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
Some say coffee houses, Wienerschnitzel and wine taverns are defining characteristics of Vienna, and with good cause. Most coffee houses and wine taverns can give any reputable restaurant a good run for its money. The Beisl is a common Viennese name for a small tavern, restaurant or pub serving food. Should you be short of time, the omnipresent Würstelstand (sausage stands) are always worth a visit, serving typically Austrian sausage. The cheapest sit-down food is generally to be found in university restaurants, known as Mensa. Only opening on weekdays, they are terrific value for the money. There are also Austrian chains like Schnitzelhaus or Wienerwald. And, for those with a penchant for excellent food, Vienna offers plenty of fine restaurants, especially in the inner city. A word of advice: it might be wise to carry cash in Vienna, as many restaurants do not accept credit cards.
1st District: Innere Stadt
Restaurants serving Viennese cuisine abound in the 1st District. Plachutta is one of the city's best known places to dine. At Korso, Viennese and international specialties are served with the guest's choice of wine from their impressive wine cellar. Zu Den Drei Husaren is on the same exquisite level: formal, elegant, expensive, with live piano music. DO & CO boasts a unique location at the Haas-Haus, with a view of Stephansdom and superb food of gourmet quality. A more casual option is Einstein. Close to the university, it's a rather rustic-style place that serves good food. For those craving Asian cuisine, Yugetsu, a Japanese restaurant, comes highly recommended. Pizza lovers should head to Danieli, an upscale Italian restaurant. If you're a caffeine fiend, you'll be happy to know that the coffee house is an integral part of Viennese life. On just about every corner you will encounter one of these oases for an excellent cup of Austrian coffee, allegedly the best in the world. Cafe Central is amongst those classic places once frequented by famous turn-of-the-century literary personalities and intellectuals. In Cafe Landtmann, some of Austria's top politicians and journalists are known to congregate for a cup of coffee. Another classic is Cafe Hawelka where the whole gamut of Vienna's society meets, from students to celebrities. Or dine in the gorgeous glass-domed setting of Palmenhaus, amidst beautiful plants.
6th to 9th District
Another gorgeous coffeehouse that you should take a look at is Sperl, located in District 6. It's the oldest coffee house in Vienna (established in 1880), and it has some of the most beautiful old furnishings. The stylish Cafe Blaustern, however, boasts some of the best coffee in town and customers can watch the fresh coffee being roasted behind the counter. For something a little different, consider the Gastgarten (or Schanigarten). They belong to the Viennese gastronomic scene in the same way that the Alps belong to Austrian topography. The word "Schanigarten" is synonymous with sitting outside, breathing fresh air (rather than smoke) and enjoying a cool drink under the shade of a tree. Schanigartens are very often small calm areas in the midst of the city.
Drop by the Amerlingbeisl in District 7 to see an unusual example in the inner courtyard of an old building. Or head to District 9 and pay a visit to Stomach, where customers can enjoy a wine list featuring specialties from Austria's federal region, Styria. Vienna is not all upscale, however. Thousands of students in Austria's capital frequent the many casual places to eat surrounding its main university, although there are plenty more scattered around the city. Cafe Stein is also a popular meeting point after lectures; this modern establishment is always busy and attracts a mixed crowd. Some of the best and cheapest places for students to go out to eat are in the 8th District, where you will find pubs and restaurants en masse.
Heurigen are wine taverns serving the year's local vintage (Heuriger) and offer simple but excellent buffets to accompany their home-grown wines. They are found all over Vienna, but the more traditional places are usually found near the vineyards on the outskirts of the city. Grinzing is an example of the typical small villages in which you'll come across a great number of Heurigen.
Tourist offices in Vienna provide monthly listings detailing what's on in the city, but it's a good move to buy one of the weekly magazines with extensive listings such as City or Falter. Vienna, like many major European cities, has an excellent public transport system offering reliable and convenient service. Taking public transport around the city is considerably less stressful than dealing with Vienna's numerous one-way streets, constant traffic, oncoming trams, extensive pedestrian areas and expensive parking garages. So, whether day or night, this is a city in which to make good use of public transport.
