As someone once put it: the streets of
Vienna are not only paved with stones but with history. A great part of the charm of the
city consists in the way it transforms "history" into the "good old times
during the empire." This is why this young and dynamic metropolis in the heart of
Europe, which has welcomed the high-tech-era with open arms, at the same time fervently
embraces its past: this is what turns Vienna into a festival of the imagination,
especially for romantics.
"Im Prater blühn wieder die
Bäume" (The trees are flowering again in the Prater): this line, the beginning of a
famous song that expressesa uniquely Viennese joie de vivre, resonates the world over.
When the chestnut trees, with their white and pink blossoms, start reaching skyward, the
city begins to change. Spring has arrived, the most romantic time in Vienna. The
twittering songs of the blackbirds in the Volksgarten, the City Park and the park in front
of City Hall create a strange yearning in the heart of the Viennese. The aroma of jasmine
and lilac goes to the head like a glass of champagne ...
With the Fiacre to the old Imperial Glory
In the spring, coachmen crack their whips
in an even livelier manner than usual. This is the best time of year to take a jaunt in a
Fiaker (horse-drawn carriage). "Compliments, sir, and a kiss on the hand, beautiful
lady! and off we go to admire the magnificent buildings from the imperial era: first the
Albertina and the Vienna State Opera; we continue under the delicate green roof of leaves
of the trees lining the Ringstrasse. On your right appears the Burggarten (Imperial
Garden), on your left two massive cupola-crowned buildings- the Museums of Fine Arts and
Natural History. Between them, on her throne, sits the absolutist and absolute mother of
the Baroque Era, Empress Maria Theresia: her monument faces the Imperial Palace and
While the hooves of the horses clatter on the pavement, a nice May wind has come up. It
lets your thoughts dance in three-quarter time, turns the wheel of time backward and
transports you back to another century. In your mind's eye, you see a group of students in
heated discussions in front of the Parliament building; young lieutenants in splendid
uniforms high atop their horses riding toward City Hall; and here, at the Burgtheater, a
coach turns into a small side street. In it, you discern a beautiful veiled lady - en
route to a secret rendezvous?
Intimate Ball Whispers
The fiacre turns from the Ring into
Schottengasse, passes the Schottenstift on its way to Freyung, and continues via Am Hof
toward the square in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral. Here, every stone truly is history.
With a little imagination, one can see former princely dynasties pulling the strings
behind the facades of their town palaces: Harrach, Schönborn-Batthyány, Daun-Kinsky,
Ferstel. Or one can conjure up fashionable carriages with guests from all over the world
driving by. In the evenings, one can almost hear the rustling of the gowns of beautiful
ladies at elegant soirées and balls. After all, the Viennese ball tradition has a long
The massive facade of St. Stephen's Cathedral is mirrored in the window-panes of the Haas
House, a modern shopping gallery designed by architect Hans Hollein: past and present
often go hand in hand in Vienna, a fact demonstrated by a stroll through the old city. A
nice cup of tea at Haas & Haas at Stephansplatz 4 is like a journey in time: you sit
in the courtyard in a Biedermeier-like garden, you are surrounded by the thick old walls
of the Haus des Deutschen Ordens (House of the Teutonic Order) and, at the same time, your
bill is presented in the form of a digital printout.
Winding Streets, Arcaded Courtyards
If you cross this courtyard, you arrive
first in Singerstrasse, then in Blutgasse and from there you reach Domgasse. These little
streets are the heart of the romantic city. Narrow and dark, they are covered with
cobblestones, just as they were centuries ago. Somehow one expects at any moment to
encounter Mozart whistling a tune from his "Marriage of Figaro,"maybe on his way
home, to what is called the "Figaro House," where he wrote this opera
There is no danger of getting lost in the thicket of these streets. One always manages to
return to Stephansplatz, whence one turns instill another direction: through the passage
at the Palace of the Archbishops, one continues through the passage containing the
restaurant Figlmüller (the Viennese Beisl with the largest Wiener Schnitzels in the
world) and from there to Bäckerstrasse. You should look into the arcaded courtyard of the
Schwanenfeld building at Bäckerstrasse No.7 and also into the small interior courtyard of
the building at No. 12, with its medieval walls. We continue on to the Academy of Sciences
and to the stern but beautiful Jesuit Church; we then turn into Sonnenfelsgasse with the
Old University and into Schönlaterngasse: in all these streets, time seems to have stood
still. Here, one can be certain of walking in the footsteps of such great composers as
Haydn, Beethoven and both Clara and Robert Schumann.
Atmospheric Markets & Regions of
These musicians may also have enjoyed the
serenity and peace at Heiligenkreuz Court, which can be reached from Schönlaterngasse.
This seventeenth-century building complex, built around a spacious inner courtyard, is of
timeless beauty. The great Austriansatirist Helmut Qualtinger used to live here.
