The districts of Vienna have names, but are also numbered from 1 to 23. The city can be divided into four different parts. First, there is the center, the 1st District. Here, you will find the famous
1st District: Innere Stadt
This is the first, most elegant and one of the most expensive of Vienna's districts. Splendid boutiques, expensive hotels, popular cafés such as the
2nd District: Leopoldstadt
Leopoldstadt, the city's 2nd District, is separated from the center of Vienna by the Danube Canal and, along with the 20th District, Brigittenau, forms a misshapen island bordered to the east by the main arm of the Danube. For the most part, this area is a residential suburb only redeemed by the
3rd District: Landstraße
Vienna's 3rd District lies to the east and southeast of the Innere Stadt, framed to the east by the Danube Canal (Donaukanal) and to the west by Prinz-Eugen-Straße and Arsenalstrasse. It is predominantly working-class. The one exception is the diplomatic quarter close to Schwarzenbergplatz and around the extraordinary rococo palace
4th District: Wieden
In Wieden, situated between Karlsplatz, Wienzeile and Gürtel, the atmosphere is rather more splendid than in the neighboring 3rd District. The 4th is one of the more well-presented residential suburbs close to the city center. Here, you will find
5th District: Margareten
Margareten lies next to Wieden between Gürtel and Wienzeile and is mostly a working-class suburb. There aren't very many attractions in this district, besides the
6th & 7th Districts: Mariahilf & Neubau
Between Wienzeile and Lerchenfelderstrasse, Ringstrasse and Gürtel you will find Mariahilf and Neubau, divided by Vienna's biggest shopping boulevard, the
8th & 9th Districts: Josefstadt & Alsergrund
Between Ringstraße and Gürtel and separating the Lerchenfelderstraße from the Donaukanal, you will find the districts of Josefstadt and Alsergrund, two very nice residential areas with large patrician houses. Many wealthy Viennese, who prefer to live in the city center and not in a villa outside of town, have flats here. The main attractions are the
10th, 11th & 12th Districts: Favoriten, Simmering & Meidling
The only significant sight in these districts south of the Gürtel is the
13th District: Hietzing
This area of town is a pleasant, fashionable garden-suburb west of the 5th district with lots of splendid villas and gardens, ranging from the Biedermeier summer residences (enjoyed by the 19th-century nobility), to the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) and modernist villas favored by the more successful artists and businessmen of late-imperial Vienna. Here, you will find the famous
14th, 15th & 16th Districts: Rudolfsheim & Ottakring
The 15th and 16th Districts with their patrician houses (situated between the Gürtel and the Wienerwald, west of the city center) were all built at the same time as the Ringstraße; but today, housing conditions are very poor (lots of flats still don't have indoor bathrooms). In the hilly part of Ottakring, you will find some beautiful old villas, including
17th, 18th & 19th Districts: Hernals, Währing & Döbling
Beyond the Gürtel and towards the Vienna Woods north of the center, the villas get bigger, the surroundings greener and the streets more splendid the further you go up the hills. In these districts you will have ample opportunities for relaxing walks in the woods, and also find beautiful Heurigen (traditional Austrian wine taverns), especially in Grinzing and Neustift am Walde. Vienna's greatest and most beautiful public swimming pool, the
20th District: Brigittenau
Named after the 17th-century Brigittakapelle, much of the land on which this district sits was claimed from the Donau River after its containment in 1870. Around 1900, the 20th District was divided off of the larger 2nd to become Vienna's last district. Brigittenau lacks the historical attractions of many of the other districts, but contains the Millennium Tower, a high-rise spectacle, and the Hannover Market.
21st, 22nd & 23rd District: Floridsdorf, Donaustadt & Liesing
The Viennese call the districts Floridsdorf and Donaustadt Transdanubien (beyond the Danube) because they are situated on the other side of the riverbank, east of the city center. Here, you will find Vienna's most popular recreational area, the
As you might expect, Vienna offers some of the most opulent and historic hotels in Europe, with prices to match. However, reasonably-priced, centrally-located accommodation can be found, especially in the numerous pensions throughout the city. These bed and breakfast type-accomodations are not necessarily inferior to hotels in quality; in fact some are a whole lot better. The distinction is only a technical definition; a pension is a private business, whereas a hotel is seen as a proper business.
