I ended my favorite sights vignette of Vienna several years ago with a promise to take hundreds of pictures on my next trip to the city. Such a trip came about recently – and I fulfilled that promise to a certain degree. I now have a reasonable amount of good shots from the Austrian capital. And yet, Christmas markets – the main reason I chose to go to Vienna in December – obstructed a fair number of perspectives that I wanted to capture. Cold weather and my walkabout approach to photography also do not mesh really well – I suspect I let the desire for hot coffee get in front of the desire for capturing a picturesque quiet corner of the city in too many instances.
Nonetheless, when it comes to major landmarks, I gave myself ample opportunities to see and photograph them. The relatively brief description of Vienna on the World Heritage list mentions Baroque ensembles in general and Ringstrasse – the circle of boulevards around the Inner City – in particular. For the purposes of a World Heritage vignette, my collection of shots is nearly perfect.
But before we get to that, here is the rarest of sights.
In the Gold Cabinet of Lower Belvedere Palace, I suddenly realized that I had about half a second of the room entirely to myself. I quickly took a shot that I hoped would illustrate the endless perspective created by opposing mirrors. It was not the kind of effort I normally put up on the blog – and I did not have the patience to wait out the big group of visitors who flooded the room a moment later to try again. But I am sure you will forgive me for the uncommon chance to see yours truly in the picture.
The view towards Upper Belvedere Palace from the main alley of Belvedere park.
The Upper Belvedere is grander on the outside and holds a significant collection of Austrian painters, but somewhat unexpectedly I found its interior spaces not as impressive as those of its Lower sibling.
The perspective along Schwarzenbergplatz, with the monument to an Austrian noble and general of that name in the forefront and the Red Army monument in the background.
Closer view of the Red Army monument.
Formally known as the Heroes’ Monument of the Red Army, it was constructed in 1945 while the city was divided into four occupation zones. The Viennese do not have a positive memory of the Soviet occupation and the monument is occasionally a target for vandalism. Still, the city government continues to maintain and refurbish it.
Karlskirche is a contender for the title of the most visually impressive church in Vienna.
The title of the most over-the-top luxurious interior belongs to St-Peterskirche. Here is a fragment.
And no other church has more vivid stained glass windows than Votivkirche.
The State Opera House, originally built in the mid-19th century, is one of the iconic Viennese sights.
The opera was bombed out in 1945 and restored by 1955. Even the tour guides admit that its interior’s grandeur was never recovered after the destruction. There are some impressive spaces, such as the main stairwell and the Tea Salon, but the auditorium is comparatively bland.
Another iconic Vienna sight – Burgtheater.
This building on Ringstrasse dates from the end of the 19th century, but the theater company is approaching three hundred years of existence.
Vienna was an unparalleled center of arts and sciences for a good portion of the last couple of centuries, but it is two musical geniuses that are most frequently identified with the city (you will hardly ever make a few hundred steps in the city center without being offered tickets to a concert that invariably includes their work). One is actually a native Salzburger, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose monument stands in Burggarten.
The other is the maestro of waltzes, Johann Strauss Jr. His monument is one of the most visited points in Stadtpark and all of Vienna.
The soaring towers of Rathaus are yet another signature Viennese sight.
The Parliament stands out as one of the few Classic Revival grand buildings in the city full of Baroque.
The Athena fountain in front of the building was erected in 1902, good twenty years after the palace had been completed.
A perspective of Michaelerplatz and Hofburg.
There are parts of the immense royal palace that date all the way back to the 14th century, but the Hofburg wing facing Michaelerplatz that we see in this photo was built at the end of the 19th century.
There are several museums and points of interest in Hofburg, including royal apartments, the Spanish riding school, the Imperial Library, and the Royal Treasury. The latter offers what is among the most impressive displays of its kind anywhere in the world. Here are a couple of glimpses.
Impressive architecture can be found practically on every corner and square in the center of Vienna. Here are a few more of the most well-known examples.
Musikverein, the Neoclassical concert hall and home of the Vienna Philarmonic, was built in 1870.
I have never stepped inside, but pictures suggest that its auditorium, Golden Hall, is by far more impressive than the aforementioned Opera House auditorium.
Secession building, built in 1897, celebrates the eponymous art movement that is the Austrian cousin of French Art Nouveau, Catalan Modernisme, or German Jugendstil.
A great example of the style is one of the pavilions of Karlsplatz city railway station, built in 1899.
When the underground metro (U-bahn) supplanted the old Stadtbahn, the city went to extra lengths to ensure that the two Karlsplatz pavilions were preserved. The one in the shot is used as an occasional exhibition space, while its twin – behind the photographer and therefore not seen – houses a café.
The same person who designed the pavilions, Otto Wagner, one of the most significant architects of late-19th century Vienna, also built Majolikahaus in the same year.
This is an apartment building. It faces the largest open-air market in Vienna, Naschmarkt, which is recommended as one of the top things to do in the city by practically every published guidebook, but has now twice failed to make a significant impression on me.
Another apartment building that is a tourist attraction – Hundertwasserhaus.
This colorful and unusual piece of architecture is located a few tram stops outside of the city center. Named after its creator, it was completed in 1985. Friedensreich Hundertwasser promoted ideas of architectural harmony between man and nature, and the building incorporates many of those notions.
Another concert hall, Kursalon. This one is of the Italian Renaissance persuasion, built in 1867.
Strauss’s first concert took place here the year after it had been opened.
This colorful row of houses is located on Wiedner Gürtel, near the main railway station.
We have already glimpsed the monument to Empress Maria Theresa in this post. It is the centerpiece of the eponymous square, which is home to the main Viennese art museum as well as the Natural History Museum.
A look at St Stephan’s Cathedral and a couple of surrounding buildings.
This is the focal point of the Inner City and one of the busiest squares in town. Over-the-people-heads photographs rarely come out well but this one is passable.
Similarly executed and judged barely passable by my quality control is this fragment of Graben, the central pedestrian street in the city center.
The statue on the left is one of the most famous monuments in Vienna – the Plague Column, erected in 1693 as a tribute to the end of the Great Plague in 1679.
Another somber and this time very understated monument – the Holocaust Memorial on Judenplatz.
It is known as Nameless Library and commemorates 65,000 Austrian Jews who perished in the Shoah.
Largely because of the Holocaust Memorial, Judenplatz is never as crowded or boisterous as other Inner City squares. It is a beautiful square.
The monument to an 18th-century German poet Gotthold Lessing was moved to the square in 1981, 19 years before the Nameless Library was unveiled. As far as I gather, Lessing does not have any direct connection to anything in the Jewish history of the city.
Off Judentplatz, Kurentgasse is one of the picturesque narrow streets of the former Jewish Quarter.
On Hoher Markt, the Anchor Clock (Ankeruhr in German – named after the insurance company whose two buildings it connects) is yet another Art Nouveau visual delight.
The passage of time is manifested by twelve historical figures who move from left to right each for the duration of an hour. At noon, all 12 figures parade around with a musical accompaniment. At about 1:01 pm when I took the picture above, the composer Joseph Haydn is about to exit the stage right, while the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose connection to Vienna is in having died somewhere in the vicinity, starts his slow walk.
At 1:33, a leisurely coffee break later, Marcus Aurelius is halfway through.
In the window on the right, you can see the figure of Empress Maria Theresia, who owns the hour of 11-12. On the left, Duke Leopold VI and his wife Theodora are getting into a position for the hour of 3-4. Charlemagne, who follows Marcus Aurelius in the procession, is hiding behind the curtain – only his hand bearing a cross is visible on the left side of the clock face.
These and other pictures of Vienna can be found in my Flickr gallery.