My architecture appreciation circuits have blown. I’ve seen magnificent buildings before, but not quite on the scale and number as to be found in the Austrian capital. It seems that everywhere you go you are surrounded by amazing architecture and statues. I had a good long day of sightseeing, starting at the Hofburg complex, which used to house the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The president of Austria currently resides here.
After a stroll through the palace gardens I found myself at the old Rathaus (city hall), and I have to say its the biggest and most impressive Rathaus I’ve ever seen. The facade towers above the surrounding park, its spire reaching a height of 97.9m. At the top stands the banner-wielding Rathausmann, a replica of which is now situated in the park below.
The city hall is open to visitors and free of charge, and I was able to explore inside on my own and take some pictures. At least, I think I was allowed to. Nobody tried to stop me. Navigation inside the hall was difficult, as nothing was signposted and the map I picked up at the tourist centre unhelpfully didn’t differentiate between floors. Despite this, I managed to find some cool state rooms, including the grand staircases in each wing of the building.
There are so many incredible buildings here in Vienna, this post could go on for pages. Another highlight was the parliament building just down the road from the city hall. Smaller than the Reichstag in Berlin, but no less grand, the building resembles some kind of Roman palace, adorned with sculptures and fronted with a towering gilded fountain. Certainly the most impressive seat of government I’ve seen on my travels.
I had planned to take the tourist tram around the Ringstrasse, which features an audio guide to the city’s key sights. However, I decided to buy a ticket on the ordinary tram (affectionately called the ‘Bim’ by locals) and make my own way round. I checked out the home of Beethoven, where he composed much of his music. I managed to request a ticket in German, and understand the ticket clerk when he asked me if I was a student. ‘Nein, nein’, I replied. He then said something incomprehensible, so I had to resort to English. ‘Oh, but your German is perfect!’ he exclaimed. I’d only said a few words but I guess they were accurately pronounced!
Perhaps the most impressive building on my brief tour was the Votive church, which has an interesting story behind it. After Emperor Franz Joseph was attacked by a Hungarian nationalist, the Emperor’s brother ordered this church to be constructed on the site of the failed assassination, to thank God for saving his life.
I also found the oldest church in Vienna, Ruprectskirche, rumoured to be a thousand years old! Unfortunately it was locked, but it was quite a sight from the outside: a small stone building covered with ivy and sandwiched between much larger newer buildings. A statue of St Ruprect stands outside.
And that’s just a sampling of the highlights. There are so many sights like this to see on just about every street in the inner city. That said, I didn’t do much rather than walk around ogling the sights. I need a break from buildings now before I move onto the next place!