Do you want to trace the foot steps of your Jewish ancestors, when in Vienna? Since the Jewish community in Wien goes back 900 years you’ll have plenty of sites to see. Here are the best places of Jewish Vienna to visit.
Jewish Vienna. The former Jewish quarter was known as the ‘Matzoth Island’ of Vienna. The inhabitants of Leopoldstadt were almost completely extinguished during the Nazi Regime. In recent years, Jewish life has grown more vibrant around the synagogue and popular Karmelitermarkt. The area between Karmelitermarkt and Karmelitersquare is the best place to find kosher restaurants and shops.
My restaurant tips: Bahur Tov, Taborstrasse 19; Novellino, Zirkusgasse 15.
Vienna’s main synagogue is located at Seitenstettengasse, which was formerly a Jewish quarter. The synagogue dates from the late 18th century, burned out during the Nazi Pogrom night in 1938, and was bombed in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Theodor Herzl‘s remains lay in state here before his body was transferred to Israel. A few years later, it was beautifully renovated and is the centre of Jewish religious life today. Definitely worth a visit.
Jewish Vienna. The Jewish Museum Vienna consists of the main building in Dorotheergasse and of the outlet on Judenplatz. While Dorotheergasse highlights Jewish life in the 19th and early 20th century, Judenplatz showcases Jewish Vienna in the Middle Ages, focusing on the thriving Jewish community up to the Shoah in 1420. I have been to the museum in Dorotheergasse and was impressed by its candidness and yet fresh perspectives of Vienna and its Jewish community. Find out more about the Jewish Museum Vienna.
Jewish Vienna. In the Middle Ages, Judenplatz (‘Jews Square’) was the center of the Jewish community. Now a massive Holocaust Memorial contrasts with the square’s lush baroque town houses: The huge concrete cube is meant to resemble a library filled with 65,000 books. Each volume symbolises an Austrian Jew who died during the Nazi Regime. The memorial was designed by British artist Rachel Whiteread. The platform around the monument carries the names of those Austrian places where Jews were murdered during the Nazi-Regime.
Jewish Vienna. Two large white marble blocks emprisoning human bodies open a small passage to a life size bronzen jew bending down to clean the streets. Austrian artist Alfred Hrdlicka rocked the public conscience about the atrocities of World War II with his ‘Memorial Against War and Fascism’. The Viennese would have appreciated some more positive and forward looking symbolism to look at when on their way to work, the opera or shopping. After the memorial had been set up in 1988, many tourists mistook the jew for a cosy bench to have their sandwiches: He has been wrapped up in barbed wire since.
Location: Albertinaplatz, behind the Vienna State Opera, opposite the Albertina Vienna Museum;
Jewish Vienna. What happened before and during National Socialism in Austria? What lead to its atrocities, who were the key players of Austrian National Socialists, and what role did the Austrian Resistance during the regime? As for today, what is the situation with the Extreme Right in Austria? Unlike any other national research centre, the Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance collects documents, objects, proofs and memories of national Nazi terror. Extremely revealing.
Location: Altes Rathaus, Wipplinger Strasse 6 – 8, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours (permanent exhibition): Monday to Wednesday, Friday (work days) 9am to 5pm; Thursday 9a, to 7pm
Jewish Cemetery Seegasse
Jewish Vienna. The city has five Jewish cemeteries. The one located in the ninth district is the most beautiful and oldest of all local cemeteries. Set in a leafy green compound in Seegasse on Alsergrund, it lets you explore up to 500 year old inscripted tombstones. Only in 2013 Vienna unearthed unique antique tombstones dating from the 16th century. Expect to see the last homes of Rabbi Sabbatai, Rabbi Menachem Hendel, banker Samuel Oppenheimer and other famous Jewish Viennese.
Location: Seegasse 9 to 11, 1090 Vienna
Opening Times: Monday to Friday 7am to 3pm; Access through local residence for the Elderly (‘Pensionistenheim’)
Meet With Jewish Viennese Over Kosher Cooking
If you would like to learn about Jewish life in Vienna I think the best way is to meet with private individuals in a fun way. After all, the best chats happen between kitchen and dining table. Since recently, both locals and travellers can meet up in Margarete’s (‘Mashi’s) kitchen for kosher cooking, chatting, and best of all, dining. To learn more check out the Vienna Cooking Classes with private dining, and Mashi’s Delishkes.
Jewish Vienna Map
Jewish Vienna Walking Tours And Day Trips
Guided Jewish Vienna Walk
Jewish Vienna. Overall this is the best guided group tour through the Jewish part of Wien. During two hours, the guide will unroll the story of the Viennese Jews, from the Middle Ages to now. When I joined the tour we visited key sites of Nazi Vienna during the Second World War such as the site of the Gestapo house, and learned about the Jewish community. On balance, I found the most revealing part of the tour was our visit to the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance. Find out more about the tour.
Private Vienna Jewish Tour
Jewish Vienna. If you have personal roots in the city, this tour will give you privacy and a peaceful walk. Ask as many questions as you like and adapt your walk to your special interests. Even before the tour you customise the route to include special places of personal relevance. Read my tour review.
Modern History and Judaism Tour
Jewish Vienna. Unlike typical guided city tours, the Modern History and Judaism Tour deliberately uses history to make you understand contemporary issues. To help you reflect more deeply about Jewish Vienna now, the tour guide weaves his vast knowledge into intriguing stories about the Jewish community in Vienna throughout the centuries. Among other highlights, you will pass the Jewish synagogue, see the Shoah monument on Judenplatz, and hear the story about Vienna’s antisemitic mayor Karl Lueger. Learn more.
Day Trip to Mauthausen Concentration Camp
Jewish Vienna. Have you had victims of the Holocaust in your family or would simply like to pay tribute? Then consider going on a day trip to Mauthausen Concentration camp, one of the largest in Europe. Chiefly, it was between the barracks, the quarry, the prison and gas chamber where Hitler’s atrocities became terribly vivid. In particular, Mauthausen’s museum exhibits original objects, takes an account of the crime scene of Mauthausen, and lets you listen to interviews with survivors of the camp. Surely this is an intense tour full of insight. Read more.