in this article. The app's navigation functions guide you from one sight to the next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Before Sunrise - Vienna
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 4.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.1 Km or 5.7 Miles
Author: J. Raimund Pfarrkirchner
Author Bio: By twenty years old Austrian-born J. Raimund Pfarrkirchner had already lived on four continents, in places as diverse as Nepal, Uruguay and the United States. He has recently returned from a social project in the Philippines to Vienna where he is in the process of publishing his first book, A Natural Fortress, on the topic of Hindu and Himalaya culture.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The Prater
  • Zollamtbrücke
  • Augartenbrücke
  • Schottentor
  • Mölkerbastei
  • Maria am Gestade
  • Kleines Café
  • Franz Josef I Statute/Albertina
  • Spittelberg
  • Record Shop in Windmühlgasse
  • Café Sperl
The Prater

1) The Prater

Our first record of the land that now constitutes the Prater comes from 1162 when the then emperor, Friedrich I, gifted the noble de Prato family the land. Subsequently the land was bought and sold many times until Habsburg Emperor Maximilian II obtained the land in 1560 and designated it the private hunting grounds of the family. It was not until two hundred years later the Emperor Josef II decreed the land to be public and allowed for the establishment of businesses in the area that catered to the needs of hungry and thirsty Prater-goers.

Now, although open year-round, the official Prater season begins annually on 1 May and many people flock to the grounds to visit the many beer gardens, rides, and simply to stroll throughout the massive space.

Characters Jesse and Céline share a kiss atop the Riesenrad, the Ferris wheel, that dominates the skyline of the Prater and has an iconic emblem of Vienna since its construction in the late 1800s. Although with Stephansdom it has come to symbolise Vienna and is featured in nearly every book and film that is set in 20th-century Vienna.

For an uncommon experience visit the Kugelmugel, a mircro-nation that artist Edwin Lipburger designed and built in 1984. After refusing to pay taxes he declared his spherical dwelling independent and it is now called the Republic of Kugelmugel.
Image Courtesy of Herbert Ortner.

2) Zollamtbrücke

The Zollamt bridge and footbridge above it have been spanning the Vienna River, a tributary of the Danube, for more than one hundred years. In 1900 the footbridge was constructed, replacing a wooden bridge built in 1868, and the bridge underneath was designed to support the Wiener Stadtbahn, Viennese city railway, the predecessor to the modern U-bahn, or Underground, system.

Like much of Vienna the renowned palace of Schloß Schönbrunn was occasionally plagued by flooding from the Vienna River, which often carried cholera, until 1895 when the government at the time decided it best to bury much of the river. The massive building works allowed for the simultaneous creation of an underground passageway that today houses the U4 line of the Viennese Underground. Upon completion of burying the Vienna River in 1899 the Naschmarkt, the most famous market of Vienna, was created on the former grounds of the river and locals could find anything from fresh, local produce to exotic spices from the east.

In ‘Before Sunrise’ Jesse remarks that he thinks the Jugendstil, or Viennese Art Nouveau, bridge is nice as the two meander across the bridge over the 34-kilometre-long Vienna River.
Image Courtesy of Invisigoth67.

3) Augartenbrücke

The Augarten Bridge connects the ninth and second districts of Vienna by spanning the Danube canal, a canal that runs through the centre of the city making the twentieth district and second district, which contains the Prater, into an island.

During the film the main characters engage a poet at this bridge to write a poem for them using a word of their choice. They choose the word ‘milkshake’ and the poet produces this poem:

‘Daydream delusion/Limousine Eyelash/Oh, baby with your pretty face Drop a tear in my wineglass/ Look at those big eye/ See what you mean to me/Sweet cakes and milkshakes/I am a delusioned angel/I am a fantasy parade/I want you to know what I think/Don't want you to guess anymore/You have no idea where I came from/We have no idea where we're going/Launched in life/Like branches in the river/Flowing downstream/Caught in the current/I'll carry you/You'll carry me/That's how it could be/Don't you know me?’

The bridge is close to some of one the most popular nightclubs in Vienna including Flex and Flex Café.
Image Courtesy of Extrawurst.

4) Schottentor

In 1192 on his way back from the crusades Richard the Lionheart was captured by Leopold V Duke of

Austria. The Duke accused Richard of arranging the murder of the Duke’s cousin, Conrad of Montferrat, and was still offended that Richard had the removed the flag of Leopold V in Acre. When ransom was paid Leopold V founded Wiener Neustadt and with the remaining money built a city wall round Vienna.

Schottentor was one of the gates on city wall of Vienna. It remained one of the few entry and exit points into Vienna for several hundred years until 1850 when Emperor Franz Joseph I ordered the destruction of the city walls in order to accommodate the populace of the growing city by creating a massive boulevard, the Ringstraße. Now Schottentor is one of the largest stations on the Ringstraße and one can access the underground, buses, and trams from Schottentor.