1st District: Innere Stadt
Hotels and pensions in Vienna tend to adhere to the standards of efficiency, modernity and cleanliness you would expect in Europe. The 1st District, the Innere Stadt (Vienna's old town and commercial center), is where you will find most of the big luxury hotels such as the Imperial, the Bristol, the Sacher, the Grand Hotel, the Vienna Marriott, the InterContinental Wien, the Vienna Hilton, and the Im Palais Schwarzenberg. All of these hotels are situated on the Ringstraße and are popular with celebrities and presidents, offering all the luxurious amenities you would expect. Tucked away in the small streets of the Innere Stadt, there is also a large number of charming pensions and hotels. These include Pension Nossek, Graben Hotel, (just off Graben), Pension City, Aviano, Neuer Markt, Pertschy and Christina. Some very popular and beautiful hotels near Stephansdom and Kärntnerstrasse include König von Ungarn, Römischer Kaiser, and K+K Palais Hotel.
3rd to 8th District: Beyond the Ringstrasse
If you are looking for somewhere a bit quieter and somewhat cheaper but still within walking distance of the 1st District and its sights, have a look in the districts beyond the Ringstrasse such as Landstrasse, Wieden, Neubau and Josefstadt. Here, you will find the atmospheric Sir Terence Conran-designed Das Triest, the traditional Biedermeier and the stylish Altstadt Vienna as well as some good quality pensions like Lindenhof, Anna, Quisisana and the classic Museum.
13th & 19th District
Further afield in the hills of Grinzing or the gardens of Hitzing, guests will find comfortable and often peaceful accommodations, mostly a 10 to 20-minute ride by underground or tram from the city center. There are hotels like Gartenhotel Glanzing and Landhaus Furgassl-Huber (close to the vineyards of the 19th district) or the Parkhotel Schönbrunn in Hitzing. Breakfast is included in the price at most hotels and pensions, although what it actually amounts to can differ enormously. Continental breakfast generally means coffee or tea, rolls, jam and butter. Full continental breakfast means cheese, sausage and cold meats, while buffets equate to the chance of gorging yourself on as much cereal, muesli, eggs, breads, rolls, cheese and meats you can possibly manage. In general, the high season for accommodation in Vienna is from April to October and for the two weeks between Christmas and New Year (during which there is sometimes a surcharge). If you are arriving during peak season, it is best to plan ahead to guarantee yourself a room. Should you arrive without booking, any of the tourist offices can make a reservation for you.
Death, art and anarchy - in Vienna, one is confronted with a vast and diverse cultural history. The following tours give insight into the most famous attractions of the Austrian capital:
Stephansdom & Peterskirche
Within the historic center of Vienna, the 1st District Innere Stadt, the foundation stone for one of the world's most impressive Gothic cathedrals was laid in the 12th century: the Stephansdom. Enjoy the terrific architecture of this masterpiece, called Steffl by locals, before making your way to Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Located just around the corner, this enormous construction, resembling St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, is definitely an eyecatcher with its fascinating frescos. Another treat for the eyes is the beautiful Haas Haus, a breathtaking example of modernist fusion with classical principles. Just outside St. Peter's Church you will find yet another historic sight: the Graben. This famous street once defined Vienna's city limits back in the 1300s. Today, gourmet temples, boutiques and cafes attract many visitors to the former edge of Vienna. For a traditional Viennese pastry treat head over to Café Diglas, before walking north to Shakespeare & Company Booksellers, an insider's tip for English book enthusiasts in the city.
The most important secular building in Vienna, the Hofburg (Court Palace), is also located in the 1st District. Once the center of the powerful Habsburg Empire, the Hofburg is now home to various museums. Walk through the Burgtor (palace gate) and enhance your knowledge on Austrian culture at the Völkerkundemuseum (Museum of Ethnology), the country's literary roots at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian National Library), and find out about Vienna's vast history of theater at the Theater Museum. After this cultural treat, walk south along the famous Ringstraße to the nearby palace garden, and enjoy traditional Viennese pastries and coffee at the famous Palmenhaus, next to the Mozart Memorial.
Burgtheater & Modern Art
Italian Renaissance of the 19th Century is also present in Vienna – start your tour at the University of Vienna, the oldest German-speaking university worldwide. Walk alongside Rathauspark (City Hall Park) towards Café Einstein, a hotspot among coffee-craving students. After feasting on Viennese specialties, walk east towards the infamous Burgtheater with its controversial plays, that have caused quite a stir among Vienna's bourgeoisie. Walk south on Ringstraße, past the Austrian Parlament, and make a right turn at the MuseumsQuartier (museum quarter). End your tour by enjoying this vast collection of contemporary art and modern culture in various museums on location.
