Vienna: Geography & Climate
Vienna lies in eastern Austria, at the easternmost extension of the Alps in the Vienna Basin. The earliest settlement, at the location of today’s inner city, were south of the meandering Danube while the city now spans both sides of the river. Elevation ranges from 151 to 542 m. Vienna has temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. The average temperatures in the summer highs is into the mid 20s and overnight lows into the high 10s; although the winter highs are just above freezing and the overnight lows just below.
Vienna is composed of 23 districts (Bezirke). Legally, they are not districts in the sense of administrative bodies with explicit powers (such as the districts in the other Austrian states), but mere subdivisions of the city administration. Elections at the district level give the representatives of the districts some political power in fields such as planning and traffic. The 23 districts are numbered for convenience in a roughly clockwise fashion starting in the city centre: 1. Innere Stadt, 2. Leopoldstadt, 3.Landstraße, 4.Wieden, 5.Margareten, 6.Mariahilf, 7.Neubau, 8.Josefstadt, 9.Alsergrund, 10.Favoriten, 11.Simmering, 12.Meidling, 13.Hietzing, 14.Penzing, 15.Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, 16.Ottakring, 17.Hernals, 18.Währing, 19.Döbling, 20.Brigittenau, 21.Floridsdorf, 22.Donaustadt, 23.Liesing
The heart and historical city of Vienna, the Innere Stadt, was once surrounded by walls and open fields in order to deny cover to potential attackers. The walls were razed in 1857, making it possible for the city to expand and eventually merge with the surrounding villages. In their place, a broad boulevard called the Ringstraße was built, along which imposing public and private buildings, monuments, and parks now lie. These buildings include the Rathaus (town hall), the Burgtheater, the University, the Parliament, the twin museums of natural history and fine art, and the Staatsoper. It is also the location of the Hofburg, the former imperial palace. The mainly Gothic Stephansdom is located at the centre of the city, on Stephansplatz. Beyond the Ringstraße, there was another wall called the Linienwall, which was torn down in the latter half of the 19th century to make room for expanding suburbs. It is now a ring road called Gürtel. Industries are located mostly in the southern and eastern districts. The Innere Stadt is situated away from the main flow of the Danube, but is bounded by the Donaukanal (“Danube canal”). Vienna’s second and twentieth districts are located between the Donaukanal and the Danube River. Across the Danube are the newest districts, which include the location of the Vienna International Centre. Vienna’s postal codes can be determined by the district where a given address is located; 1XXA – 1 denotes Vienna, XX the district number (if it is a single digit then with a leading zero), A is the number of the post office (irrelevant in this case, usually zero). Example: 1070 for Neubau. Exceptions include 1300 for the Vienna International Airport located in Lower Austria near Schwechat, 1400 for the UN Complex, 1450 for the Austria Center, and 1500 for the Austrian UN forces.
Vienna: Tourist Attractions
Major tourist attractions include the imperial palaces of the Hofburg and Schönbrunn (also home to the world’s oldest zoo, Tiergarten Schönbrunn) and the Riesenrad in the Prater. Cultural highlights include the Burgtheater, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Lipizzaner horses at the spanische Hofreitschule and the Vienna Boys’ Choir, as well as excursions to Vienna’s Heuriger districts. There are also more than 100 art museums, which together attract over eight million visitors per year. The most popular ones are Albertina, Belvedere, Leopold Museum in the Museumsquartier, KunstHausWien, BA-CA Kunstforum, the twin Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum, and the Technisches Museum Wien, each of which receives over a quarter of a million visitors per year. There are many popular sites associated with composers who lived in Vienna including Beethoven’s various residences and grave at Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) which is the largest cemetery in Vienna and the burial site of many famous people. Mozart has a memorial grave at the Hapsburg gardens and at St. Marx cemetery (where his grave was lost). Vienna’s many churches also draw large crowds, the most famous of which are St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Deutschordenskirche, the Jesuitenkirche, the Karlskirche, the Peterskirche, Maria am Gestade, the Minoritenkirche, the Ruprechtskirche, the Schottenkirche and the Votivkirche. Modern attractions include the Hundertwasserhaus, the United Nations headquarters and the view from the Donauturm.
Vienna possesses many park facilities, including the Stadtpark, the Burggarten, the Volksgarten (part of the Hofburg), the Schloßpark at Schloss Belvedere (home to the Vienna Botanic Gardens), the Donaupark, the Schönbrunner Schlosspark, the Prater, the Augarten, the Rathauspark, the Lainzer Tiergarten, the Dehnepark, the Resselpark, the Votivpark, the Kurpark Oberlaa, the Auer-Welsbach-Park and the Türkenschanzpark. Green areas include Laaer-Berg (including the Bohemian Prater) and the foothills of the Wienerwald, which reaches into the outer areas of the city. Small parks, known by the Viennese as Beserlparks, are everywhere in the inner city areas. Many of Vienna’s famous parks include monuments, such as the Stadtpark with its statue of Johann Strauss II, and the gardens of the baroque palace, where the State Treaty was signed. Vienna’s principal park is the Prater which is home to the Riesenrad, a ferris wheel. The imperial Schönbrunn’s grounds contain an 18th century park which includes the world’s oldest zoo, founded in 1752. The Donauinsel, part of Vienna’s flood defences, is a 21.1 km long artificial island between the Danube and Neue Donau dedicated to leisure activities.