In the 1995 film ‘Before Sunrise’ characters Jesse and Céline are seen embarking on the tram from Schottentor station. Towards the beginning of the film one can find the tram departing Schottentor station with the Votiv Church in the background, looming large over the station, and again at a later point in the film the couple jump on a tram at the station.

Schottentor station stands in close proximity to the Sigmund Freud museum, located in his former office, and the father of psychoanalysis could often be found strolling round Schottentor, not infrequently en route to his favourite café, the Café Landtmann.
Image Courtesy of My Friend.

5) Mölkerbastei

The Mölkerbastei is one of the old bastions of the former fortifications of Vienna. Beethoven spent more than thirty cumulative years living and working in Vienna, and for a total of eight of those years he was located in the Pasqualati-Haus in Mölkerbastei were he composed Symphonies Number. 4, 5, 7, and 8.

As character Céline walks near Beethoven’s former residence resting atop this derelict military installations she exposes her views on feminism, ‘You know, I have this awful paranoid thought, that feminism was mostly invented by men, so they could, like, fool around a little more. You know, women, free your minds, free your bodies, sleep with me’.
Image Courtesy of Andreas Praefcke.
Maria am Gestade

6) Maria am Gestade

Built on the location of an alleged wooden church dating from the 800s, the first reference to the modern church Maria am Gestade comes from 1158, making it one of the oldest churches in all of Vienna.

The church is built in wholly Gothic style (unlike other churches in Vienna which are only partly Gothic owing to additions and reconstruction). In its infantile state the church was most often frequented by sailors and fishermen who worked on the Danube. The city of Passau was far more powerful than Vienna in the Middle Ages because of its location on the confluence on three rivers and therefore Maria am Gestade was part of the Diocese of Passau until 1469 when the Diocese of Vienna was established.

In ‘Before Sunrise’ characters Jesse and Céline discuss how they both feel like their respective ages are incorrect; Céline says she feels like an old woman whereas Jesse explains how he feels like his is a thirteen-year-old trapped in the body of an adult, trying to figure out how to live.

During Today Maria am Gestade is closely associated with the Czech population residing in Veinna.
Image Courtesy of Thierry.
Kleines Café

7) Kleines Café

American journalist David Brooks coined the term BOBOs, a portmanteau of bourgeois and bohemian, and it is exactly this crowd that the café attracts. The aptly named Kleines Café, meaning ‘small café’, is owned by actor Hanno Pöschlo and in addition to said BOBOs the café draws many actors and others in the film industry.

Café is something of a misnomer however as the location is more often frequented by those wishing to consume something a bit stronger than coffee. The main characters of the film sit and enjoy one another’s company until a ‘gypsy palm-reader’ reads Céline’s palm telling her, ‘You need to resign yourself to the awkwardness of life. Only if you find peace within yourself, you will find true connection with others’.

One might be interested to know that the owner of the café has a cameo in ‘Before Sunrise’ as the Austrian man who is arguing with his wife on the train in the first scene of the film.
Image Courtesy of Julius Cruickshank.
Franz Josef I Statute/Albertina

8) Franz Josef I Statute/Albertina

At two points during the film does the viewer find Jesse and Céline at the Franz Josef I Statute on the Albertina museum. The Albertina museum was a private collection of drawing sand prints built on one of the few remaining fortifications of the city of Vienna and it passed from the hands of the Habsburgs to the First Republic of Austria in 1919

In the first of two scenes at the site Jesse and Céline discuss the ‘other worldliness’ of their evening together and then the following morning they return when Jesse recites a poem, ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ by WH Auden:

‘But all the clocks in the city

Began to whirr and chime:

'O let not Time deceive you,

You cannot conquer Time.’

Then he skips a stanza and continues:

'In headaches and in worry

Vaguely life leaks away,

And Time will have his fancy’

To-morrow or to-day.

WH Auden himself was not stranger to Vienna; he often summered in Austria and in fact died and was buried in a small town, Kirchstetten, to the west of the capital.

9) Spittelberg

Like much of Vienna located outside the Ring Road Spittelberg was once its own town. The region was used for agriculture and also contained a municipal hospital. Croatians, then subjects of the Austrian crown, were the principal inhabitants of Spittelberg. In 1683 the whole area was destroyed during the Turkish siege of Vienna save the cellars of the houses. It was rebuilt after the Turkish defeat and quickly gained a reputation as the place to go for dodgy inns and taverns and boasted a high density of brothels. The demand for prostitutes in the area might also have had something to do with the Imperial Stables, now the Museums Quartier (Museum Quarter), just in front of Spittelberg.

Now the location is one of the most desirable and expensive addresses in Vienna, but during filming of ‘Before Sunrise’ in 1995 Spittelberg was at its peaks as a student and artistic region of the city, having recently been saved from plans in the 1970s to demolish the entire region and construct modern buildings.

