Old Town Center Walking Tour (Self Guided), Vienna

The Innere Stadt, first district of Vienna, is part of the World Heritage Site Historic Centre of the city. Originally the inner city was divided into four quarters, which were designated after important town gates. Take this tour to explore the beautiful landmarks, famous museums and specialty shops in the Central area of the Innere Stadt.
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Old Town Center Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Town Center Walking Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Dom- und Diözesanmuseum
  • Stephansplatz
  • Stephansdom
  • Haas House
  • Österreicher Werkstätten
  • Altmann & Kühne
  • Galerie Ernst Hilger
  • Graben Street
  • Leschanz Schokolade
  • Peterskirche
  • Uhrenmuseum
  • Austrian Resistance Museum
  • Maria am Gestade
  • Ruprechtskirche
Dom- und Diözesanmuseum

1) Dom- und Diözesanmuseum

The location is a cathedral and official museum for the Diocese of Vienna. It was created in 1933 and has developed quite the reputation for being one of the best exhibit formats in all the city. The location has antiques and displays that represent over a thousand years of Roman Catholic history in the country. The largest display here is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral Collection, which is a display of sacred works. The portrait of Duke Rudolf IV also has a home in this place. It is regarded to be the oldest work of its kind anywhere in Western Europe.

The can also find a great collection of Baroque pieces here as well. Much of the art is very controversial, and would have been considered quite outrageous in the day. Some of the finest sculptures to be found in Vienna also have a home here. So there is something here to fascinate just about any fan of fine religious artwork.

For the bizarre, you can visit the display which reportedly holds a piece of the Virgin Mary’s belt. In like fashion, a piece of St. Stephen’s skull is also on display, as one of the church’s relics.

The museum and cathedral are open on Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. They are also open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. The institution is closed on major holidays.

2) Stephansplatz (must see)

The Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical center 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 medieval cathedral and the glass and steel building, it is now considered an example of how old and new architecture can mix harmoniously.

Why You Should Visit:
While this might not be the best location for a gourmet meal, sitting in one of the cafés does provide world-class people watching in a prime historic location. With Stephansdom dominating the scene, you can't go wrong.

While in Stephansplatz walk around the side of Stephansdom to see a miniature thereof. It's fun to see it tiny!
Sight description based on wikipedia

3) Stephansdom (must see)

Stephansdom or St. Stephen’s Cathedral is an amazing work of art and a testament to one city’s love for their church. It is the home church of the Archbishop of Vienna. The large building can be seen from most of Vienna with its distinctive south tower that rises an impressive 445 feet in height. In fact, this tower was manned by a night watchman until 1955, and his duty was to ring the “fire bell” if any fires broke out in the city at night. There was to be a twin north tower, but due to several factors, it is considerably shorter and different in design than the impressive south tower.

The inside of the massive church contains several smaller chapels in addition to the main sanctuary. This huge portion of the edifice has 18 alters, but the most amazing alter is the high one. It is carved in marble and is a representation of the stoning of St. Stephen, the church’s namesake. The Wiener Neustädter alter is also a breathtaking work of art.

The Cathedral's bells are an important part of life in Vienna. While the oldest of the 23 bells are not rung anymore, several are and they all have a special meaning. One of the most special is the St. Mary bell. The original bell was made from the captured Muslim invaders cannons. The bell was badly damaged when it crashed to the floor during a fire; however, part of the damaged bell was used when casting the new bell.

The outside of the cathedral is also as distinctive. The incredible tile roof is covered by almost 250,000 tiles. The steep pitch of the roof keeps it fairly free of debris. The walls also have interesting features including the rods used as standard dry goods measure for drapes and linen cloth. Be sure to allow enough time to see this entire amazing Cathedral.

Why You Should Visit:
While incredible architecture can be witnessed anywhere in Vienna, this majestic Roman-Gothic masterpiece is absolutely unmistakable.

Visit the crypt (really interesting, although a bit macabre) and either the South Tower (if you can manage 350 steps!) or the North Tower (by taking the lift up).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 6am-10pm; Sun: 7am-10pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Haas House

4) Haas House (must see)

The Haas House of Vienna is a very modern example of architecture in a town where there is a premium of buildings done in a conservative manner. In fact, the project to build this structure was highly debated and contested. It almost didn’t happen at all. The architect of record was Haus Hollein.

