Old Town West 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. The Western part of the Old Town houses the Parliament Building, The Rathhaus, beautiful churches and magnificent palaces. Take this tour to explore the famous attractions in the West area of the Innere Stadt.
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Old Town West Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Town West Walking Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 16
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hohes Haus
  • Stadtpalais Liechtenstein
  • Burgtheater
  • Rathauspark
  • Rathaus (City Hall)
  • Pasqualatihaus
  • Galerie Szaal
  • Palais Harrach
  • Palais Ferstel
  • Bank Austria Kunstforum
  • Palais Schönborn-Batthyány
  • Wienerroither & Kohlbacher
  • Palais Niederösterreich
  • Loos Haus
  • Michaelerkirche
  • Michaelerplatz
Hohes Haus

1) Hohes Haus

Hohes Haus in Vienna is located on the Ringstraße boulevard in the first district Innere Stadt, near the Hofburg Palace and the Palace of Justice. The foundation stone was laid in 1874; the building was completed in 1883. The architect responsible for its Greek revival style wasTheophil Edvard Hansen. He designed the building holistically, each element harmonizing with the others and was therefore also responsible for the interior decoration, such as statues, paintings, furniture, chandeliers, and numerous other elements. Hansen was honored by Emperor Franz Joseph with the title of Freiherr (Baron) after its completion. One of the building's most famous features is the Pallas Athena fountain in front of the main entrance, built by Hansen from 1898 to 1902 and a notable Viennese tourist attraction. Following heavy damage and destruction during the Second World War, most of the interior has been restored to its original splendor.

The parliament building covers over 13,500 square meters, making it one of the largest structures on the Ringstraße. It contains over one hundred rooms, the most important of which are the Chambers of the National Council, the Federal Council, and the former Imperial House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus). The building also includes committee rooms, libraries, lobbies, dining rooms, bars and gymnasiums. It is the site of important state ceremonies, most notably the swearing-in ceremony of the President of Austria and the state speech on National Day each October 26. The building is closely associated with the two parliamentary bodies, as is shown by the use of the term "Hohes Haus" as a metonym for "Parliament".
Sight description based on wikipedia
Stadtpalais Liechtenstein

2) Stadtpalais Liechtenstein (must see)

Stadtpalais Liechtenstein (City Palace), is one of two palaces in Vienna belonging to the Princely Family of Liechtenstein. The palace was built during the period of 1692 to 1705 by the Italian architect Domenico Martinelli and the Swiss architect Gabriel de Gabrieli. It luckily escaped destruction during WWII when bombs went down nearby. It is still used as a private residence by the princely family. After restoration in 2013, the palace houses the 19th-century section of the princely art collection, whereas 16th–18th-century artworks are shown in the Liechtenstein Garden Palace.

Why You Should Visit:
Following an extensive renovation with great attention to detail, the palace again appears in all of its former glory and can be viewed exclusively as part of an event or a guided tour.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-8pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

3) Burgtheater (must see)

The 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.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am–5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

4) Rathauspark (must see)

The Rathauspark is one of the most visited parks by Viennese locals. Designed in 1863 as a public park, it has been used and loved by local families and visitors alike since then. Its large open grassy spaces are perfect for a picnic or for finding a sunny spot to read a book. In the evenings, street vendors turn the park into an impromptu outdoor café and there is usually entertainment courtesy of street performers.

The park has a large square which is used for public gatherings such as the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) during the Christmas season. After the New Year the square is used for ice skating and in the warm summer months, this area is the site of films, concerts and festivals. Public restrooms make the area very user-friendly and the area is handicapped-accessible.

On either side of the square are large grassy areas that are home to a whole host of trees and shrubs. Some of these are rather exotic such as the Gingko biloba trees and the umbrella trees. There are paths that wander through the park and it is a great way to get a bit of exercise before going to a concert in the evening or walk off some of the street vendors' foods.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience a lovely getaway from Vienna's busy streets.
Lots of benches to while away a summer afternoon.

It's like a fairytale in winter!
Rathaus (City Hall)

5) Rathaus (City Hall) (must see)

The 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, called the Landtag.

