Start Exploring By Going In A Circle
Ringstrasse Vienna. Where should you start to explore the city? As odd as it sounds: Go round in a circle. Ringstrasse girds the city centre like a charm bracelet. It lines up more than 20 great sightseeing spots and is the perfect starting point for first time visitors. Here is my quick guide with map of what to see, and how best to tour Ringstrasse.
Historic Background In Brief
The Ringstrasse dates from 1858, when Emperor Franz Joseph I. had the former city wall there torn down. His plan: Build a state boulevard following the French example. The result: A beautiful collection of neo classicistic, neo gothic, neo renaissance and neo baroque buildings that interchange with parks and public gardens.
Map Of Ringstrasse
To facilitate orientation on the Ringstrasse Vienna has sliced it up in nine segments, as shown on the map below. I have added the most relevant buildings and hotels and a few of my favourite cafés in case you have a chance to step down and unwind. Zoom in to the map by clicking on the + tab on the left. Click on the marked lines to find out the Ringstrasse segments (Opernring, Burgring, Schubertring, etc.) and markers for further information about points of interest, including reviews and pictures.
What To See On Ringstrasse
Former Imperial Ministry of War; at its opening in 1913 it was one of the most modern office buildings in Vienna; used for military administration during World War II; now Government Building (Regierungsgebäude) including state ministries of business, family and youth; labour, social services and consumer protection; agriculture, environment and water administration; and transport, innovation and technology.
Austrian Postal Savings Bank (Oesterreichische Postsparkasse), former Imperial Postal Savings Institute, designed by Art Nouveau architect and interior designer genius Otto Wagner; it includes the Wagner:Werk one of my off-the-beaten-track museum tips for Art Nouveau fans;
University of Applied Arts, (Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien)
Museum of Applied Arts/ Contemporary Art (Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK))
Café Prückel (opposite the MAK on Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz); one of our coffeehouse institutions, choose between 50ies style interior in the front and Art-Nouveau-style interiors with gold plated ceilings and framed white lace patterns in the back.
underground station U3 Stubentor (cuts through the Ringstrasse, connecting you to St. Stephen's Cathedral in the city centre and Volkstheater/Volksgarten on the other side of the Ringstrasse)
City park (Stadtpark); right in the middle is Austria's official best restaurant Steirereck im Stadtpark, the adjacent lovely dairy Meierei im Stadtpark and the famous golden Johann-Strauss monument.
OPEC-Fund for International Development (former palace of Archduke Wilhelm)
Radisson-SAS-Palais-Hotel (located in a historic palace)
Hotel Ritz Carlton is the Ringstrasse's youngest luxury hotel. It is spread over four historic palaces.
Schwarzenbergplatz with monument of Count Schwarzenberg and the Hero's Monument of the Red Army (known as the pea king post World War II because of the Russian mass supplies of dried peas to Austria; now referred to as Russendenkmal)
Ringstrassen-Galerien (a roofed luxury shopping mall which is good for rainy day shopping; good deli supermarket Billa Corso downstairs)
The Ring Hotel (contemporary luxury hotel located in historic building; stylish though small outdoor cafe After Eight facing Ringstrasse)
access to underground lines U1, U2 and U4 through underground station Karlsplatz
The Vienna State Opera is the most famous of Vienna's four opera houses. It is located where we consider to be the center of the boulevard.
Le Méridien Vienna, one of the best local design hotels;
Monument of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Schillerplatz with monument of Friedrich Schiller;
Burggarten includes a Mozart monument and the orangery and café/restaurant Palmenhaus. The orangery is a wonderful piece of Art Nouveau architecture in Vienna, and a fantastic spot for summer lunches, coffees and dinners.
There is occasional live music in the evenings, and DJ music on Friday evenings. The menu is eclectic with a local touch.
Outer Gate of the Burg and Neue Burg
Heldenplatz, the historic square between the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) and Volksgarten; a mixture of political and contemporary events have been happening here: from Adolf Hitler's speech on the occasion of the Austrian Anschluss (integration of Austria into the Third Reich), the annual parade of the Austrian military and the swearing-in by the Austrian President of State on 26th October (Austrian National Day), to more mundane musical events and festivals. And it's the training ground for the City Segway Tour!
Maria-Theresien-Platz with monument of Empress Maria Theresia, located between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts, opposite from Heldenplatz
Museum of Natural History (neo renaissance)
Museum of Fine Arts (neo renaissance)
Austrian Parliament (neo classicistic)
underground station Volkstheater for lines U2 and U3
Volksgarten, a lovely park with loads of rose beds in the summer; personally, my local favourite is the Volksgarten Pavillon, a multifunctional dance, café, restaurant and recreation spot, and a real institution among locals. As this spot is quite hidden from Ringstrasse Vienna travellers usually miss out on it. Once you have been to the shady garden with its original Fifties-style furniture and lamps, the boules and petanque players and the yummy barbecues, you will understand why.
Vienna City Hall, a neo gothic building built in the second half of the 19th century (1872 to 1883), where Vienna's city mayor and federal governor Michael Haeupl, as well as the city and federal council and municipal administration reside; I remember the city hall from the Life Ball, Europe's largest AIDS charity event, which takes place there every year, and from roaring techno clubbings in the Nineties! And loads of tourists will remember the restaurant Wiener Rathauskeller in the historic basement, with vaulted ceilings and painted walls.
Rathauspark, the park in front of City Hall, is the best known outdoor event space in town, staging the annual Film and Food Festival, the Christmas market and the ice rink, the opening of the Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen), and other smaller events throughout the year.
Burgtheater, a beautiful neo baroque building just opposite the City Hall
University of Vienna (Universität Wien), an imposing neo renaissance building, the oldest university in the German-speaking world and one of the largest in Central Europe;
neogothic Votivkirche, which was built by the Habsburgs to thank God for saving the young Emperor Francis Joseph from an attempted assassination in 1853;
underground station U2 Schottentor/Universität (great connection for Vienna Prater and Museumsquartier).
Hotel Hilton Plaza
Former Vienna Stock Exchange (Wiener Börse) in neo renaissance style, now housing several financial services firms; and business restaurant Hansen.
Palais Hansen, a monumental historic palace housing the Kempinski Hotel Vienna.
Eissalon am Schwedenplatz (Franz Josefs-Kai 17), Vienna's most popular ice cream parlour with unparalleled delicious ice cream and an almost religious fan community (open from April to end of September);
How To Best Tour Ringstrasse
Ringstrasse Vienna. The two best ways to tour Ringstrasse are by tramway or by city bike. Both ways will take you around 30 minutes. You certainly won't need a tour bus to take you around. See my tips on how to rent a city bike and which tramway line to take on Vienna Tours, Self-Guided.
Quick Tips What To See And Do In Vienna
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