The issue surrounds the fact that the modern style building, made of concrete and lots of glass, sits next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Such a change in style was considered to detract from the classic beauty of the old Catholic house of worship.

The facade of the location is round, and is reminiscent of the old Vindobona. This style of home can be found all across the First District of the City. Newer homes were built on top of the old Roman structures underneath, and tried to use some of the those structures to anchor newer buildings. In a similar way, the Haas project tried to use these principles to have the building blend into the architecture of old. Take a ride to the top of the building, to the coffee house, and enjoy the view of the old Cathedral, along with a lovely cup of coffee.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Österreicher Werkstätten

5) Österreicher Werkstätten

What to buy here: Gustav Klimt Artworks. Take home a piece of the sensual world of Viennese artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), one of the most important representatives of Jugendstil painting of the late 19th century. His most famous work is "Der Kuss" ("The Kiss"), 1908. He is renowned for saying, "Those who want to know something about myself as an artist – the only thing that matters – had best examine and study my paintings and gather from them what I am and what I attempt to do." In Vienna you can find a number of gift products with motifs from Gustav Klimt's art. For those with extravagent inclinations in the centre of the city at the Kärntner Straße 6 you find the Oesterrichische Werkstaetten, they have a variety of products on the theme of Gustav Klimt's 'The Kiss'. For example, you can buy a small weighted sculptures of the moment of 'The Kiss' for €795. Otherwise over at the Grand Hotel Wien you can buy the Grand Guglhupf, a kind of sweet cake made onsite of this luxury hotel, boxed in packaging featuring Gustav Klimt's The Kiss made in association with the "Österreichische Galerie" at Belvedere Palace. Or for €336 per person, you can get your self a special gift holiday back which includes two nights at the Grand Hotel Wien, a bottle of Champaign and a Grand Guglhupf 'Klimt', a walking tour, and tickets to the Klimt collection at the Belvedere. Not bad!

Operation hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00-19:00; Saturday: 10:00-18:00
Altmann & Kühne

6) Altmann & Kühne

Visitors with a sweet-tooth will be glad to find this shop of tasty souvenirs. Pralines, marzipan, bonbons and other delicious sweet treats of Altmann & Kuhne are delicately packaged in colorful, specially-designed and decorated boxes.
Galerie Ernst Hilger

7) Galerie Ernst Hilger

At Galerie Ernst Hilger you will see masterpieces of modern art. The works are from Austrian and international painters. The gallery focuses on modern art produced after 1945.
Hours: Tue-Fri 11-18, Sat 11-16
Graben Street

8) Graben Street (must see)

Der 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.

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 will 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.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Leschanz Schokolade

9) Leschanz Schokolade

Leschanz Schokolade is known locally as the "chocolate king" of Vienna. The originality, high quality and extensive assortments offered here reaffirm its regal name. According to Viennese legend, Mozart always visited this shop during his strolls through the city.

10) Peterskirche (must see)

St. Peter’s Church sits atop one of the oldest known religious sites in all of Vienna. There has been a church on this site since the early 4th Century A.D. A much larger version of today's church was reportedly built here in 792 and was to have been founded by none other than Charlemagne himself.

In more modern times, Peterskirche takes up much less space, being crunched into what it occupies on Petersplatz. The overall architectural design is Baroque. In fact, this is one of the most decorated churches you will find anywhere, for any building designed in that style.

The outer color is white and a very light yellow. There are two towers that made up the classic outside look of the building. The turrets turn inward ever so slightly. It is said that the towers get their shape after the tent poles of the Turkish people who used to occupy this region in the late 1600s. You can also find a wonderful plaque on the outside of the building that tells of the legend of Charlemagne.

You will want to visit the inside also, as it contains some of the best paintings dating to the 1700s. Many of the wood carvings and alter pieces are also of that period. Currently, the structure is owned and operated by the Opus Dei.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely a good place to marvel at sumptuous baroque architecture. Full of gold, marble, and finery!

Each day from 3 till 3:30pm you can listen to live organ music for free (donation only). The most impressive way of admiring this church!
Choir performances at the church are also frequent, with for-fee events in the underground vaults.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-8pm; Sat-Sun: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

11) Uhrenmuseum

The Uhrenmuseum is the famous Viennese home of clocks, and they have every kind of imaginable display of them. It is a very unique place, in that there are not a lot of other places like it in all of Europe. The location is inside an old Viennese home that has part of its foundation still intact from the Middle Ages. It is also located in a very historical section of town.