In the film Jesse and Céline look on as a belly dancer performs a dance that Céline is able to identify as a ‘birth dance’ owing to the fact that she is a dance enthusiast. Jesse donates money to the dancer afterwards while observing, ‘Everything that’s interesting costs a bit of money’.
Record Shop in Windmühlgasse

10) Record Shop in Windmühlgasse

After riding round the Ring Road in one of Vienna's iconic trams the couple disembark and visit a record shop where Céline asks Jesse if he knows ‘Come Here’ by Kath Bloom after they both agree the record shop is ‘pretty neat’. The two enter the listening booth and awkwardly listen to the song:

‘There's a wind that blows in from the north, And it says that loving takes its course. Come here. Come here. No I'm not impossible to touch, I have never wanted you so much. Come here. Come here. If I never lay down by your side? Baby, let's forget about this pride. Come here. Come here. Well, I'm in no hurry. You don't have to run away this time. I know that you're timid. But it's gonna be all right this time.’
Image Courtesy of Guitarpop.
Café Sperl

11) Café Sperl

Café Sperl dates from 1880 and has a vibrant history. It is listed as a monument by the government and owing to its impressive architecture and Rococo décor it is not difficult to imagine why. In the beginning of the 20th century it was the usual haunt of many art students who traded drawing and sketches for cups of coffee. Although not publicised for the obvious reason, Adolf Hitler also spent a fair amount of time there during this time in Vienna.

The café was damaged during the Second World War and when Vienna was occupied the Allies, Soviet forces used the café as a stable for their horses. It was not until the end of the war when the sixth district of Vienna was transferred from Soviet to French control that the café was rebuilt and subsequently reopened.

In ‘Before Sunrise’ the two protagonists role play phone conversations with their respective friends and confess the origins of their increasing affection for one another. The scene concludes with Céline, playing Jesse’s friend says, ‘Us men are so stupid. We don’t understand anything about women. They act kind of strange. The little I know of them, don’t they?’ Jesse agrees.

For all its history and the fact that it is a quintessential Viennese café one should avoid missing the opportunity to imbibe a traditional Viennese coffee or even some billiards in the café.
Image Courtesy of Jim McDougall.

Walking Tours in Vienna, Austria

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

Creating your own self-guided walk in Vienna is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Famous Homes of Vienna

Famous Homes of Vienna

Throughout centuries, the Austrian capital has been home to numerous famous individuals, from creative people of arts to thinkers, scientists, and politicians. Vienna's illustrious history is closely intertwined with the abodes of its celebrated residents, where artistic virtuosos and luminaries of their time found solace and inspiration.

The often modest apartments of Vienna's famous...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Vienna Old Town Walking Tour

Vienna Old Town Walking Tour

Encircled by the grand Ringstrasse, otherwise known as the Ring, the historic Old Town of Vienna (Innere Stadt) is a designated World Heritage Site.

At the heart of it all lies Saint Stephen's Square (Stephansplatz), a bustling hub surrounded by iconic landmarks and vibrant street life.

Mozarthaus, once home to the legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is a delightful stop for...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Vienna's Art Nouveau Architecture Tour II

Vienna's Art Nouveau Architecture Tour II

Characterized by ornamental and organic designs, flowing lines, and harmonious integration of various artistic elements, Vienna's Art Nouveau architecture was aimed at breaking away from historical styles and embracing a more modern, decorative approach. The city's architects of that era sought to create an absolute work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk), where all aspects of a building's...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Vienna Introduction Walking Tour II

Vienna Introduction Walking Tour II

Vienna, the former capital of the once mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire, is the second largest city in the German-speaking world after Berlin. Steeped in history, today's Vienna is still much revered for its cultural grandeur. The abundance of it, manifested in imperial palaces, diverse museums, and historic churches, beckons annually over 6 million guests from around the world.

One of the...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Johann Strauss Walking Tour

Johann Strauss Walking Tour

Throughout the entire 19th century, Vienna was a hub of cultural and musical activity, particularly in the realm of classical music, to which Johann Strauss and his father, Johann Strauss Sr., contributed greatly.

Strauss, the son had a personal connection with Vienna deeply rooted in its cultural fabric. Not only was he born here and spent most of his life, but also he achieved tremendous...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Vienna's Historical Music Venues

Vienna's Historical Music Venues

Austria is synonymous with classical music almost to the point of obsession, and to call Vienna the "Musical Capital of the World" would be hardly an exaggeration. Indeed, over the past centuries, the city served as the home and workplace for many great musicians like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Strauss, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, and others.

Among the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Top 16 Austrian Things to Buy in Vienna

Top 16 Austrian Things to Buy in Vienna

Vienna stool, Viennese schnitzel, Viennese waltz, Vienna sausage, Viennese apple strudel... There's so much Vienna to it, that you might think you've heard it all. Luckily, chances are that you haven't and there's much more in store left to be discovered about this fascinating...
7 Ultimately Austrian Foods to Taste in Vienna

7 Ultimately Austrian Foods to Taste in Vienna

Once the center of the vast Hapsburg Empire, stretched from France in the West to Russia in the East, Austria has embraced many ethnic influences in its cuisine over the course of centuries. Many of the country's distinctive dishes reflect its multinational heritage. Coffee culture, for...