Ringstrasse Vienna. Where should you start to explore the city? Go in a circle. Ringstrasse girds the city centre. It lines up more than 20 great sightseeing spots and is the perfect start for first time visitors. Check my quick guide with map and tour suggestions of what to see.
Why Ringstrasse Was Built
Ringstrasse dates from 1858. Emperor Franz Joseph I. had the former city walls torn down. They had separated the Imperial and aristocratic center from the middle classes in the outskirts. The 19th century’s liberal spirits called for a unification of the town and for the prospering middle class to be integrated into the center of power.
The result is a beautiful collection of neo-classicistic, neo- gothic, neo-renaissance and neo-baroque buildings that interchange with parks and public gardens. Institutional buildings such as the Vienna State Opera and the City Hall are well known. On top, affluent private individuals bought plots along Ringstrasse. They built magnificent town palaces such as Ephrussi, Epstein, Leitenberger and Schey. Ringstrasse soon became the ‘Champs Elysées’ of Vienna, where the bourgeoisie promenaded, watched processions, and frequented Vienna Salons.
Ringstrasse Vienna Map
Ringstrasse Vienna. Ringstrasse is sliced up in nine sections, as shown on the map below. I have added the most relevant buildings and hotels, and a few of my Vienna coffeehouse favourites. 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
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 1: Stubenring
Former Imperial Ministry of War. At its opening in 1913 the Imperial War Ministry was one of the most modern office buildings in Vienna. It was used for military administration during World War II. Today, the government building includes 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 (Österreichische Postsparkasse). The former Imperial Postal Savings Institute was designed by Art Nouveau architect Otto Wagner. Postsparkasse includes the Wagner:Werk one of my off-the-beaten-track museum tips for Art Nouveau fans;
Café Ministerium: During the day, this plush coffeehouse is frequented by officials from nearby ministries and local business people. Once a month, the Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations attract a rather unique mix of Vienna travellers and local Viennese.
The University of Applied Arts, (Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien) on the other side is right next to the fabulous Museum of Applied Arts/ Contemporary Art (Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK).
Whether you like architecture, design or contemporary art, this museum is a must. It is full of beautiful objects. Many of them are typically Viennese, such as the collection of Thonet (coffeehouse) furniture, and the collection of Art Nouveau genius Josef Hoffmann’s textile and furniture designs. Temporary exhibitions have been lacking in design and presentation.
Café Prückel. This is one of our best coffeehouse institutions, located opposite MAK on Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz. Prückel is a great place to hop off during your tour. 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 (photo).
There is regular live piano music. The warm meals there are excellent for lunch or dinner.
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 2: Parkring
From Parkring, access the underground station U3 Stubentor. It cuts through Ringstrasse, connecting you to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the city centre and Volkstheater/Volksgarten on the other side of Ringstrasse.
City park. Stadtpark boasts famous Michelin restaurant Steirereck im Stadtpark, the adjacent lovely dairy Meierei im Stadtpark and the famous golden Johann-Strauss monument. Stadtpark is perfect for a stroll, lazy coffee and milk, gourmet dinner, and picnic on the grass. At its edge you will find Huebner’s Kursalon that regularly stages classical concerts of Mozart and Strauss. I find them very touristic honestly. The children’s playground around the corner is the best in the city centre.
OPEC-Fund for International Development (former palace of Archduke Wilhelm)
Marriott Hotel: The 1980’s glass and white-covered steel construction of the Vienna Marriott is opposite Stadtpark.
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 3: Schubertring
Hotel Ritz Carlton is the Ringstrasse’s youngest luxury hotel. It is spread over four historic palaces, and has a lovely rooftop bar and café.
Schwarzenbergplatz opens up next to Ringstrasse. The first monument shows Count Schwarzenberg. At the back of the square you will see the Hero’s Monument of the Red Army (photo). The statue was known as the pea king in post World War II Vienna. At that time, the Russians regularly shipped mass supplies of dried peas to Austria. Today it is referred to as the Russian Monument (Russendenkmal).
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 4: Kärntner Ring
Hotel Imperial: The gigantic town palace is one of the first addresses in Vienna. Austria’s official hotel for state visitors revels in opulence and is beautifully illuminated in winter nights. Sneak into the lobby or have Imperial Torte and turkish coffee at the hotel’s café. I spent one fantastic night at the Imperial and share my story in the Hotel Imperial Vienna review.
Grand Hotel Wien: On the opposite side of the Imperial you will pass the Grand Hotel, another one of Vienna’s legendary Ringstrasse hotels.
Ringstrassen-Galerien: The roofed luxury shopping mall is good for rainy day shopping; good deli supermarket Billa Corso downstairs)
The Ring Hotel is a contemporary luxury hotel located in a historic town palace. I love its small outdoor café After Eight which is facing Ringstrasse.
Hotel Bristol: This 19th-century luxury hotel is just opposite the Vienna State Opera. It has been fantastically refurbished in 2013, including its restaurant Bristol Lounge.