Take the subway to Praterstern Bahnhof to experience one of the most interesting fairs in Europe: the Prater. There you can take on one of the many joyrides available, including the legendary Ferris wheel. If you're not particularly keen on one of the many traditional food options at one of the stalls on location, head towards the Schweizerhaus with its huge beergarden and the typically rustic Viennese cuisine, with an atmosphere to match. Discover the darker side of the city in the nearby Wiener Kriminalmuseum and learn about its criminal past before taking a closer look at the stars above Vienna at the Planetarium. If you fancy a stroll after the hustle and bustle of the Wurstelprater, walk towards the close by Flakturm in Augarten park with its open-air cinema during the summer months.
Anarchy & Hundertwasser
Start your tour at one of Vienna‘s famous architectural masterpieces, the Hundertwasserhaus. The misshapen and brightly colored walls and windows are certainly an inspiring treat. Make a stop at the cult cafe Schwarzes Café, a former anarchist hangout, where the occasional political statement comes free with your beverage or mostly vegetarian food. Walk past the beautifully situated Stadtpark on your way to enjoy the latest independent films from all over the world at the Stadtkino Wien. End your tour of this part of Vienna's 3rd district by dining at the rustic restaurant Zum Posthorn serving Carinthian, Slovenian and Italian cuisine for a reasonable price.
Death in Vienna
This special tour of Vienna cannot be taken without public transportation. However, it is worthwhile in order to learn more about the Viennese and their peculiar fascination with death. Start your tour in the 1. District at Kapuzinergruft. There you can visit the glorious Imperial crypt of the Habsburg family. 12 emperors and 15 empresses are buried within. Walk on down Operngasse to Albertinaplatz, where you can enjoy a decent cup of coffee at Café Mozart, before heading to Vienna's Undertaker Museum. Take the subway from nearby Karlsplatz to Südtiroler Platz and walk east to Goldeggasse. At the museum, you will get a fascinating insight into Vienna's history of death and burial rituals. Take a streetcar from Südbahnhof, south of Goldeggasse, to Wildgansplatz and walk east to St. Marx Cemetery. Amongst many pompous, gothic and gloomy graves of Austrian celebrities, you will also find the burial plot of world-renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. End your tour of death with a visit to the Zentralfriedhof – with 3 million graves Europe's second-largest cemetery. Take streetcar 71 from Sankt Marx, north of St. Marx Cemetery, to Tor 2 (2nd gate) of the central cemetery. There you will find maps to locate the graves of world-renowned artists, such as Johann Strauss, Ludwig van Beethoven and Hans Moser.
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Present day Vienna was originally a Celtic settlement. The region around Vienna was first inhabited in the late Stone Age, and Vienna itself was founded as a Bronze Age settlement in about 800 BC. Claimed by Celts around 400 BC, the Romans later established a military camp called Vindobona among various Celtic settlements. This served as a border fortress on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire against the Germanic tribes north of the Danube. The camp was located in the area now circumscribed by Graben, Tiefer Graben, the Church of St. Mary's on the Bank, St. Rupert's Church and Rotenturmstraße. The remains can still be seen today at the Michaelerplatz.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, barbarian invasions reduced the Roman town to ruins. Vindobona diminished in importance until the 8th century when the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne made it part of his Eastern March and the Holy Roman Empire. In 881, the name Wenia is documented in the annals of the city of Salzburg, the first mention since Roman times.
In the 10th century, the German Babenberg dynasty acquired Vienna and during their reign of almost three centuries, the city became a major trading center. In 955, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, expelled Hungarian tribes from the Eastern March. After ousting the Hungarians, Emperor Otto I established a border province of the "empire towards the east," hence the name "Ostarrichi" in modern German: Österreich ("East Empire"). In 976, he made a gift of Vienna to the Babenbergs who, despite further incursions by the Hungarians, restored the city's importance as a center of trade and culture. In about 1155, the Babenbergs moved their court to Vienna. In 1246, border squabbles with the Hungarians flared up into fighting. The Austrians were victorious, but the Babenberg Duke Friedrich II was killed in battle without producing any male heirs, leaving his family line extinct.