The variety is time pieces on display here is amazing. There are even pieces that chime the hour all over the facility. Examples of time keeping devices are represented here from as far back as the Fifteenth Century. The museum goes beyond just variety though, as they try to actually share the history of how our clocks have evolved over the course of time.

Two famous private collections are also on display here. You can see the display from Rudolph Kaftan, who was the first curator of the institution, to the unmatched exhibit owned by the famous author Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach. The location is open every day of the week but Monday, from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. During the Christmas vacation week, the hours of closing are reduced to 2:00 p.m.
Austrian Resistance Museum

12) Austrian Resistance Museum

This is a very interesting and eclectic place to visit. It was formed in 1963 by a group of individuals that were actually part of the resistance movement in Austria during the time of the Third Reich. The colleagues of these folks were part of the two thousand seven hundred individuals that were executed by the German Gestapo during the war. In a secondary way, the location also covers the efforts of the resistance movement during the Fascist rule of Austria.

There is also a part of the building which houses a research and archive wing for the place. This research facility still keeps an eye on zealous right wing political organizations in Germany. At the entrance to the museum is also a famous fountain built by Georg Donner. It is a classic example of Baroque art. Donner designed several others pieces in the area as well.

The museum can be quite graphic at times, and was designed that way by intention. The establishment recommends that children under the age of 11 not view the exhibits located within. You can call ahead for a time to get a guided tour. It takes about an hour to tour it, and the price is free.
Maria am Gestade

13) Maria am Gestade

Maria am Gestade (English: Mary at the Shore) is a Gothic church in Vienna. One of the oldest churches in the city - along with St. Peter's Church and St. Rupert's Church, it also is one of the few surviving examples of Gothic architecture. Located in the Innere Stadt at Salvatorgasse 12, near the Donaukanal, the church was traditionally used by sailors on the Danube river. The name reflects the former location on the Fluvial terrace of an arm of the Danube river, prior to its regulation.

The church's most striking characteristic is the 56 m (180 ft) high open work tower, built in 1419-1428 in Gothic scroll-work. It is recognizable from a great distance and is depicted on the oldest images of the city. The choir, whose construction began in 1330 contains two high Gothic panels. The windows contain surviving fragments of medieval stained glass. The nave due to the limited space, is narrower than the choir. Because of the course of the Danube arm the nave is slightly bent. Construction was started in 1400, and it is said that Duke Albrecht III himself was the builder.

The church has three porticoes that are decorated with reliefs and figures. The choir door shows a Virgin of Mercy and a Coronation of the Virgin, both dating from around 1350, as deduced from during the Middle Portal which has realistic depictions of angels playing musical instruments. On the main portal on the west facade, canopies crown reliefs of the two Saint Johns (Baptist and Evangelist) from about 1410, in a style also seen at Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral and a range of sculptures and mosaic decoration, which date from the 20th century.
Sight description based on wikipedia

14) Ruprechtskirche (must see)

Ruprechtskirche or the Church of St. Rupert is thought to be the oldest church in Vienna. Although there has recently been some dispute about that fact, it is home to the oldest stained glass window and the oldest bells in Vienna. The church is named for St. Rupert of Salzburg, the patron saint of Viennese salt merchants.

Tradition has the church being built in the early 8th century although even that date is in dispute. The first written record about the church occurs around 1200 and the document calls the church the oldest in Vienna. The church has had an interesting history that includes being a center for the salt trade and also housing prisoners.

The church has seen several renovations, especially after a devastating fire in 1276. The oldest stained-glass window that survives was probably inserted around this time period. It is on the Madonna and Christ child along with the Crucified Christ. As recently as the late 1990s modifications and renovations have taken place.

The church is open to the public and visitors are encouraged to come in and look at the beautiful, old sanctuary. Religious services are not routinely held here, although there are several events held in the venue. Feel free to come in to reflect, wander around, and enjoy this old treasure.

Why You Should Visit:
The stained-glass windows are stunning and the simplicity is a change from the baroque seen elsewhere.

Don't miss the 'Alte Musik in Ruprecht' concerts that the church offers, featuring music from the Medieval to early Romantic periods played on original instruments by world-class artists.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

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