It is only a few steps from Heiligenkreuz Court to Fleischmarkt. Originally, as the name
suggests, a meat market, this used to be one of the noisiest and most colorful parts in
Vienna. Here, Turkish tradesmen in their wide trousers and fez offered silk from the
orient, spices, tobacco and coffee. Later came the Greeks who had left their homeland
because of the Turkish occupation; they also traded their wares in Vienna and left a
number of mementos: the restaurant Griechenbeisl; the Greek church, richly decorated with
gold; and the charming Griechengasse with its arches and medieval facades.
You still have not had enough of narrow streets, old walls and intimations of the past? In
that case, we cross the Ring and visit the Spittelberg quarter. This area used to be
outside the city walls, and was anything but elegant. Streets were lined with disreputable
dives, wine flowed like water, manners were rough and many of theladies weren't ladies at
all, but were paid money for their services. This part of town was revitalized in an
exemplary fashion during the late 1970s: now that its morals have been restoredone can
safely stroll among the Biedermeier buildings and visit one of many restaurants and bars.
During the weeks before Christmas, a fine aroma of punch and gingerbread wafts through
Spittelberg. This is when the popular Christmas Market takes place here, not as big as the
one in front of the Rathaus, but offering a big selection of tasteful craftwork.
Enjoy the Green of the city
It is true that Vienna is at its most
beautiful in the spring. But only if one pays no attention to summer, fall and winter. One
thing is certain: Vienna is a city for all seasons. This may partly be due to the fact
that nature reaches deep into many parts of the city. Take the Prater, for instance: at
the turn of the last century, during the time of Freud and Schnitzler, a ride to the
Prater was very much a social occasion. On Sundays, carriages drove out from the inner
city through Praterstrasse, the former Jägerstrasse, into the green Prater. These days,
in the mornings, the Prater belongs to joggers. Later in the day, horseback riders take
over, followed by strollers and Viennese with their picnic baskets. And then there are
whose who want to enjoy the constantly changing faces of the Prater throughout the
seasons: the morning mist and the enchanting green of the month of May, dense foliage and
heavy drops of thunderstorms during the summer, the plethora of colors during fall and
Indian Summer, and finally, during the winter, the hoar-frost and picturesque naked trees
reaching into the air.
Idyllic Walks, Ending at Restaurants with
The Lusthaus in the Prater conveys old
Austrian charm. Built at the end of the eighteenth century as a hunting lodge, it is now a
charming café-cum-restaurant. One with a past, however: it is apparent that this must
always have been a location for forbidden trysts or the delivery of secret messages like
"Darling, not today
tomorrow, after dusk
". And lastly: here, one
did not have far to look for a suitable site for a duel.
The Vienna Woods, the green belt of the city, borders Vienna on the north, west, and
south. This area of 1250 square kilometers is of great comfort for Viennese souls: it is
permeated with long footpaths, beautiful meadows, and restaurants and places where one can
take a snack, such as the Häuserl am Roa (Little House on the Slope) or the Häuserl am
Stoa (Little House near the Stone). Since the Biedermeier era, the Vienna Woods have
served as a bucolic idyll, - thousands of hearts and arrows carved into the bark of the
trees and the backs of the benches bear witness that Ferdi loves Mitzi.
Nostalgic Heurigen Gemütlichkeit
The classic and traditional way to
conclude an excursion into the Vienna Woods is a visit to a Heurigen. Heuriger means both
the wine of the last harvest and the place where it is served. And: "Let's go to the
Heurigen" is a guarantee of gemütlichkeit. In Grinzing, Neustift, Nussdorf or
Salmannsdorf, special Heurigen music contributes to the romantic mood. Sometimes it
happens that, at some point during the evening, everyone at the Heurigen joins in singing
one of the old Viennese songs, such as "Es wird a Wein sein, und mir wern nimmer
sein..." (there'll always be wine, but we won't be here to enjoy it). A little
wistful melancholy befits an emotional city like Vienna...
And if it isn't melancholy, it is nostalgia. In the Salettl, a small café in the
nineteenth district, nostalgia seems to be everywhere: a glassed-in verandah, simple
tables and chairs, the flair of the turn of the last century - all this is much
appreciated by the young Viennese. Villa Aurora, near Wilhelminenberg Palace in the
sixteenth district, conveys the aura of the fin-de-siècle era by its soft candlelight.
One orders a Wiener Schnitzel with salad, but may be served the dessert ordered by someone
at the next table. So you exchange dishes, start to talk, sit together, look into each
other's eyes and maybe fall in love. This can happen easily in Vienna.
Wedding in the Dream City Vienna
The city also takes care of the
consequences of falling in love. One can get married at some of the most attractive
locations in Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace, in one of the gondolas of the Giant Ferris Wheel,
in an Oldtimer Tramwayor in the Butterfly House. A knot tied in such romantic surroundings
may last for a long time. After all, the lovers on Gustav Klimt's famous painting
"The Kiss" have been embracing each other in unchanging passion for over a
Vienna Tourist Board, Dep. Strategy & Communications
Tel. +43 - 1 - 24 555
Fax +43 - 1 - 24 555 - 666