This building got its start in 1872 and was designed by the noted architect Friedrich von Schmidt. Lovers of architecture will note the classic Gothic design of the building, including the large tower. A large city park is located just across the way. The famous Rathskeller restaurant is 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.

Why You Should Visit:
Here you can learn interesting, amazing and bizarre facts about Vienna City Hall and 150 years of the Ringstrasse.
The place is always used for outdoor activities; Christmas market, skating in winter, and lots of concerts in summer.
The building itself looks like it's made from sugar and when all lit up at night – like a fairytale castle.

There is a free German-speaking guided tour every Mon/Wed/Fri at 1pm where they also provide audio guide devices in a number of languages. You'll just need to give up your passport as deposit.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

6) Pasqualatihaus

The Pasquiltihaus is named after Josef Benedikt Baron Pasqualatihaus the home’s owner. What makes the home famous is Ludwig van Beethoven lived here and composed his only opera here. Beethoven actually lived in the house twice from 1804-1815. Beethoven moved frequently and lived in over twenty different residences while in Vienna.

This particular home was built in late 1700s and has been turned into a museum to hold some Beethoven memorabilia. One of the interesting features is drawings of the view from the fourth floor apartment during Beethoven’s time at the house. He did some of his best work here including his 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th symphonies. Having lived in so many places, this one must have been special as he came back and did some of his greatest work here.

Some of Beethoven’s personal possessions are on display as well as a portrait that was made in 1805. There are also several features discussing the composer’s life here and it just an amazing spot to visit. Just thinking about the music that was composed in these little rooms, Beethoven climbing the small narrow staircase to his apartment, the view before the city was built up to the size it is today. It is a step back in history.

The home is located at Molker Bastei 8 and there is a small entrance fee.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Galerie Szaal

7) Galerie Szaal

Located at Schottenring, Vienna's inner city, Galerie Szaal features 19th and 20th century Austrian oil paintings, period furniture and ecclesiastical art. Established in 1921, Galerie Szaal is a family business in its third generation, currently managed by Wolfgang Szaal. The gallery also offers painting restoration services.

Operation Hours Tuesday - Friday: 11 am - 6 pm, or by appointment
Palais Harrach

8) Palais Harrach

Palais Harrach has had a long and interesting history. Although it is no longer used as a palace it is easy to imagine the grandeur the building once had. The building is now home to high end shops and offices. The whole area in fact has some of the best shopping in Vienna.

The first palace to be built on this site was erected in 1435 by Jörg of Puchheim. Then in the early 17th century to home was bought by Karl of Harrach. Unfortunately, most of the original palace was destroyed by fire in 1683. The current building was then constructed with the architecture being design by Domenico Martinelli. Mozart and his sister performed at the palace in 1762 when they were children.

Count Harrach was a huge collector of fine art, and that was a tradition that was carried by the family throughout the centuries. The art collection finally outgrew the Palais and gradually the collection was moved to other family holdings. By the beginning of WWII, all of the art was no longer housed here.

It is fortunate that the art collection was not here during the war. The building suffered severe bomb damage that was repaired. But the damage to the gardens around the palace was not repaired. There is a patch of cobblestone that remains from the original Vienna street but otherwise, the building does not look or feel like it is centuries old.
Palais Ferstel

9) Palais Ferstel

Palais Ferstel was built in the 19th century and is a great representation of Wilhelminian-style architecture. The building housed the Stock Exchange, Austrian-Hungarian National Bank and the well-known Cafe Central, where Europe’s intellectual elite spent a great deal of time. It currently acts as a historic convention centre that can accommodate a crowd of 735 persons.
Bank Austria Kunstforum

10) Bank Austria Kunstforum

Bank Austria regularly has some of the best art exhibits on display to be found anywhere in the city of Vienna. Over 300,000 visitors come each year to see them, even though it is not a public institution per say. They bring in exhibits from across the world.

Their private collection has over 10,000 pieces now. You can find the works of such great artists as van Gogh or Lichtenstein. They very frequently add new items to the count that are from more modern artists also. The biggest single portion of their collection, however, comes from the Viennese art nouveau movement. They also house one of the bigger avant-garde contemporary art collections in the whole city. It is definitely worth the visit.