Museums & Galleries
According to the Austrian writer Karl Kraus, the streets of Vienna are "paved with culture." Even though the streets are today plagued with traffic, perhaps shrouding the cultural landscape of the city, its multitude of museums reinforces the legacy of art, history and culture unique to Vienna. Its outstanding architecture, two examples of which are Naturhistorische Museum and the Kunsthistorische Museum, is testament to this history. Both are worth visiting and their prominent location at the Ringstraße makes them easily accessible. The KunstHausWien is the antithesis of classical museums, designed by the famous Austrian painter and sculptor Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The building itself is very inspirational, as are the exhibitions held here, featuring mostly 20th-century modern art. The Museumsquartier offers a couple of small galleries which also feature photographic exhibitions. A classic is the Belvedere gallery showcasing some of Austria's most valuable paintings, such as Klimt's The Kiss.
The prime location in Vienna for theater enthusiasts is the Burgtheater, which of course requires a certain standard of German to follow what's going on. A smaller version of the same stage is the nearby Volkstheater. For performances in English, Vienna has its own English Theater in der Josefstadt (plays are cast and rehearsed in London). Satirical cabaret shows are staged all over town; a good place to go for this is Ronacher.
Classical Music & Opera
Classical music is still the sound that pervades Viennese culture. The program of musical events seems never-ending and this is the city in which to hear classical pieces. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra normally performs at the Musikverein, which is said to have the best acoustics of any concert hall in Austria (if not in the world). Just a stone's throw away is another famous concert hall, the Konzerthaus, which has the capacity to stage three performances simultaneously. Most programmes are classical, but you can also hear anything from ethnic music to jazz. The Schönbrunn Palace offers outdoor classical concerts in summer. Visitors to Vienna should not miss a night at the world famous Staatsoper (State Opera). It certainly ranks among the world's top five opera houses. Another main venue for opera is the smaller Volksoper (People's Opera), whose repertoire includes operettas and musicals.
Live music is played all over Vienna. Some recommended places to hear rock are the Chelsea and the Rhiz (within walking distance of each other), featuring international as well as local bands. Jazzland is one of Vienna's few real jazz clubs—sometimes big international names even drop by. Plenty of good jazz musicians also perform at Radiokulturhaus. Big concerts featuring commercial pop groups are often staged at the Stadthalle, an indoor venue.
Some say Vienna is the old-fashioned capital of a small country. Its nightlife, however, proves the critics wrong. Everything from a cosy bar for a private tête-à-tête to a huge club for a night of dancing can be found here. The most popular area at night is the so-called Bermuda Triangle—the area around Ruprechtsplatz, Seitenstettengasse, Rabensteig and Salzgries. There you will find bars such as First Floor, pubs like the Krah-Krah or live-music venues such as Der Neue Engel. The club scene is spread out in Vienna; at places like Volksgarten or U4, you will find a young crowd dancing to commercial house and mainstream music. Lastly, at Flex, the accent is on independent music, hip-hop, drum and bass, trip-hop and all sorts of electronic tunes, Viennese style, of course.
Film in Vienna means mainly Hollywood productions. Most of the cinemas screen the latest U.S. releases, sometimes with a shor t delay. Films are generally dubbed, but exceptions do exist. There is an annual film festival, the Viennale, which features a wide range of international films as well as local productions. Special cinemas setting the pace away from mainstream film can also be found; the Votiv or the Filmcasino screen mainly independent pictures.
The Prater, the extraordinary fun fair with its gigantic trademark Ferris wheel (also featured in the film Before Sunrise), is definitely a place to fall in love with. Enjoy traditional food from one of the many stalls surrounding the wheel, or go on one of the other dizzying fun rides on offer, if you feel up for a challenge.
The Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) gives performances of the famous snow-white Lipizzaner stallions.
The Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben), another famous institution dating back to 1498, sings every Sunday at the Burgkapelle (Royal Chapel) in the Hofburg.
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.