Following his death and the ensuing interregnum, the Habsburgs began centuries of rule in Austria. In 1276, Rudolf I of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor since 1273, mounted a campaign against Premysl Ottokar II, King of Bohemia, who had taken over the orphaned Babenberg lands for "insubordination to the Empire." Ottokar was killed in battle in 1278. Four years later, Rudolf I of the Habsburg dynasty installed his two sons as rulers of Austria. The Habsburgs reigned the country for more than 600 years, until 1918.
Under Maximilian I, Vienna blossomed into a center for the arts. The Habsburgs were invariably elected to the office of Holy Roman Emperor and by the 16th century their mighty empire had expanded into Spain, Holland, Burgundy, Bohemia and Hungary. Under Karl V, the Empire was called "the country where the sun never sets" because the Habsburgs also reigned in Mexico and South America. Yet, it remained under constant threat; in 1529, the Turks, having conquered the Balkans, laid siege to Vienna for the first time. They were not successful, but they stayed on for the next 150 years as a very dangerous neighbor in control of most of Hungary. Constant inroads into Austria were a scourge at the time. In 1679, a severe epidemic of the black plague ravaged Vienna.
The Turkish threat to Vienna ended in 1683 when Kara Mustapha's forces were repelled. In the following decades, they were pushed out of Hungary and down the Balkan Peninsula. Vienna, now freed from the Turkish threat and undoubtedly the hub of an expanding empire, grew even stronger under the reign of Karl VI. During this time, the Karlskirche, the Belvedere palaces and many other Baroque buildings were constructed; thus "Vienna Gloriosa" was born.
From 1740 to 1790, Empress Maria Theresa and her son, Joseph II, reformed Austria. They abolished torture and serfdom, established tolerance for non-Catholic religious denominations, created a totally new administrative structure for the Empire, introduced compulsory elementary education for all, put the army on a new footing, founded Vienna's General Hospital and opened the Prater gardens and Augarten park to the general public. The vast palace of Schloß Schönbrunn was completed by the Empress who also presided over Vienna's development as the musical capital of Europe. The long reign of Maria Theresa was seen as a time of serenity, wealth and sensible administration, despite a background of frequent wars.
Napoleon's defeat of Austria in 1809 was a humiliation for Emperor Franz I. The French conqueror briefly occupied Schönbrunn Palace, demolished part of the city walls, and even married Franz I's daughter Marie-Louise.
In 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, which restored the established order in Europe, Franz I and his minister, Prince Metternich, imposed autocratic rule in Austria. The middle class, excluded from political life, retreated into the artistic and domestic pursuits that characterized the Biedermeier age. In 1848, revolutionary uprisings drove Metternich from power but led to a new period of conservative rule under Franz Joseph I. In 1857, he ordered the walls encircling the city to be demolished. Between 1858 and 1865, the Ringstrasse was laid out as the show boulevard of the Imperial Capital.
In the second half of the 19th century, Vienna attracted gifted men and women from all over the Empire, as well as traders from Eastern Europe. However, the resulting ethnic brew often resulted in overcrowding and social tension. The turn of the century was a time of intellectual ferment in Vienna; this was the age of Freud, of the writers Karl Kraus and Arthur Schnitzler, and of the Secession and Jugendstil. At this time, artists such as Gustav Klimt and the architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos set revolutionary new trends. This was all set against a decaying Habsburg Empire, which Karl I's abdication in 1918 brought to an end. After World War I, the German-speaking remains of the Habsburg Empire became a republic. In 1919, the Social Democrats gained the majority in Vienna's city government and retained it in all free elections.
From 1919 to 1934, Vienna's Social Democrats gained international acclaim for their municipal policies (municipal housing projects, a restructuring of the school system, social advances), despite a worldwide economic crisis and conflicts with the (predominantly Conservative) rest of Austria.
Until 1934, the rift between Austria's Conservatives, many of whom advocated authoritarian rule (similar to its economically prosperous neighbor Germany), and the Social Democrats deepened and led to a civil war. The army secured the rule of the Conservative Federal Government. Vienna's mayor was deposed. Two decades of struggle between the left and right political parties ended with the union of Austria with Nazi Germany (the Anschluß) in 1938. Thousands of people enthusiastically greeted Hitler when he held his first speech in Austria on Heldenplatz.
After World War II, Vienna was split among the Allies until 1955 when Austria regained independence, declaring itself a neutral state. In 1979, the Uno-City was opened. After the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1989, Vienna regained its status as a gateway between the East and West.