The museum is the brain child of Heinz Conrad, who helped to organize the first display for the company. This was in the year 1980.

The museum is open to the general public daily from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. On Friday of every week, the museum stays open an extra two hours, and closes at 9:00 p.m. You can get a guided tour of the building every Friday at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at 3:30 p.m., or Sunday at 11:00 a.m. All the tours are conducted in German. There is no pre booking of the tour.
Palais Schönborn-Batthyány

11) Palais Schönborn-Batthyány

Palais Schönborn was built at the beginning of 18th century. It includes the Museum für Volkskunde and is located in Josefstadt, the 8th district of Vienna. This beautiful Baroque palace houses excellent works of art from several of Europe's most significant artists.
Wienerroither & Kohlbacher

12) Wienerroither & Kohlbacher

Established in 1980 in a student flat in the heart of Vienna, Wienerroither & Kohlbacher has since become a well established Viennese art gallery, now set at the lofty vaults of Palais Hardegg, next to Café Central. The gallery focused on Austrian classic modern artists from 19th and 20th century, including oil paintings, watercolors and drawings. Over the last few years, the gallery started showcasing more international modern art. Wienerroither & Kohlbacher also publishes detailed exhibition catalogues and participates in art fairs.

Operation Hours Monday - Friday: 10 am - 6 pm; Saturday: 11 am - 2 pm, and by appointment.
Palais Niederösterreich

13) Palais Niederösterreich

Palais Niederösterreich, historically known as the Niederösterreichisches Landeshaus (Estates House of Lower Austria), is a historical building in Vienna. The building housed the estates general of the state of Lower Austria until 1848. After 1861, the state assembly and some state government ministries occupied it until 1997, when St. Pölten fully took on the role of the new capital of Lower Austria. In the revolution of March 1848, the Niederösterreichisches Landeshaus played an important role as the focal point of the revolutionary forces. The uprising was subsequently crushed by the military. After the legislature and the ministries moved out of the building in 1997, the building underwent substantial renovations and restoration work, and is now used for exhibitions and for private functions and events. It was renamed the Palais Niederösterreich in 2004.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Loos Haus

14) Loos Haus

The Loos Haus was designed by the famous architect of the same last name, i.e. Adolf Loos. It represents one of the most important contributions to Viennese architecture, because of its classic Wiener Moderne style. It has a simple, yet sticking facade, which was the source of much controversy in the day. One will notice that there are no window bays done with the usual “stucco and lintels.”

Emperor Franz Josef, at first sight of the project, considered it to be an eye sore, and tried to work to have the project stopped. He considered the building to really be a silent form of protest against the luxury of the Hofburg. The citizens of Vienna were also shocked by its simple design. In fact, they ended up naming the place “the home without eyebrows.” The local community actually resorted to attacks against Mr. Loos. To help the problem, he agreed to decorate some of the window ledges with flower pots.

There is a simple beauty in the sleek lines of the structure though. Many buildings designed after it also started making use of the simpler design, and also moved away from the classic facade that was so much the hallmark of Wienner Secession style architecture. The total project was not completed until 1912, because of the issues with the change in style.
Sight description based on wikipedia

15) Michaelerkirche

St. Michael's Church (German: Michaelerkirche) is one of the oldest churches in Vienna and also one of its few remaining Romanesque buildings. Dedicated to the Archangel Michael, St. Michael's Church is located at Michaelerplatz across from St. Michael's Gate at the Hofburg Palace. St. Michael's used to be the parish church of the Imperial Court, when it was called Zum heiligen Michael. Over its long history, spanning more than eight centuries, the church has incorporated a medley of architectonic styles. The church represents late Romanesque, early Gothic architectural styles dating from about 1220–1240. There is a document giving 1221 as the foundation date of the church, but this is most probably a 14th-century forgery. Over time, there have been many alterations, resulting in its present day aspect, unchanged since 1792.
Sight description based on wikipedia

16) Michaelerplatz (must see)

Michaelplatz 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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