Art and culture have a long tradition in Vienna, including theater, opera, classical music and fine arts. The Burgtheater is considered one of the best theaters in the German-speaking world alongside its branch, the Akademietheater. The Volkstheater Wien and the Theater in der Josefstadt also enjoy good reputations. There is also a multitude of smaller theaters, in many cases devoted to less mainstream forms of performing arts, such as modern, experimental plays or cabaret. Vienna is also home to a number of opera houses, including the Staatsoper and the Volksoper, the latter being devoted to the typical Viennese operetta. Classical concerts are performed at well known venues such as the Wiener Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Wiener Konzerthaus. Many concert venues offer concerts aimed at tourists, featuring popular highlights of Viennese music (particularly the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss). In recent years, the Theater an der Wien has become widely known for hosting premieres of musicals, although it has recently devoted itself to the opera again. The most successful musical by far was “Elisabeth”, which was later translated into several other languages and performed all over the world. The Haus der Musik (“house of music”) opened in 2000. Many Roman Catholic churches in central Vienna also feature performances of religious or other music, including masses sung with classical music and organ.
The Hofburg is the location of the Schatzkammer (treasury), holding the imperial jewels of the Hapsburg dynasty. The Sisi Museum (a museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie of Austria) allows visitors to view the Imperial apartments as well as the silver cabinet. Directly opposite the Hofburg are the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum, which houses many paintings by old masters, ancient and classical artifacts. A number of museums are located in the Museumsquartier (museum quarter), the former Imperial Stalls which were converted into a museum complex in the 1990s. It houses the Museum of Modern Art (Ludwig Foundation), the Leopold Museum (focusing on works of the Viennese Secession, Viennese Modernism and Austrian Expressionism), additional halls with feature exhibitions and the Tanzquartier. The Liechtenstein Palace contains one of the world’s largest private art collections. There are a multitude of other museums in Vienna, including the Military History Museum, the Technical Museum, the Vienna Clock Museum and the Burial Museum. The museums dedicated to Vienna’s districts provide a retrospective of the respective districts.
A variety of architectural styles can be found in Vienna, such as the Romanesque Ruprechtskirche and the Baroque Karlskirche. Styles range from classicist buildings to modern architecture. Art Nouveau left many architectural traces in Vienna. The Secession, Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, and the Kirche am Steinhof by Otto Wagner rank among the best known examples of Art Nouveau in the world. The Hundertwasserhaus by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, designed to counter the clinical look of modern architecture, is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. Another example of unique architecture is the Wotrubakirche by sculptor Fritz Wotruba. In the 1990s, a number of quarters were adapted and extensive building projects were implemented in the areas around Donaustadt (north of the Danube) and Wienerberg (in southern Vienna). The 202 m-high Millennium Tower located at Handelskai is the highest building in Vienna. In recent years, Vienna has seen numerous architecture projects completed which combine modern architectural elements with old buildings, such as the remodelling and revitalisation of the old Gasometer in 2001. Most buildings in Vienna are relatively low; there are currently (early 2006) around 100 buildings higher than 40 m. The number of high-rise buildings is kept low by building legislation aimed at preserving green areas and districts designated as world cultural heritage. Strong rules apply to the planning, authorisation and construction of high-rise buildings. Consequently, much of the inner city is a high-rise free zone.
Vienna: Masquerade Ball
Vienna is the last great capital of the nineteenth century ball. There are over 200 significant balls per year, some featuring as many as nine live orchestras. Balls are held in the many beautiful palaces in Vienna, with the principal venue being the Hofburg Palace at Heldenplatz. While the Opera Ball is the best known internationally of all the Austrian balls, other balls such as the Kaffeesiederball (Cafe Owners Ball), the Jägerball (Hunter’s Ball) and the Rudolfina Redoute are almost as well known within Austria and even better appreciated for their cordial atmosphere. Most Viennese of even middle class visit at least a few balls in their lifetime. For many, the ball season lasts three months and can include up to ten or fifteen separate appearances. Dancers and opera singers from the Vienna Staatsoper often perform at the openings of the larger balls. A Vienna ball is an all night cultural attraction. Major Viennese balls generally begin at nine pm and last until five am, although many guests carry on the celebrations into the next day.
Viennese cafés have an extremely long and distinguished history that dates back centuries, and the caffeine addictions of some famous historical patrons of the oldest are something of a local legend. Traditionally, the coffee comes with a glass of water. Viennese cafés claim to have invented the process of filtering coffee from bounty captured after the second Turkish siege in 1683. Viennese cafés claim that when the invading Turks left Vienna, they abandoned hundreds of sacks of coffee beans. The Emperor gave Franz George Kolschitzky (Polish – Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki) some of this coffee as a reward for providing information that allowed the Austrians to defeat the Turks. Kolschitzky then opened Vienna’s first coffee shop. Julius Meinl set up a modern roasting plant in the same premises where the coffee sacks were found, in 1891.
Vienna, along with Paris, Prague and Bratislava, is one of the few remaining world capital cities with its own vineyards. The wine is served in small Viennese pubs known as Heuriger, which are especially numerous in the wine growing areas of Döbling (Grinzing, Neustift am Walde, Nußdorf, Salmannsdorf, Sievering) and Floridsdorf (Stammersdorf, Strebersdorf). The wine is often drunk as a spritzer (“G’spritzter”) with sparkling water. The Grüner Veltliner, a dry white wine, is the most widely cultivated wine in Austria. Beer is next in importance to wine. Vienna has a single large brewery, Ottakringer, and more than ten microbreweries. A “Beisl” is a typical small Austrian pub, of which Vienna has many.