Just in front of Hotel Bristol, you can access the underground lines U1, U2 and U4 through the linked-up underground station Karlsplatz.
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 5: Opernring
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. There are lots of stories about the building, World War II bombardment and restoration of Wiener Staatsoper. I did a guided opera tour there which was so interesting. (And here is the story of my endeavours booking Vienna opera tickets.)
Le Méridien Vienna is on the opposite side of the opera towards Burggarten. It is one of the best local design hotels and has a reasonably nice café.
Right after the hotel, you will see the monument of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to your left. Just opposite, on your right, is Schillerplatz with the 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.
During July the Spanish Riding School uses a part of Burggarten to let young Lipizzaner foals and their mares graze each afternoon – brilliant!
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 6: Burgring
Outer Gate of the Burg and Neue Burg: This is the entrance to the Imperial Palace from Ringstrasse. It is also a perfect way to enter the city centre, and access the Spanish Riding School.
Heldenplatz is right behind the Outer Gate. The historic square lies between the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) and Volksgarten. It is still used for staging political and contemporary events. Adolf Hitler held his famous speech of the Austrian Anschluss here. On Austrian National Day at 26th October the annual parade of the Austrian military and the swearing-in by the Austrian President of State takes place here.
Maria-Theresien-Platz on the right of Ringstrasse holds a gigantic monument of Empress Maria Theresia. She sits right between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts, opposite from Heldenplatz.
Vienna’s two landmark museums are the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts. These two neo-Renaissance buildings are both on your left. From the rooftop of the Museum of Natural History, you get spectacular views of Ringstrasse and the city.
The Austrian Parliament is a neo classicistic building. It is quite low, compared to other state buildings, thanks to Emperor Francis Joseph, who wasn’t keen on democracy. Our two chambers Nationalrat (National Council) and Bundesrat (Federal Council) meet here regularly.
You can change here for the underground station Volkstheater and Vienna metro lines U2 and U3.
Volksgarten, a lovely park with loads of rose beds in the summer, is opposite the Parliament. My local favourite there is the Volksgarten Pavillon, a multifunctional dance, café, restaurant and recreation spot, and a real institution among locals. It is hidden from Ringstrasse. In the spring and summer, step into the shady garden with its original Fifties-style furniture and lamps, the boules and petanque players and the yummy barbecues.
The Vienna City Hall is a neo gothic building built in the second half of the 19th century (1872 to 1883). Vienna’s mayor and federal governor Michael Häupl, the city and federal council and municipal administration reside here. The Life Ball, Europe’s craziest ball and the largest AIDS charity event, takes place there every year. Group 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.
Just opposite the Vienna City Hall you will find the Burgtheater, a beautiful neo baroque building. The theatre is one of the best in Europe. If your German isn’t up to speed, visit the fabulously romantic restaurant Vestibül at the theatre.
The 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;
Café Landtmann is another perfect hop off point. The elegant coffeehouse was Sigmund Freud’s favourite and is praised for its apple strudel and various coffee specialities.
Mölkerbastei is one of the last bastions and therefore element of the old city wall. It’s so picturesque that it is regularly used as a film location, for example for The Third Man and A Dangerous Method. Around the corner you’ll find the Beethoven Pasqualati house.
Neogothic Votivkirche follows just after the University. It was built by the Habsburgs to thank God for saving the young Emperor Francis Joseph from an attempted assassination in 1853.
At Schottentor, you can change to the underground station U2 Schottentor/Universität. This is a great connection for Vienna Prater and Museumsquartier.
Ringstrasse Vienna Section 9: Schottenring
After Votivkirche, you will see two more Ringstrasse hotels on your left: the Hotel de France and the Hotel Hilton Plaza.
A few metres ahead on the other side, you pass the former Vienna Stock Exchange (Wiener Börse). The neo-Renaissance style building is now housing several financial services firms, and the business restaurant Hansen.
Palais Hansen is a monumental historic palace built by Ringstrassen star architect Theophil Hansen. Since 2013, it houses the Kempinski Hotel, one of the most elegant hotels in Vienna. I’ve made it for drinks in the lobby, but the hotel’s gourmet restaurant (Edvard) has also been widely appraised for its atmosphere and fantastic food.
How To Tour Ringstrasse
By tramway: The Vienna Ringtram is a special yellow tram for travellers. It tours Ringstrasse around every 30 minutes and is equipeed with LED screens and audiophones. You can hop on and off at Schwedenplatz.
By car: If you rent a car, driving along Ringstrasse is easy. There are also private guided car tours that provide you with insight along the road while you lean back. The driver and guides will let you hop on and off so you can easily build in a visit to a coffeehouse, stroll through a park or opera tour on the way.
On foot: Ringstrasse boulevard is fantastic for a promenade. If you want some thorough insight into your surroundings, get a tour guide and historian to join you.
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